Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Science Wha…

This past week at practicum, we spent a large chunk of time interpreting our soil test results. Now, I freely admit that I have not taken science education since I was forced to take Chemistry 11 – about 13 years ago. So understanding the effects of

UBC Practicum Plots soil test results

UBC Practicum Plots soil test results

things like NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium), pH levels, organic matter and trace minerals in soil was well outside my ease of understanding.

Luckily, DeLisa is a patient and thorough teacher. While I can in no way claim to be knowledgeable about these things, here is a summary of what I can remember:

  • pH levels, or the acidity/alkalinity of the soil should optimally be as close to neutral as can be managed (7.0 being neutral). On the BC coast, soils tend towards acidity, so lime is applied to raise the pH level for most of the crops we grow, which are not native to the area.
  • Organic matter is very important, and especially so in sandy soils like those at UBC Farm. 10% or higher is good, and will aid in retaining nutrients and water for the crops.
  • Poultry manure is high in phosphorus, and used by most organic farmers as fertilizer for their soils, which can result in excessively high phosphorus levels, which can have a negative effect on aquifers.
  • Organically approved amendments can be used to change the various levels of nutrients in the soil as needed.

One of the important things I’m coming to understand is that farming, even organic farming, requires a lot of off-farm input, that may often come from less than ethical or environmentally friendly. Lime is mined, which always has significant environmental implications, and around here comes from Texeda Island, which isn’t too far away. Poultry manure may be sourced from factory farms, which obviously carry high environmental and ethical implications. Everything that is trucked in from off the farm obviously has a carbon footprint associated with transportation, and is often packaged in plastic. And of course, everything costs money, and when you imagine a farmer starting out, money is in short supply.

Always going in my head are questions about what can be used as alternatives, how can native species that are adapted to our soil and climate be integrated, and what part can permaculture, livestock integration, and on-farm composting play? These are not questions I have answers to, and don’t expect to be able to answer, but as long as they are always a part of my learning,  I hope to be able to integrate some of all of it into my future farm.

One of the many beneficial critters on a farm

One of the many beneficial critters on a farm

Sinking Politics

I’ve recently attended two events addressing sea level rise due to climate change, bringing together experts and municipal government representatives to discuss adaptation strategies.

Sea level rise is scary, no matter how you look at it. The most conservative estimates say 1.2 m in 100 years – others are much more draImagematic. In any case, it will translate into a lot of flooding, storms, and billions of dollars being poured into infrastructure. There are climate change adaptation teams on municipal councils.

So what’s baffling me is this – how is it that our local governments are acknowledging this and making moves to adapt to it, and yet our federal government is pouring money and energy into propping up, encouraging, and enabling the fossil fuel industry, making it ever easier for them by removing legal and administrative barriers.

It’s like one parent agreeing with the doctor that their child has severe obesity related illness, and the other parent actively encouraging the kid to consume cakes, soda and chips, telling the kid that it’s good for them.

The contradiction for me is frightening and maddening. Today, when an ad on the CBC came on for the Canadian Government Economic Action Plan (note: comments are disabled. I guess they don’t want anyone pointing out anything controversial). In the ad, they tell me how we are developing our natural resources in an environmentally sustainable way. The only word that pops into my head is propaganda. What else can it be, when the government tells us one thing, but we know that scientists are being muzzled, and broad sweeping changes are being made to regulations to reduce environmental protection. Our government is joining a very unpleasant list of governments that wants its citizens to believe one thing, when the reality is quite different.

I’m angry. I’m angry that my own government is selling out my future and that of future generations in the name of economic development. I’m angry that our electoral system ensures that my voice is not heard. All the money we’re making off the tarsands development better be going into a pretty good savings plan, because Hurricane Sandy will not be the last major disaster to hit the Western world. We’ve been watching it happen to poor nations for a long time, but now, we’re going to reap what we sowed.

So Disappointed by my Government; So Inspired by my Community

Sometimes, when I listen to the news, see the mass consumption marketing, I feel like I’m standing alone on a little island, that I just don’t connect with how my world is portrayed. But today, I joined hundreds of other Vancouverites on Kits beach, to stand together against the pipelines and tankers of Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan. I felt like I was part of something big, that there are a lot of people who care. And I felt hope at that.

As an environmentalist these days, it certainly feels like my government doesn’t care the slightest bit about me or others who care about something bigger than profit and money. The planet and those who want to protect it are becoming targets for the big guys to take shots at, and I see this reflected by a government pushing through laws and regulations that make it easier for industry to develop the tarsands, and remove protection for water and fish – unless, of course, those fish have some kind of economic value. We hear the government ministers calling us “radicals” and positioning us as the enemy of Canadians.

Tomorrow, organizations and individuals across Canada will be blacking out their websites as part of the BlackOutSpeakOut campaign to “speak out against changes introduced in the federal government’s budget act (C-38).” 

Alone, I feel powerless. But when I see that I’m not alone, I have hope. We may all come at these things with different backgrounds, interests and ideas, but as long as we stand together, there’s a chance we can all make it.


From 24 HOURS article, photo by CARMINE MARINELLI

Blogging for Non-Profits

The 12 weeks of my social media course, with the different blogging assignments and tasks, have given me a little bit of insight into the world of blogging. Given my blog focus, it has helped me learn a bit and explore how non-profit organizations can use blogging to good effect. The best blogs in the environmental sector provide timely and useful information to their readers, offer tips and advice for taking action, and empower  people to become advocates.

Providing information

The best environmental blogs that I’ve found so far are the ones that provide the kind of information I’m looking for, whether that’s learning how to start a worm compost or wondering what a good alternative to dry cleaning is. These are great because I usually find them when searching for specific information I need, and blogs usually offer a personal touch, like someone who has tried something in particular. With so many questions about different environmental topics, blogs are a great way to get the perspective of someone else who has had the same questions.

Tips and Advice

There are lots of blogs out there offering great tips and advice to people looking to make a green move. For many people who want to lead a greener lifestyle, the hardest part is figuring out where to start and how to do it. The Clean Bin Project is a great resource for all kinds of waste reduction tips.

Empower People

With sustainable lifestyle changes, as with anything else, people need to feel empowered in order to be able to accomplish anything. The two points above help people to feel that they can make actionable changes in their lives, and this kind of empowerment leads to more long-lasting change.

I think, in this sector, blogging is a very powerful tool that is already being used widely to connect the environmental movement. And as a field that always changing, it can only benefit from more people joining in the conversation, and organizations in this area can harness this to position themselves as experts and resources, for the benefit of all.

Globe – My 2 Cents

I had the opportunity this week to participate in Globe 2012‘s Leading Change. Never having participated in anything like Globe before, it was a great opportunity for me to check it out, see what was going on.

As you may have gathered from my last post, I have an ongoing internal struggle when it comes to corporate sustainability initiatives, which often treads a fine line between making meaningful change and greenwashing. So I went into an event like this with a little trepidation and not a small amount of scepticism. When companies talk about that 5% of consumers who will buy something simply because it is environmentally friendly (known as a “niche” market, I suppose), that’s me they are talking about.

So, you may be able to imagine how I felt attending the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative roundtable on Tuesday. I fall much more firmly on the David Suzuki side of the Tar Sands arguments, that of the radical. I felt like I was visiting enemy camp, and prepared for brainwashing.

Well, I’m happy to say, I didn’t come out in favour of the oil sands. I did, however, get a chance to air my views to people in the industry – namely that I feel that Canadian politics has been entirely hijacked by their interests, to the detriment of the rest of Canadians – and I learned some new things about the industry.

I think it’s important, in any dialogue, to listen to all sides of the story. In every fight, people on both sides are always guilty of one-sided arguments. I’ve always been able to see 2 sides to every coin, play devil’s advocate, see things from someone else’s point of view. I would like to think that this gives me a balanced perspective. It may mean that I am not pure activist material. But I think the environmental movement needs a lot of people looking at things from all perspectives. Because if we want meaningful change to happen, we have to appeal to the other 95% – and we need to know what’s important to them.