Let #OccupyEdmonton Stay

So, as luck would have it, #OccupyEdmonton is facing its second eviction threat from Melcor Developments. The first time around was 2 days after the encampment began (which was averted!) and now they are threatening them again with a deadline of Sunday at 11 pm.

#occupyedmonton

Image by Ian McKenzie via Flickr

Wanting to support the local movement in my city, I just fired off this email to Melcor (info@melcor.ca) and to the mayor, Stephen Mandel (stephen.mandel@edmonton.com).

To whom it may concern,

#Occupy Edmonton is a movement by some people, for many people. They have a broad base of support across Edmonton, that goes deep and wide. These are people who are sacrificing their time and comfort to stand up for democracy on behalf of all of us.

It is not right that oil companies get a break on royalties because they are cozy with the Alberta government. It is not right that Alberta is allowing foreign workers to stream in to work in the oil sands for much cheaper wages, leaving some Albertans unemployed. It is not right that the Alberta’s environmental monitoring of the oil sands is catastrophically lacking, such that even the Federal Environmental Commissioner agrees. It is also not right that Canada lags the developed world in doing something serious about climate change, and that much of that policy is for the emission requirements of oil sands companies.

Alberta has banked it’s future on being the peddler of dirty oil, and the Alberta Government is right behind them, funding oil PR campaigns in the millions.

I am not a hippie or some wing-nut clinging to the next cause. I am a professional, I am an accountant, I have a business degree from the U of A. I am also a mother to two young children who deserve a better future – one where climate change remains a threat and not a reality, and one where the people decide in the direction of this province, not the corporations, not the oil companies.

Let them stay.

I am begging you, for the sake of real democracy in this province, let them stay.

They are peaceful, they are respectful, they are non-violent. They represent the opinions of many Edmontonians.

Please – as a citizen of Alberta, Canada and the world, LET THEM STAY.

Sincerely,

Sherry

99%

Image by bulliver via Flickr

Want to help?

1) email info@melcor.ca

2) email stephen.mandel@edmonton.ca

3) sign this petition

Occupy Earth

Building communities
Realizing we are all in this together
Realizing we all have a shared stake
Standing up for what we believe in
Knowing in our gut, what is right and what is just wrong
Hoping for a better world
Standing behind those who dare to demand it
Knowing that this might be our last chance to get it right
Wanting a world where people come first
Where the life giving properties of this planet are protected
Where the rights of the children and future generations are heard
Where we don’t let greed and money and power get in the way
Where we love one another
Where we save each other.

Occupy Earth.

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...
Image via Wikipedia

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.

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?

Australia Will Lead the Way

Great, fantastic news out of Australia this week – they are set to pass historical legislation that will put a price on carbon (AUS$23 to start). Although there is still a bit of controversy over it, overall it is amazing and exciting and such a huge important first step forward. Here is how it works:

Of the total revenue the government receives from the tax:

  1. 50% is given to the people as assistance, to help them pay for lower energy technology and to help them pay for the rising cost of energy
  2. $13 billion is used to boost green clean renewable energy resources and create green jobs
  3. Some will be given to farmers to reduce carbon in farming
  4. Some will be given to project that protect wildlife and ecosystems

This is terrific! Here in North America the lack of action of climate change by our governments is can be frustrating. There are so many people still fighting the good fight for change, but it can seem almost hopeless at times. Not willing to give up on hope, many of us are making changes in how we live our lives, since our governments are not there to lead the way. All hope is not lost however, as many municipal and provincial governments are stepping up to the plate. My own city of Edmonton is about to embark on an exciting new environmental strategy, called “The Way We Green“. Ontario has an exciting feed-in-tariff system that encourages the installation of solar panels. Vancouver is doing absolutely amazing things, and aims to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. Action is being taken!

However, national leadership in both Canada and the US seems far away. 

For Australia – they have done it. National leadership, on climate change, it happened – there.

Perhaps our governments will take pause and reflect what Australia has done. Perhaps now they will see this and take a long hard look in the mirror. Perhaps they will see Australia’s lead and – dare I say – follow?

Here is hoping that Australia will lead the way!

I will leave you with an inspiring video created by Australian youth that shows the huge impact one young girl can have. My heart was bursting by the end of this one!

Let Them Know

You might have a concern for the environment. It may just be a niggling concern, a bother really, something in the back of your mind that can’t quite get rid of, can’t quite shake. It might be a deeper concern, but you have trouble making the connection between your actions and action on climate change. What can one person do, after all? Or you might have a full out concern, combined with a fear and desperation, for the world to change. So much so that you might decide to start changing that which you can control – yourself.

We all make individual choices how we live our individual lives. But we take cues from others, from society. As a result, most of us don’t do things that are considered really taboo, and we generally all act within agreed upon moral and ethical guidelines. We tend to do what those around us do – what we have learned from our family, our friends, from media and society. We start out doing things a certain way, and for the most part, we don’t change unless something pushes us. We like our habits.

Sometimes we do change our habits due to cost, hassle or convenience. But normally, it takes a lot for us to bother to change. We don’t even realize this. We don’t even think about it. We just do the things we have always done.

For some of us though, one day we suddenly “wake up”. One day we learn a bit more about the environment and climate change, and that adds to body of knowledge we held on the subject before, and before we know it, the scales have tipped. We can no longer ignore it. We can no longer rationalize being a bystander. We finally see the cold hard reality for what it is, and simultaneously, see our part in it. In that moment, we discover within ourselves – something new. We discover that the responsibility for changing the world starts with us, with our actions, and that as individuals we have a role to play. We discover that we are compelled to act.

And so, we change.

It starts small, with the little changes, and then grows bigger. Day by day, we discover new ways to change, new habits to form. We find ourselves considering in every decision – what would be best for the environment, for climate change?

At least, this is how it happened to me. But I am sure it is how it happened to you too, at least somewhat (unless you grew up as a hippy child where these kinds of things were already the norm from the start!). You would not be here, reading this, if you did not have at least some interest in being green.

So we want to change our habits, we want to change the world, make it a better place. Now what?

Well our changes are magnified ten fold, when we let others in on them. When non-greenies observe a greenie doing things that they themselves do not do, sometimes the non-greenies pause and reflect. It adds to their body of knowledge on the environment. Perhaps they think “wow, I cannot believe she does that, she must really have a concern for climate change or something. Why is she so worried about it? Should I be worried about it? Maybe I should…”

Our actions will have more of an impact, if they inspire others to change as well. We want to create a ripple effect. We want to be part of the bits and pieces in people’s lives that get them to stop and reconsider. We want to not only change ourselves, but be a catalyst for change in others. 

So when you do something green, let them know.

There is a fine line to walk here. Do not preach. Let them know through your actions, not words. If you must use words, just describe what you do, and then stop there. Don’t get into why everyone should do it, or why they should consider doing it. Nobody likes being told what to do. We don’t want to turn people off; we want to bring them in.

In doing so we discover that do not live our lives in isolation, and we start to notice all the little (and big) connections we have with others. No matter the connection, where you can, and when it makes sense to do so, try gently letting them know.

For example, when somebody asks me about where I park downtown, or how long my commute is, I tell them “oh I take the bus to work so I don’t need parking, I find it much more relaxing than driving and am trying to be more mindful of my carbon footprint.”

I just let them know.

When I meet someone at a coffee shop, I always get a ceramic mug or bring my own. I don’t say anything. If they ask me why I did not get one “to go”, I just say that I am trying to reduce my garbage where I can.

Let them know.

When somebody starts talking about grocery shopping and asks me where I go for the best prices, I tell them that I try to shop mostly at Farmer’s Markets when I can, because I really enjoy eating local and plus it is fun to talk to the farmer that grew your food.

Let them know.

When a server at a restaurant asks if I would like my leftovers wrapped up, I ask her if she could put it in my reusable container if that is okay, it is just that I swore off Styrofoam and I am trying to reduce my garbage where I can.

Let them know.

When I come out of a public bathroom with wet hands and my girlfriend looks at me funny, I just say that I saw the paper napkin delivery at my office building one day, and was shocked at how many pallets were used for only one week! Ever since then I feel guilty using one or something, it is weird. So, I just shake off my hands instead, or fluff my hair, or just swipe them on the back of my pants. Easy peasy.

Let them know.

When discussing the chore of laundry with other moms, I tell them that the one good thing is how they smell when you hang them to dry outside. Plus it is nice to get outside for just a few minutes, and be alone with your thoughts, listening to the birds sing as you hang wet clothes. It is amazing how much electricity a dryer uses; I can see a marked decrease on my bill. Who doesn’t like saving money?

Just let them know.

I have a saying at the bottom of my work email. I wondered at first, if I should put it there. What would people think? But I was compelled to act, compelled to share my views in a small way, in a hopefully intriguing way. I wanted to be that person that stood up for change. I wanted to be that person that didn’t hide. So at the end of every email it reads:

You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Let them know.

Greeny Blues

Do you ever feel like being green makes you blue?

When I first started out on this green journey 7 months ago, I felt powerless and alone. What a massive problem – what can my tiny voice do? I am just a regular mom. How is changing my actions going to affect anything? I am just one person among billions.

Then I found a community of like minded people, first with fellow bloggers, then among family and friends. I needed to try, to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I committed to change my ways.

This propelled me for several months. It was exciting! I was changing my lifestyle left, right and centre. Lights off, laundry hung up to dry, heat turned down, no more plastic bags, no more food in boxes, more bus rides, less mall shopping, more local shopping, more farmer’s markets, no new clothes, more gently used clothes, no more Styrofoam, no more paper napkins, way less food waste…

And then finally – I built myself a real vegetable garden to call my own.

It was fun. I did things one way for a decade, then bam I changed it all up. It threw my husband for a loop – why all the change?  He thought I was crazy. But for me it felt really good, I was doing something about this problem called climate change. I didn’t feel powerless anymore. I had a purpose. I had a reason for my actions. This was incredibly fulfilling.

However along the way I also learned a lot more about the state of our little planet Earth, this small marble of life in a Universe so vast…

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

Image via Wikipedia

I learned that we need to be really scared about the future. I learned that there are great political, social and economic forces against the reduction of CO2, forces so strong, and so well-funded, and so engrained in our very culture. These forces happen to be also very good at spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about the science of climate change.

I also learned that we don’t have much more time. I learned that our window for turning things around is not measured in decades, but in mere years.

We only have a few years to change.

On one hand I am defiantly hopeful, that there will be enough of us on the good side, on the side that chooses life and sustainability, over convenience and consumerism. That more and more people will figure out what I figured out 7 months ago, and make changes, and inspire others to make changes, who will inspire others, and this whole thing will tip, so that more of us want to do something about it than don’t want to do something, that more of us will look beyond the borders of our little lives and realize that we are part of something bigger, something magnificent and fantastic and we will collectively realize the power we have to change. We will act for each other, for our children and our children’s children. We will act for humanity itself.

On the other hand I am scared. What if enough people don’t join in? What if the governments of the world take just a bit too long to act? What if we keep burning and burning oil, putting more C02 into the sky, and don’t stop before it is too late? We all know that the oil is going to run out one day, and we will have to transition to something else. What if we don’t make that transition when there is still a world worth saving?

Hence, the blues.

Have you ever just cried … for the world? Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed about it all, and it saddens me so deeply and greatly, that I just cry. I cry for the children. I cry for their future.

Am I crazy?

I want to do more, I resolve to do more, I have long lists of things that I want to accomplish, letters to write, actions to take, committees to join. But I struggle. Being a busy working mom, there is just not enough time in each day to do all that I want to do. My minutes feel like tiny raindrops of gold, so precious, so few, so easily lost.

How will I live this life? How will I make a difference? How will I contribute to this groundswell of people now growing steadily, of those committed to living green, spreading green and building a sustainable world for our children? Imagine being a part of something so amazing and magnificent? Imagine being part of the movement that ushered in the solution, in the face of the greatest problem to ever face humanity? I know the stakes are high and the hour is late, I just need to find time between doing the laundry and doing the dishes to pitch in.

Plus I look around me, and everywhere I go, there are constant reminders of how far we need to go to turn this thing around. Pick a category: Food. Transport. Consumerism. Energy. Economy. It all has to change – radically.

We will get there. We have to. The enormity of it all though, has this greenie feelin’ a bit blue.

The Age of Stupid

I just finished watching the documentary, The Age of Stupid. Again, the credits are still rolling and I am inspired to write.

My overall feeling after watching this film is WHY. Why are we doing this to ourselves? It is such a simple and honest question. What is the answer? Most people must not fully know the issue at hand. Either that or we just don’t care enough about ourselves, our humanity. We selfishly fail to focus on this issue. I feel so frustrated. This movie has lit a fire under my butt to try and do more… MORE!

We are not leaving this world a better place than what we found it, obviously. We buy so many consumer goods, we eat food from half a world away, and we burn cheap energy. We use our precious resources as if they had no end. The scary thing is that they will end. We are using them all up, saving none for future generations. Even those who don’t believe in climate change (against 97% of climate scientists) must still concede that oil will eventually run out. What then? The world will be faced with the same problem that we have now, without the added bonus of any hope of reversing catastrophic climate change and an Earth worth saving.

The movie takes place in 2055. The world has succumbed to catastrophic climate change, and most of humanity has been destroyed. Near the North Pole there is a huge tower rising out of the now-melted Arctic Ocean. It is a storage facility, housing all the important artworks of humanity, and in massive banks of computer servers, containing all the history and music and literature and scientific discoveries of all of humankind. It is a time capsule of sorts, on a massive scale. The narrator is the storage facility’s keeper. For all we know, he is all that is left of humanity. He has at his access, news and documentary footage. From this footage he creates a cautionary tale for some future non-human generation to find. All footage he uses is from current day real life, and is not fabricated or fictional.

He follows a young woman in Nigeria, age 23, who lives in a rural town where Shell Oil has moved in. The agreement was that 13% of the oil revenues were to go to community development. Here in this community, she sees nothing. No clean water, no medical facilities, no secondary schools, nothing. It is probably a case of corruption at the government level, as well as Shell not living up to its original promises and not being held accountable. There is now oil in the river, killing the fish, a key food staple for these people. Natural gas that is found alongside the oil is burned instead of stored or transported, as it is the cheapest option in this region. This country has the riches of oil and gas, but the people do not benefit, and are instead suffering with a damaged water supply and air pollution due to gas flares (emitting 70 million tonnes of carbon dioxide per year). This young girl wants to build a better community, a better life, so she is working hard to raise funds to get admitted to college to become a doctor. In the end the only way she can raise the funds she needs is to sell diesel fuel on the black market.

Next he follows a British family, trying to reduce their carbon footprint and live off the land. Their goal is to reduce their footprint to one carbon tonne per person per year, as compared to the 10 tonnes per year on average for the UK. The father is involved in wind turbines and wants to install a wind farm on a local farm. The farmer is all for it, but the neighbours are not. The neighbours essentially, do not want their view to be ruined. One lady, who was instrumental in the protest against the wind turbines, says later that she is concerned about climate change and that everyone should do their part. Then she laughs awkwardly, knowing that her actions do not match her words. However, her actions are mostly typical, as we are all mostly, worried. But few of us are willing to give anything up of value to change. She was not willing to give up her view.

The narrator also follows a businessman in India, who is about to launch a new Indian airline. This man indicates that his overall goal and purpose in life is to work toward eliminating poverty in India, a noble goal, to be sure. However, to accomplish this, he is putting more airplanes into the sky, thereby contributing in a large way, to carbon emissions in India (airplane travel is very carbon intensive – one long haul flight would equal driving my car for 8 months).

He also follows an American man who worked for an oil company, who lost everything to Hurricane Katrina. With his small boat, he ended up saving over 100 people stranded in their homes, including a 92 year-old man and a 2 week-old baby.  Are catastrophic weather events like this going to increase in number and severity? Some would argue it is already happening.

There are two children from Iraq, now living in another country as refugees. Their father was killed in the war.  The reason for the Iraq war? The film implies that it was for oil and these two little kids are paying the price.

Then there is the mountaineering guide in France, who at age 82, has seen the landscape and climate change in the mountains significantly in his lifetime. He has watched the glaciers shrink. He has watched the summers grow hotter. He has seen car and truck traffic through his small, quiet mountain town grow exponentially. He has a love of nature and he sees the path that we are on and is physically pained by it. He has a beautiful quote near the end of the film:

I think everyone in the future will perhaps blame us for not thinking how to protect the environment. We knew how to profit but not how to protect.

These stories from around the world remind us that we are all interconnected in this thing. What goes on in India and Iraq and Nigeria and the UK impacts me here too. It impacts my children. It impacts you.  We are all here on this little planet Earth, living together on this miracle of creation. This is our only home, no other place yet discovered in all the Universe could sustain us. It is like a tiny spaceship, careening through the immense dead of space. How will we treat our precious aircraft, so that it can continue to support us? Will our personal self interests override the needs of our vessel, so key to our very survival?

If we do not change, it is not the Earth that will suffer. It is us. The Earth will continue to careen through space, whether we have a place on it or not.

The scariest thing about this movie came from Mark Lynas, who wrote Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. He told us that we will have to reduce our emissions by 80% by 2050, which is something I have also read elsewhere. However what I had not seen before, was his assertion that in order to achieve that, we have to peak on emissions by 2015. That is only 4 years away. I am so frustrated because I see this train wreck coming at us so quickly, and we are so busy squabbling about having to change our way of life that we don’t realize that before we are even done squabbling, it will be too late.

How can I accept that? In short, I can’t.

That is why I write in this space, that is why I am actively greening my life from top to bottom. But I need to do more. I need to reach out to people and get involved in the flesh, in person. I want to do more, and need to carve out time for it. There is absolutely no excuse for not doing so.

My children deserve it. You deserve it. We all do.

Food Friday: Food Inc.

I just finished watching the movie Food Inc. In fact, the credits are still rolling! I am deeply saddened and frustrated and shocked. I don’t know how we let it get so out of hand.

The biggest shocker was the amount of control the food companies have over the farmers. In the US, 70% of the meat supply is controlled by only 4 large corporations. These corporations hire farmers, and then tell them how to run their operations, what equipment to use, what breed of animals to grow, what to feed them, how to medicate them… The autonomous business decisions have moved from the farmer, to the corporation. The farmer ends up very much in debt (upgrading to all the new equipment and technology), and makes a very low income at the end of it all, about $18,000 per year on average. Many farmers in the documentary did not want to talk about their operations, for fear of losing their contract. One chicken farmer did let the cameras into her operation, only because she was so fed up with the whole system that she wanted to take a stand. She was also one of the only farmers that had chicken houses with windows – all the other farmers in the area kept their chickens in the dark. The reason? I am not sure. Why would you keep chickens in the dark, and purposely not have windows? Perhaps we are not supposed to see what goes on inside? In the end, the one farmer that talked to the cameras did lose her contract, due to failing to “upgrade” her chicken houses to be window-less.

Gross.

Another thing that struck me was the corn. I knew that vast mono-cultures of corn were being grown in the US, but I did not know that 30% of land in the US is covered in corn crops. Shocking. According to the documentary, corn is so heavily subsidized by the government, that it is profitable to put it into almost every processed food in the grocery store. Y’know all those words on food labels that we don’t understand and cannot even pronounce? Apparently most of them are derived some way or another out of corn. We all know that the glucose-fructose in most processed foods is made from corn, and that it is making our kids obese and giving them type 2 diabetes. Why then is this subsidized instead of foods that are good for us?

As a result of the subsidization, the corn is so cheap, they feed it to cows.

Now, cows have not evolved to eat corn (they prefer grass) and that this is creating problems such that the cows have to be kept constantly on antibiotics to avoid disease. In the feedlots cows are creating massive amounts of manure that is toxic in such high concentrations, it can get into the water supply if not carefully monitored. I did not realize that the cows are standing ankle deep in their own shit, rubbing it all over themselves and each other, so if one cow has a disease or bacteria then they all have it. Then they are taken in for slaughter – and there is manure all over their bodies. How does shit not get in the meat? The sad thing is – it does get in the meat and that is why that little boy who was 2 years old died from eating a Jack in the Box hamburger.

Then there are the workers – I watched the movie Fast Food Nation a few years ago which also talked about the horrible conditions that meat processing workers endure, and the power that the large corporations have over them. Many workers now are immigrants (I guess no other Americans want the jobs), and the company controls their immigration status. It is pretty obvious that this gives the company a whole lot of control. Conditions are bad, and dangerous.

Now for the genetically modified foods, or GMOs. This is something I never really knew about until a few months ago. I would hear snippets about it, but did not know what foods were GMO and which were not. One thing that really stood out from me from this documentary is that 70% of processed foods in the grocery store contain some sort of GMO. Now I don’t mind the age old practice of grafting a pear branch to an apple tree, or creating hybrid seeds naturally. But when you get into the lab and mess around with the DNA of a cell, have we gone too far? What are the implications to nature? What are the implications to our health? Shockingly, 80-90% of corn, soybean and cotton in the US are GMO derived. I had no idea. In Canada, nearly all of our canola is genetically modified. This makes me sad. I love our beautiful canola fields, so bright and yellow in the summer. I wish they were not GMO, I wish they were natural.

So Canada, the US and Australia grow vast quantities of GMO crops, while Japan, New Zealand, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Ireland have banned them completely. Why do all these countries ban them while we grow them almost exclusively? What dangers do they see that we do not? Some African nations will not even accept GMO food as aid.

Then there are the GMO terminator seeds, which slap Mother Nature in the face by terminating fertility and producing only sterile seeds. What if that got out into nature?

Despite all this, there was a glimmer of hope in the movie: an organic sustainable farmer that made all his own business decisions, held his land and animals in high regard, and farmed like we used to farm 50 years ago – naturally without chemicals, without heaps of manure, without corn as feed. He held true to his values, and was not held hostage to a corporate contract. He sold his food directly to people, and they came from far and wide to buy it. He had his chicken tested for bacteria and compared it to chicken purchased at the supermarket, and found that his product had 133 psu while the supermarket chicken had 3700 psu (I am not sure what the psu stand for, but a 300 fold increase in bacteria sounds pretty gross).

This movie just solidified for me that I must continue to prepare much of my food myself, from scratch, so that I know what’s in it. I will also continue to shop at farmer’s markets. Direct food from farmer to customer provides the best income to the farmers, I am sure of it. The food chain is shorter, and the influence that the food companies have on the whole transaction is nil. I am also grossed out by the meat; I am not sure how to deal with that at the moment. I don’t think I can eat the store-bought meat anymore. I don’t know. We will see.

In the end, we can all do what the movie tells us to do – vote with our forks… three times a day.