Snow Plow Dazed

It’s not the first shoveling of the driveway that gets you. You finish, the driveway is clear, your partner’s car backs out and away, you go inside to warm up and have a fresh coffee … and you hear it. The unmistakable sound of the snowplow coming. Your head droops heavily to your chest. You don’t even have to look out of the front door, You know it will be waiting.

Yes. The dreaded plow row. In our case, a two metre swath of high speed blade compressed snow thrown across the base of the driveway, I practice mindfulness, stretch and go out for part two.

My problem is that I love snow shoveling. I will go up and down the street helping the older folks. I used to enjoy this until my wife pointed out, “Honey, you are the older folk!” Still, if they couldn’t sink Molly Brown, they’re not going to stop me from shoveling!

There is a certain joy to the swish and toss of each bladeful of snow, to the patterns of removal that are like a Bansky in ice crystals, to the satisfaction of seeing the once knee deep drifts cleared, and the runway ready for takeoff. Until you hear the plow. There is not a snow shoveler among us who does not shiver in despair at the sound of the plow approaching. Some stand and curse with raised fists (I confess), and others merely retreat indoors for a cup of Zen tea, rest and return gracefully. Do not go gently into that snowy night! The roar of the plow is our call to action!

That and the sound of a neighbour starting up a snowblower. Top on my list of hated tools is the leaf blower, an obscene serenity obliterating device that was invented to consume energy and make the broom extinct. Curlers take note. Next is the snowblower. There you are, enjoying the tranquility of a winter day, gleefully tossing shovel blades of individually unique six sided crystals hither and yon, when the roaring motor and  burning stench of petrochemical fuel fills the air.

Sure, over zealous shoveling can lead to heart attacks, but that’s how winter thins the herd. Snowblowers thin the planet!  Alas, the days when real Canadians used to shovel their driveways seem to be fading.

Until that day is over, I stand, shovel ready to meet the plow!

***

*image from hardhathunter.com

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Feast Bags

I recently gave a workshop at an outdoor education event and, along with all of the other presenters, was acknowledged for my services with a “Feast Bundle” as part of what is known locally as the Woteca Challenge! The gift was a beautifully hand painted bag inscribed with the words “Mino Bimaadiziwin” – or “Live the Good Life” in the language of one of our First Peoples.

Keep in mind that apparently when our First Peoples went to a community feast, they brought their own parflech case made from deer hide and decorated with porcupine quills. The bag contained utensils made from wood and clay and copper. So the legend goes. My Feast Bundle gift was modern.

Two thoughts to live by: There is no free lunch, and,  Always look a gift horse in the mouth.

If I had received a Feast Bundle in “the good old days” the contents would have slowly recycled back into Earth to become food again in some form. Not so with the modern Feast Bundle. But before I continue, keep in mind that we in the environmental literacy movement had begun white colonial litterless and boomerang lunch campaigns way back in the 80’s. I cannot count the number of litterless lunch bags and contents I have received and given away.

At one point my wife said to me, “Do not bring one more mug, enviro logo T-shirt or bag home!” Yes, across thirty years you can accumulate a lot of well meaning stuff.

So, last Saturday, 2019. I received my Feast Bundle. The Mela-Ware bowl and plate set was my first flag. Followed by the 100% polyester napkin, a Sail metal mug made in China, and a set of beautiful stainless steel wooden handled cutlery made in Japan. The Sail mug was from the local Sail store at a remarkable 70% sale reduction – smart economics.

However, there is a new ethic in town called Cradle to Cradle. The idea is that if you can’t get it back as food, you shouldn’t create it in the first place.

For those who are not aware, Mela-Ware is tableware made of melamine-formaldehyde resins intended for repeated use. Melamine is a white crystalline compound made by heating cyanamide and is used in making plastics. Formaldehyde is a colourless pungent gas in solution made by oxidizing methanol – it can cause respiratory irritations and cancer. (Ah, living life better through chemistry.) This plastic is commonly known as melamine-ware. It is economical and widely used around the world due to its durability, and good chemical stability and heat resistance, but is not microwave safe. And while not a one-time disposable plastic tableware, it is not recyclable.

As for the napkin, polyester is a synthetic fiber derived from coal, air, water, and petroleum. Developed in a 20th-century laboratory, polyester fibers are formed from a chemical reaction between an acid and alcohol. In this reaction, two or more molecules combine to make a large molecule whose structure repeats throughout its length. Polyester is not considered eco-friendly.

My “feast bag” gift was given with the best of intentions. It is a reminder to bring our own utensils to the community feast and to not leave any garbage behind. The road to extinction is paved with good intentions, so was this a feast or famine bag? To reduce the ecological footprint of a product, one has to look at the distance it travels from point of origin to point of sale. One also has to consider the production process from extraction to waste disposal. I fear that the ecological footprint of my modern Feast Bag was far greater than it’s good intentions.

So thanks, but no thanks. I’m keeping the bag, but the stuff is going back.That’s the bottom line. We have enough “stuff” in our cupboards to fill a community’s Feast Bags. Don’t need more stuff. Need environmental literacy.

Grow local, eat local, shop local. buy local and feast for seven generations.

The way I see it.

***

 

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Naked no more

For years now, my favourite opening gambit for inviting a  prospect to an Interview was, “Meet you, 10:30 A.M., Naked,” It always worked as an intriguing hook.  But soon, there will be Naked no more in Caledon.

Yes, sadly, my favourite meeting place is closing and the wonderful and talented Svetlana is moving on to new chapters in her life.

I have met politicians, journalists, budding authors, neighbours and new friends over the years at Naked Café and loved every minute of it. Whether it be lessons in journalism from Hap, editing sessions with Max, neighbourhood gossip with Bob, ghost writing with Ruth, or meetings with random spirits, it was all wonderful.

One of my favourite memories  was recreating a “Coffee in Cars with Comedians” episode when one of my former students turned up in her Porsche to take me out for a local coffee. Of course we went to the Naked Café, We titled that story, “Coffee in Cars With Canoeists.”

And most recently, I walked in to Naked to protest the closing, and met Bonnie for the first time, She was just picking up her order to go. We started up a conversation over our shock at the closing, and now Bonnie and her long distance twin Clyde are literary confidents. It reminded me of that famous Leo Buscaglia story, where he gets on an elevator with a total stranger, says hello enthusiastically and gives him a big hug, “Do I know you?” asks the other man. “You do now!” answered the always ebullient Leo.

The Naked Café had a loyal following who enjoyed the friendly atmosphere, great fresh food, and specialized baked goods. Svetlana, you and your wonderful staff will truly be missed … but not forgotten.

So this week, I have booked it up – today Bonnie & Clyde, Wednesday Max, Thursday Bob, and Friday for a solo Turmeric latte. Next week, who knows what random intersections and conversations may occur. If you’re looking for a good story, I’ll meet you there … Naked at 10;30 …

***

For anyone who may have missed the sign on the door, Friday, January 31 is the last day to go Naked in Bolton.

 

 

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Bill 66 ahead, approach with Caution!

Caledon Open For Business Once upon a time, Ontario had a Greenbelt Act, and a Clean Water Act,  and a Planning Act, and a Lake Simcoe Protection Act.

Then the good citizens of Ontario, tired of the governments that had protected all this, voted in a new government. The Premier, who promised in his campaign to protect our Greenbelt, then declared: “Ontario is OPEN FOR BUSINESS!”

In a pointed Tweet recently, the comparison was made that, “Bill 66 is to wealthy developers in the Greenbelt like horse tranquilizer was for Bill Cosby.” In a gentler form, we are reminded of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac, where he wrote: “There is yet no ethic dealing with man’s relation to the land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it. Land, like the Odysseus’ slave girls, is still property. The land relation is still strictly economic, entailing privileges but not obligations.

Leopold wrote this in 1949 and The Sand County Almanac remains to this day a cornerstone of environmental studies and a poignant reminder of what it takes to truly become a conserver society. We have a white colonial masters’ attitude to the land, and the rape and pillage we have inflicted over five centuries in North America has not abated. We have yet to realize that we and the environment are one.

In an attempt at reconciliation, these days our municipal Councils give lip service thanks to the First Peoples whose lands we stole, breaking every treaty that we signed along the way west. Upon those lands this year in the Golden Horseshoe of Ontario, our elected officials will sit in Town Halls debating the pros and cons of Bill 66. The year is 2019. There should be NO DEBATE. You either fully protect the rights of the land and its beings with seven generation decisions, or you don’t.

In a recent interview Tim Gray, Executive Director of Environmental Defence, stated, “The Ontario government is lying to its constituents about protecting the Greenbelt when Bill 66 clearly gives a secret process allowing municipalities to negotiate deals with developers without hope of appeal.”

You either fully protect the Greenbelt, the Oak Ridges Moraine, the Niagara Escarpment Biosphere, and all watersheds originating therein or you don’t.

Recognize our history. When the colonial victors opened Upper Canada to immigration after the War of 1812, it took less than forty years for European settlers to deforest 80% of southern and eastern Ontario. 10.000 years of Great-Lakes St. Lawrence forest enriched  topsoil were depleted and eroded. The Great Lakes, the world’s largest source of fresh water, the gift of our last Ice Age, were polluted in less than 200 years because of deforestation, agricultural run-off and industrial waste.

We should learn from our history and try not to make the same mistakes. But we don’t, and the cost is always paid by the survivors. Our sacred protected spaces are not open for business.

Ronald Wright concluded in his brilliant A Short History of Progress, “If civilization is to survive, it must live on the interest, not the capital, of nature….Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up.

The Way I see it,

***

Skid Crease, Caledon

  • a full analysis of Bill 66 will follow. In the meantime, interested readers can go to the environmentaldefence.ca or ontarionature.org sites for a natural perspective on how to Stop Bill 66.

 

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