Monday, December 29, 2008

"Clean coal" technology ads

Two short ads on the myth of "clean coal" from the Alliance for Climate Protection which is chaired by Al Gore.

2008 in review - USA

This is kind of fun.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

If you want to beat them, join them

Here's an inspirational story.

One Man’s Bid to Aid the Environment

Tim DeChristopher is an economics student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. He had just finished his last final exam before winter break. One of the exam questions was: If the oil and gas companies are the only ones that bid on public lands, are the true costs of oil and gas exploitation reflected in the prices paid?

DeChristopher was inspired. He finished the exam, threw on his red parka and went off to the Bureau of Land Management land auction that the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance called "the Bush administration's last great gift to the oil and gas industry." Instead of joining the protest outside, he registered as a bidder, then bought 22,000 acres of public land. That is, he successfully bid on the public properties, located near the Arches and Canyonlands National Parks and Dinosaur National Monument, and other pristine areas. The price tag: more than $1.7 million.

He told me: "Once I started buying up every parcel, they understood pretty clearly what was going on ... they stopped the auction, and some federal agents came in and took me out. I guess there was a lot of chaos, and they didn't really know how to proceed at that point."
His actions appear to have held off the sell off of these pristine wilderness lands.
His disruption of the auction has temporarily blocked the Bush-enabled land grab by the oil and gas industries. If DeChristopher can come up with $45,000 by Dec. 29, he can make the first payment on the land, possibly avoiding any claim of fraud. If the BLM opts to re-auction the land, it can't happen until after the Obama administration takes over.
There's now a campaign in place by to try and raise the needed funds and to cover any legal expenses that may be incurred.

Here's a blog post from DeChristopher dated Boxing Day.
The tremendous outpouring of support which I have received in response to disrupting the BLM’s oil sale has been overwhelming for me. I can only assume that the thanks many of you have offered is not thanks for doing what you won’t, but thanks for awakening your own sense of efficacy. My actions were just the striking of the match head. The purpose of a match is not to light the world by its own flame, but to ignite the tinder and kindling which keeps the fire going. If my act is to be relevant, it must ignite the tinder of grassroots uprising which will burn the fires of change around the world.

Coal sludge for Christmas

We've all heard about receiving a lump of coal for Christmas but this story takes things one step further. Instead of coal, all these residents in Tennessee got was half a billion poison laden gallons of sludge.

Environmentalists Fear Risks From Tennessee Ash Spill

HARRIMAN, Tenn - Environmentalists worry the ash-laden sludge that coated a Tennessee neighborhood when a power plant dike burst could pose a health risk, although initial tests by a public utility company have shown no threat to drinking water.

"The holiday disaster shows that there really isn't such a thing as a clean coal plant," Taylor said.
Based on this video, it was 500 million gallons.

A new deal?

No, I'm not referring to the OPSEU Central and Unified bargaining contracts although I am relieved that we were able to bargain a deal before the holidays. I'm referring to the "New Deal" that is being suggested south of the border.  Here are two articles worth reading for a deeper understanding of the financial mess we're in. 

A New New Deal?

Facing the Economic Crisis
by Stanley Aronowitz

While looking at the big picture, both articles make mention of "green jobs" and the approaches needed to build that sector of the economy while also laying out some criteria for the new deal. Here's Aronowitz's priority list for the bailout, most of which also applies to any actions being taken in Canada.

  • a set of proposals for a labour-intensive jobs program to accompany infrastructure development;
  • demand the governments be the direct employer, and only absolutely necessary private contracts be let for specialized services;
  • demand that the new jobs pay a living wage at least equal to the nationa average;.
  • demand creation of labour-intensive jobs in public services and the arts;
  • demand enactment of the Conyers Bill HR 676 providing medicare for all. Universalizing health care would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs;
  • implement the Green Jobs program by re-opening and retooling abandoned auto and parts plants as well as building new plants to produce solar panels, windmills, geo-thermal machinery, water treatment technology and waste disposal products. These should be owned and operated by workers' cooperatives as well as letting contracts to existing manufacturers of these goods; and
  • demand rigorous oversight of employment programs to insure employment opportunities for blacks, Latinos women and the disabled.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Year end message to Greening OPSEU supporters

2008 in Review

Dear OPSEU Green Stewards and Staff,
Seasons greetings to everyone for safe and happy holidays. 2008 was a busy year for Greening OPSEU, our efforts to make a difference by reducing OPSEU's environmental footprint and encouraging our members, employers and governments to do the same through awareness raising, concrete actions and effective alternatives.
Here are some highlights of this year's activities:
Special thanks to 1st Vice-President/Treasurer Patty, Peggy Maybury, President Smokey, Environment Committee members Gino Franche, Sandra Snider & Jen Giroux, OPSEU Building Services and everyone who's had a hand in moving our green agenda forward this year.

In solidarity
Gary Shaul
Greening OPSEU

Infrastructure investment debate in US

According to this Washington Post report, a debate has emerged in the US over what types of infrastructure the incoming Obama administration should be funding with its spending plan.

'Green' Jobs Compete for Stimulus Aid

In one of the first internal struggles of the incoming Obama administration, environmentalists and smart-growth advocates are trying to shift the priorities of the economic stimulus plan that will be introduced in Congress next month away from allocating tens of billions of dollars to highways, bridges and other traditional infrastructure spending to more projects that create "green-collar" jobs...

Labor leaders have refrained from criticizing other stakeholders in the infrastructure debate, saying that the stimulus legislation will provide plenty of money to fund quick-starting pavement projects and environmentally friendly efforts. "It shouldn't be one or the other," said Anna Burger, chairman of Change to Win, a union group. "In fact, we do have crumbling roads and bridges that need to be repaired. It's not about pitting one against the other. It's about how we find a sustainable economy."...

... environmentalists and their allies view old-fashioned highway construction as encouraging longer commutes and increasing the energy-consumption crisis of the past year. "They're going to put a bunch of money through a broken system to stimulate the economy. That doesn't make sense to me," said Colin Peppard, a transportation expert for Friends of the Earth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Smart street lights in Germany

In effort to save electricity and maintain safe streets, the town of Doerentrup in north-west Germany turns off its street lights after a certain time but gives residents the option to turn the lights back on, street by street, using their cell phones.

Villagers text to light the way

Tip of the hat to Emily Visser for this story.

One million acts of green

By now hopefully most people will have heard about this initiative from CBC and its program sponsors.

One million acts of green

Public still expects action on global warming

Despite efforts by Big Energy to use the economic crisis to push global warming off the agenda, the public is still expecting governments to take action. 

Gloomy economic forecasts fail to curb Green enthusiasm

Earlier this month, a green coalition released the results of a poll that found 83 per cent of 1,000 respondents agreed that Canada should commit to "strong action on global warming without waiting for other countries."
As well, two thirds of respondents disagreed when asked if "governments in Canada should cut back on efforts to tackle global warming because of the current economic crisis."...

Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada, says Canadians no longer believe there has to be a trade-off between the economy and the environment.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Our lakes: Harbingers of change

More not so great news from Peter Calamai of the Toronto Star.


Within your lifetime, a favorite lake could become covered by a stinking mass of blue-green algae and be made barren of trout or other deep-water fish.

A pioneering study by Queen's University researchers has discovered that the unparalleled rise in average temperatures over the past half-century has pushed many lakes in North America and Western Europe over an ecological tipping point.
Lake Mendota

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Trust & confidence

Given all that is taking place around us, I have been giving a lot of thought to the notion of "confidence". Consumer confidence. Investor confidence. Real estate confidence. Citizen confidence in politicians and our political system. How can anyone have any confidence in the people and institutions that have pillaged people's pensions and other savings and investments, devalued their homes, cut deeply into their buying power and cut their jobs? We're supposed to have confidence in these high-flying millionaires, already so richly rewarded for their "mistakes" and their failed promises. We're supposed to trust them to get us out of this mess?

We are witness to another spike in the continuing transfer of wealth from working people to the very wealthy. First they got their massive tax cuts. Deregulation opened the door to legal and illegal ponzi schemes, unabated pollution & greenhouse gases and a shift of resources toward a war economy, particularly in the US. The bigger picture includes getting rid of or defanging unions in order to reduce living standards to those of the developing world. And we're supposed to trust them to put things right?

The auto deal says it all. Pump public money into a large fossil fuel burning industry while forcing workers to make concessions. Before the "crisis", we "couldn't afford" to take steps to try and shift our economy in greener and more sustainable directions. But we can find the money to carry on, business as usual.

The current economic mess is a product of the systemic, cyclical, ups and downs of the capitalist system and its never ending greed. The very government agencies that are supposed to protect us have been defanged while most politicians maintain a narrow view of "what's possible".

I came across this article today about "trust" by Richard Thieme and thought it had some good insights into this "phenomenon". While it doesn't directly address the environmental crisis facing the planet, some of the same dynamics are at play as greed trumps sanity in the race to avoid the cimate breaking point of a two degree rise in global temperatures.

The Betrayal of The Commons
The cornerstone of capitalism, it has been said, is a handshake...

Trust, not money, makes the world go around. Money is an emblem of the exchange of trust. It doesn't exist except as an invention. And trust has been broken...

Because of S&P, we dare not buy bonds, because who knows what they might be worth? Because of the SEC, we dare not invest in stocks or mutual funds or funds of funds because who knows what they might be worth? Because of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the investment banks with whom they slept and partied, who knows what those arcane and opaque investments might be worth?

After such knowledge, what forgiveness? Who will be the first to dare to believe the words of a leader or economist now? Who dares to pretend that the trauma that shocks us now is trivial or mild?

Friday, December 19, 2008

Japan's first solar cargo ship

TOKYO - THE world's first cargo ship partly propelled by solar power took to the seas on Friday in Japan, aiming to cut fuel costs and carbon emissions when automakers ship off their exports. The solar power system can generate 40 kilowatts, which would initially cover only 0.2 per cent of the ship's energy consumption for propulsion, but company officials said they hoped to raise the ratio....

Lest we forget that the first large ships were wind-powered.

Auto bailout: blame the workers

Contradictions abound with the auto bailout. Of course no one wants hundreds of thousands of Canadian (millions of American) jobs to disappear. But at what price do we expect government to intervene to "save the day"? When will the big 3 start to take energy efficiency seriously? Why do the workers take the brunt of the disaster while the owners get their bonuses?

Bush Approves $17.4 Billion Auto Bailout

President Bush announced $13.4 billion in emergency loans on Friday to prevent the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, and said another $4 billion would be available for the hobbled automakers in February. The entire bailout is conditioned on the companies undertaking sweeping reorganizations to show that they can return to profitability.
That doesn't sound completely unreasonable but how can the automakers be trusted to do the right thing - i.e. start to shift production to smaller, more energy efficient and alternatively fuelled vehicles? If I'm not mistaken, the auto industry has been raking in billions in both civilian and military manufacturing over the past few years. When times were good, CEOs were raking in huge bonuses while shareholders were well rewarded. Now that times are bad, compounded by bad business decisions on the part of the Big 3, they're demanding a bailout to avoid going broke. Why didn't they put aside reserve funds when times were good? Remember the story of Joseph?
Mr. Bush, in a televised speech before the opening of the markets, said that under other circumstances he would have let the companies fail, a consequence of their bad business decisions. But given the recession, he said the government had no choice but to step in.

First the banks and financial industry, now the automakers are being rewarded for their greedy and poor decisions. As this article points out, executives continue to rake in billions in executive compensation despite their bad decisions. Taxpayers are on the hook. Next, the oil companies will be coming cap in hand for their share of the spoils as the doors of public treasuries opened wide for the rich to stick their fingers in and grab as much as they can. But here's the real name of the game:
The loan deal requires the companies to quickly reduce their debt by two-thirds, mostly through debt-for-equity swaps, and to reach an agreement with the United Automobile Workers union to cut wages and benefits so they are competitive with those of employees of foreign-based automakers in the United States.
This is the reason the rethuglican senators rejected the deal last week - not enough hammering of unionized workers. This is all about reducing the living standards of those who have decent jobs and reducing everyone to the lowest possible wages. History has shown time and again that concessions always beget more concessions followed by moving the companies off-shore. Today, the comparator is "employees of foreign-based automakers in the United States". Tomorrow it will be employees of foreign-based automakers outside the United States.

Not content with raiding and ransacking working people's pensions, investments, home values and savings, big business is using the hammer of fear and the anvil of bankruptcy to bring down wages while prices for food and energy continue to rise (notwithstanding a temporary drop in the price of gas).

And speaking about looting, Bernie Madoff made off with $50 billion in the largest ponzi scheme in the history of the world. Rather than prey on the small fish, Madoff scammed the sharks whose greed prevented them from asking questions like, "How do you do it? It seems too good to be true?" With regulators like the SEC turning a blind eye for decades, Madoff just kept going until it all caught up with him as investors tried to pull out their cash.

Who once said,

More money saving green tips

Why not save some money and do some good for the environment at the same time?

10 Green Ways to Save Some Green $$

Trent researchers work on Arctic brings awards

Two Trent researchers win awards for work on climate change in Arctic

Two Trent graduate students won awards last week for research on climate change in the Arctic, a press release states.

Kaitlin Breton-Honeyman and Jennie Knopp won the awards at an international research conference called Arctic Change 2008, held in Quebec City from Dec. 9 to 12, a press release states.

Breton-Honeyman won for research about how climate change affects the health and safety of people who live in the Arctic.

"For Inuit, health and safety on the land is of particular concern as many communities report increasingly frequent uncharacteristic weather and sea-ice conditions putting hunters and others at greater risk than ever before," she states in a release.
Congratulations to Kaitlin and Jennie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sit-in ends in victory at Republic Windows

While I had been hearing about the sit-in by the workers at Liberty Windows in Chicago, I didn't really put two and two together until this evening. While the workers and their union - the United Electrical - were taking extraordinary action in pursuit of fairness - the wages and benefits owed to them - it's also a story about the growing "green economy". Energy-efficient windows and doors. Retrofitting buildings. Creating union jobs. Union busting. Conserving energy. Reducing greenhouse gases. Talk of workers co-ops. It's an exciting story.

The Story Behind the Republic Window Settlement
By Meg White, Buzzflash
With such a sequence of events, it's natural to wonder whether Republic was run into the ground in order to set up elsewhere for cheaper. Leah Fried, an organizer with UE that is working with the former Republic workers, said it's impossible for her to say what the former owners of Republic have been planning, since the union has always had a tough time getting the truth from them.
Obama also weighed in on the side of the workers. Very novel and refreshing indeed.
“When it comes to the situation here in Chicago with the workers who are asking for their benefits and payments they have earned, I think they are absolutely right,” Obama said Sunday at a news conference announcing his new Veterans Affairs director. “What’s happening to them is reflective of what’s happening across this economy.
James Caroll, from the International Herald Tribune has an interesting analysis of Obama's gut instincts and his ability to communicate clearly about fairness.
In the past, American society has drawn a bright line between acceptable protests launched in the name of civil rights and unacceptable demands made in the name of economic rights, but Obama blurred that line with a simple statement: Workers have a right to what they have earned. That transparent truth trumped the usually controlling categories of legality, procedure and decorum.

Enceladus anyone?

For the enterprising types, why not ruin the environment and life on earth if you can eventually move to another planet? Or moon? How about Enceladus, one of Jupiter's tiny moons.

Tiny Saturn Moon ID'd As Good Candidate For Alien Life

The only catch? There's no atmosphere.

Scientists for the first time have gathered comprehensive evidence suggesting Enceladus may have all the necessary ingredients to harbor life in the ocean beneath its icy crust.
There's always Europa or Mars.

Cuba best prepared to "eat local"

In "eat local" movement, Cuba is years ahead

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba planted thousands of urban cooperative gardens to offset reduced rations of imported food.

Now, in the wake of three hurricanes that wiped out 30 percent of Cuba's farm crops, the communist country is again turning to its urban gardens to keep its people properly fed.

Obama appoints Steven Chu as Energy Secretary

Who is Steven Chu you might ask?

Chu is a Nobel Prize winning physicist who actually believes that climate change could be disastrous for the planet. Maybe there is some hope after all after all these years of having that department controlled by the oil industry, for the oil industry.

Chu also believes in evolution.

I haven't watched it myself, but here's a YouTube video of Chu discussing the Helios project which is about harnessing solar energy as a way to reduce dependence on fossil fuels.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Canada takes 11 Fossil of Day awards at climate talks

Canada did spectacularly well this year in the "Fossil of the Day" awards during the Climate Change talks in Poznań, Poland which just concluded. The Harper crew picked up another 11 awards bringing Canada's overall total to 65 and making Canada this year's "Colossal Fossil", one of the most successful stallers, delayers and obstructionists on the planet. In fact, we're #2 in terms of total awards, right behind the United States. The awards are given out by the Climate Action Network. This year's awards include:

Dec 2 - (Gobbledy-gook but it's not pretty - ed)
Dec 4 - Canada, Japan, and Russia all spoke--and all three countries failed to propose the most fundamental, immediate, and essential thing: targets for Annex I countries to cut carbon by 2020 based on 1990 levels. Beating climate change with a target like Canada's is like trying to play hockey with a toothpick.

Dec 4 - Canada argued that the tar sands, the most ecologically destructive industrial project on the planet, should be a "get out of jail free card" on climate responsibilities.

Dec 4 - Canada for suggesting "welfare loss" as a justification for rich countries to have weaker emission reduction targets. When Canada talks about "welfare loss", it means such hardships as Canadians having to use smaller cars or public transit.

Dec 4 - Canada suggested that "national circumstances" are the reason for Canada being almost 30% above its Kyoto target. Specifically, Canada cited its cold climate and large size as two reasons for its failure to reduce emissions.

Dec 5 - Japan, Australia, and Canada share second place dishonours for the dangerous outbreak of backsliding at yesterday's AWG-KP contact group on mitigation commitments. When these countries signed the Kyoto Protocol, they agreed to limit their emissions relative to 1990 levels. But yesterday they appeared to be rethinking their vows.

Dec 6 - Canada wins the world's first-ever Saturday Fossil Award for its hypocrisy in the AWG-LCA workshop on Research and Development--for its claim of generous support for wind energy.

Dec 9 - For opposing targets of 25-40% reductions by Annex I countries by 2020, in KP (informal) negotiations the last two days.

Dec 9 - For working to delete the words "rights" from agreements on REDD in (informal) SBSTA negotiations today.

Dec 11 - Canada snags Third Fossil for ordering the Secretariat to tear down a photo presentation on the Alberta Tar Sands on display at the USCAN table. The display, set up by youth delegates, highlighted the tar sands, which are projected to create 80 million tonnes of new annual CO2 emissions between now and 2020.

Dec 12 - This group of umbrella countries--and Canada in particular--wins its Fossil for insisting that they haven't been obstructing progress. Their best evidence? The fact that they reaffirmed the decisions on targets made in Bali. Guess what progress isn't? Begrudgingly saying the same thing you did last year, and refusing to go any further.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

May blasts Canada's role in Poznan

More embarrassment for Canada on the international stage. With all the worries and pressure being focused on the economic and political crises as well as the discrediting of the idea of putting a price on carbon, Harper and his Cons have not been feeling any significant pressure on the climate climate change and the environment more generally from Canadians.

'Embarrassing' to be a Canadian at climate talks: Green party leader

The UN climate conference in Poznan, Poland, was a "mark of shame" for Canada, Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said on Saturday.

Delegates from poorer nations were angry at Canada for not meeting its commitments under the Kyoto protocol, as well as all industrialized countries for stalling on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, May told CBC News...

"The speeches at the end of the session really were tinged with regret, and, from some countries, outright anger that the industrialized countries have been taking their time, coming up with excuses," May said.

"There was not real progress made here. It was basically an agreement to keep on talking," she added...
Blah, blah, blah. Why is it that when it comes to finding billions and even hundreds of billions of dollars to hand out to banks, auto makers and now the oil companies, the money is suddenly there. But when it comes to protecting the planet for future generations, it's always too expensive? So what exactly was the problem with Canada's position at these climate talks which are a "warm up" to negotiations that are slated to take place in Copenhagen in December 2009?
Environmental groups have criticized Canada for its plans to use 2006 as a base year for calculating greenhouse gas emission reductions, instead of the year 1990, as outlined in the Kyoto agreement.
And the government's response?
Not everyone necessarily agrees with our positions," he (Minister of Environment Jim Prentice - ed.)  said. "However, we have been quite clear that we wish to be a constructive force in concluding an effective international protocol.
A constructive force? Sheesh. Let's hope these guys are out of power by the time next December rolls around.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Greenpeace finds "ray of light" in Europe

While the talks in Poznan, Poland on reducing greenhouse gases were less than satisfying, it seems that the development of renewable energy is making more progress, at least in Europe which already has a 20 year head start on North America.

It's no small matter to receive some faint praise from Greenpeace.

EU Renewables deal: a "ray of light" in the EU’s climate and energy package

Finally, some good news has come out of the EU’s climate and energy package. The result is a pay off for three years of campaigning for an Energy [R]evolution in Europe. With your help we’ve researched and published reports, lobbied MEPs, heads of state, commissioners and energy firms around Europe, and undertaken dozens of actions. Our campaigns for Europe to quit coal, say no to nuclear power and yes to an Energy [R]evolution have reached millions and the message is finally starting to be heard.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Al Gore meets with Obama & Biden

The Brickworks preservation project

A good article in today's Toronto Star by Christopher Hume about the restoration of the Brickworks in Toronto's Don Valley and the new Urban Sustainability Centre that's being built there. It is hoped that the new centre will achieve a LEED Platinum rating, the highest available.

Preservation project makes timely debut

Despite a spotty history of heritage preservation, we are slowly starting to get it right. First, there was the Distillery District. Then came the Wychwood Barns. Now, there's Evergreen Brick Works.

Royson James on Toronto bottled water ban

A good read about how Toronto is leading by example on bottled water and other waste reduction measures. Toronto is taking baby steps but moving in the right direction.

City's green agenda can also inspire

In response to the article, OPSEU First Vice-President / Treasurer Patty Rout sent a letter to the editor to today's Toronto Star. Hopefully it will get published this week.

Letter to the Editor
Toronto Star
1 Yonge Street
Toronto, Ontario

January 9, 2008

Re: Royson James, City’s green agenda can also inspire – December 9, 2008

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) applauds the City of Toronto for its efforts to lead by example by banning the sale of bottled water at city-owned facilities. OPSEU is travelling down a similar road and taking action to phase out the use of disposable water bottles as well as water bottle coolers at our offices, events and other facilities.

To date, we’ve gone bottled-water free at 13 of our 22 offices including our head office in Toronto. More offices will be bottle free by the end of the year. Our plan includes lead testing to ensure that the safe drinking water delivered by municipalities is safe all the way to the tap. We are providing our staff, members and visitors a filtered water option on select taps. We have also provided our 300 plus staff with personal stainless steel drinking containers. We are able to pay for all of this from savings generated by the phase-out of water coolers.

As James says, Toronto’s initiatives will migrate to other organizations. This is because these measures are good for the environment and for the budget. Clean, safe drinking water provided by the public sector is a hallmark of progress. Toronto has re-affirmed that and that’s something we can all be proud of.

Patty Rout
1st Vice-President / Treasurer
Ontario Public Service Employees Union

Build your own windmill

For those handy people, you can build your own 4 foot high windmill as suggested by Bruce K at GreenNexxus.

How to Build a Wind Turbine

A turbine of this size, should generate about 100 watts in a strong wind. This will never be enough to take you off the grid, but the project is quite simple and you will learn lots. Once I had gathered the parts I needed, I had the turbine finished in a day. I have tried to include the basic instructions and some pictures.
Hat tip to Marnie Niemi for this story.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Stop climate chaos rally in Toronto

I attended the Toronto Stop Climate Chaos rally. While there less than a couple of hundred people there, it was a spirited, mostly youthful, crowd, despite the frigid cold. The rally was part of a worldwide set of actions designed to spotlight popular support for effective measures to reduce greenhouse gases. It was timed to coincide during the UN climate change talks currently taking place in Poznan, Poland.

Here are a few pics that I took. I didn't catch all the speakers names and can't find any media reports of the rally.

This was my 3rd demo in 3 days. I also attended an emergency vigil on Friday to protest the war in Afghanistan after Canada's 100th soldier was killed and the pro-Coalition rally to replace Harper that happened on Saturday.

A crowd shot.

Speaker from Greenpeace Canada promises that their petition will be delivered to Stephen Harper in the most creative way.

Toronto/York Labour Council President John Cartwright talks about retrofitting buildings, the importance of an inclusive climate change movement and the role that youth must play to turn things around.

Speaker from HERE Local 75 talks about the important steps taken by her union and her employer - the Royal York Hotel - to provide subsidized transit passes to workers at the hotel and the need to expand it to other hotels and employers.

Student leader talks about youth actions to oppose climate change.

The Samba Squad does their thing to help warm up the boisterous crowd.

Stalwart activist and friend Frank Showler shows his support.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Prorogue - My new blog

Hey, that rhymes. Just thought I'd share with readers that I've created a new blog called Prorogue -

It is not directly related to my work at OPSEU but thought I'd crassly use any vehicle I have available to promote it. :)

The purpose of the blog is to explore different issues related to the proroguing of parliament last week and the political situation in Canada with a particular eye toward finding opportunities to promote electoral reform at a time like this. To the extent that electoral reform is possible, it affects issues such as labour rights, the environment, public services and just about every issue in the sense that public opinion is generally on the side of accountable government, fair representation and public policy (doing the right thing).

This piece - Stephen Harper's decidedly republican approach to defending democracy - was picked up by the US website Buzzflash and is sending a fair amount of traffic my way.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Five Things to Watch in Poznan

This was published by the Youth Climate Movement before the UN Conference on Climate Change in Poznan, Poland started but gives a sense of some of the key issues and players which are,

  1. The Youth Caucus
  2. United States
  3. Money - for adaptation and technology transfer
  4. China
  5. Forests
This is the text from the official UN website:
Parties are expected to:
  • 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, including capacity-building for developing countries, reducing emissions from deforestation (REDD), technology transfer and adaptation.
  • Advance understanding and commonality of views on "shared vision" for a new climate change regime
  • Strengthen commitment to the process and the agreed timeline

Such an outcome at Poznań would build momentum towards an agreed outcome at Copenhagen in December 2009.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Toronto bans bottled water sales at city facilities

Polaris Institute News Release


Toronto Bans Bottled Water!

Toronto becomes the largest municipality in the world to ban bottled water

TORONTO, Dec. 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Toronto City Council voted yesterday to
ban the sale and provision of bottled water in city facilities and ensure
access to public tap water in all city facilities. Toronto is now the largest
municipality in the world to ban bottled water.

"Toronto's decision to ban the bottle and turn on the tap sends a clear
message that bottled water's 15 minutes are up, the marketing scam is out of
the closet, and it's time to go back to the tap," says Joe Cressy, Campaigns
Coordinator for the Polaris Institute.

Bottled Water Bans in Canada:
  • 17 municipalities from 5 provinces have banned the bottle.
  • 45 municipalities are planning restrictions on bottled water.
  • Canada's Parliament is currently considering a ban on bottled water at the Parliament Buildings
For further information: Joe Cressy, Polaris Institute, (613) 237-1717 x102

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

NUPGE's first videoconference

When it rains it pours! Not only did OPSEU conduct its first webconference on Monday, but NUPGE also held it's first videoconference with participants from components in 8 locations across Canada. OPSEU's First Vice-President Patty Rout participated from the theatre at Head Office while President Smokey Thomas called in via telephone as he was not in Toronto.
(Photo not from this session)

NUPGE has gone with Polycom hi-definition system for its videoconferencing.

While there were a couple of glitches that are being worked out, the meeting was a success and an opportunity to both demonstrate the new system to NUPGE's National Executive Board and to share the latest information about the federal political scene. The NEB heard a short presentation from NUPGE President James Clancy and then had a Q&A/discussion.

Monday, December 1, 2008

OPSEU's first webconference

OPSEU's Provincial Young Workers Committee held its first webconference on Monday to kick off the union's pilot webconference project. Committee members using webcams and headsets participated in a successful, full day business meeting from the following locations:

  • Kenora membership centre (Cassiey Moeller)
  • Sudbury (Jennifer Giroux)
  • Peterborough Regional office (Claire Rowett)
  • Windsor (Elizabeth Ha)
  • Port Hope (Sean Platt)
  • Ottawa (Kelly McInnes)
Head office was set up using the large screen monitor from its Polycom videoconferencing system and a special desk speaker/microphone to allow more than one person to participate from the same computer. Krista Maracle & Yvonne Bobb are shown below in OPSEU's theatre.

OPSEU has gone with WiredRed's E-pop product for our pilot. This allows participants to not only hear and see each other, but to share documents, web browsers and other applications.

There was only one technical glitch which was related to bandwidth at head office which periodically hampered communications to and from head office. We're working on this and confident that it can be overcome shortly.

The next pilot is scheduled for Friday with the Provincial Human Rights Committee. OPSEU's Executive Committee (Officers) will be holding a webconference business meeting on January 8, 2009. Some OPSEU staff are also participating in the project which runs until the end of January. If you would like to participate in the pilot, please contact me (Gary Shaul) by email or call 416-443-8888 x 8723.

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