Himalayan Meltdown

The latest NASA Climate briefing contained the usual news about ocean warming, and sea level rise, and Arctic sea ice reduction, and polar vortex surges and more violent storms expected. But tucked away in all of this good news was an item that bothered me the most.

The Himalayan glaciers are disappearing at an increasing rate and expected to be gone by the end of the century. This is the tallest mountain range on the planet, the child of a great tectonic plate shift eons ago. The fresh water that flows off these glaciers doesn’t just inspire National Geographic calendars and yuppie expeditions.

To quote from the National Academy of Sciences Atmospheric Sciences and Climate Board: “The Hindu-Kush Himalayan region extends over 2,000 km across South Asia and includes all or parts of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The region is the source of many of Asia’s major rivers, including the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra.”

Beyond concerns for planetary ecology, those waters and rivers replenish wells and irrigation systems for millions of people.

Teachers: here’s a good math lesson for your class. How many people live in those countries? Or a health question: What are the four basic needs of life? Or a geography/history question: What caused the collapse of the Fertile Crescent civilizations, the French Revolution, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the Syrian civil war?

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to calculate the social upheaval caused by millions of  hungry environmental refugees seeking water, food, shelter, and empathy on the remaining high dry lands of our Home Planet.

Add into this mix the news that 2018 was the fourth hottest year on record, and all five of the hottest years have occurred in the last five years. Stir in the United Nations Annual Food Security report that chronic hunger continues to be on the rise for millions of the world’s population. The conclusion is that if we exceed a 2ºC rise in global temperature, accelerating climate change will push us to a point of overshoot. In biological terms that means a whole lot of people are going to die from famine and the social chaos that follows.

The far religious right loves this scenario. Taking the world into Armageddon will only hasten the Second Coming and won’t The Rapture be delightful. However, speaking for all of the billions and billions of organisms on the Planet not enrolled in organized apocryphal religions, I’d rather not take the chance. We’ve been through serious mass extinctions before and the road to recovery is long and hard.

We have had all the information we needed to act wisely and well way from back in June of 1988 when the World Meteorological Organization announced: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment on the atmosphere of Earth whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.” Yes, my friends, that was the conclusion of the Our Changing Atmosphere Conference in Toronto focused on global security thirty years ago.

Now, my friends, we have Doug Ford dumbing us down with his populist slogan about the “Job-Killing Carbon Tax.” As the humourous take on the lawn sign says, “Beware of Doug!” Putting a price on carbon is an absolute necessity. And strong environmental regulations. And a Polluter Pay Principle. Short term pain for seven generations gain.

I wrote several years ago that Earth is telling us, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” When the bill comes, it won’t matter what our religious belief systems are. The Planet is agnostic and operates on the very simple rules of geography and ecology.

And you don’t have to take my word for it. I am just a citizen scientist and journalist. But the good people at NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), NOAA (the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), the WMO (the World Meteorological Organization) and the IPCC (the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) seem to know what they are talking about. Or you can trust Doug Ford and Jason Kenney and Andrew Scheer and Donald Trump.

I’ll pass the deck, it’s your deal.


Skid Crease, Caledon

  • image from dhakatribune.com
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Bad Bill 66 – Beyond Schedule 10

There were cheers of victory in environmental enclaves across the province when the Ford government withdrew the odious Schedule 10 from its Open for Business Bill 66. Don’t celebrate too soon, fans of the Greenbelt. The government just threw us a crumb off their “cutting red tape” table.

Schedule 10 was the easy victory. Some would say a planned distraction. Get all of the environmentalists worked up about saving the Greenbelt, and maybe the rest of Ontario will ignore what we’re doing to Energy, Education, Employment, and the Economy in the rest of Bad Bill 66. Ah, those same little “cutting red tape” tricks that The Common Nonsense Revolution used in the days of Harris and Giorno.

Let’s take Schedule 3 as an example. Changes to the Education Act will be the next hot-button item. Parents of young children are already up in arms about rumours of increases to kindergarten class sizes and the possible elimination of junior and pre-kindergarten classes. Anyone who has ever taught early primary education will attest to the fact that this is a special calling in teaching. I have often lectured that early years teachers should be retired with Honours on triple pensions after ten years. The last thing needed is an increase in class size.

Or perhaps Schedule 4 featuring changes to the Energy Act with the old metering switch-a-roo, or Schedule 8 might be of interest for those about to enter Long Term Care arrangements, or maybe Schedule 9 if you’re in the construction trades.

No, “my friends”, to intone Doug Ford, there are many reasons to look beyond Schedule 10 and threats to the Greenbelt. Bill 66 is simply a Bad Bill and should have been rejected outright. A good friend and well respected local politician said to me recently, “But Bill 66 is just another planning tool; it gives us a seat at the table.”

I replied to this concept with a quote from an indigenous Elder, “We don’t want a seat at the table. We want our own table.” If your current MPP and municipal polliticians are saying Bill 66 gives municipalities another seat at the table, it’s time to declare that the meal on the table is tainted and the water is contaminated.

Thanks but no thanks.

The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon

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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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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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