Monday, September 28, 2009

Cassandras of Climate - Paul Krugman

These days, dire warnings aren't the delusional raving of cranks. They're what come out of the most widely respected climate models, devised by the leading researchers. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.

What's driving this new pessimism? Partly it's the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. Partly it's growing evidence that feedback loops amplifying the effects of man-made greenhouse gas emissions are stronger than previously realized. For example, it has long been understood that global warming will cause the tundra to thaw, releasing carbon dioxide, which will cause even more warming, but new research shows far more carbon dioxide locked in the permafrost than previously thought, which means a much bigger feedback effect.
As Krugman notes, we must rely on government, not big business to lead on climate change. It's all well and good that individuals are taking action to reduce their carbon footprints. However, that is a small part of the solution.

Methane gas is being released into atmosphere faster than thought, compounding the problem

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Northern Sea Oats

Northern Sea Oats or Chasmanthium latifolium is a unique and terrific clumping grass for the garden. It is most suited to sunny well drained soils but can also be found in shadier spots where it can accept somewhat drier conditions. What makes Northern Sea Oats particularly interesting is the two-dimensional sead heads that hang from the top of the plant at the end of summer and autumn. Turning a purple/red these combine shape and colour for spectacular effect.

This will be my last post with Greening OPSEU. I have had a terrific time with the OPSEU and hope that the gardens will be enjoyed for years to come as they mature and develop into an important local concentrator for pollinators and seed bank for local genetics.

United Nations climate change summit...

Harper defends climate-change efforts amid criticism Canada's lagging

Prime Minister Stephen Harper defended Canada on Tuesday against accusations from a growing chorus of international critics that the country is lagging behind on climate-change efforts.

"Canada's come a long way from where we were," Harper said Tuesday outside New York's City Hall, where he'd paid a courtesy call to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The prime minister was quick to pin the blame for any climate-change foot-dragging on his Liberal predecessors.
This AP article didn't make mention of the fact that Harper declined to attend the UN Summit - well he was planning to pork out at dinner but he was too busy to speak to the UN. But it's really great that he found a few moments to blame the Liberals. While there is a lot of truth to how the liberals betrayed Canadians' interests, Harper was a climate change DENIER at the time so he's not one to talk. In true do-nothing style, Harper went on to pass the buck and pin everything on a continental deal with the USA.

Prepare for grand embarrassment in Copenhagen. Let's see what Harper has to say at the G20 climate change meeting later this week.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flash-mobbing for the environment...

The Canada Climate Action Network, as part of the TckTckTck campaign, held "flash-mob" protests across the country on Tuesday to coincide with the UN Climate Change Summit.

Canadian youth to join global call for action on climate change

"Flash-mobs" are pre-planned brief events, part performance art, that appear to materialize spontaneously and amaze onlookers.
In Toronto, participants will hold up their cellphones at 12:18 p.m. and call Prime Minister Harper's Office. In Ottawa participants will form a human clock as a reminder that the time for action on climate is running out.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Age of Stupid...

Tonight is the world premiere of "The Age of Stupid", the new, and long awaited film about climate change which is making its debut in advance of the Copenhagen meeting on global warming. It will be shown in 550 theatres in 45 countries. I'll be attending and will give a review later in the week. Here are the details for Toronto if you're able to attend.

The Age of Stupid

'The Age of Stupid' is the new cinema documentary from the Director of 'McLibel' and the Producer of the Oscar-winning 'One Day in September'. This enormously ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055, watching 'archive' footage from 2008 and asking: why didn't we stop climate change while we had the chance?

Youth to tell goverment what time it is....

The Global Climate Wake-up Call

Happening today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Green vacations...

Also from Green Living...

10 Incredible Eco Travel Destinations

These days, so-called ecotourism or green holiday options are advertised everywhere, but what makes for a truly legitimate eco-vacation? The authors of Clean Breaks (August 2009), Richard Hammond and Jeremy Smith, have done the digging for you and selected 500 eco destinations and experiences from around the world. “We studied the green claims made by many hundreds of operations worldwide before selecting those that we felt both offered the best experiences combined with genuine environmental and social commitments,” says author Hammond. “We show how you can see the world in a responsible way through minimizing your environmental impact on your journey and at the destination—by choosing carefully how you travel and the nature of places that you stay at. We also hope to show how you can have a positive impact in other ways—by contributing to the conservation of wildlife and local heritage and supporting local economies.”

Green laptops....

From Green Living. If you're planning to purchase a new laptop, have a look at this article.

Eco Laptops

Purchasing a new computer can be baffling enough without considering its carbon footprint. Luckily, a number of third-party researchers have done the homework for you.

“There isn’t one computer that’s excelling in all the criteria, so with every model there will be tradeoffs,” says toxics campaigner Casey Harrell of Greenpeace International, which publishes the Guide to Greener Electronics. The Guide ranks the top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and game consoles according to their environmental policies, and the most recent edition was released in July. “The latest scores aren’t anything you’d want to take home and show your mother.”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Implications of the Van Jones resignation...

As reported here last week, Obama's "Green Jobs Czar", Van Jones, was forced to resign from the Obama administration a few days ago for having once called republicans "assholes". Rabbi Michael Lerner from Tikkun has an interesting analysis of what this could mean for progressive politics in the United States.

Van Jones's Resignation: Bad for the Country and Bad for Obama

Jones's resignation is bad for the country and for the Obama administration. It's bad for America when progressive views are an excuse to purge someone from the administration while extremist right-wing views of past administrations were always given a "pass."

Van Jones's forced resignation is a huge defeat for the forces of sanity and humanity, and represents a deep failure of the Obama-ites to understand the nature of the challenge they face from an increasingly fascistic Right wing.

Jones was the first African American environmentalist to have become a national figure (his book became a national bestseller), and was brought into the administration to help enlist minority communities in the struggle to save the environment from decades of abuse...

The bigger issue remains: how Obama responds to the assaults from the Right. The pattern he sets by allowing his assistants to force Jones to resign (or set by Jones himself in the unlikely case that he made the decision without such outside pressure) is one of capitulation -- and that will only guarantee yet more extreme assaults from the Right. Wilhelm Reich in the late 1920s analyzed the growth of fascism in Germany, and one of his important observations was that the fascists managed to intimidate people because the Left was not in the streets challenging them. Luckily, we are not yet at a point where the Right is scaring people in the streets of American cities, but they are doing so through the media. What is needed is a vigorous challenge in the media from liberals and progressives, and the obvious place from which that should be coming is the Obama administration. If, instead, they wimp out, as so many congressional Democrats have done for the past many years, the Right will be encouraged and tens of millions of decent Americans will become fearful and withdraw from public involvement, allowing a path to power for some of the most hate-oriented forces in American society. Historians may well look back at the Van Jones resignation as an important step in that process of shifting the society, so recently rejoicing at having gotten back on track toward progressive values, toward a renewed McCarthyism or worse...

Friday, September 11, 2009


Kudos to Brother John Hesch, Local 565 Green Steward who recently sent in this Eco-checklist. Please feel free to share these ideas with others in your locals.

At our recent LEC meeting, I was asked to provide the LEC with five (5) things that every employee can ask their Supervisor about the organization's environment commitment.

1) Are we part of a recycling program for office consumables? (i.e. toners, cartridges, batteries, old computers and printers, etc.) If not, why? I know it was suggested to our employer back in January that each office should have a box for recycling batteries. To date, I have not seen one.

2) Are the washrooms ECO friendly? (i.e. - hand dryers vs. paper towels, organic soap, low flow toilets, etc.) Yes, this is more of a property management issue, but as a tenant in the building, we have the ability to liaise with our landlords to ensure that they are environmentally responsible too. (i.e. waste diversion, cleaning products, hydro, etc.)

3) Are we actively encouraging ECO friendly habits? (i.e. - Are people being told / asked to turn off lights, computers, radios, fans, etc. when they leave the office? Are people being asked / told to bring coffee mugs, travel mugs, water canteens to the office to cut down on the number of paper cups and plastic bottles in the trash? Does the company host/promote litterless meetings?) I left our office at 11 pm the other night and two manager’s offices had radios, lights and computers still on, overnight.

4) Are we actively attempting to reduce our overall energy consumption? (i.e. - fluorescent lights, motion activated lights, IT notifications to turn off computers at the end of the day, IT installing power bars to reduce "ghost energy usage" etc.) Without a doubt, the consumption of energy is one of our biggest contributors to our carbon footprint. Whether you know it or not, the lights in our building burn 24/7. There is no need for this. A huge amount of energy is wasted every night and even more so on the weekends. Our organization just spent a great deal of money to retro fit the office including new paint and windows. Why aren't we spending money to reduce our energy usage?

5) Lastly, a common element in every company that is actually green, not just one that says it is on paper, but is actually green in everything they do, is a carbon footprint assessment. The David Suzuki Foundation actually recommends in their guide "Doing Business in a New Climate" that calculating a carbon footprint is the first step in going green. Think about it, how can we possibly know where we're going, without understanding where we are right now. There are companies that will calculate this information for us, some will even do it for free. All we have to do is ask.

But most importantly, what is your Executive Committee and/or Management Teams doing to lead the way, lead by example, and encourage ECO friendly habits to their staff. I was in line at the coffee shop in our building a few weeks ago and saw one of my Supervisors buying coffee in a paper cup. Jokingly and as a friendly reminder, I said; "Where's your mug?" and pointed to my travel mug which I was in the process of refilling. The response, and the ribbing I took from others about the comment later, made it clear to me that the ECO program at our office is not much more than words on paper.

So just to re-cap and summarize, employees should be asking about:

1) Recycling Office Consumables
2) ECO Friendly Washrooms
3) ECO Friendly Office Habits
4) Reducing Energy Consumption
5) Calculating our Carbon Footprint

and then looking for their Managers and Supervisors to lead by example and encourage others to follow suit.

Yours in solidarity,

John Hesch
Green Steward
OPSEU Local 565

Thursday, September 10, 2009

OPSEU's native plants in bloom

Now that September has rolled around, I thought I'd take a few pics of the plants - flowers and vegetables. I'll have to wait until Jon returns from his trip abroad to identify the flowers. Flowers are in the preceeding post.

Terrace garden - filled in quite nicely. Native plants on the left, veggies on the right.

Side view. Front bed didn't do quite as well.

New garden bed started this summer in rear of building.

Wild grasses in bed on front lawn. Due to the number of Norway maples, other plants do not grow very well.

Indigenous wildflowers

Lesmill veggies

In addition to expanding the scope and variety indigenous plants this year at Head Office, we experimented with growing food. While the soil proved to need some nutrients, there is a small harvest that is now becoming available.


Cherry tomatoes

Yellow Peppers

Cayenne peppers




Dozens of new animal species discovered in Papua New Guinea

Lost world of fanged frogs and giant rats discovered in Papua New Guinea

A team of scientists from Britain, the United States and Papua New Guinea found more than 40 previously unidentified species when they climbed into the kilometre-deep crater of Mount Bosavi and explored a pristine jungle habitat teeming with life that has evolved in isolation since the volcano last erupted 200,000 years ago. In a remarkably rich haul from just five weeks of exploration, the biologists discovered 16 frogs which have never before been recorded by science, at least three new fish, a new bat and a giant rat, which may turn out to be the biggest in the world.

The discoveries are being seen as fresh evidence of the richness of theworld's rainforests and the explorers hope their finds will add weight to calls for international action to prevent the demise of similar ecosystems. They said Papua New Guinea's rainforest is currently being destroyed at the rate of 3.5% a year.

Check out some more pictures here.

Ontario & Quebec to meet on climate change

Climate tops agenda for McGuinty, Charest

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Quebec Premier Jean Charest meet today amid fears of a federal climate-change plan that would allow Alberta's oil sands to keep polluting while hindering industry in Central Canada.

McGuinty and Charest are meeting alone before tomorrow's joint Ontario-Quebec cabinet session to discuss Ottawa's controversial scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Officials in Ontario say there is concern Prime Minister Stephen Harper will cap emissions from manufacturers here and allow energy firms to meet more flexible "intensity" targets that would allow output – and pollution – to grow...
"Intensity targets" are the linchpin in the Big Energy's plan to allow greenhouse gas production to rise. Ontario and Quebec are right in challenging them.
In the last joint Ontario-Quebec cabinet meeting, on June 2, 2008, McGuinty and Charest announced an interprovincial carbon-trading market. Under their system, companies that produce fewer emissions than their caps permit could sell their unused quota on an open market to big polluting firms that exceed their emissions cap.
This is the "trade" part of "cap and trade". The big question is "what's the cap"? How will this plan actually reduce greenhouse gas production to 20th century levels?

I will be following this story closely.

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

While this isn't directly environment-related, if you're following the US debate on health insurance reform, this is an interesting article by Michael Pollan.

Big Food vs. Big Insurance

No one disputes that the $2.3 trillion we devote to the health care industry is often spent unwisely, but the fact that the United States spends twice as much per person as most European countries on health care can be substantially explained, as a study released last month says, by our being fatter. Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet...

Cheap food is going to be popular as long as the social and environmental costs of that food are charged to the future. There's lots of money to be made selling fast food and then treating the diseases that fast food causes. One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

International labour prepares for Copenhagen

Hat tip to Nancy Pridham, OPSEU Region 5 VP for this story.

Trade Unions Push Priorities for Achieving a Strong and Fair Climate Deal at Copenhagen Summit

Brussels, 9 September 2009: With only three months left to achieve a deal to fight climate change at the Copenhagen climate summit, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) has launched a new website on climate change and sets its key policy demands, aimed at ensuring that an ambitious climate change outcome will be strengthened with a call for undertaking “Just Transition” policies....

A new section on climate change has been developed on the ITUC website to support trade unions in their efforts to press for the shift towards a more sustainable society and a “green economy” that sustains decent jobs and livelihoods for all.

Good green jobs for all conference - November 7

Keep this date open!

The GOOD GREEN JOBS FOR ALL CONFERENCE is scheduled for Saturday November 7th beginning at 9:00 a.m., at the newly renovated Allstream Centre at the CNE (formerly the Automotive Building near the Prince's Gate. Sponsored by the Good Jobs For All Coalition, it will bring community, labour and environmental activists together to determine how we can work to achieve an economy that benefits all our communities – an economy based on sustainability, equity and social justice. For information go to
I have been participating in some of the planning meetings. There will be some interesting speakers and engaging workshops. Please try to attend.

Shopping mall "walks to the walk"

Tip of the hat to John Hesch, Local 565 for bringing to our attention the greening initiatives being taken by the Oakville Place Shopping Centre. One of their programs is called "Saving the planet, one plate a time". This initiative provides re-usable plates to food court patrons and helps to reduce waste. Other moves taken by the mall include a move away from pesticides on their grounds and the use of greener cleaning products.

p.s. - Best of all, Oakville Place is not an asset of Cadillac-Fairview which is currently being boycotted by the labour movement for its unfair labour practices at the Toronto-Dominion Centre where they locked out and then fired their maintenance and skilled trades.

Aquaculture now provides half of all fish worldwide

Half Of Fish Consumed Globally Is Now Raised On Farms, Study Finds

"Aquaculture, once a fledgling industry, now accounts for 50 percent of the fish consumed globally, according to a new report by an international team of researchers. And while the industry is more efficient than ever, it is also putting a significant strain on marine resources by consuming large amounts of feed made from wild fish harvested from the sea, the authors conclude."
And that, in essence is one of the central problems of fish farming. Smaller fish, which have been a mainstay in the diet of hundreds of millions of people around the world, are being turned into food pellets (with lots of antibiotics and other chemicals added) for larger fish, like salmon, so that there is a regular supply of cheap fish in western supermarkets and restaurants.

I've been reading Bottomfeeder: How to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood by Taras Grescoe this summer. I heard him speak last spring at the library. It's a fascinating look at seafood, and fish in general and the environmental catastrophies which are being caused by the fishing industry. We've all heard about the demise of the eastern cod. And the western salmon. As the oceans are sucked dry of fish by mega-trawlers which not only catch millions of tons of "unwanted" fish, they are destroying the ocean bottom as well, killing coral reefs which provide homes to so many other species.

Chilean fish farm

Grescoe explores these, and many other related sad tales of the ways in which corporations are ruining the livelihood of fisherpeople and the environment. There are more sustainable ways in which the fisheries can be maintained and aquaculture developed. However, big "FISH" is not about to sacrifice any short-term profits by building these additional sustainability costs into the price of salmon and shrimp any time soon. There's just too much money for their stockholders to earn by taking as many fish as possible now. Consumers expect their cheap shrimps even if it means continued degradation of the world's mangrove forests.

In the appendix of Bottomfeeder is a list and description of which fish should and should not be eaten. Below is a summary of that list.
No, Never
Bluefin tuna. Overfished. Mercury. (4.43)
Cod, Atlantic. Fished by pirate vessels. Bottom-trawled. (4.42)
Halibut, Atlantic. Mercury. Bottom-trawled. (4.53)
Chilean sea bass. Longlines, bottom-trawls. Mercury. Pirate vessels. (3.96)
Grouper. Longlined. Mercury. (3.60)

Depends, Sometimes
Abalone. Illegally fished. (2.00)
Anchovy. Overfished. (3.11)
Catfish. Antibiotics. (3.87)
Clams. Dredged. (2.00)
Cod, Pacific. Trawled. (4.01)
Crab. (Blue crab, 2.60)
Haddock. (4.09)

Absolutely, Always
Arctic char; barramundi. (4.26; 4.35)
Halibut, Pacific. (4.13)
Herring. (3.23)
Jellyfish. (2.00)
Mackerel. (3.65)
Mullet. (2.13)
Oysters, mussels... and many more.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Van Jones forced out of Obama administration

The right-wing, "conservative" nutbars succeeded in forcing the resignation of Van Jones, President Obama's "green jobs czar".

Van Jones is Dead. Long Live Van Jones!

I had heard a lot about him (Van Jones); read his speeches; was incredibly impressed with his courage and articulate vision in taking on some of the world’s most serious problems: poverty, environmental racism, and climate change. More importantly, he understood the relationship between those issues, and that they could be confronted in the most efficient and just manner if seen as one problem: bring the manufacturers of green energy equipment into the poor and despairing ghetto where the jobs are most needed, educate poor minorities to do these jobs ( thus providing hope), and then construct the solar panels, windmills, and geothermal machinery that will be needed to power our future in a sustainable way. Everybody wins. Right? Van Jones invited the people of this country to begin dreaming again --- to dream that a future based in justice and sustainability was possible. He said, “Dr. King didn’t get famous giving a speech that said, ‘I have a complaint.’”...

One might wonder why Obama did not do more to protect Van Jones. But when Jones referred to Republicans as “assholes” as a euphemism for ruthless, he was beyond protecting. It didn’t matter that Jones said he would have to become an asshole himself to fight for his policies. The soundbite was history. Nothing to do but cut him loose. But the deeper reason he had to be cut loose was that Obama would have had to tell the truth to protect him: yes, Van Jones is for economic justice; he is for conservation and alternative energy; he’s for prison reform; he’s for a re-structured economy based in sustainability, not exploitation and profit; he’s for a serious investigation of 9/11; he believes that ‘clean coal’ is absurd, etc. Obama could not protect him, because to do so he would have had to endorse Van Jones’ beliefs. He was not about to do that.

Greening OPSEU is back...

Summer is always a good time to try and recharge our batteries. This summer I took several trips to spend time enjoying the natural beauty that Ontario has to offer. To see more photos from my vacation trips, click on the links. To enlarge the pics below, click on the pic.

Lake Superior

Bears on the highway.

One of my favorite shots of the summer.
Pond beside the campsite.

Flocks of sandhill cranes.

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