Friday, July 31, 2009

Regina premiers' conference coming up...

Climate showdown with premiers Aug. 5-7 in Regina

Regina (31 July 2009) - Progressive groups, including the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees' Union (SGEU/NUPGE), are gearing up for a "Climate showdown in Regina" coinciding with the summer meeting of Canada's premiers and territorial leaders.

The talks on climate, energy and trade issues are scheduled Aug. 5-7 in the Saskatchewan capital. Som of the key groups involved include the Council of Canadians, Greenpeace and the Sierra Club of Canada.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stomping for local grapes....

Grape Stomping Protests Support Grape Growers

Environmental Defence and our partners in the Ontario Greenbelt Alliance are stomping grapes to support Ontario's grape growers...

But we're not just squishing grapes. We're calling on the Ontario government to make sure that wine sold as "Cellared in Canada" has grapes that are grown in Ontario. Right now, "Cellared in Canada" wine only has to have 30% content from Ontario grapes. The rest can come from overseas. That doesn't make sense for Ontario grape growers, or for the environment.

We want the Ontario government to:
• Increase the Ontario Content in "Cellared in Canada" immediately to 50%
• Increase the Ontario wine market share to 51% at LCBO outlets [Ontario's wine stores] throughout Ontario
• Increase access to more retail stores across Ontario to sell more 100% grown Ontario wine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

US-China climate change agreement

U.S. and China sign memorandum on climate change

The United States and China, the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases, signed an agreement on Tuesday that promises more cooperation on climate change, energy and the environment without setting firm goals.
Presto. I supposed it's easy to agree without targets.
"It is not an agreement per se for each side to commit themselves to some particular target. It sets a structure for dialogue," said State Department spokesman Ian Kelly.

The memorandum listed 10 areas of cooperation, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, cleaner use of coal, smart grid technologies, electric cars, and research and development.
I guess we'll have to see what, if anything, comes of this.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culver's Root or Veronicastrum Virginiana

It is good to be back in Canada and I am looking forward to getting back to the OPSEU garden after a few weeks of vacation. One of the plants I am most looking forward to seeing is the Culver's Root. I'm not sure if these plants will bloom this year so I'm excited to find out.
Culver's Root is a terrific addition to the back of a border planting. Here in the OPSEU garden there are three patches of it behind in the upper terraces. This is a long lived perennial that is often found in prairies, thickets and open woods. The leaves are whorled around the stem creating an intense structure that is unique among native plants in the area. Reaching heights of seven feet, this is not a plant for a intimate garden but neither is it a bully. Culver's Root does not need stalking like most other tall perennials.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie dropseed of Sporobolus heterolepsis is one of the most garden worthy grasses in the world. This native grass stays fairly short compared to most full-sun clumping grasses and it does well on alkaline or calcereous soils. In the OPSEU memorial garden it is the most abundant species - creating structure throughout the year, providng a full ground cover to deter weeds and reduce evaporation of moisure from the soil.

Prairie dropseed is rather slow to develop but also long-lived, establishing a sustainable meadow. So while there is no dramatic flower, the form makes it a perfect foil in the garden. Turning a golden colour over the winter the grass also tends to have a scent of toasted cilantro.

Watch for it this fall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Disastrous drought threat grows in the prairies

Parched Prairies: Latest drought a sign of things to come?

Cracked soil and cloudless skies have fuelled fears that 2009 could become etched in the minds of farmers as one of the worst recorded droughts in recent history.

Dave Sauchyn, a University of Regina geography professor, says two major droughts in a decade is a "disconcerting" indication that climate change prediction models could be right – that the worst is yet to come....

Six of the top 10 costliest disasters in Canadian history have been droughts, and their effects spread far beyond the agricultural sector. It can take decades for the land to fully recover.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Canadians want to reduce ghg footprint without changing shoes

Carol Goar illustrates Canadians' penchant for wanting to live a more sustainable lifestyle without making any significant changes. NIMBYism, consumerism and habitual behaviour are among the hurdles that need to be crossed. Without dismissing government's role and big carbon's influence, as long as people keep driving to the store to buy what they want, Goar asserts that these attitudes let government off the hook. I think she's got a point, but that there is more to the story.

Just Fair-Weather Friends of the Environment

As long as it isn't expensive, noisy, inconvenient, uncomfortable or labour-intensive, we're eager to save the environment.
Little wonder our greenhouse gas emissions keep climbing. Little wonder Canada produces more municipal waste per person than any other country. Little wonder we rank among the world's top consumers of fossil fuels. (The oil-rich Gulf states are worse.)

Our 20-year quest to preserve the ecosystem – without changing our lifestyle – has led to a succession of unrealistic plans, missed targets and ineffectual initiatives...

It is possible to get along without central air conditioning, a leaf blower, a snow blower, an espresso maker, a plasma TV, a winter vacation abroad, apples from South Africa and avocados from the Caribbean. People managed for generations.
However, we should also acknowledge that our government, and residents, won't solve the problem alone. True, we are energy hogs, but it's a global problem which will require co-ordinated, co-operative efforts across borders. We could be setting an example while doing our "small" part (I think Canada accounts for about 2% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions).

Unfortunately, our economic system, by its very nature, does not lend itself to "reducing" or "reusing". It is a system that relies on expansion, growth and private profits. Huge wealth is amassed for a very small minority whose influence is well beyond its numbers. It is a system that passes off the real costs of doing business (cleaning up their messes) to the public while decrying taxes.

Even as the world economy is going through a huge contraction - caused by a combination of the "growth/recession cycles" of capitalism, greedy deregulation, rapacious fraud and raiding of the public treasuries - the mainstream public discourse, with very few exceptions, unimaginatively remains limited to entrusting the same people who've gotten us into the mess to tinker around the edges.

Waxman-Markey bill undermined Obama on climate change

This is a good piece by Jim Hansen that talks about the limitations faced by Obama as Congress ties his hands, how that impacted the G8 talks this week, what is needed to truly make a dent in global warming and climate change and how to achieve those goals - a "fee & dividend system". The Waxman-Markey bill passed the House of Representatives in late June - 219 to 212.

G-8 Failure Reflects US Failure on Climate Change - Jin Hansen

With a workable climate bill in his pocket, President Obama might have been able to begin building that global consensus in Italy. Instead, it looks as if the delegates from other nations may have done what 219 U.S. House members who voted up Waxman-Markey last month did not: critically read the 1,400-page American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 and deduce that it's no more fit to rescue our climate than a V-2 rocket was to land a man on the moon.

For all its "green" aura, Waxman-Markey locks in fossil fuel business-as-usual and garlands it with a Ponzi-like "cap-and-trade" scheme. Here are a few of the bill's egregious flaws:

  • It guts the Clean Air Act, removing EPA's ability to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants.
  • It sets meager targets -- 2020 emissions are to be a paltry 13% less than this year's level -- and sabotages even these by permitting fictitious "offsets," by which other nations are paid to preserve forests - while logging and food production will simply move elsewhere to meet market demand.
  • Its cap-and-trade system, reports former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs Robert Shapiro, "has no provisions to prevent insider trading by utilities and energy companies or a financial meltdown from speculators trading frantically in the permits and their derivatives."
  • It fails to set predictable prices for carbon, without which, Shapiro notes, "businesses and households won't be able to calculate whether developing and using less carbon-intensive energy and technologies makes economic sense," thus ensuring that millions of carbon-critical decisions fall short....
The fact is that the climate course set by Waxman-Markey is a disaster course. Their bill is an astoundingly inefficient way to get a tiny reduction of emissions. It's less than worthless, because it will delay by at least a decade starting on a path that is fundamentally sound from the standpoints of both economics and climate preservation.
Hansen goes on to talk about an alternative to "cap and trade" which he calls "fee and dividend". He's critical of some leaders of larger environmental organizations who are willing to support anything in the name of doing something - even if that "something" will not be very effective. He calls for us to get off of coal and dirty petroleum within 10 years while working on a transition away from oil altogether in an effort to prevent catastrophic, irreversible climate change.

Hansen was one of the fearless voices who spoke up during the Dubya era.
Jim Hansen is director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, but he writes on this policy-related topic as a private citizen.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Garden sharing catching on...

"Friendly university graduate student looking for a small piece of land to grow and share fruits and berries."

Meet "Senior with chronic bad back, looking to share my backyard. Sharing the produce would be a God sent blessing."

A match made in heaven? No, a match made online.
Garden-sharing program bears fruit
Sharing Backyards started in Victoria three years ago when a volunteer took a garden-sharing list from a community garden bulletin board and posted it online, designing an interactive website that let people post their requests on a map of the city – indicating "lookers" with binoculars and "sharers" with a tree inside a plot.

The free program has spread to more than 20 cities across North America. Project leader Christopher Hawkins aims to inspire 500 new urban vegetable plots by early next year.

G8: PM representing big carbon

Not that it's any surprise, but Stephen Harpers continues to shill for the oil and carbon industries by maintaining our reliance on fossil fuels. Canada continues to snub medium and short-term targets while claiming that we'll get reductions of 70% by 2050 - a target which they have no intention of achieving. Consider this a sneak preview of what's to come at the Copenhagen talks in the fall.

The Canadian government refused yesterday to adjust its plan to combat global warming even though its objectives fall short of the new commitment from the G8 group of industrialized countries to slash greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.
Not much of a surprise here considering that just two years ago, the PM was a climate change-denier who was in the pockets of the oil companies.
Critics, from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to environmental lobby groups, said developed countries didn't show adequate leadership at the G8 summit here.
Resulting in an "out" for developing nations like China and India.
"Canada's current 2020 target, which is equivalent to just 3% below 1990 levels, falls far short of the emission cuts needed to avoid dangerous climate change," Climate Action Network Canada said in a statement...

Brazil also questioned the G8's leadership, saying the 2050 target was "not credible" unless it was accompanied by targets for 2020 -- the year when the UN says emissions must peak and start to move downward.
And round and round we go.

Check out Kelly Chrichton's report at for more.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I scream, you scream, we all scream...

For Ice Cream

With more and more ice cream brands going organic, and incorporating healthier ingredients such as soy, yogurt and even rice (instead of heavy cream), there’s plenty of good reasons to indulge your sweet tooth.

Along with my all-too-eager husband, I tasted dozens of varieties. We stuck to brands that are available nationally, although there are dozens of small producers in every part of the country that produce excellent ice cream and let you keep your food dollars in your community...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Great Barrier Reef: Going, going, ....

Great Barrier Reef will be gone in 20 years

Charlie Veron, former chief scientist of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, told The Times: "There is no way out, no loopholes. The Great Barrier Reef will be over within 20 years or so."

Once carbon dioxide had hit the levels predicted for between 2030 and 2060, all coral reefs were doomed to extinction, he said. "They would be the world’s first global ecosystem to collapse. I have the backing of every coral reef scientist, every research organization. I’ve spoken to them all. This is critical. This is reality."
I can just hear Stephen Harper whimpering at the G8 about how nothing can be proven until it occurs and that the global economic system is more important than any reef or jungle.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Face the G8

The G-8 Summit begins tomorrow in Italy.

From the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - Play the G-8 Summit game.

As noted in an earlier post, Canada ranks last among the G-8 countries in making progress on climate change.

Then there's the 5th Junior G-8 with kids from around the world. Let's hope the adults are sensible enough to listen to what the kids have to say.

OXFAM is calling for drastic action on climate change.
The globe's richest powerhouses must get serious about how First World pollution is spreading disease and hunger in the poorest countries, a new report says.

Toronto: Green bin mess?

A weekend expose in the Toronto Star of Toronto's green bin program revealed that some of the organic materials are being landfilled and even incinerated and the some of the compost produced in the process is toxic to plants due to high salt content.

Bags of green bin waste are stored at Toronto's Bermondsey Rd. recycling depot, awaiting their fate. (June 3, 2009)
Now the province is jumping in to supposedly fix the mess.

Province steps in to fix green bin mess
"We have to fix these problems," Environment Minister John Gerretsen said.

"I want to change the regulations out there and I want greater oversight from the beginning to the end of the process," he added, in an interview that followed the Star's revelations over the weekend about Toronto's organics program.
Notwithstanding the allegations raised, the city maintains that it is running a fine program.
Yesterday, the head of Toronto's organics program sent the Star a letter asking "our citizens" to continue to have faith in the green bin program.

"Despite some minor growing pains, Toronto's green bin program is one of the most effective in North America," wrote Geoff Rathbone, general manager of the city's solid waste management services.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Canada: Burn baby burn

This is not good news and all the more reason for OPSEU to continue to step up to the plate to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

Canada last among G8 on climate change action: report

Canada has been ranked last among the G8 nations in an annual climate change report funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the insurance firm Allianz SE...

Last year, Canada placed seventh. This year, it traded places with the U.S., which moved up a spot thanks to climate initiatives announced by the Obama administration.

Germany, the United Kingdom and France topped the list, partly because they have already achieved their Kyoto targets.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Perennial Flax - Linum lewisii

There have been so many changes in the garden it is hard to know where to start. But I am going to take things one step at a time with a flower of the week posting. Today we're gonna start with one of my favorite plants in the garden and that is the perennial flax or prairie flax, Linum lewisii.

Prairie flax is a wildflower common to dry slopes and ridges. It is a terrific native for xeriscaping and dry sandy locations. In fact this plant will stand taller in the sandy, well drained soil. New blooms will arrive every morning fading by mid-afternoon so look for it when you come in the morning. This plant will seed around under good conditions.

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