One of the strongest arguments many consumers make against bottled water is the massive amount of waste that ends up clogging our waterways when bottles are discarded as litter. To counter this problem, redleaf Water, a Canadian based, premium bottled water company, recently released what they’re calling “the industry’s first biodegradable and recyclable water bottle.”
It’s not a perfect answer. Redleaf Water’s bottle biodegrades in landfills over slightly less than four years in most conditions, according to marketing manager Patrick Hillis. But four years is much better than the predicted hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of years that some researchers claim.
“The bottle can also be recycled regularly,” Hillis explains. “It won’t harm any of the other plastics.”
Hillis’ statement is important, as the primary difficulty with recycling naturally biodegradable water bottles has been the contamination of other plastic recyclables, according to some sources.
To create their biodegradable and recyclable bottles, redleaf’s bottle manufacturer adds organic matter that gives it its biodegradability, according to Hillis. He adds that redleaf, which launched in 2008, wanted to create this product because so many plastics end up in landfills and they don’t break down at all. Around 74 percent of plastic bottles end up somewhere besides the recycling bin, according to statistics he shared with Blue Planet Green Living.
Making the bottle biodegradable is just a start. Currently, the company is conducting tests to make the cap, label, and exterior packaging biodegradable as well.
“Eventually we would like to have a full package that is completely biodegradable,” Hillis says.
The product was introduced in January and is currently available across Canada. In the U.S., redleaf Water is sold at select retailers in the Western states, including more than 100 Albertsons stores. The company plans to expand across the country as demand increases. So far, the product is selling well.
“We’re contacted a lot by the eastern U.S. for the product, from places like yoga studios,” Hillis says.
He adds that the company believes in selling a premium productm but not at a premium price. One liter bottles sell for $1.40 to $1.80, and a 12 pack of half-liter bottles sells for $4.99 to $5.99.
The water that fills these bottles is produced in an environmentally friendly way as well. It’s bottled right at the facility in Chilliwack, British Columbia, eliminating the cost of transporting the water to a bottling facility. It also comes from a renewable artesan aquifer located beneath the facility—a very pure source, according to Hillis.
Hillis is proud of the company’s biodegradable water bottles and describes them as “super popular” so far.
“We believe this will be the tipping point in moving forward for the company,” says Hillis.
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“I’ve got an idea – let’s play hide and seek!” Mary Travers spoke, as I recall, on the 33-rpm vinyl record by Peter, Paul and Mary called Peter, Paul and Mommy, an anthology of some of my favourite children’s songs. Songs I love.
Well, I have an idea: let’s save humanity so that many more generations of children will sing children’s songs. Not an original idea but let’s stay with it.
Dependable science delivers a picture of planet Earth as we pass through the consecutive impacts of changing climate, consequence that may start with ecology but quickly moves through the food chain and the economy into the health and wealth of humanity, and the security of civilisation.
This somewhat succinctly embodies the essential message that Gwynne Dyer delivers globally, to all people in government and the smart folk who do “military intelligence”.
Let me review Dyer’s argument from his latest book “Climate Wars”. Either climate change creates food shortages that create climate refugees that start local international wars that seriously complicate civilisation, or climate change causes food shortages that cause local civil problems within nations that complicate civilisation. Either way, climate change threatens human civilisation as we know it.
A failed state cannot feed its own population. The people of a failed state cannot grow enough food to feed themselves. Neither the people nor the state can buy enough food. Starvation threatens people living in a failed state, only partly because in some states only the corrupt can survive.
After enough climate change, no country in the world will have surplus food to sell: every country will have too little, as “just enough” is not an option, just a tipping-point we swing past. A government that cannot feed its people has run out of credibility. All government is threatened. Rule of law collapses helter-skelter, here, there and everywhere. What a future scenario!
Today’s failed states, Haiti and Zimbabwe, will be the first to go full-speed towards turning their present populations into starving climate refugees. Other states, now nearly failing in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and “Latin” America will follow.
The International Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, suggests that the increase in the average global temperature may pessimistically be expected to reach 6 degrees by the end of the present century. The best science has consistently produced forecasts with a range from unlikely, through likely, and on to unlikely again. Dyer and many are concerned that the most pessimistic forecasts on the unlikely side made from the best science continue to be exceeded with surprising frequency. Global warming is on the increase, and not only the frail are concerned that it threatens to go runaway.
The dominoes can fall pretty quickly; the order matters little. With climate change, those countries nearer the equator suffer more severe food shortages sooner.
Near North America, Mexico and other countries immediately south are headed towards a large food deficit. Much of the desertification there will affect the southern USA as well. As climate changes, many more people will want to cross over the US-Mexican border into the USA. Many more Americans will not want them. A challenged America will eventually ask the American military to begin to “shoot to kill” these climate refugees coming north if necessary, to keep the border more closed than porous — of course, in a sincere effort to deal with America’s own increasingly short food supply. The navy will sink the refugees that come north by boat; the air force will eliminate the smart and desperate Spanish speaking refugees that choose to move by kite, balloon or blimp, if the American right in the second amendment does not kill them first.
Similar things happen as climate refugees try to enter Russia from China. All hell breaks loose north of Africa as the Africans and people of the Middle East all want into Europe; the Italians may travel to Norway as Greeks and Turks invade Sweden and Finland. The Northern countries of Europe could go to war with the Mediterranean countries. A local nuclear war over water may erupt between India and Pakistan. Neither military industry nor treaty organisation can police all of this. No one can win. Once the climate wars begin, we never return to the good old days we had on Earth in 2010.
There is a climate-caused tipping point built into human nature: people never go quietly into starvation, Dyer sensibly points out.
A popular rumour reassures us that Earth has lots of food, just a problem to distribute it fairly. This rumour is false; it always was exaggerated.
War will come if we have not acted in time to prevent dire food shortage: humanity must avert global climate catastrophe.
The present international plan, in principle already agreed to, that we must not pass two degrees of average-global-temperature increase, is inadequate. A mere 1.5 degrees of average global warming will bring on climate wars.
There exists this geo-political issue, not yet widely recognised, a societal tipping-point, a point past which we must not press the ability of humanity peacefully to deal with food-shortage. As we lose water for irrigation, as fertile soil blows away, as we lose the productivity of our present supply of arable land, as climate changes and we approach 1.5 degrees of change, humanity runs unavoidably short of food.
At 1.5 degrees of average warming, the ability of the global ocean to provide food begins to collapse and soon collapses catastrophically. Humanity gets far too little food from the ocean and far too little food from the land. Humanity has catastrophically less food than in 2010.
You see, humanity does not have as much time as today’s best scientific estimates allow us. We have to re-calibrate these estimates in view of the condition of the ocean and Dyer’s vision on land.
To avert catastrophe, we should eradicate the global carbon deficit by 2015. Do not argue with this or question the source today: we cannot afford not to err on the side of discretion. There is no time for international brinkmanship as governments change policy.
We have to get the global machinery that will reverse the trend to increase the release of carbon and contain atmospheric carbon dioxide at a safe level. The top bookies in England no longer consider this a good bet.
On spaceship Earth, there are no passengers: all are crew — a good line from Marshall McLuhan.
Everyone in every country must do her best. The intellectual failures that deny climate change will still be active in 2013, so how do we do the trick and get our governments ready for 2015?
Every government must do its part. Good Americans must see that the USA fights carbon emissions at home. Good Europeans must ensure that Europe is on side. The Chinese people must make sure the People’s Republic works to reduce its emissions. Russia must play its role, also Israel, Australia, Brazil and India.
As a Canadian, my job is to help Canada do its part.
No problem here: the solution is clear. We need as many people as possible to vote for the Green Party of Canada. All the other parties that presently hold all the seats in the House of Commons in the Canadian parliamentary system have serious baggage, other traditional items that top their agenda, other items less urgent than avoiding climate catastrophe. Concerned Canadians cannot trust any of the four presently popular political parties, currently out of date and soon to be out of fashion.
Only the Green Party in Canada accepts as its highest priority the need to avert global climate catastrophe and climate war.
The climate wars will be deadly. Humanity has already manufactured and distributed the necessary ordnance. People will make war, not love, when the time comes; and it comes.
So this is the plan: in Canada, all good people must vote Green, Green because without valuable free-market forces that government must allow, and should encourage but with due caution, humanity is toast. No vote but Green is strong enough. Green is the party of science.
The good people in all countries must take care that their governments are seeing the light, acting in good faith and in good time.
Done! It is this simple. Come on, Canada, each of us must stop watching whether the people in other countries are with us. Each one of us must give each one of us permission to vote Green before the next election. Go Green!
Many Canadians are unhappy with the party they have been supporting with their vote, many of these are not adverse to or uncomfortable with intellectual thought. These people are becoming increasingly comfortable in the knowledge that they can jump safely to solid territory by voting Green. The good they can do this way is greater than the good they have been doing in elections recently past.
Either this is the plan, or soon enough, children everywhere will stop singing the many children’s songs we all loved.
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)
Bob Halstead, born in 1947 in Northern Ontario, is a competent linguist and logician, and a retired teacher of mathematics. He has devoted his life to making decision as to what he should believe and what he can dependably know.
Bob accepts that humans reveal what humanity understands in the stories we tell. Some stories contain more good science than others. The stories told by good scientists generally contain dependable fact.
However, ultimately, all truth comes in story form. The human polity is enormously interested in some stories. Important story travels across human network, some growing in the telling, other fading into disrepute.
As Bob tells it, every public statement is story and every story is political. So everything religious, scientific or philosophical is first political. His own personal vision becomes political as soon as he makes it verbal.
He considers himself intellectual, although he is only now working on a good definition of what “intellect” is. He is devoted to political action because human behaviour directly affects the future of humanity. He understands quantum mechanics and cosmology, but loses interest in the future of the universe after humanity goes extinct.
His fealty is to the human polity, not to any particular nation or culture. He lives in Toronto, ON, where he supports the Green Party of Canada.
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Facebook: Paradigm Shift
With more than 30 festivals going on throughout the year, Edmonton, Alberta, takes its nickname — Festival City — seriously. But what’s even better than a city that knows how to celebrate? A city that celebrates while respecting the environment.
Under a new initiative called EcoVision Edmonton, the city is working diligently to become environmentally sustainable. Spreading the word with the message Go Green! It’s Our Nature, the city is encouraging residents to be greener and more eco friendly every day. There are a host of environmental initiatives going on, including a push to reduce each resident’s carbon footprint through ZeroFootprint Edmonton.
In keeping with the theme of environmentalism spreading throughout the city, Edmonton is gearing up for four eco-friendly festivals that will appeal to young, old, and in-between. Consider making Edmonton your vacation destination this summer.
The Green Festival: July 18
The first of the four eco-friendly events is The Green Festival, to be held July 18 at the beautiful Devonian Botanic Garden. At The Green Festival, you’ll learn simple and practical ways to be more environmentally friendly and to reduce your carbon footprint. You’ll also take home a wide range of tips on green energy, eco-friendly housecleaning, recycling, making and using compost, environmentally friendly gardening, and more.
The Devonian Botanic Garden, which is part of the University of Alberta, is well worth a visit in itself. The grounds are a showcase for “manicured gardens, mixed woodland vegetation and an extensive nature trail system,” according to the University’s website. Plan for plenty of time to wander through the 190-acre property and explore the peaceful Kurimoto Japanese Garden; the herb, healing, and sensory gardens; ornamental flower gardens; cactus and butterfly houses; and alpine gardens.
Capital EX: July 23 – August 1
Join fellow celebrants at Capital EX, often called, “Edmonton’s biggest summer celebration.” It’s a family friendly outing that’s every bit as much fun for singles. And while you’re exploring the live music, midway rides, multicultural foods, and handmade Aboriginal crafts, be sure to stop by the “green zone” in the Family Fun Town. Here, children (and parents) will learn how to treat the earth with care.
The 10-day Capital EX festival kicks off with a parade down the streets of Edmonton on July 22. If the 22,000 visitors from last year are any indication, the streets will be packed with spectators. So get there early to claim your spot along the parade route and watch local residents show off their community pride.
If you’re a kid with talent — singing, dancing, instrumental, or “variety” — be sure to register for the Northern Star Talent Search that will take place during Capital EX. The contest is open to amateurs between the ages of 5 and 21, with prizes, money, and scholarships awarded to the winners.
The Edmonton Folk Music Festival: August 5 – 8
Quite possibly the greenest event of the summer, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival is scheduled for August 5 – 8. Visitors are encouraged to bike, rather than drive, and an on-site, bike lock-up service makes that a practical choice. An ambitious recycling crew will be working to recycle everything possible, leaving a tiny footprint in terms of waste. The festival also adheres to a “no Styrofoam” policy among food and drink vendors. And, the event will be partially powered by solar panels.
Gallagher Park, the event venue, is located in the stunning river valley, a prized feature of Edmonton. North America’s largest urban green space, the river valley area is 22 times as large as New York’s Central Park. There are miles of walking and biking trails to explore. And festival organizers will carefully construct temporary walkways within Gallagher Park to keep damage to the river valley minimal — even with the tens of thousands of people expected to attend.
Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival: August 12-22
If you enjoy plays, musicals, and street performers, you won’t want to miss North America’s largest live-theater event. The 29th Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival is expected to draw 500,000 visitors to the Old Strathcona area of the city, to enjoy more than 1,000 live theater experiences. Even with such huge numbers, the Fringe is dedicated to being an eco-responsible festival.
Solar and LED lighting will reduce dependence on the power grid. Guests will be able to refill their water bottles at several water stations. And food from vendors will be served with bio-degradable cutlery, plates and cups.
The Fringe will be set in the Old Strathcona area, which has won accolades as one of the top places to shop in Canada. The owner-operated stores are well known for being funky and picturesque. And the historic buildings will take you back to an earlier time in Edmonton’s history even while enjoying Canada’s modern-day theatre.
A large part of any festival is its volunteers. Edmonton is proud of its “Magical Volunteer Army” — people of all ages, who pitch in to help events like these run smoothly. You can “meet” a few of these volunteers at the Folk Fest Volunteer Army’s website. If you’re a local, why not join the Magical Volunteer Army? Bet you’ll be glad you did!
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Canada, like the US (and other nations), is presented with a dilemma: How to handle ever-increasing energy needs while decreasing dependence on fossil fuels. One leading plan is to develop new nuclear power plants. But why, asks Green Party member Bob Halstead, aren’t we thinking about renewable energy instead? A very good question, indeed — and one we should consider carefully on both sides of our shared border.
Halstead is a retired educator and active writer who posts thoughtful essays on environmental, social, and political topics on his Facebook page, Paradigm Shift. Blue Planet Green Living is pleased that he has agreed to share his environmental essays with our readers. This is the first in a series. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
I just watched “My Nuclear Neighbour: The Nature of Things” with David Suzuki, a documentary about building a plant to generate nuclear power in the rural community of Peace River, Alberta. The key point never raised is that wind and solar power will generate more electricity for the same investment in dollars with none of the same investment in angst and risk, a point that Obama also recently missed.
I know that the organisations that most strongly oppose nuclear power in Ontario and Saskatchewan make the same point: investment in new nuclear facility is not wise according to traditional economic theory, even without mention of the long-term effect on widespread earthly ecology or human health.
Originally, it was Jim Harris who brought these arguments to my attention: He did it in more detail. Jim’s points to me were roughly as follows:
1. To build a nuclear power plant required more investment.
(a) To build the enormous concrete structure would take more time, possibly 15 years, and this would use a lot of energy, long before the plant would produce any energy. This would require current coal-fuelled facility to operate more actively for much longer. If we put the same time and money into truly green facility, the coal-generating facility would close much sooner.
(b) The labour to build the enormous concrete structure and other detail would require a rather large work force in one location, boosting the economy of a small part of the country. If we put the same time and money into truly green facility, people all over the country would benefit from the economic stimulus of local activity.
2. To operate a nuclear power plant requires investment in many highly trained people with a very specific knowledge in nuclear engineering. In comparison, a typical farmer or property owner could operate a truly green facility without expensive full-time professional help.
3. After a nuclear power plant closes, the land used would have an unlimited future as a toxic wasteland and the structure would be entombed in concrete. Neither structure nor surrounding land would have positive future value, both become a liability. Most likely, the land would have been productive farmland before the nuclear plant was built, as is the present case in Peace River, but it will be dangerous and useless forevermore after 70 years.
4. The design of a nuclear power plant cannot be changed significantly after government approves construction. No matter how the science advances, the plant design stays the same over the 5 years before it is approved, plus the 15 years during which it is built, plus the 50 years that it operates before closing. As sustainable power facility ages and then is repaired or replaced, it will benefit from the better technology that humanity will have acquired by then, becoming more productive.
It is when these points are evaluated for their economic impact using traditional economic theory that the investment in nuclear energy is obviously inferior to investment in truly green facility.
None of these points requires an assumption based on research that humanity has not yet done.
The pro-nuclear lobby argues the following:
1. New nuclear power is needed to bridge the gap between now and when we can rely on truly green facility. Point 1(a) above denies this claim.
2. They put forward scientifically unproven claims as positives:
(a) a little exposure to radioactivity actually improves human health;
(b) radioactive nuclear waste will have a future use as a source of more energy; and
(c) in the future we will have feasible ways of storing the most radioactively toxic matter on the planet (even though no biological life form has ever adapted to it).
Each of these potential positives is as likely to be a negative when the uncompromised, “peer-reviewed” science is in, or when the future has arrived.
Of course, we cannot wish away the nuclear “fear factor”. How remote is the possibility of a catastrophic nuclear accident? As long as it is a possibility, it is only a matter of time.
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This post originally appeared on Facebook and is reprinted by permission of the author. British spellings and punctuation have been retained.
Blue Planet Green Living (BPGL) asked Dana L. Miller two questions we ask all our interviewees. Miller is the founder of Sustainable Earth and proponent of UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Burns Bog in Vancouver, British Columbia. Here are her responses. — Julia Wasson, Publisher
5 Ways to Save the Planet
BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?
1. Media: Abolish the business of government propaganda, public relations, and conglomerate media in Canada and biased editorial columns. Reinvigorate investigative journalism.
2. Religion: Educate on the creation vs. evolution debate to prevent further war. Evolution is the creator’s vision. Respect it, by respecting our environment; it perpetuates your life.
3. War: Create businesses that sell knowledge worldwide on the economic model of reliance upon environmental resources. Thus we mitigate wars for resources.
5. Education: Earmark federal funding for provinces to address the need for elementary and secondary education of words and symbols that denote ecology (e.g., slang is pervasive in the dictionary, and ecology words are being removed).
2 Minutes with the Prime Minister
BPGL: If you had two minutes with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, what would you say?
MILLER: Do you want to get re-elected? Say to Canadians what you say behind closed doors. If you don’t want to get re-elected, then keep us guessing about what you really think, because the more suspicious Canadians are, the more they vote against the government of the day.
Yet, most governments get re-elected because their name is repeated in the minds of voters through media.
Right now, you have this to your advantage. However, governments are historically ousted if they are embroiled in scandal involving tax dollars. Your decision to prorogue Parliament cost Canadians millions, as did your 33% income trust increase, signs for advertising, and miscalculation that has created multiple deficits.
Start saying what you intend to do with Canada or your recent plummet in the polls will continue and be your demise. On our environment, you ought listen to scientists and embrace the notion of evolution envisioned by the creator, because humankind will exist only if we can weather the cycles of extinction through science and technology innovations. Mimick natural metamorphosis by enacting ecologically wise policy.
Dana L. Miller, Founder
February 11, 2009 by Joe Hennager
Filed under Alberta, Blog, Books, British Columbia, Canada, Carbon, Climate Change, Economy, Environment, Front Page, Greenhouse Gases, Natural Resources, Oil, Rainforest, Slideshow, Sustainability, Writers
Yesterday we introduced you to author James Glave, a very down-to-earth, environmentalist who is working to reduce his family’s carbon footprint. He is also active in his community, helping to not only spread the environmental message, but also to make the island he lives on more sustainable. In today’s post, Glave talks about pressing environmental issues that confront both his own community and Canada at large.
BPGL: Let’s talk a bit about Bowen Island. Have most of the families been on the island for generations?
GLAVE: There are certainly a core of what we call “old Bowen.” They’ve been here for a few decades at least. The population in the early 1970s was probably just a few hundred people. It would be hard, now that we’re 3,500, to find a lot of those original folks around still. In the past few years, it’s become kind of a jewel for young families like mine. There’s a pretty good elementary school here on the island. Both my kids go there.
There’s just a very, very strong sense of community and connectedness here. That’s one of our real strengths in terms of what we offer. The downside is, you have to take that ferry. But that’s the upside as well, because it’s allowed us to form these very tight community ties. There’s a very strong volunteer base. Everybody knows each other and helps each other out when they need help.
It’s a mixed blessing as well, though. I’ve written about that in Vancouver magazine. In that we are “rural,” that means our carbon footprint is much higher, because we’re so much farther apart from each other. And also the ferry as well has to be factored in. Compared to an exurb or an outlying community of the Vancouver area, we are many times larger a footprint than those.
So we have to make some hard choices about what aspects of the quality and the character we want to preserve, and how we can, at the same time, live more responsibly and start to densify a little bit more around our village, so that we’re not quite dependent on our pickups and SUVs.
BPGL: It seems that you have been an impetus for people on Bowen Island to make environmentally sound choices.
GLAVE: I would hope so. There’s the thought that when you do something inspiring, it has a domino effect. I’m starting to see more excitement around the issues, and more of an engagement, more of a connectedness with — “Okay, we’ve got to buckle down and get to work here.” So it’s really exciting to see the pockets of that starting to come out.
It’s all in how you approach it. I really struggled with some of the “environmental” NGOs and nonprofits that have, for so many years, spoken to us in a way that it’s so easy to turn off or tune out. It’s such a fine line between getting people excited and coming on too strong, or with the wrong voice or the wrong tone. I call it “tone fail.” It’s like standing on a box and yelling. People just don’t respond to it. That whole chapter [in Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet] about me trying to figure out how to talk to my neighbors kind of comes off of that.
BPGL: We echo that at Blue Planet Green Living. We try to inspire, rather than beat people up. It’s not that you can’t ever say anything negative, but people do turn off.
GLAVE: You just can’t force it on people. You have to let them come to it. And you have to be there, when they’re ready to start making some changes, with support and encouragement. It’s kind of frustrating, being a Type A, driven guy like me, who’s just all about making it happen. It’s very hard for me to step back and say, “Okay. I have to recognize that it’s just not going to work if I try to shove it down people’s throats.”
BPGL: What’s your next big project?
GLAVE: I’ve got a few things that are still fermenting, but nothing that’s ready to be announced yet. It would involve taking my audience and this platform up a notch. I need to do something that feels big. That was the purpose of doing the Eco-Shed. The time for incrementalism is past. We need bold moves and fearless thinking. And that is where I am right now, and what I’m cooking up at this point — something along those lines.
BPGL: We all need to be more bold in what we’re doing to help the environment.
GLAVE: It’s really about a values shift. I think, with the new president in place, that we’re in a better position now than we have been in a decade or more, to start to create a culture around different values, and a culture around science. These are things that have been down in the dumps. As a civilization, we’ve become obsessed with distraction. Millions of us have taken our eye off the ball.
I’m quite optimistic now. I feel like we’re entering a renaissance age where we’re going to see some pretty amazing transformational change start to happen. Maybe it does start with my kids’ lunchbox and doing just what I can on a daily level. I feel like we’re on the brink of this complete transformation of how we do things — how we shop, how we eat. It’s quite encouraging. Let’s just hope that it all unspools in time.
BPGL: You mentioned to me earlier that you have some environmental concerns about Canada.
GLAVE: I wish I was encouraged. Canada is a risk-averse society. It’s a very conservative culture in terms of not wanting to take gambles or make bold moves. I hate to make sweeping generalizations about my whole nation, but since I’ve lived in both [the U.S. and Canada], it’s kind of a sharp distinction for me. At the moment, [Canada] has not descended as deeply into recession as the United States has. And the reason for that is the Athabasca Oil Sands.
In Northern Alberta, they’re strip mining the top surface of the Taiga Forest to extract the oil that’s locked up in the sand. And the process of doing that is enormously emissions intensive. It’s the single largest greenhouse gas source in the whole country. The Oil Sands are the economic engine that’s keeping Canada above that line. At what cost, though?
There’s a feeling that, whenever times start to get hard and recession’s coming, there isn’t the sort of the belief that “Green is the answer.” It’s “We’re going to get a stimulus package as well. It’s going to bail out the automakers, as well.” But I don’t see the same kind of leadership that I’m seeing out of the States right now. I’m hopeful, but we haven’t seen how it’s going to unfold yet.
There’s a tremendous conservatism and there’s a feeling, “The environment is something we can worry about when times are good. If times are going to be hard now, we’ve got to pull back from all that stuff and focus on what really matters.” So, I have some reservations, and I would have to see how it’s going to unspool.
BPGL: Does the pollution from the Oil Sands affect you directly?
GLAVE: It affects all of us. It’s not pollution in the sense of billowing clouds of black smoke. The process is, they take this goop out of the ground, and they cook it under a natural gas flame. They extract the oil from it. So, before the oil even gets to your gas tank to be burned in your car, it’s already, in its creation, created many, many times the carbon emissions of conventional oil that’s drilled and pumped out of the ground.
It’s an extremely destructive process that creates an enormous amount of tailings of waste, of water that’s unusable. It’s destroying an area of the province of Alberta that is literally the size of some U.S. states. It’s a scale that’s hard to get your head around. I don’t personally see it, and not many people do. It’s in a very out-of-the-way place. But I know that there’s gigatons of greenhouse gases going up from those operations. Every time I get in my car, I’m part of the problem.
It’s a real head scratcher. It’s a real puzzle about how we’re going to get that operation shut down. It may be that the Obama administration starts to put restrictions on oil that’s produced with such intensive means. And that may lessen demand for the project.
BPGL: Is the U.S. market the biggest demand for oil from that project?
GLAVE: The vast majority of the United States’ oil is now coming from Canada. Saudi Arabia is now a distant second behind Canada in terms of oil imports. Obama’s first state visit out of the country will be to Canada, and I think that’s why. It’s an extremely important part of the energy and security strategy for the foreseeable future. We’ve got to come up with a plan B — and fast.
BPGL: How well is Vancouver coming up to speed on environmental issues overall?
GLAVE: We have a very active environmental community here. The David Suzuki Foundation is here, which is an extremely active national organization. Greenpeace was founded here in Vancouver as an organization and is still very active. There’s a lot of great work being done in protecting rainforest here in British Columbia coast. The Great Bear Rainforest is an absolutely massive, massive tract of rainforest that’s being protected. Likewise the Boreal Forest across the Northern Shield and the bottom edge of the Arctic.
We have a great history here of taking care of things. But at the same time, I think we’re easily distracted by the almighty dollar. And right now, Alberta is a black stain on an otherwise pretty decent reputation. It’s driving our failure to create any kind of climate change policy. Things need to turn around, but there’s a good history there for them to do that.
BPGL: With your power in your pen — or your computer— you could possibly have an effect on all that. You may have one of your biggest challenges right next door.
GLAVE: I certainly feel that. I feel it acutely. I’ve been working on it a little bit. There’s a really funny website called DeSmogBlog, which was set up to debunk climate change denial. It’s really taken on the Oil Sands project full force. I’ve done some writing for them around that. They have a pretty tongue-in-cheek campaign called the Arctic Front, where they get people in polar bear suits to show up at political events and hold signs about the Oil Sands and such. It’s starting to get a reputation outside of Canada. People are starting to figure out what’s going on up there. We really need that international pressure, so I’m going to hopefully be a part of that.
BPGL: I saw on your blog where the community has been engaged in discussion over a proposed artificial-turf athletic field. It sounds like there’s quite a battle going on in Bowen.
GLAVE: It’s such a convoluted and contentious issue. It’s splintered friendships here. Husbands and wives have been arguing about it pretty fiercely. It’s a deeply emotional issue, because it cuts across the grain of our identity, our sense of self.
People came here to escape things like artificial-turf soccer fields. They deliberately tried to unplug from some things that might be considered suburban infrastructure. But the fact is that our island is growing, and there’s new people arriving. And those new people love the island the way it is and want to keep it that way; but they also want some new things to do as well.
BPGL: Your rationale for supporting the field, which you explained in your article “Turf War,” is that trekking to the mainland for sports has a much greater carbon footprint than installing a single artificial turf field.
GLAVE: My position on it is that we have to reduce our carbon emissions. It’s non negotiable. The more things that we can provide for our community here within walking distance of our village, where we don’t have to keep rushing around all over the place, the smaller our footprint is going to be. It’s as simple as that.
So, when you look at the pieces of what I call a complete community — Are there opportunities for people to live and work here? Are there lots of service businesses? Do we have, basically, all of the pieces that we need to become more self sufficient? — to me, the tradeoff is worth it on that front.
And it’s ironic, because here’s the guy who wants to get the plastic out of his kids’ lunchbox. But when I do the math, and I look at the positives and negatives — with the savings of minivans’ worth of families going back and forth every Saturday from October to March — to me, it just makes sense. It’s kind of a no-brainer. There are places where plastic is a reasonable choice, and this, for me, is one of them.
GLAVE: Often, I get asked the question, “How can I make a difference? I’m just one person — or just one family. Every action I do is canceled out by something going on in China…”
I think what’s happening, or needs to happen is a values shift. I spoke about the values shift earlier. I think, what we’re seeing in that sense is not necessarily just about, “I value time with my family more,” or “I value cleaner air,” or “I value purer water.” These things are all kind of the baseline.
But what needs to happen is, we need as Americans and Canadians to take our lives off autopilot. We’ve been living this existence of our daily routine where we get locked into it. Our lives are busy, maybe we have kids, or maybe we have other obligations, parents to take care of, and we’re exhausted and feel stretched too thin. These are all symptoms to me of a sort of a life in imbalance.
And if there is one message I hope people take away from my book, it’s just to get engaged with your life. Think deliberately. Figure out how you can change some things in a small way that makes you feel good, makes you feel like you’re making a difference. Then just see if you can build on that.
Part 2: Choosing to Value a Sustainable Life (Top of Page)
Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)