Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bye bye water coolers...

I happened to notice the bottled water truck pull up at head office yesterday so I snapped a couple of shots. The company picked up 3 water coolers and a bunch of empty bottles. There are a few more bottles left to use up before the rest of the coolers are gone. OPSEU head office now has 5 filtered water stations in addition to a number of other unfiltered taps with clean municipal drinking water.
Cooler on the way out.

Getting ready to load up the cooler

On the way...

Friday, November 28, 2008

One Shot Left

The latest from environmentalist George Monbiot.
One Shot Left
The latest science suggests that preventing runaway climate change means total decarbonisation

George Bush is behaving like a furious defaulter whose home is about to be repossessed. Smashing the porcelain, ripping the doors off their hinges, he is determined that there will be nothing worth owning by the time the bastards kick him out. His midnight regulations, opening America's wilderness to logging and mining, trashing pollution controls, tearing up conservation laws, will do almost as much damage in the last 60 days of his presidency as he achieved in the foregoing 3000(1)...

Is it too late? To say so is to make it true. To suggest that there is nothing that can now be done is to ensure that nothing is done. But even a resolute optimist like me finds hope ever harder to summon. A new summary of the science published since last year's Intergovernmental Panel report suggests that - almost a century ahead of schedule - the critical climate processes might have begun(2)...

The effects of melting permafrost are not incorporated into any global climate models. Runaway warming in the Arctic alone could flip the entire planet into a new climatic state. The Middle Climate could collapse faster and sooner than the grimmest forecasts proposed.

Barack Obama's speech to the US climate summit last week was an astonishing development(7). It shows that, in this respect at least, there really is a prospect of profound political change in America. But while he described a workable plan for dealing with the problem perceived by the Earth Summit of 1992, the measures he proposes are now hopelessly out of date.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Dimming cities

Lest we think there are simple answers and explanations for massive problems with even more massive ramifications.
Atmospheric brown clouds over China

Clouds of Pollution Block Sunlight

The sun is fading above cities around the world as thick clouds of pollution prevent its rays from reaching the ground, says a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The dirty brown haze, sometimes three-kilometers thick, stretches from the Arabian Peninsula to China and the western Pacific Ocean.

The clouds have blocked up to 25 percent of sunlight in Karachi, New Delhi, Shanghai and Beijing. Guangzhou, in southern China, is among several cities to have recorded a more than 20 percent reduction in sunlight since the 1970s, says the Atmospheric Brown Clouds (ABC) report...

The giant brown haze comes from a mix of ozone, black carbon and soot particles released by coal-fired power plants, wood-burning stoves, burning fields and vehicles on the road. It contains a variety of aerosols, carcinogens and tiny particles that have been linked to respiratory diseases and cardio-vascular problems. According to the UN report, the toxic material could kill 340,000 people n China and India every year...

The team of scientists commissioned by UNEP to study the "atmospheric brown clouds" has been doing so since 2002 and do not pretend to have found all the answers to this environmental nightmare. "The science of ABCs, woven with the science of greenhouse gases, is not simple and may be behind some highly complex warming and cooling patterns witnessed on continents and in different regions of specific countries," they write in the report.

In fact, the brown clouds may alter the traditional climate change scenario. On the one hand, they are filled with black carbon and soot particles that absorb sunlight and heat the air and other gases. On the other hand, they contain other particles, such as sulfates, that reflect sunlight and cool the earth's surface. In effect, the clouds may be dampening the rise in global temperatures by 20 to 80 percent, say the scientists.
Now that's a vicious cycle if I ever heard of one.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Meeting with OPSEU members

I had the opportunity this evening to speak to about 20 delegates at OPSEU's Greater Toronto Area Council (GTAC) meeting. This is my second visit there since beginning this stint back in the winter. I covered a number of points this evening including:

  • big picture including the poll and banking report in the following two posts
  • web and video conferencing initiatives at OPSEU
  • bottled water phase-out
  • December 7 Day of Action against Global Warming event in Toronto
  • greenhouse reduction targets
  • greener meetings including Convention 2009
  • paper reduction (membership lists sent to regional offices)
  • one-day regional educational on climate change
A couple of suggestions related to paper reduction were made including:
  • feasibility of online grievance forms
  • providing locals with the ability to edit local membership forms online
Thanks to GTAC president Bob Taylor for the opportunity to update the delegates on the greening OPSEU initiatives.

While I haven't spent as much time among the membership as I had initially envisioned, I've been able to meet with a number of committees and groups including:
  • Provincial Human Rights Committee
  • Provincial Young Workers Committee
  • OPSEU's People with Disabilities Caucus
  • Ontario Correctional Institute (OCI) environment committee
  • Green stewards at Convention '08

Good news about bad news....

Citizens worldwide are not as dumb and single-minded as the carbon industry would have us believe. It may come as a shock to those who count on ignorance and deception to continue spewing tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere but we actually can focus on more than one big issue at a time.

Climate change still a concern despite economy: poll

Despite the ongoing global financial crisis, a new poll of 11 countries, including Canada, shows nearly half are still more worried about climate change.

The Climate Confidence Monitor 2008, which surveyed 12,000 people around the world, found 43 per cent of respondents chose climate change ahead of global economic stability when asked about their top three concerns.
The Climate Confidence Monitor 2008 is was commissioned by the HSBC Climate Partnership including HSBC (ironic in light of the previous post), WWF, The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Researchers found the global community wants its governments to focus on "big issue" direct actions, such as increasing investment in renewable energy, halting deforestation, conserving water resources and protecting ecosystems.

Global warming's Canadian financiers

A report was released last by week by the Rainforest Action Network entitled "Financing Global Warming: Canadian Banks and Fossil Fuels". Here are some of their findings.

The investments made today by Canadian banks will shape Canada’s carbon footprint for decades to come. The enormous financial commitments made by Canada’s five biggest banks—RBC, TD Bank, Scotiabank, CIBC and BMO—to fossil fuel production, namely oil, gas and coal operations, inextricably links them to the fueling of global climate change. Banks are the lifeblood of the fossil fuel industry...

It is the first report to analyze and quantify the greenhouse gas emissions of seven leading Canadian banks—the aforementioned banks as well as Desjardins and Vancity based on their financing of fossil fuels...

For Canada’s largest banks, operational emissions represent less than one percent of their total contributions to climate change. Though these operational emissions are not trivial—Canadian banks reported more than 500,000 tonnes of operational CO2 emissions in the last year2—more than 99 percent of their overall climate footprint comes from the fossil fuel production they finance...

Canada’s top banks provided more than $155 billion in total corporate financing for fossil fuel extraction in Canada and internationally in 2007. The 625 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions from the extraction and burning of these fossil fuels results in a carbon footprint for RBC, TD, Scotiabank, BMO and CIBC that is greater than Canada’s total energy use emissions.
The report also makes a number of recommendations for banks, bank customers, governments and civil society organizations including trade unions. For bank users, they recommend speaking to their banks about getting out of the carbon financing business and to switch their accounts to more climate friendly financial institutions.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Lake Ontario windmills?

A meeting held last night in Scarborough to discuss the plans to install a wind meter on a platform in Lake Ontario as part of a two year feasibility study for placing 60 windmills in Lake Ontario (between Scarborough and Ajax), was attended by 1,000 people. Emotions were strong on both sides of the issue, not so much about the study but about the windmills themselves.

It makes a lot of sense to conduct a feasibility study before making such a large investment in wind power. For opponents of wind power (well, not exactly opposed to wind power but to the prospect of looking at windmills two kilometres off shore), it makes sense to oppose the study. No study. No windmills.

The Toronto Environmental Alliance chartered buses to bring people to the meeting from the nearest subway stop.

Chicago wind turbines in Lake Michigan

Here's the Toronto Star report - Offshore wind farm stirs up a tempest

Supporters of the proposed wind farm were often interrupted as they spoke by cries of "Do you live here?"

The proponent of the wind farm is Toronto Hydro Energy Services, an unregulated unit of Toronto Hydro Corp., which is owned by the City of Toronto...

Toronto's eastern shoreline is considered a good prospect for wind turbines because of a relatively shallow underwater reef two to four kilometres offshore, where the turbines can sit.

The turbines would be bigger than the turbine at Exhibition Place, and would generate about twice as much power.

A wind farm this size could generate up to 200 megawatts when the wind blows; one megawatt powers about 250 homes.

OPSEU offices going bottled water free

As previously announced here at the Greening OPSEU blog, OPSEU is phasing out bottled water at its offices, facilities and events where practical. I am pleased to announce that a number of OPSEU offices have now made the switch away from water coolers. These include:

Corporate offices
Head Office - 100 Lesmill Road
OPS Bargaining Centre
The Coopers office uses a filter system directly connected to their water cooler. That will not change.

Regional offices
London (R1)
Windsor (R1)
Hamilton (R2)
Owen Sound (R2)
Peterborough (R3)
Whitby (R3)
Brockville (R4)
Kingston (R4)
Ottawa (R4)
Toronto (R5)
Thunder Bay (R7)

A number of other regional offices are in the process of making the change. All offices were tested for the presence of lead as part of the phase-out process. Where lead levels were below provincial standards of 10 parts per billion, Brita filters were sent to most of these offices to provide staff and members with a choice of plain or filtered tap water. Signage was also provided for the filtered water stations. In three offices, we are waiting for special adapters to connect the Brita filters.

As a result of the testing component of this program, excessive lead levels were found in a handful of offices. These are being investigated and solutions are being looked for before the bottled water is eliminated. Signs have been posted in those offices.

Offices were also provided with biodegradable drinking cups. Special OPSEU water jugs are being ordered for our more than 50 meeting rooms.

The next phase of the program will be to conduct water tests at OPSEU's 14 membership centres around the province.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Solar cemetary in Spain

Here's an interesting story from Spain, currenty one of the world's leaders in wind power.

A Spanish city has found an unusual place to generate renewable energy - the local cemetery.

Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has placed 462 solar panels over its multi-storey mausoleums...

The cemetery was chosen for the project because it is one of only a few open, sunny places in the crowded city...

The installation cost 720,000 euros (£608,000) but will keep about 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year...
Tip of the hat to Jason Crowtz for this story.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Supreme Court: Polluters liable

Polluters liable for 'annoyances,'even if they have broken no laws

In a landmark ruling favouring the environmental movement, the court allowed a class action launched by 2,000 citizens near Quebec City who suffered for half a century from an irritating blanket of dust and odour emanating from a St. Lawrence Cement Inc. plant that was located in their midst...

"Even though it appears to be absolute, the right of ownership has limits," Mr. Justice Louis LeBel and Madam Justice Marie Deschamps wrote for the court.

OPSEU Supporting CLC Boycott of Petro Canada

While this isn't a green issue, thought I'd bring this to the attention of readers of this blog.

To: All OPSEU Employees
Re: Boycott of Petro-Canada

The Canadian Labour Congress and the National Union have authorized a boycott of Petro Canada to support workers (CEP 175), locked out of the company's Montréal refinery since Nov. 2007.

They are asking union supporters to avoid buying gas and heating oil from Petro Canada, where alternatives exist. Please also take five minutes to Email Petro Canada President Ron Brenneman to urge him to end the lockout. Edit the letter to tell him you're not buying gas at Petro Canada until he does.

At this time, we are not yet cancelling our Petro Canada staff credit cards, but we ask that you not use them when there is an alternative Esso station available.
Thanks for your cooperation to help get these workers a contract.

Artscape Wychwood Barns ribbon cutting celebrates "stone soup"

Joe Mihevc addresses the boisterous crowd
I had the honour to attend yesterday's "ribbon" cutting ceremony at the new Artscape Wychwood Green Barns which are located in my neighbourhood. The ribbon was actually a garland of flowers and greenery which was cut by about a dozen of the movers and shakers including Councillor Joe Mihevc and Mayor David Miller.
Entrance to Barn 3
About 1,000 people gathered inside Barn #3 - a large open space - to hear a series of speeches giving kudos to a wide range of groups and individuals who had a significant role to play in this project coming to fruition. Mihevc told the story about "stone soup". A poor visitor is seen entering a village. Everyone hides their food. The villager asks for something to eat but there is nothing. So he suggests "stone soup". He gets a pot, boils some water and then throws in some stones. One by one, the villagers start to add ingredients - carrots, potatoes, onions, spices, etc - until they've got a huge pot of soup. A community celebrates in grand style with music and other entertainment.

Mihevc likened the efforts to bring the barns back to life to the making of "stone soup". No single organization (municipal, provincial, federal, etc) could have pulled off the $21 million project alone. Some of the big players who made early commitments included Artscape and The Stop. According to the Mayor, the Artscape Wychwood Barns is the first restoration project in North America to receive the LEED (
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) gold standard. The Barns also won the Canadian Urban Institute's "Brownie" award for neighbourhood projects among all applicants across Canada. The project's architect & engineers were greeted with loud applause and cheers as were all of the key players that made this project a reality.

The "ruins" of Barn 5
Among the green features of the building,

  • diversion of 75% of building waste away from landfills
  • stormwater recycling to irrigate the 10,000 square foot greenhouse
  • geothermal heating and cooling
  • low flush water appliances
The barns will be home to dozens of artists with new studios and family housing. There is also a new theatre and rehearsal space. A community oven will allow people to come together to bake bread and pizzas. The Farmers Market will begin it's new life in the Barns. (It's been operating at a nearby church for the past couple years.) Office & meeting space is being provided for a number of non-profit arts and environmental groups as well.

Barn 4 Greenhouse
Much of the Barns original architecture and smaller details remain to honour the workers and building's use as a transit facility for many decades.

It was an amazing experience to attend the opening and to see the hundreds of people bringing the barns back to life. One area neighbour likened it to a "heart transplant'.

To see a "before" picture, please check out my earlier post about the Barns.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bottled water: The kids get it!! Nestles Boycott?

Looking at the young generation, I'm feeling great hope after reading this article from the November 14th Globe and Mail.

Message in a water bottle - Eco-savvy schoolkids keep Nestlé in line during Waste Reduction Week

Here's a chilly lesson in how to drown a feel-good public-relations event. At the splashy launch of Waste Reduction Week last month, with VIPs and the media looking on, hundreds of Toronto schoolchildren were given souvenir bags containing a disposable bottle of flavoured water, courtesy of Nestlé Waters Canada, one of the campaign sponsors.

The irony was not lost on Grade 4 and 5 students at Ogden Junior Public, a school near Queen and Spadina.

"I was disgusted by it," 11-year-old Sammy Chorney said of the event organized by the Recycling Council of Ontario. "I was a bit concerned because it was Waste Reduction Week."

Added Alexander Chang, 9, "It didn't make sense to give out those bottles after what we learned from our teacher..."
These kids and their teacher are really on the ball! And timing is everything.
This week, a City of Toronto committee endorsed banning bottled water from city facilities. If council approves the plan in December, civic centres will stop selling bottled water immediately and other city properties will stop selling it in three years.

The Toronto District School Board is considering banning bottled-water sales on school property...
As readers of this blog are aware, OPSEU is in the process of phasing out bottled water, including water coolers, at its offices, facilities and events. Here's one reason.
About 35 million polyethylene water bottles end up in Toronto landfill sites each year, and an additional 65 million are recycled.
Not only were the kids perplexed and angered by the freebie, but they're taking action into their own hands.
Mr. Shouldice's students fired off polite, pointed letters to the recycling council, its corporate sponsors, and the two government officials, Mr. Gerretsen and Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, who were present...

Other students raised the prospect of a boycott. "We included in our letters that if they didn't reply by Dec. 10, we'll never buy Nestlé products again," declared Alyanna Royce, Grade 4.

Jada Burrell, Grade 5, reminded her friend that Nestlé also makes candy, including Smarties. Alyanna thought about that. "I love Smarties," she said. "We just won't eat them."

Drill, baby, drill!

Although McCain & Palin were firmly defeated in their bid to continue the Bush era policies of ravaging the land, air and water, the Bush Administration is proceeding with a "fire sale" of lands for oil and gas drilling despite protests from within the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Uproar Over Federal Drilling Leases Next To Parks

Late on Election Day, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management announced a Dec. 19 auction of more than 50,000 acres of oil and gas parcels alongside or within view of Arches National Park and two other redrock national parks in Utah: Dinosaur and Canyonlands.

The National Park Service's top official in the state calls it "shocking and disturbing" and says his agency wasn't properly notified. Environmentalists call it a "fire sale" for the oil and gas industry by a departing administration.
The administration's response?
"I'm puzzled the Park Service has been as upset as they are," said Sierra.

"There are already many parcels leased around the parks."
Once again proving that if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Restaurant goes green

No, I'm not talking about a new salad bar. The Brick Ridge Restaurant in Mount Airy, Maryland has installed a Skystream wind turbine.

The Brick Ridge, which features American food from different traditions and regions, has integrated sustainable practices that include recycling, composting, rain water collection and biodegradable takeout containers. The Skystream is the newest and most visible feature. Located about 15 m from the road, the Skystream acts as a beacon for drivers in the rural-residential area that sits between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Climate change impact - water shortages

One of the things that many of us in Canada take for granted is the availability of water - for drinking, agriculture and many other uses. With 250,000 lakes in Ontario alone, it's hard to imagine shortages (although there are already many communities, particularly First Nations in the north which do not have safe, clean drinking water).

As of the beginning of the milennium worldwide, over one billion people did not have "sufficient access to clean water". This problem is expected to worsen dramatically as a result of climate change.

Experts: Half World Faces Water Shortage by 2080

Wong Poh Poh, a professor at the National University of Singapore, told a regional conference that global warming was disrupting water flow patterns and increasing the severity of floods, droughts and storms _ all of which reduce the availability of drinking water.

Wong said the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that as many as 2 billion people won't have sufficient access to clean water by 2050. That figure is expected to rise to 3.2 billion by 2080 _ nearly tripling the number who now do without it.

Reduced access to clean water _ which refers to water that can be used for drinking, bathing or cooking _ forces many villagers in poor countries to walk miles to reach supplies. Others, including those living in urban shanties, suffer from diseases caused by drinking from unclean sources.
So, are there solutions? If so, what are they?
Wong and others at the conference called on governments to embrace the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty to fight global warming and protect water resources, as a short-term solution.

But eventually governments must build infrastructure to protect coastal areas, improve management of water basins and adopt new technologies to enhance availability and reliability of water resources, Wong said.

Monday, November 17, 2008

OPSEU pilots new climate change course

On November 4, 2008, 19 OPSEU staff members participated in a pilot project for one of OPSEU's newest courses - “Climate Change – It’s a Union Issue”. The course was designed by a team of Union activists from 7 different unions (including yours truly) and facilitated by OPSEU Education Officer, Kay Singh.

Participants talk about the changes they can make in their union, work, home and community as a result of participating in this course.

The course will be available for the Regional Educational program in 2009 following a train-the-trainer program.

Thanks to Kay for this report.

Ontario's Green Future - No new nukes!!

Ontario's Green Future is a campaign by the Ontario Clean Air Alliance which is a broad alliance of different organizations.

Every nuclear construction project in the past 25 years in Ontario has gone massively over budget. Now Ontario energy planners are calling for massive new spending on nuclear energy. But their cost estimates are less than half those of the experts at Moody’s Investors Service. And we are all on the hook for nuclear's runaway costs, paying a nuclear debt surcharge on every kilowatt of electricity we use.

It’s time to end nuclear’s free ride.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dec 7 - Int'l Day of Action to Stop Global Warming

On December 7, 2008, Canadians from coast to coast will take to the streets to urge governments to stop climate chaos. The protests coincide with international climate talks in Poznan, Poland.
Parliament Hill
For more information contact - or

Dundas Square
For more information, contact -

Or check out Planet Friendly.

It would be great if OPSEU had a visible presence at these events. If you're aware of any events in your community, please use the comments section to tell everyone about it.

The goals of the conference, as outlined at the United Nations website are,
  • Agree on a plan of action and programmes of work for the final year of negotiations after a year of comprehensive and extensive discussions on crucial issues relating to future commitments, actions and cooperation
  • Make significant progress on a number of on-going issues required to enhance further the implementation of the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol
  • Advance understanding and commonality of views on "shared vision" for a new climate change regime
  • Strengthen momentum and commitment to the process and the agreed timeline
Important continuing issues will be capacity-building for developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD), technology transfer and adaptation.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fifth Estate: The Gospel of Green

The Fifth Estate aired the "Gospel of Green" on Wednesday. It will be showing again on Sunday, November 16 at 11:00 p.m. on CBC. I haven't seen it yet but I've heard that it it is excellent. You can also view it online.

Here's a synopsis.

As the world confronts the reality of global warming and the inevitable end of oil, the questions of what to do and how to sustain energy without oil or fossil fuels becomes more urgent. Bob McKeown and a fifth estate team travel to Germany to meet Hermann Scheer, called "Europe's Al Gore," a parliamentarian who is leading the way to increase Germany's reliance on renewable energy sources such as wind power and solar power. To date, 15% of Germany's energy comes from renewable sources. Scheer estimates that if Germany continues on this course, by 2030 that will be 100%. So, if one of the world major industrialized nations can achieve this, why can't a country like Canada? The answer may lie in the fifth estate's investigation of the influence, in this country, of conventional energy industry on politicians.
You mean the energy industry has influence over Canadian politicians? I'm shocked. Totally shocked.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Obama moving on environment

Well, of course we're all hoping so. And the Obama people know that. Since Bush is still president, Obama has limited room to do anything right now, but according to a story in the UK Guardian, the signals are being heard all the way across the ocean.

The move was part of a carefully coded series of messages from Obama meant to reassure America and the world about the shape of his administration, which does not assume power until January 20...

In one such signal the president-elect sent Jason Grumet, a policy adviser mentioned for a possible energy post, to an environmental conference in Washington to offer reassurances that there would be swift movement on climate change legislation. "The whole transition team felt it important to be here," Grumet said. "I think it is going to be a very very busy 2009, and I think we are going to need all of you to be on top of your game."

However, Grumet did not offer policy specifics, and his optimism was not shared by others at the conference, organised by the consulting group Point Carbon and the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Harper to flush water monitoring down the toilet

Tories to pull out of Canada-led water-monitoring programOne less thing to be proud about as Canadians.

The Harper government wants out of a Canada-led UN program that monitors freshwater around the world — a move seen by critics as the latest Tory abdication of global causes once championed by Ottawa.

Experts say they're shocked Canada would abandon a database it designed and has managed for 30 years, just as dwindling water supplies emerge as a critical issue.

Environment Canada spokesman John Carey says the Global Environment Monitoring System is no longer a priority...

Canada has most recently co-ordinated the system from labs at the University of Saskatchewan and in Burlington, Ont.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Understanding the bailout plan

This is an excellent analysis of the financial bailout by Naomi Klein. This article covers

  • the weaknesses of the bailout plan
  • conflicts of interest in administering the plan
  • what a decent plan might look like
One of Klein's key points is that the bailout is diverting billions of dollars to the wrong people and then being used an excuse to forestall any meaningful action on greenhouse gas emissions and investments in a greener, less unsustainable economy. This also leaves some food for thought,
Seventy firms applied for the gig (as "master custondian" - ed) the winner was Bank of New York Mellon. Describing the scope of the megacontract, bank president Gerald Hassell said, "It's the ultimate outsourcing - because the Federal Reserve and the Treasury do not have the mechanics to run the entire program, and we're essentially the general contractor across the entire program. It's going to cross our entire company."

This raises an interesting point: Has the Treasury partially nationalized the private banks, as we have been told? Or is it the other way around? Is it Treasury that has been partially privatized by Wall Street, its massive rescue plan now entirely in the hands of a private bank it is directly subsidizing?

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ontario plastic water bottle ban defeated

First, kudos to Liberal MPP Dr. Kuldip Kular (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) for his private members bill to ban small, plastic water bottles. Unfortunately, his proposal was shot down in the Legislature yesterday but it did, at least, get a discussion going.

Plastic bottle law defeated ... for now

"I wanted to create a dialogue and raise awareness of these issues," said Kular. "I hope in my next term I can bring it back."
According to the Toronto Star report, members from all parties opposed the bill.
One of the Liberals who stood up against the bill was Education Minister Kathleen Wynne. After the vote, Wynne said she did so because some schools in Ontario have lead pipes and rely on bottled water. The water also gives kids something to drink that fits with nutritional guidelines...

Environment Minister John Gerretsen told reporters earlier in the day he would like Ontario to become a "zero waste" society but he also doesn't want a one-off approach to something like this...
Wynne has a legitimate concern, given the pervasive problem of lead leaching from pipes into drinking water. However, why not give the bill a longer implementation period and provide schools with advanced filter systems (or replace the damn pipes already)? Gerretson seems to be waiting for the "perfect plan" before taking action. These are the same guys who supported a nuclear solution to Ontario's energy needs without a plan in place to encourage more alternative energy.
"This is the latest goofy initiative by the McGuinty Liberals," said MPP Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook). "Instead of talking about Ontario having a have-not province ... these guys are talking about meddling with water bottles," Hudak said. "They are out of touch."
It is Hudak that is out of touch. He tries to change the topic by suggesting that there are bigger problems and therefore, this should not be considered. I heard the same line on talk radio last night - "people are being shot on the streets". As if the government can ony do one thing at a time? The NDP are not quoted in the Star article but I found this on the CITY-TV news website.
NDP Leader Howard Hampton had indicated his party would have likely supported the bill, saying that continuing to fill landfills with empty water bottles is irresponsible.

"We either have to return to returnable bottles, or we have to find another way to deal with this," Hampton said.
Right on Howard. Not sure how the vote went but that sounds positive. I wonder if the ONDP has moved to ban bottled water at its own offices and events?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Congratulations to Obama

President-elect Barack Obama! That sounds pretty good. President Obama will sound even better.

Congratulations for the beginning of the end of the nightmare that was Bush, the republicans, and their intolerance, fear-mongering, war-making and attacks on human rights to name but a few.

Congratulations for taking the high road and winning decisively. Congratulations for a chance at a new beginning to tackle the challenges ahead - not the least of which are war, the environment and the economic crisis.

Congratulations to the American people who showed the sensibility to elect someone like Obama who opposed the war in Iraq from the get-go.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Labour Photo of the Year - 2008

Well, this doesn't have much to do with the environment but it's an interesting photo, winner of the first "Labour Photo of the Year" competition.

Almost 3,000 LabourStart readers from around the world voted in the competition. Five finalists were chosen from 101 entries by a panel of three labour photographers.

Demo in support of a one-day strike by the UK's National Union of Teachers in April 2008.
Photographer -Robert Day

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Artscape Wychwood Barns set to open this month

This is a terrific project that's happening in my neighbourhood. The Wychwood Barns were used for decades by the Toronto Transit Commission to repair, clean and test streetcars. The site was taken out of commission at least 25 years ago. Here's what the site looked like for years.


Under the political leadership of my councillor, Joe Mihevc, and with support from community groups and the community large, City Council, various city departments, the provincial and federal governments, Artscape, The Stop and many others, the barns have been transformed into a multi-use site including artist studios, residences, an indoor greenhouse and other community space including a weekly farmer's market, office space for non-profits and a theatre space. Four of five acres are green parkland. Here's an artist's conception of the final product.

After (I'll post a pic when I can find one)

This project has a lot of green features including geothermal heating and cooling.

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