Saturday, June 27, 2009

A New Front Meadow

Since starting at OPSEU at the beginning of June, it has been a steady job weeding and getting the memorial terrace garden at the front of the building prepared for planting. You could imagine that I was thrilled to finally get to the point where I could pick up the plants and get them in the ground.

Well the plants are in and due to some providential thundershowers seem to be settling in without any problems. I would like to thank everyone who stopped by to look on the garden and pass on their words of encouragement.

One element of the process that was a lot of fun (despite the terrible traffic on the hwy. 400) was picking up the plants from the nursery. Wildflower Farms on hwy. 12 just west of Orillia is a terrific place for anyone interested in starting their own native plant garden.

A quick tour of their garden made clear how much attention and care this small company puts into their plants. The care taken to ensure the pedigree of each plant is unique in the industry. 90% of the plants are Ontario natives grown from seed and every plant has been grown with a good deal of tough love.

In the demonstration garden the owners leave all the plants to their own devices without any irrigation or fertilization giving the owner a terrific understanding of how each plant responds to the Southern Ontario environment.

Gary has recommended one way of introducing the garden could be to present a wildflower of the week on the blog. I’ll start later this week with our first plant. Of course anyone who wants to stop by to ask some questions or even get their hands dirty is more than welcome.

See you in the garden,

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Busy Saturday...

Yesterday was a busy day in the city and I took part in my share of activities.

I began the day with my weekly visit to our local farmers market at the Artscape Wychwood Green Barn run by the STOP Community Centre. I picked up my favorites - some fresh Georgian Bay whitefish, Ontario strawberries and fair trade Mexican coffee.

(Farmers market is outside for the summer)

Next stop was the annual "Strawberries and Asparagus Festival" which was also held in my neighbourhood. The event was moved into the Phil White arena from the Cedarvale Park due to weather conditions. It's an awareness raising events for residents about how they can reduce greenhouse gases and take other environmentally friendly steps like creating a native plant garden. There was lots of good music. Fresh strawberries and asparagus on a bun with secret sauce for everyone.

Later in the day, I dropped by Foodshare's annual open house and caught the end of a very well attended panel discussion that included Executive Director Debbie Field, author and food activist Wayne Roberts, Judy Rebick and a couple of others.
At FoodShare we work on food issues "from field to table" - meaning that we focus on the entire system that puts food on our tables: from the growing, processing and distribution of food to its purchasing, cooking and consumption.
Both Debbie and Wayne have previous ties to OPSEU from the 1980s.

2008 Open House

Common theme for the day? Fresh, whole, healthy food.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

History slipping into the sea...

An interesting read.

Channel Islands

Climate change threatens Channel Islands artifacts

Perched on the edge of this wind-swept Southern California island, archaeologist Jon Erlandson watches helplessly as 6,600 years of human culture – and a good chunk of his career – is swallowed by the Pacific surf...

The sea has long lashed at the Channel Islands , also known as the North American Galapagos – stripping away beaches, slicing off cliff faces and nibbling at hundreds, perhaps thousands, of cultural relics.

Past coastal erosion for the most part was a natural phenomenon, but the problem is feared to grow worse with human-caused global warming and higher sea levels.

In a race against time and a rising tide, Erlandson and other keepers of history are hurrying to record and save eroding artifacts, which hold one of the earliest evidence for human seafaring in the Americas...

A warming planet is speeding the melting of polar ice, threatening to expose frozen remains like Scythian warrior mummies in Mongolia . Thawing permafrost is causing the ground to slump on Canada ’s Herschel Island , damaging caskets dating to the whaling heyday. Accelerated glacial melting may flood pre-Incan temples and tombs in the northern Andean highlands of Peru...

Friday, June 19, 2009

On the road....

I don't usually travel in my role as OPSEU's green co-ordinator. It's kind of counter-intuitive. In fact, until last week, the only place I travelled to was Peterborough to see Robert F. Kennedy Jr. last spring. I do drive to work (which I don't usually do at my downtown government job), mainly because public transit would more than double the length of my commute.

However, as part of the training end of our plan to implement webconferencing, I thought it would be a good idea to visit some of the regional offices that are closer to Toronto. I initially set a maximum distance of about 90 minutes from Toronto which covers 6 or 7 offices. On Thursday I visited Guelph in the morning and Owen Sound in the afternoon (slightly out of my perimeter). On Friday, I went to the Hamilton and Niagara regional offices.

I was pleasantly surprised that we were joined by Region 2 Executive Board members - Mike Grimaldi and Deb Tungatt for the Hamilton session. Eddie Almeida joined in via webconference from the Guelph office. Thanks to all for taking interest and making the effort.

This coming week I'll be visiting Orillia, Whitby and Peterborough to conduct some more training with our regional office staff who are providing support for the program. I've been conducting the training by telephone for the offices that are further away.

Since I was already up in very picturesque country on Thursday, I decided to take the long way home from Owen Sound. Below are a few pictures. I missed a couple of shots as I was driving but I saw a flock of vultures picking away at a dead raccoon and a porcupine at the side of the road among other things.

I also discovered a very good Italian restaurant in the "middle of nowhere" (actually it was on the outskirts of Mansfield - ski country - at the corner of Road 17 and probably Airport Road).

Walters Falls

River flowing from bottom of the falls

Bruce Trail side trail from Walters Falls

More of the Bruce Trail

Wildflowers along the trail

Niagara escarpment rocks

Red clay somewhere along Country Road 17

Thursday, June 18, 2009

OPSEU in motion - Profile

Grievance Officer Mark Barclay on his electric bicycle

Whenever the weather is half-decent, and sometimes when it's not, Mark's electric bike is a common sight at the front door of OPSEU's Head Office.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Another webconferencing update...

Plans to roll-out an Ontario-wide webconferencing network in OPSEU are proceeding well. New laptops have now been shipped to 18 out of 20 of the union's regional offices. I've been busy designing materials and and delivering training sessions to regional office and head office staff who will be supporting the program.

The scope for the first year will be on membership committees who have been directed to try webconferencing at least once in their current meeting cycle. However, the network will also be available for other working groups, training sessions, certain kinds of interviews, computer support and other initiatives.

OPSEU is using a webconferencing system called E-Pop which allows participants to meet online where they can see, hear and talk each other while sharing documents such as powerpoint presentations, word files, excel spreadsheets and other things such as webpages and video.

Detailed information about procedures and policies for using webconferencing are forthcoming through the usual union communication vehicles. Stay tuned cause you'll probably hear about it here first at GreenUnion.

Good, green jobs conference planning

I attended another planning meeting this evening for an October conference on good, green jobs. The conference is aiming to pull together environmentalists, community leaders and unionists to strategize around building a movement for good green jobs in the greater Toronto area. The conference and green jobs committee developed from the Good Jobs for All coalition conference held last fall, attended by over 1,000 people.

The agenda and planning is coming along well and I'm learning a lot and meeting new people.

This evening there was a speaker from the Mayors Tower Renewal program. He informed us about the pilot project running in 6 apartment buildings in four parts of the city - Kipling/Finch, Peanut Plaza, St. Jamestown and in Scarborough.

There are many challenges, not the least of which are finding willing apartment owners, providing local training & employment to local youth, and trying to develop local economies through local procurement of materials for the projects.


Here's something I came across today in the Toronto urban agriculture category.

Plant the Hot Stuff: FoodCycles Seeds the Field

FoodCycles is an urban farm social enterprise based in the Greater Toronto Area that raises worms, produces nutritious, vibrant soil compost and grows food.
FoodCycles will be holding its first City Farm Work Bee from June 20 to 24th in Downsview Park at the corner of Keele & Sheppard. Check the website for more information.

(Photo Via Sunny Lam, FoodCycles)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bottled water disaster...

Check out the following slide show about bottled water.

Water disaster

Hat tip to Sandra at OPSEU's Guelph office.

Monday, June 15, 2009

New zero-emission vehicle from Mitsubishi

Now this is pretty cool.

EDITORIAL: Zero-emission vehicles

A car that has neither an engine nor a muffler will debut on the Japanese market next month. Developed by Mitsubishi Motors Corp. the "i-MiEV" is the world's first mass-produced zero-emission minicar that does not need an internal combustion engine because it runs on a motor charged with electricity.
Expensive yes. But hopefully a sign of things to come.

PYWC - International Youth Day Event - August 7/8

The Provincial Young Workers' Committee is encouraging OPSEU's young workers to attend this year's International Youth Day Event to be held at the Toronto Regional Office on August 7 and 8.

You can find more information here.

I had the opportunity to participate last year in their event last year which focused on climate change.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Veggie planting time....

OPSEU's native plant garden is diversifying. This year, we planted a number of vegetables and fruits in part of the garden including tomatoes, cukes, zucchini, beans and blueberries. So drop by later in the season for some yummy treats.

The garden is taking great shape with Jon now working away several days a week. A lot of new plants will be going in the ground over the next couple of weeks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Peru update: Decrees suspended for 90 days

Update from Amazon Watch

Peru Congress Suspends Two Divisive Decrees

Six days after National Police violently attacked indigenous people in Bagua, Peru protesting free trade decrees that threaten to open the Amazon to oil, mining, and logging operations the Peruvian Congress issued a 90-day suspension of legislative decrees 1090 and 1064 yesterday in order to restore dialogue. Indigenous peoples are seeking revocation not suspension of all 10 decrees, and it remains to be seen if the action will lead to a re-start of talks with Amazonian indigenous peoples.
"Let's talk. After you cool down in about 3 months, then we'll steal your land and decimate your way of life and culture."
International human rights organizations are also calling on the Peruvian government to cancel arrest warrants for and guarantee respect for the rights of indigenous leaders who were hundreds of miles away from Bagua during the confrontation. No dialogue process will be possible if the representatives of the various indigenous peoples fear for their safety.
"Good, we can talk to who we want. It's not like these indigenous leaders are elected or anything."

Update: Meanwhile, just 42 minutes ago, this report came in.

Police fire tear gas in Peru protests
Riot police have fired tear gas to keep protesters away from Peru's Congress as thousands march in favor of Amazon Indians who want it to overturn laws they say threaten their lands.
Some 4,000 students, labor unions and other native Peruvians from the country's Andean highlands to its jungle lowlands joined the mostly peaceful nationwide protests.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Peru: Scores dead in battle for the Amazon

The leader of Peru's Amazon Indians will be flown to exile in Nicaragua after seeking asylum following violent demonstrations that killed scores of police and protesters...

Human rights lawyers have since accused the President Alan Garcia's regime of an orchestrated cover-up. Official figures put the death toll at just 32, including 23 policemen. News reports say the number of deaths is closer to 60, and vast numbers of missing people have yet to be accounted for.

Police open fire on Amazon Indians blocking the road in Bagua Grande in Peru's northern province of Utcubamba on Friday. (AP)
Trade unions are organising a strike across the country today, hoping to fan public outrage over the incident, which began when police fired tear gas and automatic weapons into noisy crowds of protesters...

The crisis follows months of escalating controversy over Mr Garcia's attempts to implement a free trade agreement with the US. New laws, brought in to increase the number of oil and logging concessions in the country's 67 million hectares of rainforest, appear to allow for the sale of tribespeople's ancestral territories.

In April, Aidesep supporters began blocking roads and rivers in rural areas of the country. A crucial oil pipeline across northern Peru has been shut down since the end of the month, costing the state oil company an estimated US $ 120,000 (£75,000) a day.

Indigenous people, who account for almost half of Peru's 28 million inhabitants, have for years had a tense relationship with the ruling class, who are largely descended from Europeans. Mr Garcia's has attempted to dismiss his Amazonian opponents as brutal savages, accusing them of "elemental ignorance".
"They just don't know their place. Can't they just learn that they lost, we won and their elemental culture has no place in the modern world".

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who killed the electric car?

Hat tip to Chris Moore who sent me a power point which I am unable to post so I'm linking to YouTube.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Green Jobs Conference

I attended another planning meeting for a Green Jobs conference to be held in the fall. The planning committee is a sub-committee of the Good Jobs for All coalition which was founded in the fall of 2008 by Toronto Labour Council and community partners.

More details to follow.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I was very pleased to see the first 6 of 20 laptops go out the door to regional offices in Regions 6 & 7 (northern Ontario). June will be training month for regional support and OPSEU Direct staff who will be administering the program along with myself and our IT department. Big thanks to everyone who has helped move this forward.

I am designing and delivering the training program and sessions - something which I have a lot of experience with in my "regular" job at the Ontario Ministry of Education (which I'm on a leave from).

More reports to come.

Wonders of the Don Valley

These photos were taken by brother Manzur Malik on his i-Phone after our lunch at the Duncan House on Don Mills Road. The frogs were croaking. The birds were singing. It's a lovely little spot.  This is part of the natural habitat within a couple hundred meters of OPSEU's head office on Lesmill Road and part of the inspiration for our native plant habitat project.

Click the photos for a better look. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

OPSEU's native garden takes big leap....

I'm pleased to report that OPSEU has hired a summer student to help develop and maintain our native plant gardens at head office. Jon Woodside is a recent graduate from Ryerson University's Landscape Design program and from the University of Guelph. Pictures and more stories to follow.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Buying green furniture....

Not the colour green of course but sustainable.

Greener Bar Stools

As with any green shopping, there are a lot of different questions to ask in order to establish how environmentally-friendly an item of furniture is. What is it made from? Are the materials sustainably-sourced? Are the materials recyclable? Is the finish non-toxic? Does the manufacturer have a social and environmental responsibility policy? All this can take time, especially if you’re purchasing something you’ve never bought before. I’ve recently been trying to find some eco-friendly bar stools and would like to share what I’ve found here...

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