Alberta’s Election & Keystone XL

For those of you who are unaware, Alberta has been governed by the Progressive Conservative party for 40 years. So same government, since before I was born.

The hard truth is that if you want to have an impact on who is elected premier in Alberta, you have to become a member of the party and vote for their leader. The first ballot was last Saturday, and I signed up and voted for Alison Redford, the most progressive of the bunch. She is the only one that says anything about sustainability, and she is the only one that agrees that we need to get more teachers back in schools (with my son’s kindergarten class at 27 kids, I agree).

In party leadership elections, if one candidate does not get over 50% of the vote in the first ballot, then the top three contenders move to a second ballot. So Alison Redford came in second, and we vote again this Saturday, October 1st.

So who came in first? Gary Mar. He is the least progressive of the bunch, but the name that most people recognize, as he has been in government for a long time.  I heard comments he made on the radio about the Keystone XL project and Alberta’s oil sands, so I decided to write him a letter:

Dear Gary Mar,

I heard your recent comments on CBC radio about the protests over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. These particular protesters (as there are many) are Albertans who feel that we should not be shipping our raw bitumen to Texas for refining, that we should be refining it here in Alberta instead, to create jobs for Albertans. Your comment was that it was not an “either/or” scenario; that we can ship the raw bitumen to Texas and refine it here in Alberta as long as we continue to increase the development of the oil sands.

I believe that this situation is an “either/or” scenario (or better, a “neither/nor” scenario), for the following reasons:

  1. The pace of development of the oil sands has already happened too quickly. Habitats are being destroyed. Certain animal populations, such as Woodland Caribou, have been put into endangered status due habitat loss directly attributable to oil sands development. We think that Alberta’s wilderness is vast and resilient. The fact is, it is not.

  2. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Fort McMurray cannot keep up with the required growth in homes, roads and schools. Communities there are fragmented with transient workers who never intend to put down roots, urban work camps are everywhere, 20% of the residents have no fixed address, and alcohol and drug addictions remain high. Will this community pay the price?

  3. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Proper water monitoring procedures and programs have not been put into place. Dr. Schindler of the University of Alberta conducted the most extensive study ever conducted in the area, and his results revealed that the current program is hugely lacking. Even former federal Environment Minister Prentice agreed that a better system is required to properly monitor the water pollution in the area.

  4. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Forests are being peeled back, faster than they can be reclaimed. Habitats are being lost forever. An ecosystem is very delicate, once you destroy it; it is unlikely to return with the same vigor. The amount of reclaimed land is a tiny percentage of the total land used by the project.

  5. The pace of development has happened too quickly. The water and air pollution are directly impacting the health of people who live downstream from the oil sands. The residents of Fort Chipewyan have abnormally high rates of cancer, cancers that are specifically linked to petrochemical exposure. Why has development charged ahead without full consideration to the lives of these people?

  6. The pace of development has happened too quickly. Tailings ponds are growing larger and larger. New technology to replace the 30 year old technology of tailings ponds is not being widely used. Tailings ponds are leaking into the river and water systems, as evidenced by Dr. Schindler’s important study. What if tailings ponds broke their containment, unleashing rivers of pollution? What is the plan for that?

  7. The pace of development has happened too quickly. The oil sands are already emitting more carbon emissions than the entire country of Switzerland. Why are we rushing to emit more? In a world where the countries of this planet are looking for cleaner and greener ways of producing energy, why is Alberta banking their future on being the supplier of the world’s dirtiest oil? What if we wake up one day and the world has moved on? Why would we put all our eggs in one dirty basket?

  8. The pace of development has happened too quickly. There are already 392 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the sky. Climate scientists agree that we need to reduce this to 350 parts per million to keep the warming at only 2 degrees. If we don’t change course, we are headed for a planetary warming of 6 degrees, which would be catastrophic for life on Earth. 97% of scientists agree that carbon must be reduced to avoid the disastrous effects of climate change. If we pump all that oil out of Alberta’s sand, and put it up into the sky, we will most certainly warm the planet past 2 degrees. We most certainly will put future generations in a dangerous position. Imagine, years from now, the world putting partial blame on Alberta, for its reckless plundering of oil sand. What will our children’s children think of us, when they inherit a hot planet?

Further, Alberta does not need more jobs. Even as the economies of the world are crumbling down around us, Alberta has jobs. We have more jobs than people. So much so that you are campaigning to change foreign worker laws to enable the oil companies to grow larger, faster. You have missed the key point. The economy is there to serve the people of Alberta, not the other way around. If we are charging ahead with growth in the oil sands, reckless in the face of the wildlife, human, community, water, ecosystem and carbon emission damage that it is causing, most surely we would not do it over and above Alberta’s need for jobs. Where is the common sense? Do you have the best interest of the people or the oil companies, at heart?

There are a growing number of Albertans, who no longer agree with being the peddler of dirty oil. There are many Albertans who want to be part of the solution to climate change, not the cause of it. There are many Albertans, regular hardworking people, who disagree that Alberta’s future must be in oil sand to be successful.

If you are elected Premier, I hope you will look into the eyes of your children, and do what is best for their future. We must think long term, for their sake. We need to invest in a better world, a cleaner and greener world, where the threat of climate change remains a threat and not a reality.

For the sake of my two young children and children everywhere, I hope you choose life and sustainability over climate change. Oil revenues are just not worth it.

Sincerely,

Sherry

Edmonton, Alberta
Wife and mother to 2 young Albertan children

 

Live in Alberta? Want to vote for Premier on October 1st? Just show up your polling station with $5 and you are good to go.

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Cultivate a Better World

Our food system has to change to be more sustainable. It has to respect the farmer, it has to respect the soil, it has to respect the animals, and it has to respect the fact that there is just way too much carbon in the sky already, to justify shipping food all around the world. In most places, food can be grown near where we live. We need to eat what is grown close, we need to eat what is grown without polluting the sky and earth, and we need to eat more whole foods to improve our health.

In short, we need to go back to the start. We need to go back to the way people used to farm, the way people used to eat. People used to eat food grown close to home, from their own backyards, from the neighbour’s farm that also sold to the local grocery store. Fertilizer was not used, GMO foods did not exist. Large and powerful food corporations did not exist.

Chipotle, an international food chain, thinks we need to go back to the start as well. That is why they filmed this short video.  To be honest, it left me a little misty, as it is an issue so near and dear to my heart:

*thanks to Scott at Batshite for sharing this video!
 

What do you think? Do we need a reboot to go back to the start?

Al Gore & I

So I checked out the Climate Reality Project last night. I stayed up way to late, like until 2 am. I think they were in Hawaii or something at that point…

The whole thing ended tonight, with a presentation from Al Gore, so I had to tune in again. I wanted to hear him present on this issue after hearing him all those years ago in the Inconvenient Truth. I can honesty say that Al Gore was the one who opened my eyes to the climate change issue. I just was not aware of the importance of it before.

When I first watched the Inconvenient Truth back in 2006, it kinda hit home and I felt like I needed to change my ways a bit. So I grabbed a jiffy marker and a scrap of paper and wrote a list of 5 things that we should all do as a family, and put it up on the fridge. It went something like this:

  1. Use reusable bags
  2. Change light bulbs
  3. Recycle
  4. Turn off the lights
  5. What else???

I did some of those things from time to time. I was good about the recycling, but that was so easy since our municipality just has us throw every single thing that can be recycled into a blue bag and then toss it to the curb.  As for the other things on the list, I tried to do them, but over time, I mostly just forgot.

But still. My thoughts on the issue had changed.  I started voting for the Green Party.

So, Al Gore kinda has a special place in my greenie heart. Although I have come a long way since then, I heard it from him first. He raised awareness in a big way, not just for me, but for many people all over the world.

As part of this 24 hours of Climate Reality project, he filmed another video, titled “Grassroots”. It really resonated with me, so I need to share. Here he reminds us that the voice of the people is the strongest thing, stronger than any other special interest or power, and that when people stand together and draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough, change will happen. Look at Martin Luther King, the Berlin wall, Egypt… These are examples where people stood up for change against huge obstacles. It happened before and it will happen again.

This gives me so much hope. Please watch:

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Climate Reality?

In the last year, so much of my reality has changed.

I really can trace that change to a day last November, when I picked up a book called “Now or Never” by Tim Flannery, read it in one night until 3 am in the morning, and was crying by the end. My reality changed. My way at looking at the world changed. In the course of about 5 hours to read that book, it had all changed.

Before, I would find entertainment and enjoyment in going shopping, wandering through the malls with my kids, looking at cute tops for me and new outfits for them. We would come home with bags of stuff, and I would manage to find somewhere in our house to put it all. It was fun looking at all the new designs, the patterns, the colours. I liked seeing new things designers came up with.

I admit, I still like it. But now I realize that looking at this stuff, and appreciating the design, can be separate and apart from plunking down my cash to take it home with me. I can look and be interested by something, without having to own it. Looking at this stuff fulfills something in me that perhaps we all have but have not noticed before – an appreciation for art, design and innovation. This does not necessarily have to translate into ownership.

Okay, so now I don’t really buy stuff. Like ever. And it is not hard, either. I don’t see things and think ohhhh, I want that, I want that! I see things and appreciate them, but don’t even think of buying them. I just don’t care anymore. I just don’t want it in my house. I just don’t want it. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to be part of what it took to bring it to this store, where I am standing, looking at it now…

That is what I mean. My reality has changed. I cannot look at any object in any store and not think of its history. Where did it come from? Like really, WHERE. Where on Earth was it derived? Everything came from the Earth somehow, so how was this thing cobbled together? How far did it travel? Who made it? Were they paid a fair wage? Were they exposed to dangerous conditions, to chemicals? Where was it mined? What happened to the place on this planet where it came from? Was wildlife disturbed? Were forests peeled back? Was fresh water used and used and used? Was carbon put up into the sky?

Again I ask myself – am I a crazy person for thinking this way? Like I cannot look at a sweater in a store, and not think about where it came from, what it took to get it to me, and what the real cost was. The REAL cost, the cost to people, the cost to the planet, the cost to wildlife, the carbon cost to our atmosphere. If the REAL cost was presented to us on price tags everywhere, we probably would not buy much stuff at all…

And so I do not. I don’t buy, because I cannot be a part of it anymore. What makes me sad is that I feel like I am the only one. I realize that I might sound crazy for opting out of our consumer culture, but in fact, I am sad because I feel like everyone else is crazy. Everyone else does not realize what we are doing. Everyone else does not see the course we are on. Everyone else does not seem to care that our everyday actions, have real consequences somewhere else, where we cannot see them. The stuff we buy impacts other people that we will never know, it impacts forests that we will never see, and mines that we will never even know existed. It all impacts the carbon in the sky, which of course too, is invisible.

So most of us just turn a blind eye. We don’t want to think it.

Sigh.

So when I walk around now, outside, downtown at my lunch break, in my neighbourhood with all the cars rushing past, or in the store to pick up milk, I look at all the people around me and I feel so different. Different from everyone else. Different from what I used to be. Different from how I used to think. It is like I am walking through the Matrix or something, and everyone else does not know the true reality, and I do. It is a strange and scary feeling all at once. I know. They don’t. Or perhaps they do, but cannot face it.

Thank goodness, I am not the only one who sees things this way. There are others that share my view, my reality. They might not be walking around in the grocery store, but they do exist! They are the people organizing a Climate Reality Project, an online streaming 24 hour event that starts tonight at 7 pm CT. The first presentation is from Mexico City, in Spanish. Every hour after that, the presentations move west, by one time zone. So the next presentation is from Boulder, Colorado and after that it is from Victoria, British Columbia and then from Kotzebue, Alaska. Then over the Pacific we go, with a message from French Polynesia in French, and then from Hawaii in English. These presentations continue over the globe, each starting at 7 pm local time, and the whole thing ends in New York, at 7 pm ET on September 15th, with a message from Al Gore.

24 presenters. 24 time zones. 13 languages. One message.

If you want, you can Like this on Facebook, and tweet about to spread the word.

Reality. What’s yours?

March for Melting Ice

A male polar bear

Image via Wikipedia

Polar sea ice.  What does it mean to you?  Vast areas of white, white, white, never-ending?  Cold temperatures and a blinding wind? A home for polar bears in the north and penguins in the south? 

Polar sea ice caps our planet, top and bottom. It keeps the water at the poles cold. When it is cold at the poles and warm at the equator – you have the perfect engine to move water around the planet. These currents oxygenate the water and allow aquatic life to flourish. These currents shape our weather. These currents are vitally important to life on Earth, both in the ocean and on the land.

So if the poles warm up, what happens to the currents? What happens to the level of oxygen in the water? What happens to the health of the oceans? What happens to the weather?

It all changes.

So what is happening anyway with our poles? Are they really warming up as fast as some are saying? Is the sea ice melting? Can the sea ice freeze up again?

Well, there is news out today that the Arctic sea ice is set to break some records. It could be lower this year than it has ever been in over 7,000 years. It is set to break the previous record set in 2007.

Yikes.

File:2007 Arctic Sea Ice.jpg

Meanwhile, the animals suffer.

There is news today that chinstrap penguins in Antarctica are starving, as their diet of krill has been diminished. Krill populations have decreased up to 80% since the 1970s in some areas, associated with the continual decline in sea ice.

There is also news out today that king crabs are now moving into the Antarctic, as they can survive in the warming waters. The flora and fauna of this ecosystem are very fragile, and not accustomed to this new predator. The sediment of the ocean floor is changing, as the king crabs eat and forage what was previously left behind. Certain local species are going extinct.

Meanwhile in the north, polar bears continue to lose their hunting grounds, as they depend on the ice to hunt seal. They also have to swim further and further between ice floes, sometimes they drown.

It is all changing.

How much of this is our fault? How much of this is my fault, me personally? If one million penguins die, or one thousand polar bears, what is my contribution to that? If another horrible storm hits, and people die or are displaced by the wreckage, how much of that is due to the choices I have made in my life?

Some of it is my fault. I know it is.

What can I do? How do we collectively start taking climate change seriously? What will it take? When will we realize that we only have this one Earth to live?

Inaction or action? Bystander or change maker? Consumer or creator? What path will I take? How will I live this life?

Well I plan on taking part in 350.org’s Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels. There are events going on all over the world, and I want to be part of this global day of action. I want to stand up. I want to be that someone who did something, whose voice was counted.

I want to march.

I plan to take my kids, scooter, tricycle and all. Here in Edmonton, we are going to meet at the abandoned Esso station on Whyte Ave at 11:00 am and walk, cycle or run to the Alberta Legislature building, along with everyone else who wants a clean, green future for their children. Let’s do it for those penguins and polar bears as well.

Who will join me?

Put it UP

I have been busy.

Most nights you will find me up to my elbows in food. Literally. Big pots of apples, simmering and tenderizing, getting ready for applesauce. Huge bowls of cucumbers, sitting in icy salt water, crisping up in advance of their pickled fate. Warm peaches, ready to have their skins effortlessly slipped off, after they have been blanched quickly in boiling water. Have you ever held a warm, skinless peach in your hand? I have. It seems to glow, with all its warm colours melding together, representing the very best of the harvest.

Then there were the cherries. Or should I say the pits. Or should I say pitting cherries is the pits. Or should I say, having purple stained fingers and fingernails for days is the pits? Mmmm but the cherry sauce and canned cherries they turned into look so divine. Y’know how with canned fruit cocktail each kid always wants the bowl with the most cherries? Now imagine a whole bowl of cherries. Nothing but cherries. Yes, life is good.

These ones were rescued by me, last night, through Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, an awesome organization that matches volunteer pickers with neighbourhood trees.


Now how about peas? Crack, split, shell. Crack, split, shell. Forever. Half an hour of work will convert two pails into half a pail of little green peas, all different sizes. But damn they are sweet; my kids eat them like candy before we even get them on the table for dinner. Kids eating mouthfuls of fresh green vegetables? Eat away, my children, eat away. I did manage to save 2 lbs to blanch and freeze for winter.

But don’t get me wrong, there have been set backs. Those peas I picked at a local U-pick also came with about 25 mosquito bites. So. Many. Mosquitos. And the first batch of sweet cherries I spent hours pitting, ended up in the garbage because I was trying to dry them into cherry raisins and didn’t read the instructions correctly and did it all wrong…. I also broke a jar of cherry preserves when it was still in the canner – there were cherries everywhere in the water, such a mess.

And the canner. My big ol’ canner. It is a fixture on my stove these days. It is heavy, it is cumbersome, and takes up way more than its fair share on the stove. It takes forever to boil. So just when your recipe is ready to go – you’ve got to wait for that big ol’ canner to boil. So after a while, I decide to be smart about it and turn it on extra early, so of course it  boils all the while I am making my next batch, and then what do y’know, it has boiled down too far and I need to add more water which of course makes it stop boiling and I have to… WAIT.


Or how about those apples I picked from my neighbour’s tree? I picked and picked and picked and actually loved it. I LOVED it. It made me feel like a kid, 6 feet up in a tree. The branches were so thick that I could not even see the ground. I was so high up on my ladder, higher than I normally comfortable going – but I was not afraid because the tree was all around me, the branches at my knees and waist and shoulders, leaves and apples everywhere. I felt the tree’s embrace. I was being tree hugged.

I hauled down 200lbs of apples from that tree. I got to work quickly and processed about 60lbs of them into apple sauce (which turned out a pretty pink!), apple chutney and apple juice. I also gave a bunch away.

But 6 days later, the apples were no good. Rotten. Over half of them left, now a big problem to deal with. I put some in my composter and overwhelmed it. They started to ferment. The rest are still in my backyard, what do I do with them? I am so sad they did not last. Next time I will pick earlier in the hopes that a less ripe apple will be a longer lasting apple.

As for the cucumbers – I bought too many. Want some?


I processed 20 pounds into 20 jars and then could do no more. I still have 5 lbs left. What to do? I cannot look at another cucumber again, I just can’t.


But overall, it has been great fun. I am finding that canning food is becoming – dare I say it – addictive. It is a bunch of work yes, but when you pull those hot jars of food out of the canner and set them on the counter, you just feel so proud of yourself. Like – I accomplished something here today and I have the jars to prove it! I didn’t know what I was doing when I started this whole process, and now – I’ve got jars. Pickles. Applesauce. Peaches. Jam. Cherries. I fill up my counters with them, batch by batch. When my counters fill up, I take them downstairs, flat by flat. I keep going back to the store for jars – I need more jars! I need more jars!

So what is the tally so far?

24 jars of applesauce
6 jars of apple juice
5 jars of apple chutney
18 jars of peaches
6 jars of cherries
3 jars of strawberries (frozen)
2 jars of raspberries (frozen)
13 jars strawberry jam & sauce
10 jars saskatoon jam
4 jars cherry jam
20 jars pickles

Okay, so that is about 111 jars of produce that I mostly picked myself (except for the peaches and pickles), washed, cut, processed and canned. Am I a crazy lady? But just think how it will look on my empty shelving unit downstairs! I can’t wait to line them up, one by one and look upon the whole thing, all at once. I will be one of those people who have a stockpile of locally preserved food for winter.  I will also have something in common with grandmas everywhere.

But wait, I am not done.

Tomatoes are next. We cannot forget tomatoes, in all their home gardening glory. They are the ruby-red prized jewel of the garden, the vegetable we most look forward to eating, and perhaps the vegetable that tastes so much better from the garden than from the store. Now imagine that as pasta sauce, salsa and canned tomatoes. I know, I know, I can’t wait to see how it turns out, either.

After that – corn, to be cut from the cob and blanched and frozen for winter.

Then raspberry jam and saskatoon syrup will soon follow, these little berries are waiting their turn patiently in my freezer. I also have bags and bags of frozen local strawberries and raspberries and cherries that will make their way into smoothies and baking all winter long.

Then our good reliable root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, beets and onions – will be hung up, packed up and put away down low, somewhere cool. I just need to get some sort of cold room/root cellar thing going on in my basement.

THEN I will have a pantry and freezer full of local food.

I just put up the harvest. Imagine that. J