Avatar Trailer

I have a confession to make. I've never seen ET or Titanic. Shame shame yes but I was never really  interested in the stories. A boy making friends with an alien only to have ET leave him at the end or to wait 3 grueling hours just to watch a ship sink. Come on.

Anyways, thought I'd share the trailer to the upcoming blockbuster Avatar. The film has been getting lotsa hype on the interwebs. Apparently it is filmed with a new technology - a fusion of  live-action, 3D and CGI.

Whatever - it looks really cool.

Elements of the central plot include many environmental themes. I may check it out in the theaters come December.

Enjoy and have a great weekend !


Metallica Monday

So my week kicked off with a big bang. Literally. My BF took me to the Metallica concert on Monday. The first time I've seen them live and wow. Had to be one of the best rock concerts I've ever seen. Our seats were great!  Check out some of the photos (keep in mind the quality is crap - from my camera phone).

As for their set - the first few songs were from their latest album Death Magnetic. Although I'm not familiar with those tunes - very impressive.  From there, they went to a few fan favorites with Seek & Destroy and One. Then the fever-pitch rose with  Enter Sandman and Unforgiven. I have to say the highlight for me was hearing the epic Master of Puppets. If there's one song that defines this band (if that's possible), I think it's MoP. It was the showstopper that brought the crowd to a frenzy.

I'll be checking-in later this week with a new rant on the environment.

Until then, here's a very clever animated short for your viewing pleasure.

Binge and Purge


Shaken, not stirred

So it's blog action day. The subject this year ? Climate Change.
First and last, the purpose of Blog Action Day is to create a discussion. We ask bloggers to take a single day out of their schedule and focus it on an important issue.

I took a geology course in college that was dubbed 'rocks for jocks' because it was considered an easy credit. While I enjoyed the plate tectonics as such, it was learning about past climates that tweaked my interest on the subject. Climate Change, formerly known as Global Warming, is the latest media vernacular when reporting on all things green.

I find fear is the number one tactic used by environmental brain-trusts when trying to get their message across. If we don't do X now, we'll get Y later than eventually Z. (Oooh not Z). And Y not. Fear motivates a lot of human behavior - fear of failure - fear of dying - fear of flying - fear of work. I personally fear hummus. When someone puts a bowl of that stuff in front of me I have to leave the room. It's scary. I shudder just thinking about it. Fear as a tactic to fight Climate Change is one dimensional. Actionable yes but educational no. You don't conquer fears by not understanding them. (I'm getting therapy for the hummus btw).

How does one conquer climate change exactly ? Don a toque when it's cold?

As we look to take action on Blog Action Day - let's try something other than fear as the motivator for change.

So here's my offering. Climate Change for Christina is 2 fold. The first knowing Climate Change is about the earth's natural evolution over time. You know as we orbit around the sun, stuff happens, ummm, like the southern continents get warmer, I think, umm, yup they do this time of year cause, yah know, they're closer to the sun. Over longer periods of time, the earth's climate has a tendency to change drastically.

The second fold of Climate Change for Christina is mankind. Our nature as survivor & species taking up more of earth's real-estate as each year passes. Our ability to reproduce, adapt and evolve (ha ha) to the ever changing climate makes for some bad-ass mammals.

Making sense of the fact that population growth continues while the earth remains the same size is for the scientists to figure out. They've got a pretty good idea now. Yet it's increasingly become more complex and a problem we need to address sooner rather than later. So they say. Thus Climate Change as the subject de jour - and taking better care of the environment - the action. The solution is complex - improving how we re-produce renewable non-carbon-emitting-energy products for the masses.

Quiz Time

Q: What generates emission free electricity, cools our nuclear tubes and makes for a refreshing beverage? Oil? no. Coal? no. Cow poop? No.

A: For Aqua. In the great white north, we have an abundance of the most important resource of all things life on the planet. The majority of Canada’s power production (just under 60%) comes from hydroelectricity. In Ontario, Nuclear and Hydro combined represent 75% of power production – all of which is non carbon emitting. (*Source: laforet.ca)

I'll leave this post with a question.

Q: If our greatest natural resource is the key to human survival, the planet's well being & provider of clean energy. Why we talkin' bout 'clean coal', building wind farms and solar panels when we're ignoring what's got us this far ?

A: (Fill in the blank comment form)


Gobble Gobble

Just got back from Alberta after spending the last few days with family, giving thanks and eating some delicious turkey. My niece Sarah is one and a half years and now walking & talking. Absolutely adorable. Last time I saw her - she could only sleep & cry. She's even eating adult food. Not just cheese & crackers but turkey, stuffing and potatoes. You name it - the kid will eat it. I also got to stay 2 nights in Banff. What a place it is. We took a gondola to the top of Sulfer Mountain. I gotta say, the Rocky mountains sure put things into perspective. A perspective that's tough to describe in a blog post but unfolds when you breath the mountain air and gaze at the wonder. My world does not seem so complicated in comparison. > Check it out some of my photos.

Anyhoo, it's good to be back in the big smoke feeling warmer and seeing the fall colours. Here are some random thoughts on the headlines as I plug back to the interwebs.

Ontario FIT Domestic Content Requirements (Source: Renewable Energy World)

While the first draft of the FIT rules specifically mentioned that projects that applied for a FIT contract would need to meet a minimum of Ontario-made equipment, no details about the domestic content rules were known until September 24th, providing both the manufacturers and developers with little time to plan for them.

FIT stands for Feed-In-Tariff and a key element of Ontario's Green Energy Act. In order to receive the FIT incentive, anywhere from 25-60% of the equipment must be Ontario made. Not bad news for the industrial sector of a recovering economy, in theory. To mandate renewable energy developers to source a percentage of their materials within Ontario. There's some great detail in the report from Jon Worren of Renewable Energy World and he offers this opinion on the rule:

While the political and economic motivation for attaching domestic content requirements to the FIT rules are obvious and understandable, there are concerns about the long-term implications that they may have on Ontario’s marketplace.

Fundamentally, I also believe that the domestic content rules might hinder necessary innovation in Ontario’s marketplace in the medium to long-term. In particular, there is a lot of innovation taking place in the solar industry, with new products that straddle the various domestic content categories entering the marketplace. A failure by the OPA to recognize the probable impact that rapid innovation will have on green energy products could resign Ontario to being a marketplace for less innovative products.

I agree with Jon and liken the policy to the CRTC regulation on Canadian content. There's an inherent risk of being mediocre (without competition) in manufacturing various renewable components. It's one thing to listen to the same weak song on the radio knowing why they keep playing it. It's another to have a windmill explode because of shoddy parts.

I've shared my thoughts on the Green Energy Act before and will continue to scoff at the developments as long as the McGuilty government is running the show. After all, it's our tax dollar. Speaking of scoffing at the Ontario government, have you heard the one about the Priest, the Premier and his deputy? Apparently it goes something like this...

Scathing audit paints picture of rogue Ontario provincial agency (Source: Ottawa Citizen)

 For Premier Dalton McGuinty, the eHealth spending controversy represents the biggest and most damaging scandal his government has faced since sweeping to power in 2003..

Shocking is hardly the word to use to describe the behavior of the Ontario government as it's borderline criminal if you consider what the eHealth scandal is uncovering.  Just another day at Queen's Park I guess. According to the report, his right-hand man George Smitherman got the ball rolling with the evil-doers @ eHealth and is rumored to have one foot out the door looking to become the next mayor of Toronto. No thanks George. Toronto already hada nobody in Mel.

(Unrelated but noteworthy)

Top US Green Companies (Source: Newsweek)

1.     Hewlett-Packard →  "Strong programs to reduce GHG emissions....
2.     Dell → "Ranks 4th among the top U.S....
3.     Johnson & Johnson → "Its commitment to climate change is...
4.     Intel → "Largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy...
5.     IBM → "Has had formal environmental policies since...
6.     State Street → "In an industry slow to acknowledge...
7.     Nike → "Leads its industry in environmental management...
8.     Bristol-Myers Squibb → "Announced goal to reduce direct and...
9.     Applied Materials → "Semiconductor manufacturer designs its products to...
10.   Starbucks → "Announced commitment in 2008 to source...
Data is collected by Trucost, a leading international environmental data firm, specializes in quantitative performance measurement and management. The Environmental Impact Score in the rankings is based on its global database. www.trucost.com

Interesting that 5 of the top 10 are technology companies being proactive as they make products (and a carbon footprint) for the information age. It's a good read for a blogger dependent on a computer, the internet and the environment.

That's it for today. Hope you had a happy Thanksgiving !


Curb Your Carbon Enthusiasm

As I try to become more green, I often ask myself what the hell does that really mean ? Thus the mantra, title and web address of the blog. I continue the emotional and spiritual journey to find the meaning in the greening of me. I search the interwebs for information, opinion and knowledge to help me reach this Xanadu. A challenging pinnacle to climb it is.

I came across this article and will use it for today's post because it had me look up the meaning of the word fodder.
1. coarse food for livestock, composed of entire plants, including leaves, stalks, and grain, of such forages as corn and sorghum.

2. people considered as readily available and of little value

The Globe and Mail

"Not to brag about it, but my husband and I have adopted a radical new green lifestyle. We've shrunk our living space, cut our energy bills in half and dramatically reduced our carbon footprint. These days, we walk everywhere. We shop at the (organic) grocery store and bring our food back in a bundle buggy. To get to work, I have a transit pass. I rarely drive our car at all any more." (Margaret Wente, Living in a green 'hood, Globe & Mail, Oct 5)

It's long been a pet-peeve of mine to read a piece of crap. Yes I made that choice but this article has as much charm as a Chia-Pet. It's so craptastic the Globe & Mail is publishing 'green knowledge' from a dying medium that still prints its product on paper. From a journalist who's research and expertise appears to be a result of a pay-cut forcing a different lifestyle (e.g less is more) now claiming she' s more green.

What's troubling is people have read this and will interpret it as something of value or influence. That would be like taking a lesson in comedy from Pauly Shore or friendship advice from Perez Hilton.

I don't propose I start eating organic spelt tortillas & salsa because some douchbag shops at an organic grocery store and happens to write a column for the Globe. I'll stick with my Old El Paso, thank you, and read the news on the internet. People - I take public transit. Some days I walk. When I need a car, I drive. I live in an apartment, recycle & compost, drink Brita filtered water and take reusable bags when shopping. It's what people do in 2009. Good for me but I wouldn't pass that on to you as something noteworthy. Or credible. Unfortunately for Maggie, she's too busy writing about her riveting day-to-day to know any better or to revel in the fact organic food is a sham.

I don't mean to be mean or look to discredit Maggie's mojo. She may have written something worthwhile back in the day, perhaps, but clearly those days have passed and reality has yet to set in. It's probably too late.

I'll save you the agony of reading Maggie's rag. Here's the synopsis:
"Those things make me love being green. And besides, I've lost weight."
That's deep and how she rolls ladies & gentlemen.

Do your research, keep an open mind and form an opinion for yourself. Right or wrong, it won't be fodder.

Tweet yah later.


Chinatown vs. Ontario

With Roman Polanski back behind bars, the expression life imitating art or art imitating life seems apropos of a filmmaker that claims the spotlight for better or worse. His personal life makes for some amazing fluff. Beyond the tabloid headlines, it's hard not to rubber-neck Polanski's pictures. The classic film noir/crime story Chinatown is no exception.

Overshadowed in 1974 by The Godfather Part 2 at the Academy Awards, I think Chinatown is a film more relevant in the big picture. I'll draw a comparison if you live in Ontario and happen to follow the provincial government's progress with the Green Energy Act.

  • The film's base plot explores corporate greed, murder and incest set as a period piece in LA circa 1930s.
  • The Ontario government's Green Energy Act explores corporate greed, NIMBY bashing and cuckolding set in a surreal 2009. (I had to look that up - cuckold - thinking it was some bizarre new fetish.)
  • The scoop. The folks at LA's Water Works Inc. are up to no good. Deliberately diverting fresh water back into the ocean claiming there's a drought in the city. In real time supplying water rights to the rich & famous living large in estate homes & vineyards. Add the murder of the City's chief engineer and things are not what they seem with the evidence on display.

  • The scoop. Boy George & Dalton McGuilty team up and enforce wind-farm development by creating the feed-in-tariff incentive before they figure how the grid can support it leaving local municipalities wondering why there's a new giant wind-farm in their village.

  • It's a picture that takes it's time telling the story and it needs to given the lack of narrative. Normally a crutch of Hollywood fair like this. It's refreshing not to have the protagonist blabbing away during useless segues to help the ignorant. Instead the viewer works along side Jack Nicholson (JJ Gittes), the PI hired to unravel the clues as characters come clean.

  • It's a government doing as little as possible by telling it's citizens that greenwashing is the solution to jump-start a slumping economy. Employing expensive lobby groups who gorge on expenses while spewing endless rhetoric from renewable pundits. The bill at the end of the day is footed by the tax-payer.

In the film there's a famous line delivered from the PI when asked what he was doing in Chinatown. His reply: 'As little as possible'. It's a marvel of visual style, both the film and Ontario's Green Energy Act.

For the latest on the Ontario government's progress with the Green Energy Act, check out the Q&A from the National Post.

For more on Polanski as pedophile, read Jeff's view on the famous auteur.

I offer a different opinion on Roman than Jeff does. It took some balls at the studio to hire him to helm Chinatown. Surely he had made a name for himself with Rosemary's Baby but after the brutal murder of his wife (with expecting child) he probably went insane. No doubt Romans early Hollywood experience taught him there are no rules when you have the money and the power. (E.g Then you get the women - as per Scarface). His crime, wrong as it was, pales in comparison to his childhood memory as a Polish Jew during the Nazi regime or a victim of the Mason murders.

Messed up for sure but he's a survivor on the epic scale of life.


Don’t Be So Mayo

I still watch TV. Not as much as I used to because the commercials berate my consumer ID to a pulp that I actually care about the image I purvey by choosing a sandwich spread. Really. It’s mayonnaise folks. Eggs whipped in fat, 'seasoning' and chemicals. Really. I have the power to choose but is that choice a change or is it a transformation? Do I take the blue pill or the red pill? Do I Miracle Whip or do I Mayonnaise?

All right, enough of that. If you want to know more visit Nacho Underpants on the sandwich spread lowdown.

And the Emmy goes to...

Anyways back to the TV shows still worth my while. 2 of my favorites happen to be Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Both feature a strong premise, fantastic writing, acting and production values. Mad Men showcases the boom and bust world of advertising set against the challenging period of the baby boomer. Breaking Bad sees a high school chemistry teacher dealt a fatal hand in life go alpha-male working the crystal meth trade to support his family before he dies. Of course, most of you know the scoop and it's good to know they took home awards on Sunday for the best in show.

Another commercial. The latest Liberal spot claiming:

We can do better

Really. You can, I’m sure. Regardless if you’re someone, something or party it's possible but may never a have chance if the choice is Green Washing as the strategy.

The new slogan for the Liberal's should be the mantra for the Wind energy industry in Canada who’s capacity to generate a whopping 2,854 megawatts -- enough to power more than 860,000 homes and equivalent to about one percent of Canada's total electricity demand. (Source: Reuters)

One percent? Really. Wind energy's potential can equal 1% of the country's energy portfolio. Hmm. Really. My brother can get more output from a burrito & beer.

For more on this subject check out the tasty menu @ the new Steak & Eggs blog.


JoFergs & Skyler point vs. counterpoint on the wind debate.

And for something edgy, check out Jeff's trippy take on 1968.

As they say on TV, stay tuned and we'll hear from you on Twitter.


3 Things I Think I Think on 9/9/09

I'm old enough to remember Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey on Saturday Night Live. The early 90s featured the best cast IMO with Phil Hartman and Will Farrell. My brother and I used to love Deep Thoughts. It was the perfect segue to the next sketch so in honor of Deep Thoughts, I present some random musings on current events. Also, I added a widget to the blog so you can check out some Deep Thoughts on each visit ! (On the right column)

Blowing Smoke

Electricity generation company Ontario Power Generation is to close four coal-fueled power units in 2010, as part of the province’s transition to electricity generated from green energy. It is hoped the move will open investment and opportunities in Ontario’s green economy.(Source http://www.newenergyworldnetwork.com)

I'll miss seeing the smoke stacks spewing hazy pollution. It gives hope someday we'll have enough wind turbines to replace the lost power generated and kill more birds. Those will be great days.

Duely Noted

In general, I think media coverage of the Michael Bryant affair and the death of bicycle courier Darcy Allan Sheppard has served us well. Each day, new events and aspects have come into view. (Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com)

Here's a view - I like driving my convertible on sunny days. There's nothing like the warm breeze sifting through my hair as I cruise around the neighborhood. What I don't like are bike couriers. Perhaps someday I'll stop my car and get out and the bike courier will get off their bike and we can talk but until that day I'm going to off them and get the PR agency to smear them all over the news.

Smart Meter for Dalton McGuilty

In all, the McGuinty package has the sort of marketing challenge Brian Mulroney had with his Meech Lake accord. Just as that constitutional contraption was famously cobbled together behind closed doors by 10 white guys in suits, the McGuinty plan was inked in private with the feds and dropped in MPPs' laps to sell.(Source: http://www.thestar.com)

The day will come when we can regulate the amount of gas that comes from the provincial government. How it will work is there's a belt wrapped around a politicians neck and on it are 3 colored lights. The first being the taxpayer's interest earning a green and warning us of a bad idea. The second is yellow indicating a scam and third a red meaning the end of the line for said douchbag.

That's it for today and we'll check back in on Twitter.


Random Thoughts with Christine


I have to admit, I'm addicted. What looked to be a quick messaging service - the simple concept of 'what are you doing' has me tweeting all day while neglecting my blog ! In honor of Twitter, I present brief yet topical updates with much less characters. Oh and let's not forget to follow me and my friends on Twitter.
> http://twitter.com/greeningme101

'Goin Down'

The video reminds me of the tune: Love in an Elevator. Steven Tyler is 61, he falls off the stage, breaks his shoulder and incurs head injuries. It has me wondering if it's time Aerosmith calls it quits. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan but think it may be time to hang it up for good when none of the band members come to help.

Oh the irony

My last post mentions a man trapped in an elevator. I got trapped in an elevator on Monday. They had to get a technician to pull me out ! I was in there for half an hour.

Another election ?

Lorne Gunter, National Post
"Their current rush to get to the polls again -- a fall election would be Canada's fourth in five years -- demonstrates just how their absence from power consumes them. Not being in charge gnaws at their souls. It is like an itch they cannot reach, a thirst they cannot quench, a hunger they cannot satisfy.'>Full article.

We should just make it law to have an election every six months, let the Green Party rule the proceedings and cast their vote on who gets to be in power for each term.

You trust this guy ?

Tanya Talaga, Toronto Star
Dalton McGuinty has ordered all expenses at 23 provincial agencies, boards and commissions to be reviewed and approved by the Ontario integrity commissioner beginning this fall.
>Full article.

Go figure, these are the same folks who brought us the Green Energy Act. You know the law that let's them spend your tax dollar on gambling, booze and wind farms.

Now for the 'Generation We' Bloggers

  • My friends over at the Envirogy blog keep the debate on renewables interesting. Digg some Skyler & JoFergs when you get a chance.
  • The searing commentary @ CrudelyInterrupted keeps an edgy perspective on the headlines.
  • Laughter is the best medicine so have a gander and chuckle over at the Comedy Landfill.
That's it for today and we'll hear from you on Twitter !


Canada's Energy Problem: Interlude - Do You Remember the Night of the Blackout?

First, some videos and questions to preface my blog entry. Where and what were you doing during the Northeast Blackout of 2003? What are you going to do when you realize nothing is in place to prepare for a protracted infrastructure failure, be it a blackout or a lack of oil?

Personally, I think a more accurate commercial would be a bunch of teens staring at monitors wondering why they can't see the latest juicy gossip about [insert celebrity name here].

This actually reminds me of a video tape of a man stuck in an elevator for 41 hours. You can see it here but the story behind it is probably more dramatic (although it is eight pages long).

To be honest I'm not sure what I would have done in his situation. I do know my typically sweet, understanding and reasonable self would be very, very PO'd by the 12 hour mark. Interestingly, White was not compensated a large amount for his troubles. I think this is telling...when the elevator stops and no one seems to care you're inside, who's going to come to your aid? Personally I can't help but compare this to the current state of Canada's energy infrastructure and power sources. Who is going to save us when we're stuck without power or a proper infrastructure in place to prevent the same disorder that occurred 6 years ago?

Perhaps you were at a home during the blackout and simply did as most of my friends did. They had a barbeque! Afraid the meat would spoil, their parents cooked up steaks (and whatever other meat they had in the freezer) and had plenty of ice cream for dinner. The general consensus was that everyone in the neighbourhood was quite friendly, despite the occasional commuter nearly collapsing on their porch when they finally reached home. As time passed and they grew hot and bored, they wondered how long they would have to last until the air conditioner and television would turn on again.

The blackout of August 14th, 2003 affected Northeastern and Midwestern United States as well as parts of Ontario. The numbers of affected residents were estimated to be approximately 55 million (Please note, according to Statistics Canada there are a little over 33 million Canadians). There was a lot of good will during the black out. Average people would direct traffic while motorists and pedestrians listened willingly. Neighbors had barbeques and speculated about the source of the blackout, as well as their various horror stories involving their trek home. It was kind of nice actually. Everyone went outside because it was too dark to stay at home.

But it wasn't all nice of course. While several gas stations could not operate without electricity, a rare number of Burlington, ON stations were selling gas for 99.9 cents (with lots of ready and willing customers lining up), claiming their supply was limited despite prices being in the low 70s prior to the blackout. How's that for blatant price gouging? At one point the Canadian government was seriously considering rationing the gas supply. The supply chain system was also disrupted, for example transport trucks could not proceed on their routes because they required refueling before making the long journey to Manitoba. Oh and those that believe they can survive using their cellphones and 3G networks should probably consider how the generators powering cellular towers ran out of fuel.

To be honest, sometimes I do wonder if Jeff is right to say we'll plunge into chaos as soon as we run out of oil and gas to power our technology obsessed lives. A surprising fact that I discovered through my research was that there was looting in...Ottawa, Ontario. Can you believe it? Actually, my naive self believed (at the time) that Canadians were too polite to loot and pillage as their cars stalled on the highway and became useless roadblocks, while their fellow drivers tried to maneuver through the mess.

According to this Slate article by David Greenberg, for NYC it was a mixture of technical and socially-motived reasons. The most important reason was 9/11. Conscious of the blackout's source not being from a terrorist attack, New Yorkers nonetheless recalled how they banded together to ensure their city did not succumb to the same events that overtook them in 1977. What happened you ask?

The infamous New York City Blackout of 1977 resulted in looting, arson, vandalism and assaults all over the city. It was chaotic, but here are the stats for a brief look at what occurred (Source):

In all, 1,616 stores were either looted or damaged during the blackout. More than a thousand fires were set, 14 of them resulting in multiple alarms. And in the biggest mass arrest in city history, 3,776 people were thrown in the jug. The jails were so overcrowded that the overflow had to be held in precinct basements and other makeshift gaols...A congressional study later put the damage caused by looting and vandalism at $300 million.

Experts generally offer the following (probable) reasons for the chaos:
  • NYC was in the middle of a harsh heat wave,
  • United States was experiencing a nation-wide economic downtown (I suppose when you get the chance to get the TV you always wanted...), with NYC struggling with bankruptcy
  • General public's fear stemming from the Son of Sam murders
  • When the blackout occurred, most store owners had gone home and were not there to defend their property
  • NYPD morale was low due to the Mayor's attempts to assign only one officer in each patrol car (During the summer of Sam!), and the night of the blackout only 8,000 of 25,000 police officers reported for duty, while some just stood passively by*

Alright, I will admit that with the right conditions (which I feel we are a few steps away from) I do believe a protracted blackout or other energy related infrastructure failure will result in chaos. I'm just not sure how long it will take for people to realize that they're like Nicholas White in his claustrophia-inducing elevator with just a lighter, a pack of cigarettes and Rolaids. Not only are they not prepared, their cries for help are going to go completely unheeded as the authorities scramble to maintain order when someone decides that a five finger discount isn't so bad during this recession. At least White didn't have to worry about anyone else in the elevator with him...you have all your unprepared neighbours to deal with.

As for being prepared, here is a bit of an extreme example. My friend's father stocks up two cellars, a freezer and two fridges full of food as well as a power generator in preparation of an impending oil crisis. Many people laugh and marvel at the amount of food and drink he constantly keeps restocking, but to be honest if I'm in the area during a blackout, I'll probably head their way. I also don't laugh, especially after watching that documentary on peak oil (and because I'd rather they let me in when I run out of food and water at my own home).

So tell me...what were you doing in the Blackout of 2003? Are you ready for another?

The truth is we're probably not. The mindset is also that we shouldn't need to be. The government will take care of this. Well you should probably pay more attention to how the government seems to be screwing up on a consistent basis lately (For more current examples, feel free to Google: Lisa Raitt, cancer treatment and isoptopes, AECL sale, eHealth)

*(Please note: The truth is that the NYPD were ordered to act slowly, to be deliberate when dealing with the mobs of looters (this was due to a National Riot Commission advising against a heavy hand when dealing with riots because they proved to make situations worse than better). Ultimately there were only two civilian deaths despite all the rioting. Perhaps it was a poor consolation to store owners but by the end of the blackout the streets were not littered with dead bodies as some would expect. Especially when the looters of '77 began to loot each other, many brandishing weapons to defend their ill-gotten gains. Technically there should have been more arrests, but police chose to try to maintain order than arrest every single offender.


Tuesday Video Link: Hal Grades Your Bike Locking

Some lighthearted content for a change. Hal Ruzal is an awesome bike mechanic from New York that goes around rating locking jobs (and bikes sometimes). Great way to learn what to do (and not to do) to protect your green investment!

Hal Grades Your Bike Locking

Hal (and Kerri) Grade Your Bike Locking

Hal Grades Your Bike Locking 3 (The Final Warning!)

Canada's Energy Problem: Part 2 - It's not just the Economy, Stupid

It's actually a bit odd in Toronto as of late. At least in the malls...not because they are empty due to recession woes, but because they're absolutely packed. I've seen and heard of the hordes of people clamoring for parking spots (this is why public transit is so wonderful, no parking!) and waiting in long lines at the Food Court at Vaughan Mills, Yorkdale and Eaton Centre. I sometimes wonder whether the recession affected Toronto at all...and then I hear from my friends in quiet conversations that their parents have been laid off and run out of employment insurance. They wonder aloud to me if they should take a year off school to try and help with the family finances. Some are actually working full-time, frantically trying to budget and scrimp to pay their tuition and travel costs for the next school year. The majority of their parents work in the manufacturing sector. It's either they've been laid off, their hours have been reduced or there is a strange "two weeks laid off with EI one week work" sort of deal. Their parents are not even employed by GM or Chrysler, they're employed by the parts suppliers (as far as I'm aware, none of their parents belong to unions, in case you wanted to know). This was before GM filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday of course. This was also before Magna decided to have a hand in the European Opel-Vauxhall deal (anyone want to enlighten me how this is going to turn out for my friend's parents?). 

Now I'm not so sure how my friends and their families will do. Line of credit to tide them over? I guess...but if you're homeless because the bank foreclosed on the family home when your parents ran out of EI and emergency funds, I wonder how you'll convince the bank you're a good loan candidate.

To be honest, as an environmentalist that raves about public transportation and biking, I should probably clamor for these outdated car companies to go the way of the dodo. When I look at my friends however...I cannot bring myself to say it, although I would love to join the throngs of people who seem to relish in the demise of these automotive giants. A much more helpful alternative was proposed by Michael Moore, the ever controversial filmmaker. An article he posted on his website yesterday detailed a specific plan to repurpose the manufacturing plants and various car dealerships to be shutdown due to Chrysler and GM's financial woes. However, despite his great suggestions I don't think it's just the economy and failing automotive giants that we should be worried about. I think many, like Moore, are overlooking something very important during this recession.

"It's peak oil, stupid!"

While I can appreciate how it supports the alternative transportations, I feel it overlooks what exactly will power all these shiny new theoretical vehicles. Producing electric batteries requires energy, producing all these light-rail systems requires energy, just getting these workers to work requires energy...where is it all going to come from if, as Moore says, we must fight "in this war being waged by the oil companies against you and me." He continues,

They are committed to fleecing us whenever they can, and they have been reckless stewards of the finite amount of oil that is located under the surface of the earth. They know they are sucking it bone dry. And like the lumber tycoons of the early 20th century who didn't give a damn about future generations as they tore down every forest they could get their hands on, these oil barons are not telling the public what they know to be true -- that there are only a few more decades of useable oil on this planet. And as the end days of oil approach us, get ready for some very desperate people willing to kill and be killed just to get their hands on a gallon can of gasoline.

(P.S. You can see this article from Jeff describing a similar situation as detailed at the end of the quote.) I'm sure we can switch all our manufacturing industries into producing modes of transportation that use alternative fuels, but if we're truly past peak oil and energy prices skyrocket, what will we do when we can't power the machines to make these shiny green vehicles? I'm not saying we shouldn't go this route, but we must look for a solution for the upcoming energy crisis while we're busy trying to make all these alternative energies more reliable and cost-effective.


Canada's Energy Problem: Part 1 - Reality Check

Although I wish to see solar/wind/thermal energy thrive to the point where we no longer have to rely on fossil fuels I am not blind to the fact that humans need more energy than those technologies can currently provide. Our options at this point are limited, as these new innovations are being fostered and tested for large-scale use. What do we do in the meantime? Canada's government has proposed conservation, demand management, higher efficiency standards, fuel switching to natural gas, diversified energy sources as well as increased usage of renewable technologies. Is this enough? I'm not sure. Personally I think it is a step on the road towards a possible energy reform in this country that can hopefully meet Canada's voracious energy needs.

I realize I can post wonderful articles about the most amazing alternative energy technologies but unless they can be put in place within the next few years, it is impractical to look at them as the answer to all our current energy needs. In the documentary I posted in the popular Jarvis Street article, the future described by experts was bleak, particularly for the "American Dream" (I use the term loosely) of the suburban home and nuclear family as we know it. The idea of the suburbs becoming the ghettos of the future is alarming, a stark contrast to their current vaunted status, but if we are truly at peak oil, we must act now to preserve our future. 

Not all my fellow citizens share the same beliefs as me on many issues, particularly the environment, energy and government. I think the average Canadian is more worried about their families, their jobs, their mortgages, the economy, the recession...everything except the environment. With money scarce and energy demands still high, investing in solar or wind energy is, at the moment, probably unwise for the average Canadian household. So what can we do now? I hope to explore these options in an ongoing series of blogs on "Green Me Up, Scotty!".

As always comments and questions are very welcome! 


The Trial Against Shell Oil for their Crimes in Nigeria

I feel it is necessary to bring this issue to your attention dear readers. The following is a choice quote from the video:

"Shell partnered with the brutal Nigerian military government to suppress the popular movement of the Ogoni people. On multiple occasions, Shell paid the Nigerian military, they requested the Nigerian military, knowing that it was a brutal force and that force committed horrific acts of violence against civilians who were peacefully protesting."
- Marco Simons, Plaintiffs' Attorney, EarthRights International

This video was taken from HanShan's article on Alternet.org, "The Video Shell Oil Desperately Doesn't Want You to See". I really feel it sums up the trial better than I could. The casualties and deaths of the Nigerian people at the hands of soldiers hired by Shell cannot be ignored by the West, and halfhearted boycotts will not induce Shell to atone for its crimes against the Nigerian people. I hope to see that both this video and trial come to the attention of all, considering how Shell does not want anyone to see it. Think twice when you're at the gas pump, and consider what sort of impact you're really having on the Earth as well as your fellow human beings.


$6 Million Project to Make Jarvis Street More Bike-Friendly Approved

Just found this article on Spacing about what took place in the council chambers during the session to vote for the approval of the $6 million *takes a deep breath* "Jarvis Streetscape Improvement Environmental Assessment Bloor Street East to Queen Street East" project. Although only $50k~$100k will be devoted to the conversion of one of the lanes on Jarvis Street into a dedicated bike lane, the majority of the discussion (and controversy) was devoted to this.

Long story short, it's been approved, however I can't help but notice councillor Rob Ford adding his poorly worded opinion to the discussion. I am all for honest discourse but with real arguments. Please, if you are a constituent of Rob Ford in Etobicoke, write to him and let him know acting like a petulant child will not get your needs (as well as those of the rest of Toronto) across to the council. Personally I wouldn't want to be represented by him, come next election would you?

I cannot help but think that certain councillors really enjoy bogging everything down with minor details and miss the point of these important projects. I understand that it may be a hassle for commuters but I often fear for the safety of bikers downtown. This bike lane is great news for anyone who wants to bike to work but takes one look at the traffic and changes their mind. I feel that if bikers had their own bike lane, drivers will respect their space and pedestrians don't have to worry about dodging a bike on the sidewalk (Big no-no!).

Moving on, the plans for wider sidewalks, historical plaques and other beautification methods (with lots of trees, flowers and shrubs alike I'm sure) is definitely a great move for a better neighbourhood. A city with walkable and bike-friendly streets is a safer, happier and healthier place. Have you heard of the wonderful suburb of Vauban located in Germany?

 Click the image to be taken to the New York Times Article: "In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars"

This is probably one of the most sustainable suburbs currently in development (*ahem* Vaughan you should pay attention!) and a real life example of why projects like...like the one council just approved are important to all constituents, whether they walk, drive or bike. Without roads dedicated to cars, the community is safer for children, allowing them to move about and play. As a mixed-use community, retail areas are littered around the neighbourhood encouraging residents to walk or bike more to reach their destinations, a healthier option for everyone (I'm certain that North American waistlines would benefit from this). Another great benefit is how the constant din of the highway, screaming sirens and general noise pollution caused by vehicles has disappeared with the roads. Here's a quote from one of the community's residents:

“When I had a car I was always tense. I’m much happier this way,” said Heidrun Walter, a media trainer and mother of two, as she walked verdant streets where the swish of bicycles and the chatter of wandering children drown out the occasional distant motor.

Any residents that wish to own their own vehicle must purchase a parking space for $40,000 in one of the two nearby municipal garages. These garages also offer a car-sharing service for residents that wish to use an automobile but don't simply don't require a car on a day-to-day basis. I feel the requirement of purchasing a parking spot is another demonstration of the true cost of the land we devote to our vehicles. 

What I would love to see in Canada (and Toronto) would be policies that restrict commercial and residential development that lack connections to public transportation. Also, changing policies concerning residential zoning to allow areas to become mixed-use spaces that are more walkable. It doesn't just make sense environmentally, it makes sense economically. How else can all those suburban home owners that have lost their jobs (many of which have been laid off from nearby manufacturing plants) pay their mortgages? Retrofitting homes to become mixed use residential and commercial spaces will benefit the local economy and perhaps even improve the safety of suburban streets. What pair of eyes are more watchful on the street than that of a street vendor or store owner? It is in their interests to be alert to the happenings of the neighborhood, as well as to respect and offer a service to their neighbors. There are so many ways we can change Toronto (and Canada for that matter) for the better. Many are not aware of it, but the suburb is going the way of the dinosaur. In the future, the North American dream of a suburban home will be a distant memory. Here is a shocking documentary called "The End of Suburbia", describing exactly why:

While I believe the views of this documentary are often somewhat extremist, I feel there are several steps we can take in order to avoid this fate. Hopefully we are not too far gone.

Pardon this Interruption: Attention Readers!

Good morning everyone! I'm just taking the time to let you all know I am aware my entries have been very harsh for the past few months. I've been studying a lot about sustainability, government ineptitude and peak oil...I must say it has affected me. I feel I must return to being a hopeful and earnest voice demanding change and bringing to you possible solutions. Thank you for your readership, we now resume our usual blogging schedule. =)


Bring Us Bixi!

So my good friend Jeff over at Keep Your Coins I Want Change just brought this to my attention, and I felt it deserved a mention here at Environmilitant, as well as everywhere else we can possibly talk about it.

Recently the French government implemented a fantastic new green transit innovation in some of their major cities, including Paris. You ready for this? May we introduce the novel concept of BICYCLES:

Or, more specifically, specialized bicycles called "Bixis" that are provided to the community in the same way ZipCars are here in Toronto. For those of us not in the know, the ZipCar is a communal vehicle you can "rent" on a day-to-day basis for a yearly signup fee. Great idea, especially for friends of mine who are musicians requiring cargo space to move gear to and from gigs, but there's still the whole carbon emission issue. Bixi is basically the same idea, except in bicycle form. Fantastic idea, right?

Right, and Toronto tried it once before under the name Yellow Bike Share Program, which initially met with rave reviews and then promptly folded due to lack of funding. Instead, the city is transferring all sorts of funds to the TTC to build a light rail system including (wait for it) a subway extension to York University (because we haven't been hearing about that dog-and-pony show for the last thirty years). Frankly, I think our city would be better served picking up this Bixi idea at least in the interim, because we know good and damn well that the TTC will drag its feet on "Transit City" for the next few forseeable decades. I mean, even Washington has picked up the idea, and we all know their prevailing feelings on the French (anybody remember Freedom Fries? I do!)

Yet another good idea that's going to get trumped unless we do something about it. Email your local member of provincial parliament and demand Bixi. We want our bicycles and we want them now!


Raise your hand if you see this one coming...

You know, apart from the issues I already have with drilling for oil, somehow I feel like there may be even more concerns with this particular project:

What you're looking at are the Siberian wetlands (didn't know they had those in Siberia, actually) with a precariously-perched oil rig in the middle of it.

Okay, there are two problems with this. The first should be obvious: they're WETLANDS. You know, home to thousands of species of birds, fish, amphibians and whatever else lives in wetlands. I can't imagine the existence of an oil rig in this area is going to do much for the natural real estate. The second should also be obvious: sooner or later, something terrible is going to happen to that oil rig. You can imagine the scene playing out like some Monty Python routine.

Russian Oil Expert:
Listen, comrades.  I've built this oil company up from nothing.  When I started here, all there
was was wetland. All the other oil magnates said I was daft to build a castle in the wetlands,
but I built it all the same, just to show 'em. It sank into the wetland. So, I built a second one.
That sank into the wetland. So I built a third one. That burned down,
fell over, then sank into
the wetland. But the fourth one stayed up. An' that's what
you're gonna get, comrades -- the
strongest oil rig in these wetlands.

Nothing good is going to come of this, I promise you that.


Take A Good Idea, Then Squash It

I've always been a fan of the idea of guerrilla gardening. For those of you who don't know, the concept is relatively straightforward: greenheads like myself essentially take over an abandoned piece of land not being used for any constructive purpose, and use it to grow crops and gardens and all sorts of other good stuff. I figure it's a great idea – I mean, it's certainly not hurting anybody; in fact, it kind of helps out the community. And it's pretty. But apparently not everybody shares my respect for this practice.

In February of this year, a British activist going by the name Nick Revolving took over Raven's Ait (a small island located in the Thames River) when he realized it was being totally neglected by the county as a result of the global economic recession. He and his friends built a treehouse, planted permaculture gardens, and have been squatting there in a totally self-sufficient commune. But they aren't doing this for selfish purposes – their goal is to turn the island into an “eco conference center” to raise awareness about sustainability and green alternatives. And since the government isn't doing anything with the land anyway, you'd assume they would be totally on board with that initiative, right?


The group is being evicted from the island, because apparently there are companies interested in doing something with the land – someday (the island has been vacant since November). The local council won't even bargain with the group unless they leave the island.

To me that rings of a small child who isn't playing with his toy train, but won't let any of the other children play with it in case he wants it at some indeterminate point in the future.

They say that ownership is 9/10 of the law; if that's the case, the law – and the concept of ownership itself – is terminally f*cked. Who made us in charge? Why is it that we get to decide who lives where, how, and in what capacity?

I am urging any and all readers to visit the group's website – read up on their plans and show your support. My good friend Lissa over at Living Lime notified me about this issue and is assisting in a project to raise £1.5 million in order to help save this piece of land and turn it into what Nick Revolving and his friends want it to be. I'm signing up – you should too.

Check out the original article here.


The Big Picture

Every so often I venture into the heart of this great city I love to call my home, and every time I do I find something new and wonderful about it. Sunday afternoon I took a very long walk through Queen's Park (hooray for inner-city greenery!) and took a trip down Queen Street West because it's been years since I delved into Toronto culture.

There used to be a ton of fun little shops along there that catered to green livers like myself: for example, I'm not into pot myself, but the Friendly Stranger sells a lot of hemp products outside smoking gear that I am really into – hemp clothes and all-natural soaps and the like. Lush is good for that too – I don't really dig a lot of chemicals in my soaps and moisturizers, not just because it's terrible for the environment but it's also terrible for my skin (being Scottish, I am very pale and my skin is extremely delicate).

I was sad to see so many of the cool old stores replaced with high-end haute couture boutiques, but I guess that's progress. Rode the streetcar for the first time in a long time (normally I bike everywhere) and all I can say is I can't wait for Toronto to institute their new light-rail system: it'll be more environmentally friendly and with any luck there will be a little more room!

There's good and bad about every city, I guess, but being somewhat well-traveled I think Toronto is one of the better ones out there. Sometimes I forget just how green this city actually is until I get up high enough to see the big picture. Sunday evening, just as the sun was setting, I was sitting on the patio of the Spoke Club on King Street (one of the best views in that area), enjoying a quiet beer and looking out over the downtown core, and it was genuinely beautiful. Sure, there are lots of urban developments going on in the area (there always are) but the city planners really work hard to ensure that a lot of trees and parks are threaded through the condos and block stores. It's heartening.

Okay, this was a little bit touchy-feely for an angry environmental blog; I think I'm just happy that spring has finally, finally arrived. In fact, I think I'm going to take another walk after work today, hit up the Spoke patio again, and take in the big picture.



Normally I don't post these, but I couldn't pass this up. In the parlance of our times, Epic Fail:


Only in Japan...

The people who brought you Godzilla, Mothra and Akira have turned their rather interesting take on science fiction to the realm of -- get this -- agriculture. I've never understood the Japanese predilection towards gigantic robots piloted by children and the like, but apparently the robot fetish is doing some good for the farmers of the Land of the Rising Sun.

The Tokyo University of Agriculture has developed a wearable exo-skeleton that will be used to assist farmers over the age of 65 in their daily duties of plucking radishes and whatnot from the earth. For those of you who don't know what an exo-skeleton is, remember that scene from Aliens where Sigourney Weaver is fighting the alien queen in the airlock, and she comes out of the storage room in that big yellow suit? The whole "get away from her, you b*tch!" line? Yeah, that's an exo-skeleton. Here's a picture of Sigourney's badass suit, and here's a picture of the one the Tokyo scientists have built for farmers.

The idea is that it's a powered suit that will take some of the bodily stress associated with physical labour off the elderly farmers, and frankly I think it's a great idea. I mean, some people might argue that when you're 65 you don't have any business picking radishes anymore because you should really be retired. But if you know anybody of that age bracket, you know the last thing most of these people want to do is retire -- they want to feel useful and they want to continue contributing to the greater good, however they might see that. This suit allows them to do just that. And let's face it -- when 40% of your radish-picking work force is over 65, it's probably a really good idea to implement some kind of support system for them, because no matter what manga and anime might tell you, putting kids in robot suits to pick vegetables still probably falls under the category of child labour.

Cool idea, but like I said in the title -- this could only come from Japan.


It's Closer Than You Think

I've been thinking a lot about the end of the world lately. Got your attention? Good.

I am not a fatalist, never have been. Even when I changed the thrust of this blog into the whole “Environmilitant” vibe, I still maintained my deep-set belief in the human ability to correct our errors and save our way of life from self-annihilation. I still believe that to this day. I think that with the proper education and shifting of priorities, we can still rectify the damage we've done and make this planet the paradise it's meant to be. The power is in our hands, blah blah.

But then I went home on the Easter weekend to visit my parents, and as we are wont to do, we wound up sitting around drinking and watching bad movies on TV. First on the docket was a little flick from around the turn of the millennium called Deep Impact. Those of you who paid attention to that year in movies will remember it as “the asteroid movie that didn't star John McClane”. Released at the same time as Armageddon, Deep Impact is, in my opinion, a slightly more believable take on the whole “huge rock headed for Earth that's going to kill everything” movie genre that took over Hollywood for a short period of time (typified by other natural disaster movies in and around the same era).

Why more believable? Well, for one thing it stars Morgan Freeman as the U.S. President, and I have yet to see that man in any role where he isn't fantastic – as opposed to Ben “Gigli” Affleck who stars as the other film's hero. Joking aside, though, Armageddon was just too...I don't know, slick? Yeah, I think that's the right word. Everything looked too pat, from the design of the new space shuttle (looked like something out of Star Trek) to the silly equipment they use on the rock (remember, they had to dig a hole in an asteroid to put nukes inside it, and the only man for the job was Hudson Hawk), to the awful saccharine soundtrack (remember when Aerosmith used to make records you wanted to hear?)...all of it just rang Hollywood Hollow to me.

Deep Impact , on the other hand, treated the concept of an “extinction level event” with significantly more gravity than the popcorn-munching false suspense of Armageddon. For one thing, the production staff on Deep Impact actually did their research and constructed a space shuttle that (gasp) looks and acts like a space shuttle and not an X-wing fighter. For another, one of the big rocks actually hits Earth, causing widespread destruction. Finally – and perhaps the most important part for the purposes of this post – the film deals realistically with contingency plans to ensure the survival of the human race in the event of a world-ending catastrophe.

Here's where I stop trying to be Roger Ebert and get back to the point. Deep Impact suggested that the major governments of the world would have advance knowledge of an “ELE” were one to be imminent, which doesn't surprise me – because let's face it, they know everything before we do. The idea in the film would be to build vast underground cities that would supposedly be protected from the effects of a big-ass rock laying waste to the planet surface. Government officials choose the “important” people to be saved (i.e. doctors, scientists, whatever is needed to build our civilization back up) and then open the rest of the spots up to a lottery (excluding anyone over 50 years of age). To me this sounds like a pretty reasonable system, but it got me to thinking – that's Hollywood's idea. What would happen in reality?

There's been a lot of talk circulating in the last few years about the End Of The World – the most recent estimate is that something terrible is supposed to happen in 2012 (the last one being the infamous Y2K debacle when the clocks turned over to 2000 – and nothing happened), so if we take that to be true and assume that a dinosaur-killing rock is going to puddle-jump into the Earth in three years' time, what do we do?

I did a little research into this issue, and the first site I found was this one – essentially a calculator for what would happen to the planet if a projectile of x dimensions traveling at y speed hit the earth at z location. Really fascinating formulas, but a little bit dark, don't you think? I plugged in some numbers and suffice it to say I don't really want to talk about it. Go yourself if you want.

There are several “asteroid defense” ideas being bandied about that are kind of cool. The most obvious of these is, of course, nukes. Interesting idea – and it would be nice to use those huge stockpiles of horrifyingly destructive weapons for the betterment of humanity. But according to many scientists, this plan would be doomed to failure (apparently Armageddon got that part right, at least). Either the resulting force wouldn't be enough to destroy the big rock, or else it might only serve to smash the planetoid into fragments which, if larger than 30 meters in diameter, would not burn up in our atmosphere but instead crash into whatever happened to be in their way. Trade one big meteor for thousands of potentially dangerous ones? Fantastic.

Kinetic impact acts similarly – launching a spacecraft or other large object at an asteroid to attempt to blow it off-course or destroy it entirely, but the same problems exist with this possibility as with the nukes, so it's kind of pointless.

The really interesting theories almost delve into the realm of science fiction – things like using the gravitational pull of another large object to divert the asteroid gradually (that's a great idea if we have years to prepare for a possible impact, as with the impact postulated to take place in 2880), or my personal favourite – using an enormous tether attached on one end to the Earth and to the asteroid on the other to literally swing the rock around us. Of course, the logistics of a plan like that are staggering – honestly it sounds like an idea formulated during some kind of frat party weed-smoking session. “Dude, all we need is, like, some big string or something, you know? Like, like, a tether ball or something, and we could totally dodge that big rock!” Come on.

The bottom line is as far as the public is aware, we're woefully underprepared for a cataclysmic event that could wipe us all out and make all our efforts to “save the planet” completely moot. I know the chances of an event like this occurring in our lifetimes is slim, and I'm certainly not advocating spending a lot of money coming up with doomsday contingency plans, but it kind of bugs me. We spend all this time thinking about our petty problems, our silly wars, our minor hatreds, and somewhere out in the great deep of space there's a big damn rock with our names all over it. Kind of puts things in perspective, at least for me.

Man, the big picture is depressing.



Okay, this one is reaching a bit: I know the blog is called Environmilitant, but occasionally I have to step out of the eco-warrior role to discuss a secondary issue that is as important to the survival of our way of life as curbing global warming and cutting down gas emissions.

My friend Jeff over at Keep Your Coins I Want Change posted an excellent blog yesterday about the importance of food bank services in our fine city of Toronto. Apart from the fact that he's a very funny, entertaining guy (and you should definitely check out his writing once you're done with mine), he made some very prescient points that I'd like to hammer home here.

Apart from air (another big issue on this blog), food is the most important facet of our day-to-day lives. Those of us with the ability to purchase what we need don't often consider just how awful it is to go without food for days on end. Once upon a time I was a poor starving student doing my university degree and living on rice and beans a few times a week; I also don't come from anything resembling an affluent background (my parents worked very hard to make ends meet, but we spent most of my childhood well below the poverty line), so I can speak with some authority on this issue. I know what it's like to be trying to finish an essay, drinking gallon after gallon of crappy Toronto tap water to convince my tummy it's full, and not being able to concentrate because all I can think about is how I haven't had even a requisite bowl of rice in two days. Now, my situation was a little more voluntary – I decided not to work while I was in that year of my schooling in the interest of focusing strictly on my studies. Realistically, I could have picked up a job that would have provided me with spending money for the basics, but I didn't. I also could have gone to the food bank (a point I'll return to presently), but again – I didn't. So on some level it was my own fault that I went hungry for those months.

Now imagine a situation where it isn't voluntary: a single parent trying to support children on a woefully inadequate minimum-wage salary, or whatever. It's disgusting that in the wealthy society in which we all live that people – especially children – should go without food. I have two points on this issue that I'd like to bring to light.

The first is somewhat overreaching. We live on a planet that literally sheds foodstuffs like dandruff. There is food everywhere. Look at the animal kingdom – do you see gorillas or antelopes or whatever working horrifying 40 hour a week soul-sucking jobs that don't contribute to anything, just so they can have the privilege of eating? I think not. And yet, for all our vaunted technology and higher reasoning, we all do it – we all work our asses off just so we don't go hungry. Why?

For those answers I will direct you, gentle reader, to a scholar who has tackled this problem with significantly more panache and background than I could possibly bring to the table. Daniel Quinn is something of an amateur environmentalist who has taken it upon himself to seek “creative and positive solutions to global problems”, a goal he has actively pursued for the last twenty years. His writing is one part sociology, one part history and one part philosophy, and culminated in his award-winning Ishmael series (consisting of Ishmael, The Story of B and My Ishmael), which are, in my opinion, some of the most introspective and useful texts when it comes to seeking grand-scale alternatives to our current way of life (see? Told you this was an environmental blog). One of his fundamental points is that “locking up the food” in the way we do (i.e. making everyone work 40 hours a week just to feed themselves) has caused some of the most far-reaching, destructive social trends our culture faces in the 21st century. Quinn is a personal hero of mine because rather than simply pointing out the problems, he offers dynamic solutions which, while they would require a total reboot of our patterns of thought, would probably also work. For more on his theories, check out his website, or better yet, go read his books.

Now that we've gotten the big-picture stuff out of the way, here's my second point.

As Jeff pointed out in his blog, the divide between the rich and the poor in this culture is vast. How is it that a family living in house A has an overabundance of food at their fingertips – pantries literally stuffed to capacity with non-perishable food items that will inevitably collect dust in the back of a cupboard for years, while next door in house B, a family is starving to death? Well, we all know how that works – bad luck, bad planning, born into the right or wrong situation, whatever. It's not for me to comment on the how and why of these problems (go check out Quinn, like I said).

The problem I have is that so few people – relatively speaking – do anything to help alleviate these issues. How hard is it for people to take a little of what they earn, or a bit of what they've stockpiled, and donate it to an organization like the Food Bank who work day in and day out to help feed the disadvantaged? I am never, ever going to eat that dusty tin of peaches that has been in my cupboard since the Harris administration, but they haven't gone bad – that's the whole point of “non-perishable” food items. Why wouldn't I take a few minutes and scour my pantry for stuff like that, stuff I don't even want, and run it down to my local drop off depot so some kid can taste the juicy goodness of my Del Monte fruit? Why wouldn't I, indeed? Fact is, I have – and I do, regularly. You should too.

But Christina, you might say, there are so many deadbeats out there who take advantage of these social support networks – people who don't actually need the Food Bank, they're just too lazy to work, so they leech off the good nature of others!

Yes, this is sadly true. I hate it as much as you do. People who suckle at the proverbial teat of their more generous brethren should die in a fire. But what kind of people are we if we make all our decisions based on the lowest-common denominator of our society? Like Jeff said, I've never been a big proponent of the whole “I am my brother's keeper” idea, but I do think as individuals and as a community we have a responsibility to lend a hand to people who just aren't making it. If we base our social support on the rotten apples who manipulate the system, the only people who suffer are the ones who genuinely needed the help.

I know this is an environmental blog, but the whole point of saving the environment is to preserve our way of life for our children and their children. But it's a multi-faceted issue – and if we can't help ourselves on as fundamental a level as the basic needs of our species, we're not going to get anywhere. Check out the Daily Bread website for more information – we have to start somewhere, folks.