Posts filed under ‘Global climate change’

Winnipeg’s reminder of climate change

greatnorthbear2 bear_tankerI had a chance to visit Winnipeg over the past few days. It was my first time there, and I was lucky enough to have time to tour around and see some sites. It was unseasonably warm, as evidenced by the Santa Claus parade that ran down bare roads. Kids largely ignored the hot chocolate stations, and some even unzipped their jackets to vent some of their anticipation of seeing the Great Merry One. Like most places in Canada, the weather was on everyone’s minds.

Is this climate change in action? It’s hard to say, of course. I thought the display of polar bears near the Manitoba Legislature was interesting. The dozen or so large concrete polar bears scattered across the lawn are from a CancerCare Manitoba fundraising and awareness-raising event held a few years ago. An artist painted each bear to reflect a theme, many of them showing the Canadian north, the northern lights and Native cultural iconography.

The bear shown here tells a story of the Canadian north — including the oil tanker whimsically painted onto its backside. Was this meant to be a reminder of the threat over our shoulder? Or just a piece of real life in the north?

I don’t know the answer, but I’m glad that those bears, such as symbol of all that’s at stake, are keeping watch over the legislature. Perhaps Manitobans could send one to Ottawa.

November 16, 2009 at 12:30 PM 2 comments

Cities Alive tour showcases green roofs

I just found out about a tour of green roofs on in Toronto this week, part of a program called Cities Alive. The tour is part of a push to show how helpful green roofs can be in reducing resource use.

Green roofs and green walls absorb heat (reducing cooling costs in summer), insulate (reducing heating costs in winter), capture carbon dioxide, emit oxygen, and even create a sense of serenity among the hard surfaces of urban landscapes. While planning a green roof may be easier in creating new buildings, the Cities Alive tour features the YMCA’s green roof retrofit project. Thanks to a $250,000 grant from TD Bank, as well as thousands of hours of volunteer time, the YMCA was able to build a new green roof as part of their running track at the Metro-Central YMCA at 20 Grosvenor Street, Toronto. YMCA members will be able to go for a run or take a yoga class on the green roof, a little green oasis in the city!

To read more on how the YMCA green roof came together, have a look at the project blog.

October 21, 2009 at 12:07 PM 1 comment

Great green choices now available in tissue and toilet paper

iStock_tissueLast night I breathed a sigh of relief as I walked down the paper products aisle of the grocery store. It wasn’t because I was about to sneeze — it’s ’cause in every category, from paper plates to toilet paper to paper towels to tissues, green options are now available.

Considering the volume of paper we use in our kitchens and washrooms every year, backing off our need for trees by switching to products made from 100 per cent post-consumer waste will make a huge difference in preserving forests, and thus habitat, not to mention the carbon savings. I’ve been buying PC Green toilet paper for years, but in the last year or so I’ve found that many other companies are stepping up to the plate with 100 per cent recycled, sometimes even EcoLogo certified products, including the Canadian company, Cascades, Seventh Generation, Selection, White Swan and now Kimberly-Clark brands including their “EnviroCare” line of Cashmere bathroom tissue, Scotties tissues and Sponge Towels. Now that it’s really easy to make a good choice (and even a soft, cushy choice!), let’s just hope that everyone does.

The next step: changing over entire product lines to EcoLogo-certified products, rather than considering them an option.

Are you also finding it easier to find green paper products?

October 20, 2009 at 2:25 PM 1 comment

Lobbyists losing power in climate change argument?

I grinned from ear to ear yesterday when I read that Apple has decided to terminate its membership with the US Chamber of Commerce. That’s because the Chamber has been lobbying aggressively against government assessments of climate change effects, assessments that could spur legislation to control waste such as CO2 emissions and other pollutants.

According to this New York Times story, the Chamber of Commerce threatened to sue the US Environmental Protection Agency unless they hold a debate on the impact of climate change on human health, in spite of overwhelmingly clear evidence.

Apple’s letter to the Chamber of Commerce said, “We would prefer that the Chamber take a more progressive stance on this critical issue and play a constructive role in addressing the climate crisis. However, because the Chamber’s position differs so sharply with Apple’s, we decided to resign our membership effective immediately.”

Wow! And apparently other major companies, including energy companies and big brands such as Nike, have also left the Chamber of Commerce for similar reasons. It looks like there’s an opening for a new Progressive Chamber of Commerce!

I think a lot of businesses, big and small, are seeing the bigger picture on the environment and climate change. Sure, there’s money to be made in being the good guy, but aren’t most businesses just made up of people, many of whom might want future generations to enjoy this beautiful world?

October 9, 2009 at 2:43 PM Leave a comment

Tck Tck Tck song for action

This version of “Beds are Burning” is part of the time4climatejustice campaign for action at the Copenhagen climate change talks in December. The video prominently features Canadian musician Serena Ryder.

October 8, 2009 at 10:48 AM Leave a comment

So what’s wrong with burning coal?

Coal mining in the Rocky Mountains

Coal mining in the Rocky Mountains

As a followup to my recent post about Ontario’s new Green Energy Act, I thought I’d note a few of the reasons I think it makes sense to move to renewable energy from burning coal.

What is coal? It’s a type of rock made of carbonized plants that holds a lot of C02 and, when burned, releases harmul toxins, including lead, mercury, and even radioactive components such as uranium and thorium. And we’ve found a way to mine this energy-rich, abundant material relatively cheaply.

To mine the coal, we clear-cut the trees, then scrape away the topsoil exposing the rock below so we can carve out the mountain sides to expose the carbon-rich black material. Naturally this process destroys habitat, creates blights on the landscape and causes long-standing health issues in humans, not just wildlife.

The journal of the American Public Health association says of study subjects who live near a coal mine: “high levels of coal production were associated with worse adjusted health status and with higher rates of cardiopulmonary disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, lung disease, and kidney disease.” OK, that sounds pretty bad. A York University study on a mining area near Nanaimo, B.C. cites research showing that water leaching from coal mines builds up a lot of sulphuric acid, which in turn releases heavy metals, such as lead, zinc, copper and mercury. Delicious!

Not long ago, we ran this story on the surprising range of health effects of air pollution in Homemakers.

Having enjoyed an afternoon picnic under a massive wind turbine, chatting about the future of power, it’s hard to imagine that coal could somehow be better. I try to be open minded, but I just don’t see the logic.

October 5, 2009 at 3:42 PM 1 comment

In this issue of Homemakers: The human face of climate change

Homemakers_BangladeshAt my post at Homemakers magazine, I get to work with writers to tell inspiring stories of women’s lives, particularly efforts to live healthfully and make the world a better place.

In the October issue, which recently hit newsstands, environmental journalist Alanna Mitchell, author of the best-selling book Sea Sick, writes about the tangible effects of climate change on the people of Bangladesh. She tells the story through three Canadian women who, through CARE and CIDA, have worked to help Bangladeshi people – particularly women – adapt to the frequent flooding that’s been made worse by climate change effects, including rising sea levels and cyclones.

Alanna’s story is a great read and a revealing look at how the carbon we release here in Canada – and everywhere around the world – has a tangible effect on our neighbours.

September 18, 2009 at 11:48 AM Leave a comment

Worth a watch: The Story of Stuff

Thank you to Didi for posting a comment about this fabulous video about externalizing costs. To watch the full version, see The Story of Stuff website.

July 28, 2009 at 9:55 AM 2 comments

Convenience vs. Green-ness

umbrella_storagevendingmachines Japan has a reputation for over-the-top novelty, and I can say I saw plenty of examples during my recent trip to Tokyo.

There were a few things I noticed that have a more obvious environmental impact.
– I visited during the rainy season, and when it rained, everyone seemed to be prepared with an umbrella. And when entering shops, you would not want to enter with a streaming wet umbrella of course, so some stores had an umbrella locker at the entrance, as in my snapshot above. But many, particularly the high-end shops, have a special umbrella machine that encases each umbrella in a thin plastic sleeve. And as shopper exit the store, off comes the plastic sleeve, left in a big bin of sleeves. Some people had the sleeve that came with their umbrella, and simply used that.
– It’s true that Japan, at least in the areas I visited, is well-served by vending machines. I’ve heard rumour of all kinds of esoteric vending machines, although I only saw beverage machines (although they sometimes offered both hot and cold beverages) and cigarette machines (which are rumoured to have age-recognition technology so they can’t be used by minors). I did also use a custom machine to make photo stickers, and I ate at an Indian restaurant where you had to purchase food orders through a ticket vending machine. The beverage machines are very brightly lit, looking like a beacon of refreshment that lights up the night. And they certainly put out a lot of PET bottles everyday, so although PET seems well recycled there, there is a lot of waste generated. But I confess that it was so hot and humid in Tokyo, I found the vending machines’ offerings of ice-cold green tea, “Royal Tea” (black tea with milk and sugar), Pocari Sweat (a sports drink) and others to be of immense relief, even just to hold to my brow, when I just couldn’t deal with the heat any longer.
– Perfect packaging is a retail obsession. Small items are typically bagged, then taped into the bag, then placed in a larger bag for ease of carrying. When it’s raining, your paper carry bag will be wrapped in clear cellophane so it doesn’t get wet.

Now, of course, I should say that in the big picture, these examples are well offset by other initiatives, such as the comprehensive rail network, including the Tokyo subway network and the high-speed, electrically powered trains, the Shinkansen that make having a car unnecessary for most.

July 3, 2009 at 11:21 AM Leave a comment

Kids’ solutions to climate change


Have a look at this terrific slideshow illustrating kids’ postcards to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The World Wildlife Federation (WWF) asked kids to send in their postcards with an illustration about climate change and a letter advocating for solutions, as part of the My Future, My Climate Postcard Contest. The WWF received over 800 entries; their three selected winners each gets a bicycle of his or her choice, to “to support their carbon friendly lifestyle.”

Have you ever written a letter to the media or to a politician asking for change?

June 19, 2009 at 10:33 AM Leave a comment

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