Good news for the environment potentially...but not the Big 3?



Energy Minister Smitherman slammed by Suzuki and young child on new nuke plans.

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Will George Smitherman listen to the public who want a conservation and renewable future instead of costly new nukes?

Last month, a friend of mind persuaded me to make a short video for a contest sponsored by Discover Magazine. The contest was “The Future of Energy in Two Minutes or Less.”
My daughter Lili at age 5 had invented a conservation rule that we call “Lili’s Law.” I literally threw it together at the last minute (this peaker plant issue has been time-consuming). Lo and behold the video “Lili’s Law” made it into the list of 5 finalists!

While the contest is being judged by Nathanael Greene, Director of Renewable Energy Policy at the NRDC, viewers can log on and vote for their favourites for Viewer’s Choice at


I used footage of the MegaWhat rally at Queen’s Park and the signs are very prominent in the video, meaning that tens of thousands of people across North America (And who knows? Maybe even world-wide!) will watch the video. The voice-over is by 7-year-old Lili and she slams the peaker plant, calling for conservation.

Let’s get this video seen by as many people as we can. While they may get tired of listening to people like me talking about the peaker plant, there may be some viewers who enjoy getting a conservation message from a little girl. And let’s get Minister Smitherman to listen.


"It's bloody amazing"

That's how a solar industry technologist described Morgan Solar's new concentrated CV panel.
An article on my friend Nicolas and his family's startup was in The Star Monday: A ray of sunshine for solar energy

Check out their dreams and technology.

Taking the product to large scale development is now their great challenge.
But perhaps even further, will be a test to develop the challenge in a way that both makes business sense, but takes it to the next step of effective development in the third world, where solar is the solution. But It will only work as a low cost solution - and how to use markets to allow the distribution of a great product in a fair way? Certainly excellent questions to grapple with towards achieving sustainable development goals.


A lot of hope tonight, and to come.
The election of Obama means so much to Canadians - that Americans have turned a corner, but specifically, for the possibilites of green energy to move ahead in North America and the world to lead with real climate plans, now only Harper in isolation; change for Africa, aid and conflicts; change for rights in America and a different way of seeing race.
I was a skeptic - and will be good that I remain somewhat skeptical. I am a fan of Nader.
But this is a night to celebrate and hope and build a progressive coalition to get things done.


I found out from an Australian's blog that today is Blog Action Day on Poverty. I didn't know about these sorts of actions, but it makes a lot of sense to use this media to discuss issues worldwide, and I can add my two cents.
It's actually the time I want to raise this discussion - because today during my lunch break in Toronto I saw a man picking through a garbage can, finding the bits of food he could scrounge - leftovers in coffee mugs and styrofoam containers. It was a depressing sight.
And even more sad to me that a plurality of Canadians voted for a Party yesterday that seems to want the status quo on poverty. That didn't discuss the underlying economic, rights, environmental and mental health issues that allow poverty to develop in Canada - while the other parties at least all had discussions and goals in this area.
Parliament has made past committments but has failed. The election some allowed new discussion of ideas such as an annual liveable income and talk about poverty among Aboriginal peoples, but not a lot. Now we must keep up a dialogue of new ideas that can work in Canada and abroad and demand funding of programs that are working. We must think at the community level and get good housing and we must think long-term by working on a much greater change in attitude towards issues from mental health, to doing something about the climate crisis.


Andrew Coyne: Raise a little hell, Greens In Now!


Thanks to Counting Crows and Maroon 5 of inviting us out to their Toronto concert Tuesday night. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance was the only organization present under the Reverb ecovillage tent, a firm that works with bands to help ease their ecological footprint and educate concertgoers. We were able to get some interest, raising issues regarding nuclear costs and discussing alternative energies.
Three other excellent organizations were also present thanks to the bands.
Adam Duritz, the lead singer of Counting Crows (I've always enjoyed their version of Big Yellow Taxi) took part of their encore to talk about the importance of individuals getting involved in their communities to do good work. Adam said how many excellent organizations there were right in Toronto, and wanted to remind people to talk to friends and get involved in the good environmental and social justice work that people are doing, not to mention voting.
It was a great night at the Molson Amphitheatre.


Three federal by-election have popped up that are very important to send a message to the government about the things we believe in and need at this time in Canada.

They are critical, and one in Guelph, is an opportunity to change Canada's political landscape. Mike Nagy is running to win and the Greens have been close to doing it in Guelph before.
Join me and tons of other young people in getting out the Green vote in Guelph. Send me a note and we'll make it happen.
Here's another invitation:


Yesterday Al Gore gave a major speech where he identified a goal that actually threw me back. If it is achievable, well perhaps that doesn't even matter.
See the video for the goal: speech
or just do a search and find the news articles for yourself.

To get to this goal in the U.S. or in Canada, we're going to need some work in not just energy but in people work, organizing.. we're going to need social justice work, raise tough questions, discussions, make decisions, and strive towards equality. This is the crux of sustainable development. Each of our paths will involve a discussion of the social within the realm of the earth. The Understory issue for this month has a number of articles with young people discussing these complex issues and providing ways forward. I've written a couple as well. Take a look and submit and article/letter of discuss it here or on the Young Greens' site: (click on the picture of me at green.ca..haha)
The Understory


Championing our way to sustainability

I wish to share this article by Wayne Roberts on champions, and how the presence of a champion can be key to making effective environmental change. We who did similar work on food or general sustainability at the University of Waterloo know this all too well. A champion when she is effective is one of the keys in making things happen. And there are other elements.
A trip to the Elmira Produce Auction was key to grab that emotional feeling that helped launch the UW Farm Market, similar to Erin Shapero's story of her staff who tried organic milk and mayor who visited an LFP certified farm.
Roberts finds other solutions in the book, Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive And Others Die, including getting the public's attention in unique ways. My own research into institutional change in sustainability also pointed out the usefulness of a high-level champion for a cause in obtaining a desired result (preferably more than one), as well as understanding your barriers well, using strategic language, and searching out new supporters from unexpected areas in the organization.

Perhaps you're in a position to be a champion, or can work to get someone on board. So go forth and make effective change!



I took a brief trip over to the Ontario Legislative Assembly a couple of weeks ago, to the Visitor’s Gallery in hopes of viewing debate on third reading of the Cosmetic Pesticides Act. I’ve been working on the pesticide issue since 2001 in Sarnia and then Waterloo. Exciting at first, the Act was eventually passed with opposition from NGOs and health associations who saw disappointments in the details. This was described in a Green Party media release I worked on as a response to its passing, with Environment Issues Advocate Mark MacKenzie.
When I arrived, a small handful of environmentalists including Sarah Harmer joined in the viewing area, but she informed me that the pesticide bill had been delayed until the next day, and they were there to hear introduction of the Lake Simcoe Protection Act by Liberal Minister of the Environment, John Gerretsen. Not many parliamentarians attended, but we chuckled as introductory statements by members related to summer festivals in their ridings, and the beer and wine industries, respectively.
Having been interested to write a few notes on my first visit to the Leg, I was informed that I couldn’t bring a pen and paper, so I left that with the security desk. After the introduction of the bill, which was supported by this group, some light applause from the gallery to the minister was also quieted by a security guard informing us, “no clapping”. Previous to this during the minister’s speech, a Progressive Conservative MPP who I’ll keep nameless kept talking, quite distractingly. Another Conservative recognized a group of older women in an invited guests section as “girls”.
The bill appeared to be drafted with close work with the environmental community and a history of work from members in different parties, but it could cetainly still use some work. NDP Environment Critic Peter Tabuns made useful, targeted points and critiques for strengthening the bill. Even representing Toronto-Centre far from the area, he seemed he had done his research. Two PC members made some criticism but it was generally less coherent or organized.
These two bills proposed to strengthen environmental action in the province leave me with a confusing picture of the McGuinty Liberals. They seem willing to do things, and work with environmentalists in cases where Conservative governments surely have never done so. But I am not convinced that they do choose corporate interests in some cases over that of citizens.
This said, it is important to get involved, because this government has listening capability. I never saw this with Harris. It’s important to get involved period. Al Gore and Elizabeth May speak of the democracy crisis needing to be improved before environmental crises can be. I’d encourage you to take a visit to Ottawa, Toronto, your capital, town hall or city centre to observe, learn and participate in democracy. What a direct, if sometimes frustrating, way of making change. Democracy needs to be enhanced. And seeing how it works is a good way to help you to determine your vote.


Carbon Tax or Cap and Trade?

Also can be found at thegreenpages.ca

The Federal Conservatives are looking as poor as ever on the environment. By a quick scan of their website, they have no policy ideas for solving the climate crisis. What they do have is strange stories on their homepage criticizing the Liberals and Greens with awkward audio clips and photoshopped images.

So looking at the other parties that seem to care..

The Liberals promise to now launch a national debate in solutions regarding the environment and economy. About time. Jack Layton said he is ready for the debate. The Green Party has been offering solutions for years, and the Liberals are now adopting part of one of their policies (tax shifting) and will introduce some sort of carbon tax shortly. The NDP has a host of policy ideas unveiled in 2006, which as a package provide good solutions and possibly large cuts. But the NDP oddly has ruled out a carbon tax which other countries have used to get emissions down. Although thought to be potentially unpopular (maybe why Layton decided against it), it actually has 72% support by Canadians in a recent poll.

"There are some who argue it's a slow process [cap and trade]. Those are the people in government who didn't act.," Layton said on CTV,

But the reporter had remarked that environmentalists had made that comment, and indeed it was the director of the Sierra Club who made the comment to CTV.

In the Globe he was quoted, "The carbon tax has a huge advantage over cap-and-trade in that it can be put in place very quickly and deliver results very quickly, whereas cap-and-trade, it's taken Europe decades to get that one figured out," he said. "It's just regrettable that he's focusing on the negative."

Regulations are a sign of failure of a system designed very poorly. But since we have a poor system , they are oftentimes necessary to force businesses and others to design their own way of acting on something in a definite way. I have come to learn that a mix of regulatory and market mechanisms are necessary to move us as fast as we need to go.
There is a great social justice issue if we do not do all we can quickly, as the impact of climate change will lead to significant suffering and death globally due to issues with agricultural, sea levels, cyclones, heat, biodiversity changes, etc.

A good carbon tax would not put a burden on rural or low-income individuals who need to use the fuel until we can create more effective options. Carbon taxing should be geared to extraction of resources first, so the corporations doing that work will first need to pay the most, before the consumer. Tax shifting works best earliest in the life cycle (and should be used in other sectors like mining, land use, etc.) so the most efficient use of resources is done). Rather than make big corporations pay like a carbon tax would do, the NDP would give tax incentives do use better technology. Not a bad idea, but that's taking taxpayer revenues and basically giving it to big corporations. I don't think Imperial Oil or Shell need these kind of incentives or would even be that beneficial.

But a carbon tax also helps consumers make the best choices, which are not available right now. Perhaps organic food would be cheaper for me as it can be les carbon intensive because of the reduction of fuels in the fertilizers, etc. in conventionally-grown agriculture. If this gasoline price spike is temporary (though it will go up in the long-term). A carbon tax (which will concomitantly help to reduce smog) can set a base price so that consumers can start to make purchasing decisions for things like smaller cars, knowing the prices will remain higher for the next couple years.

High gas prices are now making a real difference! Public transit is at highest ridership in 50 years, and Americans drove an estimated 4.3% less.

B.C. may be offering credit cheques to make up for the increase in fuel pricing so individuals can spend that, for example on food. The Greens' platform chooses a tax shift that would be offset through reductions in income taxes, especially low and middle income, and payroll taxes.

Robert Paehlke - a retired Trent professor in politics and environmental studies who just released his book on Canadian climate politics Some Like It Cold last week - writes about the Green plan: "lower and middle-income earners pay a higher percentage of their incomes on these taxes than do upper-income earners. Reducing these taxes gives the less well off a bigger break. It should leave them no worse off even after they pay more for energy."

Regardless of how this goes, thankfully we're now having this debate - though we need to act. The public must push for a plan as well, and one that meets strict firm greenhouse gas cuts and those must be done in a just way throughout Canada and across the Globe. Hopefully the opposition parties can work to negotiate and pass a plan with real ideas, or topple the government to get action on climate.


"We also know that natural gas reserves in Alberta are declining and roughly 90% of Alberta homes are heated with natural gas. We need to consider becoming a center for excellence in the area of geothermal heat. If you drill down into the Earth, the heat from the Earth's core can be pumped up to heat your home or cool it in the summer. These systems are already commercially available and a heat pump can replace a natural gas furnace and will reduce energy consumption and home heating costs. If there is one thing Albertan know how to do, it is drilling holes in the ground."
- George Read, Leader of the Green Party of Alberta
currently fighting an election


Our four Feds candidates are so cute.
I wish we could just elect them all!


mmm, that light, sweet crude.

With adjectives like that, no wonder it's gone up to a hundred bucks.

Wait, but didn't we predict that?