Celebrating Summer’s Bounty As Autumn Arrives

Autumn has arrived, and with it the anticipation of new beginnings as well as the bittersweet endings that it symbolizes. No more swimming in the lake, or fresh lettuce from the garden for us. Our rush of summer visitors will slow down to a trickle. This September my husband and I have become empty nesters, as both of our daughters leave for university. Our oldest is a 5 1/2 hour drive away, but the youngest is four provinces away. It is a time to be proud of them as they move on to new life experiences and challenges but also a time to adjust to a house devoid of their laughter, their music-making, and even their arguing.

Being a climate activist doesn’t mean that I don’t take time to enjoy life. It’s the fact that life is so rich and beautiful that spurs me on to work for a world to pass on to my children, and all children, a world that isn’t so tainted by our reckless burning of fossil fuels. I want their world to be as beautiful and amazing as my world has been for me. Part of becoming aware of how humans are impacting the climate for our family has been becoming more aware of how far our food has traveled to get to our plate. We are eating more locally grown and less processed food along with little or no meat.

Part of enjoying summer in our house is gathering, eating, and preserving berries. This summer I got my hands on organic, semi-local strawberries in July, and I picked wild blueberries in August. One day, I made strawberry rhubarb jam and my daughter Kate baked her first loaf of bread. Here are some pictures that preserve our activities that day, as well as a sample of the great northern Ontario blueberries we love. I’ve included the bread recipe that was passed on to Kate by her father. Enjoy!

Mark’s Honey Wheat Bread Recipe:

12 – 13 oz. warm water

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T vegetable oil

2 T honey

2 cups white flour

2 cups whole wheat flour

5 tsp quick-rise yeast

1 tsp lemon juice (don’t forget – this helps it rise)

Dissolve the honey in the warm water. Mix all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and mix together using Kitchen Aid mixer (or equivalent). Mix until dough forms a cohesive ball.

Then, sprinkle flour on the counter. Knead the bread for approximately 5 minutes.

Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Form the dough into a ball and place it back in the bowl. Let rise in a warm place for 45 min – 1 hr.

Once risen, knead down again in a bowl briefly, then shape into a loaf and place in bread pan. Let rise in warm place for 30 minutes. Cook in 350 degree oven for ~30 minutes. Remove and let cool before slicing.

Optional: Mark often adds 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds and  another 1/4 cup of poppy seeds to the bread.

Meatless Monday – Pamela Anderson Gives Us Another Reason To Eat Vegetarian

Meatless Monday is a campaign to increase people’s health and decrease their carbon footprint at the same time.  Canadian-born celebrity Pamela Anderson recently posed for a PETA ad that was controversial enough to be refused a permit for a public unveiling in Montreal last week. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals ad shows the actress in a bikini with her body parts labelled as “round,” “rump” and “shoulder.” “All animals have the same parts,” the ad says.

So, if combating climate change isn’t a good enough reason for you to eat meatless today, maybe this image of Pamela Anderson will inspire you!

All Animals Have the Same Parts. Pamela Anderson's controversial ad for PETA
For one of our family’s favourite – and very easy to make – meatless meals, go to Broccoli Garlic Pasta recipe on the Comfort Food for Uneasy Times page. Or enjoy a hearty meatless taco salad, another easy and tasty family favourite.
More Links:

10 Things You Can Do To Celebrate Clean Air Day Today

According to the official website, Clean Air Day:

…was proclaimed by the Government of Canada in 1999 to increase public awareness and action on a governmental priority: clean air; and it’s part of Canadian Environment Week, which was created to promote and celebrate activities that care for and nurture our natural environment.

The website has a “what you can do” page (click here).  Feel free to peruse it – but, for what it’s worth,  here is my list of top 10 things you can do, today and every day,  to make the world a better place for your children and grandchildren:

  1. Take time to inform yourself about the reality of climate change, even though it is difficult to face. If every parent in Canada took one hour a week to read about how climate change is already affecting our country, the result would be a clamoring for real leadership on this issue that no political party could ignore. A good place to start is 350.org.
  2. As Colin Beavan (aka “No Impact Man”) suggests, volunteer the equivalent of one day’s worth of television watching to a local environmental organization each week.  If you are an average North American viewer, chances are this is close to four hours a week of volunteer time.
  3. Tell one other person about the seriousness of the situation we are facing, and then give them one concrete thing they can do to address it.
  4. If you live in Canada, take the time to write our senators about the importance of passing Bill C311, the Climate Accountability Act. If you live in the U.S., contact your elected representatives about the importance of passing the clean energy bill now, especially in the light of the Gulf oil disaster.
  5. Commit to eating less meat – the contribution of farm animals to the warming of our atmosphere is staggering, especially when deforestation is factored in.
  6. Support local farmers and food producers, thereby decreasing the carbon footprint of your diet (and eating healthier, too!).
  7. Compost your food scraps and use up your leftovers. A ridiculous amount of food waste goes into North American landfills, contributing to the production of methane which is a powerful greenhouse gas.
  8. Take time to walk, bicycle, or dance outside today (and every day!). Move your body – it’s the way we connect to this earth.
  9. Commit to shopping less – if you need inspiration, check out Reverend Billy Talen’s Church of Life After Shopping (click here for his website). Instead of shopping, connect with family and friends.
  10. Turn off the television tonight, and spend time laughing and having fun with the people you care about. Colin Beavan relates this conversation with his daughter Isabella, whom he calls “the teacher in all things”:      I ask her, “Why are we alive?” She says, “To joke and laugh.” I ask, “And what is our responsibility?” She says, “To make sure other people can joke and laugh too!”

I’ll leave you on a positive note: Reverend Billy Talen is reporting that the JP Morgan Chase bank has announced it will stop bankrolling mountaintop removal for coal mining. Rev Billy put it this way:

JP Morgan Chase stops bankrolling mountaintop removal! Two years ago, Chase still had 80% of that business, managing stock & bond offerings for Massey, etc. They quietly put this news in their annual report issued on May 17th and we’ve confirmed it. This is something to savor. Activists can have the privilege of seeing the world change. Earth-a-lujah!

Earth-a-lujah indeed! Click here to read more.

It’s Time For A Food Revolution!

Jamie Schler recently blogged on The Huffington Post about the contrast between the mealtimes of her North American childhood, and her experience of European family meals after her marriage to her French husband:

Whatever was brought to the table, good or bad, it was served up like clockwork: 6:00 on the nose every evening, exactly half an hour after dad got home. Mom, like all moms everywhere, would lean out the back door and yell for us kids to come inside. Sue and Andrew on one side of the table facing Michael and I on the other, mom and dad flanking us at either end. Walter Cronkite blaring in the other room so dad could listen all the way through to “And that’s the way it is…” We were all happy eaters, giggling and laughing throughout the meal, trying hard, as hard as kids can, to stay quiet, not a peep, so dad could listen to the news. Games played around the meal: who could eat the most broccoli or spinach and titles would be bestowed: Popeye for the evening or Biggest Tree-Eating Giant. There would be rejoicing all around whenever we saw dad pull out the pancake griddle or fire up the charcoal grill out in front of the house on that rare weekend when he chose to cook. Yet as we grew older, my mother cooked less and less often as we were more and more able to fix our own meals. She just stood up one day and announced “I’m done! I’m not cooking anymore. You are all old enough to fend for yourselves!” And that was that. Mealtimes hurried for whomever was home, the television often our favorite dinner partner.

So this meal at my French in-laws was a revelation. Did people really eat this way every day, cooking and gathering and chatting and enjoying the time and each other’s company? I looked around me during those first few years in France and Italy when our sons were small and saw it all everywhere: families gathered every day around a hot meal. It was simply natural, family tradition, everyone who was living at home sat down and shared the time of a meal together with no distractions. And weekends often found the family at the grandparents, several generations together, cooking, eating, playing music, games or a walk together after lunch, the kids, even the teens, enjoying the company of the adults as much as the older members of the family were delighting in watching the children grow up. And everyone seemed so happy, harmonious, connected.

Click here to read the full story on The Huffington Post.

When American six year olds can’t identify a tomato or potato, it is definitely time for a food revolution!  Thank you Jamie Oliver, for bringing your healthy eating revolution to this side of the Atlantic.


Today is “Meatless Monday”. Click here to go to Jamie Oliver’s website for more information and recipes, and – if you are in the U.S. – watch episodes of  new show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Remember, reducing meat is good for your health as well as the health of the planet!

The Joys Of Eating Sustainably

This weekend I attended a supper that featured locally and sustainably grown food, part of a larger “Growing Local” conference. The food was delicious, the entertainment good, and the conversations interesting. It turns out there is a strong connection between the food that we eat and the production of climate-changing pollution. How so, you ask? Here are a few statistics that demonstrate how agriculture emits carbon dioxide through transportation, fertilizer production, and other means  (from veg.ca):

Deforestation (partly to clear land for agriculture) is responsible for 13% of climate change through the release of stored carbon dioxide. Methane causes 17.3% of climate change due to livestock digestion, animal manure, rice paddies, dams, fossil fuel extraction, and landfills. Nitrous Oxide (N2O) accounts for 5.4% mostly due to fertilizers.

Livestock generate more greenhouse gas emissions, in CO2 equivalent, than transportation and it’s also a major source of land and water degradation.

The food that North Americans eat now takes far more energy to get our table that the energy we get from eating it. Brian Halweil, author of Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market points out:

A head of lettuce grown in the Salinas Valley of California and shipped nearly 3,000 miles to Washington, D.C., requires about 36 times as much fossil fuel energy in transport as it provides in food energy when it arrives.

The winners in this kind of unsustainable, energy-intensive food system aren’t local farmers or consumers, it turns out. Halweil goes on to say:

The big winners are agribusiness monopolies that ship, trade, and process food. Agricultural policies, including the new Farm Bill, tend to favor factory farms, giant supermarkets, and long-distance trade, and cheap, subsidized fossil fuels encourage long-distance shipping. The big losers are the world’s poor.

And, a new study from the University of Arizona shows, that in the United States at least, 40% of the food produced and shipped in that energy-intensive way ends up being thrown out without even being eaten. So it turns out we, the consumer, can save money and make a difference in the production of greenhouse gases just buy making sure we eat our leftovers.  Buying less junk food and more food that requires little packaging, like fresh fruits and vegetables, also decreases our carbon footprint – not to mention being better for our overall health and our waistlines!

Fighting global warming can start right in our own kitchens, by changing what we put on our forks everyday.  Today is Monday, so in the spirit of making a difference, consider joining the “Meatless Monday” movement. For more information as well as recipes, click here. For some of our family’s favourite vegetarian dishes, click here.

For more information on this topic, check out these links:

Local Food Plus (Canada)

Toronto Vegetarian Association: Climate Change: The Inconvenient Truth About What We Eat

The 100 Mile Diet: Why Eat Local

Organic Consumers Association:Americans Are Tossing $100 Billion of Food A Year

WorldWatch Institute: Globetrotting Food Will Travel Further Than Ever This Thanksgiving

FAO Institute: Livestock a Major Threat to the Environment