Tuesday, August 21, 2012

We Canadians

Stephen Harper said yesterday, "To succeed, what the world must become in the future is what Canada is today."

I'd like to know how he expects that to work. If every person on the planet used the same amount of energy as the average Canadian, the world would need more than 5 times the energy it currently uses in a year. Somehow, I don't think the oil sands or all the fracking and deep-sea drilling in the world will ever make that a possibility.

Not to mention it would take numerous planets for every person on just this planet to have as much space per person that we enjoy. And where's all the food gonna come from? Other than our slightly plumper neighbours to the south, we're the fattest people in the world. 

We like to think of ourselves as a fair and just people. Is it fair or just for us to expect China to reduce its emissions before we do, when per person we use over 8 times the amount of energy that they use? I'm not saying China's emissions are acceptable. They're atrocious, actually. But who are we to say that the developing world doesn't deserve to live just like we do, or that they can't burn coal to get there, just like we did? Do we really expect the developing world to continue living in poverty so that we can continue to live in excess? I don’t think so...

So what are we supposed to do in order to give the developing nations a real chance to catch up? Business as usual isn’t an option. We’ll never have the resources to support a global population that lives as we do in the developed world. No matter how much bitumen gets forced through B.C. and onto tankers headed for China and India, it will never be enough to support their energy needs. And China and India are just the newest up and comers. What about the countries that follow them? How can we possibly hope to ever support the poorest countries on Earth in their struggle to provide their citizens a decent standard of living when our own standard of living isn’t even close to sustainable?

Will standards of living across the board just average out until we’re all living substandard lives? It’s a very real possibility that that is exactly what will happen if the developed nations of the world don’t stand up real soon and pave (or better yet, de-pave) a better route. We’re responsible for 76% of the emissions in the atmosphere. The U.S. alone is responsible for 29% of the total CO2 that humanity has pumped into the atmosphere since the mid-1800s. Can we really continue to lay the blame for the mess we’re in on China? I don’t think so...

We’re responsible. It’s up to us to find the solutions for the problems we’ve caused. We have the resources - the science, the technology, the finances, and more - to change the way we live without sacrificing our quality of life, while simultaneously providing a real example for the developing world to follow. 

Instead of cutting the funding for some of our most prestigious and internationally-recognized environmental projects and funneling it into resource extraction and fighter jets, we should be at the forefront of sustainability research and education. 
Instead of building more roads and expanding our suburbs, we should be rebuilding our cities to accommodate more people in less space, with an equal or even better quality of life. 

Instead of devoting countless acres of farmland to ethanol production and unnatural, unhealthy feed for livestock, we should be driving less to reduce the need for alternative fuel sources, and we should be eating less but healthier meat (grass-fed not corn- and soy-fed).

Instead of wasting our time maintaining front and back lawns, we should spend that time converting our lawns to gardens, providing both nourishment for our families and habitat for the very species our ecosystems depend on.

Instead of thinking only of ourselves, we should be thinking of the people struggling to survive in today’s world, and the countless more people that will be struggling to survive in tomorrow’s world if we don’t start changing today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trudeau v. Brazeau

No commentary necessary (Ezra's is more than enough).

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Canada - World Leader Follower

Even though a recent poll conducted for The Globe and Mail found that 56% of Canadians want Canada to commit to a new international climate agreement, the Harper government has announced that we will be withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol, and will not be entering into any new agreement until at least 2020. Apparently, the 40% of Canadians that voted for Harper represent a majority that the other 60% of us simply can't compete with.

Before confirming that we would be reneging on Kyoto, our Environment Minister, Peter Kent, stated that we would sign another agreement if large carbon emitters such as China, India, and the US also made commitments to reduce their emissions. China called our bluff, and promised to begin reducing its emissions in 2020, so long as the countries that were originally part of Kyoto continued to be so.

Now, I understand that to really battle climate change, the largest polluters need to reduce their emissions. Contrary to what Harper and his cronies believe, however, that doesn't excuse Canada from being a responsible steward of the planet and setting an example for larger emitters. How can a country as rich as Canada expect poorer countries like China and India to take action that we're not willing to take ourselves? Per capita, Canadians produce more emissions than almost any other country. Per person, we produce over 3 times the emissions that China produces, and 14 times the emissions that India produces. It is inevitable that emissions produced in these countries will increase as people in these countries struggle to improve their standard of living.

The developed nations of the world have set the standard of living that the underdeveloped and developing nations are now trying to reach. We cannot condemn anyone for wanting to live as cushy a life as we live here. We have no more right to our comfortable way of life than anybody else. That's not the message our government is sending, though. Harper might as well say, "In order for Canadians to be able to continue living in relative luxury, the underdeveloped and developing world needs to continue to wallow in poverty."

Over half of us want our government to take real steps towards reducing our emissions, even if it costs us more for some goods and services. Our government doesn't give a damn what we want, though. We failed to meet our Kyoto targets, and actually increased our emissions, rather than reducing them. We have no excuse for that. Sweden met their Kyoto target and increased their GDP by 40% at the same time, proving that growing the economy and protecting the environment can and do go hand in hand. The UK surpassed their Kyoto target of an 8% reduction in emissions and actually reduced their emissions by 20%.

The Harper government can make all the excuses it wants. It can blame China, the economy, Trudeau, whatever...the truth is Harper has no intention of taking any more action on climate change than he is forced to. This is a man who gave the Minister of Science and Technology job to a man who doesn't even believe in evolution. Ideology trumps science in Harper's office, the same way that 40% trumps 60%.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


I've decided I'm going to stop reading the comments that people post in response to online news articles - they simply make me too angry. I've been researching for some time now the situation in Attawapiskat, Ontario. It's a complicated situation, and unlike the plethora of ignorant commentators that litter every online news site with their trash, I didn't want to write anything until I felt I had a decent grasp on what's really going on. I'm not going to pretend that the grasp I do have is all that firm. It would take years of study before I could even begin to comprehend the profound impact European settlement in this country had, and continues to have, on its indigenous people. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to share the small amount of insight that I have gained.

Attawapiskat is a small, northern Ontario fly-in community of about 1500 people. Of those, 19 families are currently living in tents, 122 families are living in condemned houses, and 96 people are living in a large trailer. Children in Attawapiskat have been attending school in decrepit portables ever since their school was closed in 2000. There was a massive natural gas leak under the school in 1979. Despite complaints that people were getting ill, it took 21 years to close the school. It's been a decade now since the school closed, and there are currently no plans to replace it. The portables the children are now forced to attend school in were built on the same grounds as the original school. Ground shifting due to the natural gas has resulted in damage to the portables. Windows and emergency exits don't open. There are cracks in the walls. There are gaps in the doors, allowing cold air and snow in. It's so cold that children wear their snowsuits in class.

I don't know the solution. I don't even know all the causes. I do know, however, that this would never be allowed to happen elsewhere (except for other reserves). People like to simplify the problem, blaming the residents of reserves. It's easy to say that they misspent the money given them by the government, wipe our hands, and forget about it. We all know, though, that it really isn't that simple.

Families in Attawapiskat receive the same amount of money per household as families on any other reserve. Their remote location is in no way taken into account by the government. So while families on reserves in southern Ontario are capable of building suitable homes, families in Attawapiskat are forced to build poorly-insulated homes on wooden foundations. It's simply too expensive to ship in supplies, and to fly in contractors and inspectors. The forests surrounding Attawapiskat are now Crown land and cannot be used for lumber, hunting, or trapping. Essentially, we've placed these people on this remote piece of land and taken from them their means of survival.

These are people who thrived on this land for thousands of years, living a nomadic lifestyle, following the game and trap lines, before we arrived. But go ahead and place the blame on them...

Goodbye Canada - Hello Harperland

It's old news that Stephen Harper, our oh-so-humble Prime Minister, took it upon himself to replace all the portraits of former Prime Ministers in the lobby of the House of Commons with portraits of himself. It's also old news that government communications have been replacing the phrase "Government of Canada" with "Harper Government". Harper and his spokespeople have vehemently denied that this change was directed by Harper or his office. Documents recently acquired by The Canadian Press suggest otherwise.

It's also old news that our Defense Minister, Peter MacKay, used a search-and-rescue helicopter as a personal taxi last year while on a fishing trip. MacKay has defended his use of the helicopter, claiming that he was being shown its search-and-rescue capabilities. The cost of the 25-minute "demonstration" was $16 000. When MacKay sent out the request for the helicopter to pick him up, according to The Star, his plans sent "military personnel in three provinces scrambling" to accommodate the unplanned flight. Colonel Bruce Ploughman, who was the director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre at the time, warned that MacKay's personal use of the military aircraft would result in backlash from the public. He wrote to colleagues, "So, when the guy who's fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minster getting on board and post it on Youtube, who will be answering the mail on that one?" He continues, "If we are tasked to do this we, of course, will comply. Given the potential for negative press, though, I would likely recommend against it."

Even older news is Tony Clement's gross misdirection of $50 million in border funds to "beautify" his riding of Parry Sound-Muskoka for the G8 summit in 2009. In an attempt to absolve himself of any responsibility, Clement has consistently claimed that he was not involved in approving any of the projects carried out in his riding. Not surprisingly, documents show otherwise. Obtained through freedom-of-information legislation, new documents show that Clement's office was responsible for approving projects costing nearly $45 million. According to The Star, Clement's office actually "edited an official parliamentary transcript, in an effort to hide a trail of documents showing he directed how $50 million in G8 funds should be spent in his riding." Tony Clement is now the Treasury Board President - he's in charge of our money.

So much for the transparent, accountable government Harper campaigned on. Clearly, our megalomaniacal Prime Minister and his lackeys are going to do things their way, the rest of us be damned. Harper wasn't joking when he said, "You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Open Letter to the MPPs of Ontario

Dear Members of Provincial Parliament,

I am afraid that the province of Ontario is making a grievous mistake by denying Ontarian's the right to choose for consumption, the foods that are best for them and their families. The persecution of Michael Schmidt for distributing raw milk to educated consumers has the potential to send food policy in Ontario further down a slippery slope that benefits none but industrial food processors.

I would like to know why it is that I, or anyone else, can legally purchase tobacco products, alcohol, and a myriad of food products laced with high fructose corn syrup, all of which pose detrimental health risks, but cannot legally purchase raw milk from a clean, local operation. I'm not entirely sure how my interests as a consumer are being protected through the vilification of a small-scale local farmer whose products have yet to harm a single person.

Please do not provide me with a history of raw milk contamination statistics. The number of reported illnesses associated with the consumption of raw milk pale in comparison to the number of reported illnesses associated with the consumption of products that government food inspectors and food policies have deemed safe. In the past month alone, I have personally had to return both walnuts and tahini to my local grocery store, because they had possibly been contaminated with e. coli and salmonella.

Regulations and inspections are not solutions for a flawed food system that puts consumers at risk. Food safety policy does more to protect industry than it does to protect consumers. Who is liable when tainted meat from a government-approved processing facility harms, or even kills someone? Industry is absolved of responsibility because, after all, they passed their inspections. There's no real consequence and no incentive for companies to implement cleaner and safer practices. True food safety and security can only be attained through the promotion of transparent, local food sources.

As a representative of the electorate, it is your responsibility to protect the interests of the public, not the interests of the private, industrialized food sector. Canadians are capable of making smart decisions for themselves and their families. Please protect our freedom to do so.

Thank you sincerely for your time,
Chad Roberts

Food Freedom for All

Think you have the right to choose what foods you and your family consume? Not according to the Ontario Court of Justice, you don't.

Michael Schmidt, an organic raw milk farmer, was recently convicted of 15 provincial offences related to the distribution of organic raw milk through a cowshare program at his Durham, Ontario farm. Because the commercial sale of raw milk is illegal in Canada, members of the program purchase shares in cows. It is not illegal to drink raw milk from your own cows. In 2010, the Ontario Court of Justice acquitted Mr. Schmidt of all the charges laid against him. The court's decision was appealed and in September 2011, the court found Mr. Schmidt guilty of 15 out of the 19 charges. In doing so, the Ontario Court of Justice has set a very dangerous precedent.

What's next? Will breast feeding mothers no longer be able to purchase breast pumps and store their breast milk? It's raw, after all. Will all organic produce and meat soon be illegal because it isn't subject to the sterilizing chlorine baths that conventional foods are subject to? Or will raw food be outlawed altogether? After all, large-scale industrial production of food results in numerous outbreaks of food-related illness every single year. And that's precisely why we have all of these food regulations - to protect consumers from the health risks that arose as a result of centralizing and industrializing food production. Before Big Food there was little to no risk associated with the foods we ate. Farmer Schmidt is being persecuted by laws that were meant to protect consumers from food production practices that are the polar opposite of the practices employed on his farm.

There's a lot of debate going on about the health benefits of raw milk in comparison to the risks. I'm inclined to believe that the benefits far outweigh the risks, especially considering that not one person has become ill from consuming the milk distributed by Mr. Schmidt, or by larger raw milk producers in the U.S. According to the Campaign for Real Milk: Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease, and cancer. 

Whichever side of the benefits vs. risks debate you're on, however, isn't really relevant. Very few of us would argue that tobacco, alcohol, or high fructose corn syrup are good for us. In fact, these three legal substances cause much more sickness and death than has ever been attributed to the consumption of raw milk. But we're free to consume them, if we so choose. So what's the difference between these substances, which have been proven to cause numerous health problems, and raw milk, which has been successfully administered therapeutically to combat such ailments as asthma and allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis? Well, for starters, tobacco, alcohol, and high fructose corn syrup are all members of the Big Business Club. So is conventional milk, for that matter. It should come as no surprise that food regulations, more often than not, support Big Food and undermine small-scale, local production. Big Food has the power and money to lobby the government and push out alternatives that they perceive as a threat. Local food is one of those alternatives.

We can all stand up for our right to consume the foods that we deem best for ourselves and our families. Michael Schmidt is currently on his 25th day of a hunger strike, awaiting the opportunity to sit down with Dalton McGuinty and plead his case. Support Mr. Schmidt's fight to protect or food freedom by joining the Support Michael Schmidt! Facebook group. Go a bit further and write a letter to your MP, MPP, the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, the Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, and Premier McGuinty himself. Remind our government officials that Canada is the only G8 country to outlaw raw milk, and that the freedom to choose the foods we consume is more important than policies that serve only to protect the interests of Big Food.

You can keep up with Michael Schmidt's battle for our food freedom here.