Monthly Archives: December 2006

New Year’s Resolutions

Today’s Metro Morning asked people to call in with their new year’s resolutions for the city of Toronto, which were then commented on by guest Glen Murray. They only had time for three callers (unless I missed the beginning), and their resolutions were:

  1. Close Bay Street to private vehicles.
  2. Increase the number of recycling options.
  3. More affordable housing.

Based on these calls, I will now conclude that if an election were held tomorrow, I’d get 66.6% of the vote and Michael Shapcott would get the other 33.3%. (Note: not a scientific poll.)

The question got me thinking though, and I decided to create my own top ten environmental new year’s resolutions for anyone wondering what they can do. The catch is that these kinds of lists are already everywhere, and I didn’t want to be boring. So, things like “drive less, replace your light bulbs, and recycle” didn’t make the cut. I’m assuming you already know that. These resolutions also ask a little bit more of you. Sorry about that.

Here, off the top of my head, are ten other things you may or may not have thought of or already be doing.

  1. Eat less meat. We already eat too much for our health anyway, and meat is a very inefficient (albeit admittedly delicious) way of producing food energy. It takes more resources (food, land, water, etc) to produce meat than it does to eat lower on the food chain.
  2. Eat more locally. The average meal travels further than it needs to, which contributes to climate change, damages local economies, and generally makes your food less yummy.
  3. Eat more organically. (Yes, I did skip breakfast.) Did you know that agribusiness uses petroleum and natural gas-based fertilizers and pesticides? And that it’s only because of this infusion of oil that we’re able to grow as much food as we do? And that oil production will likely peak sometime between last year and ten or twenty years from now? Because I didn’t know that until a few years ago, and it’s a pretty big deal that we should all be aware of. We are, in effect, “eating oil,” in that much of the food we grow wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Buy foods that avoid the use of artificial fertilizers.
  4. Take transit less. I actually got this tip from the now defunct One Tonne Challenge (this link is pretty funny and demonstrative), which advised me that since I don’t drive very much, and since even public transit uses energy, biking and walking would further reduce my carbon emissions. Also, biking is awesome.
  5. Start a garden. This relates to #2. If you’ve got a back yard, this should be fairly simple. If you live in an apartment building or condo, you’ve got a little more work to do, but it’s still possible.
  6. Buy less. My brother is returning from a trip to Kenya today, and he’s assured me that the impoverished Kenyans he met are, on average, happier and more life-loving than us wealthy Canadians. Almost everything we buy ends up in the garbage eventually anyway. The first and most forgotten R (of the three R’s) is the most important.
  7. Produce some of your own power. If wind or solar (either passive or active) work where you live, consider getting them installed. If not, maybe you have a geothermal option. If you live in a condo this isn’t impossible, but obviously you’ll have to either talk your board into it or get elected to the board yourself.
  8. Buy power from Bullfrog. Easier than #7, as they’ve already done the legwork.
  9. Reduce your overall footprint. Using this ecological footprint calculator may give you some insight into what sorts of actions have the greatest effect.
  10. Add your own tip by commenting on this page. (Note: Blogger comments have been buggy recently, but they’re still being saved. Even if it says “0 Comments” below, clicking on that link may reveal that there actually are comments.)

Hope that’s been helpful and/or interesting, and, of course, not too preachy. If not, that’s what tip number ten is for.

Bush Melting Faster Than Harper, Slower Than Arctic

I’m back in Toronto after a Christmas-family-tour. One stop was to visit my Gomma and Pappa (the names us grandkids call my dad’s parents for reasons that have never been clear to me), who gave me some new clippings. One was all about polar bears, and highlighted the fact that over the past few decades the thickness of the ice in the arctic circle has thinned by 40%.

I read a lot of statistics and, recently, I’ve just been letting them wash over me like noise. Otherwise, they become overwhelming and even debilitating. My Pappa’s disbelief, however, caused this one to stand out. Actually, you might describe his reaction as outraged. I was somewhat surprised to hear this man in his 80s demand to know why SUVs aren’t illegal. He kept asking me to write a letter to the Globe and Mail, “telling Canadians to wake up.”

I tried to comfort him with the good news that, in fact, we now see daily stories and op-ed pieces about the climate crisis. Exactly one year ago, I told him, I was in an election campaign where I felt like I still needed to convince people that climate change was real. If we had another election campaign today (or, say, in March), I’d be able to assume that most people recognize the threat and move on to advocating for specific solutions. That’s a huge step forward, I argued. Pappa remained unsatisfied that we’re moving quickly enough.

Today’s announcement by U.S. Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne that he agrees with my Pappa and believes polar bears are “threatened,” and that this threat is a specific result of climate change, is a good sign. It’s also an embarrassing one, since it means that the Bush administration has now done more to acknowledge the science of climate change than Stephen Harper.

It’s not Canadians that need to wake up, it’s our government.

The good news in all of this is that in our next federal election you’ll see all four national parties making the environment an issue (something that none of the three status quo parties did effectively in the last campaign). The environment has (finally!) become an issue like health care and education, in that everyone can agree it’s important (critical, in fact). It won’t be enough for a party to say they “care about” and “want to protect” the environment. Politicians will have to demonstrate they have solutions that work. That’s where I believe the Green Party has credibility the other parties lack.

We’ll have to move quickly though. Not just because we’re running out of time, but because my Pappa deserves some good news.

Writing for Torontoist

I’ve been hired as a contributor to Torontoist, a Toronto community/info/news/blog site that gets around 100,000 unique visitors a month and is the largest website of its kind in the country. (Although they’re also in the largest city in the country, so that’s kinda cheating.)

My first post was today, regarding the end of BikeShare. All future posts by me should appear here. My contributions to Torontoist will be fundamentally municipal or local in nature, while I’ll continue to use this blog for topics that are more federal and/or partisan. (I won’t post here less than I have been, I’m just adding Torontoist to the pile.)

By the way, this seems like a good time to solicit feedback from y’all on what you want to get out of this blog. What sorts of posts have you liked? What haven’t you liked? And, come to think of it, who are you? Where are you? How did you find me? I’ve been getting over a thousand visits a month (increasing each month since I started), but I don’t have a good sense of who you all are. It’d be great to hear from you via comments to this post.

For the Record…

Today I took the recycling out in a t-shirt and was pretty comfortable. According to Environment Canada, the temperature in Toronto is currently 13 degrees Celsius, dangerously close to breaking the 1984 record, and 12 degrees above the “normal maximum.”

I just thought someone should mention that. I couldn’t find any news reports about it except for this one, and most conversation regarding the weather around Toronto is about “how nice it is.” Reminds me a bit of the frog in the pot.