Friday, October 23, 2009

The Backlash

Hey, let's keep trashing the planet in case Al Gore is wrong!

According to a the Huffington Post, the number of Americans who believe that climate change is connected to human-caused pollution is at its lowest point in three years. Only 57% of Americans now believe this inconvenient truth -- down from 77% in 2006, when Al Gore's film was released.

Phelim McAleer is the director and producer of an anti-climate change film, Not Evil Just Wrong, that's been screened recently. In a nutshell, Gore made a few errors in the film, errors he addressed later, but McAleer jumps on some alternative scientific views such as, "Ice is the enemy of life," which make it clear to his followers that global warming will actually save us all.

Change is hard and terribly inconvenient, and we desperately want to believe it's all a big lie because that would be very nice, wouldn't it.

Suzuki was in town last weekend. I missed it because of a flu, but a colleague mentioned two things he said that are lingering with me this week. The first, demographers predict that we'll have 9.2 billion people by 2050, but Suzuki thinks we'll actually lose about 90% of our population in the next 100 years as we eradicate one eco-system after another. We can't survive if the oceans and forests are depleted. McAleer's film suggests Gore thinks the end of the world is coming. Not at all. It's just a dramatic reduction in the population of our species. The world will be fine without us.

The second thing Suzuki said was that the most important thing educators can do is to tell each student to go home and tell their parents, "If you love me, you will do everything you can to stop harming the earth."

I put this second message on our hallway display board. I leave the first message for classroom discussions.

And, of course, if people are wavering on the brink of inaction because they're not sure it's worth it, because we'll all die anyway or because it's all a big conspiracy created because Gore has money invested in solar panels or something, then watch Greg Craven's exploration of the issue using a Pascal's Wager type of analysis.

We're really making a huge choice between these worst case scenarios: If Gore's wrong, and we all stop driving as much, turn the furnace down, recycle the A/C, stop buying so much crap, eat less meat, insist on organic produce, etc., then we might have an economic depression for a time as some jobs are lost particularly in oil-dependent industries. But other jobs will be created in solar and wind power, on farms that will require more human power, etc. So in a matter of time, people will shift employment, and the economy will re-stabilize. It will likely never recover to where it was two years or so ago, but that was an unhealthy gain anyway - for obvious reasons.

The second option we have to choose from is, if Gore's right, and we all do nothing differently. If we choose this option, we will become extinct.

I'm having problems uploading the video, so you'll have to click here.

Then buy Greg's book which just about killed him to write!

below the fold

Monday, October 12, 2009

Shop Mindfully

This is our third eco-challenge. Since we'll be celebrating Me to We day on Friday we're focusing on the Free the Children campaign by getting out awareness of the ways children are employed or enslaved worldwide. The display will have info on fair trade products as well as samples of coffee and chocolates. This all fits well with Re-Think Waterloo's presentation of David Suzuki talking about what we can do to change the world this coming Saturday at Centre in the Square. There will also be many displays and the culmination of this year's 7th Generation Challenge in which local high school students try to figure out the best way to make a difference.

On Friday we'll also be showing the Me to We day speakers in the auditorium on a loop so people in MSIP classes can opt to be inspired instead of reading.

Here's some info on fair trade products:

On Chocolate:

Free Trade Chocolate

Cadbury, Nestle, Mars, Hershey’s, Toblerone... (Mars + Hershey’s = 2/3 of US chocolate)

Sold everywhere

Big companies purchase cocoa on international exchanges where cocoa from the Ivory Coast is mixed with cocoa from other countries. It’s estimated that 40% of this chocolate is from known slave plantations.

90% of Ivory Coast cacao plantations use slave labour – mostly young men and boys as young as nine from impoverished areas enticed by traffickers who promise them paid work, then sell them to plantation owners who beat them, forcing them to work 18-hour days. In 2000 it was estimated that about 15,000 children from 9 to 12 were sold to plantations that year.

Clear-cut areas of the rainforest to grow cacao trees in the sun where they yield more beans but require a huge amount of irrigation, pesticides, and fertilizers because they’re more susceptible to disease, insects, and drying. 80% of the rainforest in the Ivory Coast that has been cleared is used for cacao trees.

The mono-culture (only one kind of plant grown in a huge area) destroys the biodiversity essential for many rainforest creatures.

Fair Trade Chocolate

Cocoa Camino, La Siembra (main Canadian importer of fair trade chocolate)

Sold at 10,000 Villages and many health food stores,

Purchase directly from plantations so they can ensure labour standards are met.

Grow cacao trees in the shade, the way they prefer to grow, requiring less irrigation and no pesticides or fertilizers.

Grown under the canopy of the natural rainforest, over 23 bat species, and huge variety of birds enjoy living in the cacao trees.

Sales of organic chocolates (grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers) are growing by 70% each year in the U.S.

The fair trade logo guarantees that producers have divided money equitably and used environmentally sound farming methods.

On Blackspot shoes:

Blackspot is our experiment with grassroots capitalism. After spending so many years railing against the practices of megacorporations like McDonalds, Starbucks and Nike, we wanted to prove that running an ethical business is possible.

The reality is that most of us have to buy shoes on a regular basis, so we wanted to introduce an option that is socially and environmentally responsible to a market that is sorely lacking in similar convictions.

Blackspot shoes are made with hemp, recycled tires and vegan leather and produced in fair-trade or unionized factories. We sell only to independent retailers worldwide in order to cycle money back into local economies.

Blackspot is also an open-source brand, which means that it can be used by anyone for any purpose at no cost. Our hope is that people with similar philosophies will be inspired by our experiment and start their own business ventures, spreading indie culture and providing ever more alternatives to buying from megacorporations. Blackspot is about more than marketing a brand or deconstructing the meaning of cool – it's about changing the way the world does business.

Weekly Eco-Challenges to date:

1. Drive Less
2. Give a Little

below the fold

Friday, October 2, 2009

Make Poverty History

This week we're having a canned food drive, so the eco-challenge is focusing on poverty. I'll have some of the following tid-bits of information on display along with some canned food.

"Poverty and environmental degradation go hand and hand. The lower your income in this country, the higher the likelihood that you will be exposed to toxics at home and on the job. The greater the risk that you will suffer from diseases -- ranging from asthma to cancer -- caused or exacerbated by environmental factors. The harder it will be for you to find and afford healthy food to put on your table. The less likely you are to live in a community that provides safe outdoor spaces for you and your family to enjoy. And, as recent history tragically exposed, the more vulnerable you are to environmental catastrophes, whether they are natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or human-made tragedies like the Exxon Valdez.
In short, the worst consequences of environmental degradation are visited on the homes, workplaces, families, and bodies of the poor." (from here)

Second Harvest is a Toronto organization that collects perishable food about to be tossed out from grocery stores and restaurants and delivers them to food banks throughout the city. It started with just one person who saw food waste and hunger side by side and did something about it. What would it take to do that in our community?

Ontario recently passed a poverty reduction act which intends to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 25% in the next five year.

70% of all low-income children in Ontario live in families where at least one parent is working part-time or full-time, yet the families are unable to earn enough to lift family income above the poverty line. (from here)

Make Poverty History has an on-line form that people can submit directly to Stephen Harper to encourage him to make poverty a larger issue at the next G8 (G20) meeting in Haliburton next June (pictured here). Haliburton's beautiful, but do they realize June is the only month with mosquitoes and black flies? June is the only month I don't go to the cabin. Anyway, the form takes less than a minute to complete and send. Click on the link to make a change.

(It's not folding today.)
below the fold