Friday, April 30, 2010

Where would you rather get sick?

Toronto's Aurea Foundation's Munk Debates just announced the topic of their upcoming series on June 7th: "Be it resolved, I would rather get sick in the United States than Canada.”

In the past, the Munk Debates  have confronted a broad range of issues including climate change, foreign aid, and humanitarian intervention. Although the debates take place in front of a live audience, live webcasts have also been set up so that even if you aren't in Toronto, you can still watch the debate.

The upcoming debate will focus on the merits and demerits of the Canadian and American healthcare systems. For example: do ballooning healthcare spending, evermore expensive prescription drugs and an increased use of private medicine foreshadow the wholesale reform of Canada’s universal, single­payer system? Or, are the divisive debates, social inequities, and sky­high expenditures associated with the U.S. experience with private medicine a validation of universal Medicare in Canada?

Given that this has been a lively topic recently, this should be a good debate to watch.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another Oil Spill Tragedy

The current oil spill which is spreading across the Gulf of Mexico has already been an enormous environmental and social tragedy, with the most recent news declaring that the spill is now five times larger than originally believed.

The Guardian has a slideshow which gives a good visual representation of the damage that is currently underway.

As with most oil spills, environmentalists are mostly concerned about the surrounding wildlife that will be impacted by the damage. As this spill is very near the Breton National Wildlife Reserve, a number of wildlife are at risk. The New York Times have set up a map outlining the various birds and marine animals who are threatened by the spill.

This tragic oil spill definitely displays all the costs, including the social and environmental, that are associated with our current reliance on oil.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Inspired by Legos

At the Urban Green member's meeting last night I picked up a copy of Environmental Building News from December which had the article, Lego Blocks from Straw.

The article was a product review of Oryzatech's Stak Block - a straw-composite, structural building block made from 96% rice straw. Rice straw is a waste agricultural product which has become a disposal problem since burning straw in fields was banned in most places. California produces 1.35 million tons of rice straw annually and only 3-4% of that straw is used commercially.

Common structural materials like wood, steel and concrete require huge amounts of energy to manufacture and distribute, while all the common insulating materials are themselves oil based products. Stak Block's will by definition be manufactured where food is grown, utilizing the annually renewable supply of waste straw that is currently burned. As a locally-produced, 96% recycled content product that sequesters carbon, Stak Blocks will also earn several LEED credits for architectural projects.

The blocks are:

  • Highly insulated: More than three times the value of an insulated 2X6 stud wall
  • Seismically strong: better than wood framing and less brittle than concrete walls
  • Fast to assemble: Block dimensions are 12”x12”x24”, easily dovetailing with other common construction modules. Each block weighs only 30 lbs and interlock.
  • Carbon Offsetting Technology- University testing shows potentially 50 lbs of carbon offsetting for production in China

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Multiplying the Power of One

The following picture is from the Global Day of Action on October 24, 2009 in Iraq. Thousands of cities around the world rallied on that day for the leaders of the world to create change at the Copenhagen conference. In Vancouver, Cambie Street Bridge was closed down for Bridge to a Cool Planet.

This picture of Ola from Babylon, Iraq was shared by Will Bates of  She had worked for weeks to try and convince her friends to join her, but in Iraq, taking action on climate change is a risk that few are willing to take. Ola's was one the smallest actions that day, but one of the most powerful.

And she didn't stop there. Determined to make a difference, Ola overcame even more challenges to go to Copenhagen for the UN climate negotiations in December and call for action on behalf of millions of people in Iraq and around the world.

Unfortunately, politicians in Copenhagen didn't share Ola's bravery and failed to deliver a fair, ambitious and binding international climate treaty steering us towards safety below 350ppm.

However, the fight to create an international climate treaty is not over and next Global Day of Action is being planned for 10/10/10.  Meet-ups around the world are taking place now to start planning. Find a meet-up near you at

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day 2010!

Earth Day has been happening for the past 40 years and is now bigger than ever!

The Earth Day Network is the global coordinator or Earth Day events and activities. One can find out what events are taking place in their area by doing a search on their site.

I have recently relocated to New York City and was thrilled to see that the "Be the E" campaign is being promoted throughout the city. The E campaign creates the opportunity for individuals to speak out about what they are doing to take positive action for the Earth. E action can be manifested in many forms  -conserving energy, composting, planting a tree, consuming local/organic food, biking, recycling, installing solar panels, protesting environmental degradation, and/or saving rain forests. Be the E is a call to action that evokes Gandhi’s plea to “be the change you want to see in the world.” I am E is rooted in the notion that everything on Earth is dependent on everything else and that the Earth is one living organism.  Learn more at

For those of you who are still in Vancouver, my friends at Oxfam are putting together the second annual Earth Day Walk for Climate Justice.  Be sure to join them this Saturday at 10:30am in front of the Art Gallery to walk to Jericho Beach in celebration of Earth Day and women's rights world wide.