Are You A Changemaker?

It’s TED Talk Tuesday on 350orbust, and today’s presenter is Zoe Weil who spoke to the young people who gathered at the TEDx Youth symposium held at Cape Elizabeth, Maine, last December. Ms. Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education. Ms. Weil’s inspiring talk is entitled “How To Be A Solutionary.” Enjoy!


Next, Kansas Republicans Plan To Outlaw Sunshine

kansas ridiculousness. sustainability the musical
graphic: Sustainability, The Musical


No matter how hard the fossil fools try to stuff the renewable energy genie back into the bottle (click here to read more about Kansas’s latest back-the-past bill), the green energy economy is growing.  For example, in March 2013 the number of Australian homes with solar power systems passed the one million mark, according to figures from the Clean Energy Regulator.

one million australians graphic


And the Republican mayor of Lancaster, California has declared that his community will become the solar capital “of the universe”. Global warming, Mayor R Rex Parris says, will eventually persuade others to realize that locally generated renewable energy may provide a safety net as the cost of cooling desert homes goes up. As for the reality of the threat of human-caused climate change, the straightforward mayor says “I may be a Republican. I’m not an idot.”

On this unseasonably cool April Friday, I want to dedicate the following video to all the renewable energy angels/climate heroes in my own circle: Cathy O, Cheryl M, Mark R, Doug G, Donna C, Suzanne & Perry, and last but not least my partner on the journey, Mark P. Thank you for all you do, and for being part of my life.




I can’t resist throwing in this video to end this interesting week for those of us follow politics, and who lived in the 1980s and survived the neo-con trifecta of Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney. Enjoy your weekend!



More links:

NY Times: Lancaster, Calif., Mayor Focuses on Solar Power

Kansas’s Self-Destruct Button: A Bill To Outlaw Sustainability

Tune In To Spring of Sustainability, For Operating Instructions From Planet Earth

It’s April, and in some places in North America it is spring. Not outside my window this morning, though, where the snow is lightly falling for the second day in a row. However, snow or not, it’s time for the “Spring of Sustainability” series. S of S offers free daily lectures and discussions, online or by teleconference, for 11 weeks. If you miss the live presentation all talks are offered free of charge on the S of S website for 48 hours; once that runs out, there is a fee to access the archives. Last year I paid the $90 cost and it was well worth the price, as I still have access to lectures by leading thinkers and activists like Hunter Lovins, Richard Heinberg, Joanna Macy, and a whole slew of others. I continue to listen to them on my IPod when I drive. This year I’m trying to be more pro-active and listen live or, failing that, during the two days the talk is posted on-line. So far Bill McKibben and Andrew Harvey have been featured, and both are well worth the 30 minute time commitment. If you haven’t yet done so, head over to the Spring of Sustainability website and sign up – you will receive email notifications of what’s coming up next and can decide whether or not it’s worth carving out the space in your calendar.

Click here to listen to the Bill McKibben talk, where he gives a shout out to Citizens Climate Lobby as well as strongly supporting pricing carbon through fee and dividend, not cap and trade. This link is only good until 4:00 pm EST today, after that you’ll have to pay. The same link, though, will provide you with the talks that are still being offered – I would strongly encourage you to listen to Andrew Harvey’s sobering discussion about the perilous time we are entering, which we have brought on ourselves through our disregard of the planet that sustains us, and what we can do to prepare ourselves psychologically and spiritually for this time of great disruption as well as promise.



It’s All About Food – and Zombies

from Canning, Preserving, and Dehydrating Food

Okay, maybe we don’t need to worry about zombies but we should certainly consider future food shortages, not to mention the pesticide-laced food and genetically modified food (GMO) we are already exposed to on every trip to the grocery store. Today is World Food Day, and while I write this I’ve got a batch of Green Tomato Pasta Sauce bubbling away on my stove. It was a bumper tomato harvest this year, and we’ve already put away jars of salsa, both mild and medium, as well as more conventional red tomato spaghetti sauce. Also preserved in our pantry are: canned carrots (processed using our new pressure canner), pickles, dozens of jam and jelly jars, yellow and green beans, and chicken broth.  Our freezer contains some swiss chard (see below), which was a bit fussy to process but I’m sure will be delicious in January, as well as rhubarb, and strawberries waiting to be made into delicious fruit crisps in the dead of winter. Here’s some photos that show the chard’s transformation from garden to freezer (I followed the great instructions found on The Art of Doing Stuff blog).

Some of our swiss chard harvest earlier this week, waiting to be processed
All of those chard leaves after processing! Now they’re ready for the freezer

If you haven’t started to preserve your own food, or food that you’ve picked up at a local farmer’s market, I would encourage you to start – and if you can join forces with a friend, so much the better! Some community organizations and churches have started to offer help with preserving – check around to see if this is available in your community. As George Monbiot wrote yesterday about the impacts of climate-change-related extreme weather events and food:

...This summer the UK and the US seem to have found themselves on opposite sides of stuck meanders, and harvests in both countries were savaged by opposing extremes of weather.

This is where we stand with just 0.8 degrees of global warming and a 30% loss of summer sea ice. Picture a world with 2, 4 or 6 degrees of warming and a pole without ice, and you get some idea of what could be coming.

Farmers in the rich nations can adapt to a change in averaged conditions. It is hard to see how they can adapt to extreme events, especially if those events are different every year. Last winter, for example, I spent days drought-proofing my apple trees, as the previous spring had been so dry that – a few weeks after pollination – most of the fruit shrivelled up and died. This spring was so wet that the pollinators scarcely emerged at all: it was the unfertilised blossom that withered and died. I thanked my stars that I don’t make my living this way.

Perhaps there is no normal any more. Perhaps the smooth average warming trends the climate models predict – simultaneously terrifying and oddly reassuring – mask wild extremes for which no farmer can plan and to which no farmer can respond. Where does that leave a world which must either keep raising production or starve?

And – while you are preparing for the new normal, which includes rising food prices and less reliable global food production (and frankly, what system which takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food could be sustained indefinitely?) – how about calling or writing to your local and federal political representative and telling them you want them to take decisive action on climate change now.  While zombies may be difficult to prepare for, we know that if we take action on climate change we can avoid the worst effects that will be visited on our children and grandchildren. If you want to learn more about how to do this effectively, go to Citizens Climate Lobby, a grassroots group focused on creating the political will for a sustainable climate.

A few of my pantry shelves


jams and jellies. 2012


I’ll let this short video prepared as part of the Proposition 37 campaign in California, requiring that GMO foods be labelled, have the last word today:



Thanks to Jeanette M for sharing the canning and zombies photo.

Health Warning Attached To Rio+20 Text: If You Care For The Future Of This Planet, This Document Will Make You Sick

Here in Canada, it’s hard to tell that there is even an Earth Summit happening in Rio De Janeiro at all. A quick scan of the major papers, from one coast to the other, and there is hardly a mention that most world leaders, minus our own prime minister and some other heavy hitters, are meeting in a historic conference.I guess Canadians, led by our current federal government, have decided to give a sustainable planet a miss this time round. Maybe in another twenty years, when global climate destabilization has made our lives (and our children’s lives) a whole lot more uncomfortable, and clean water and clean air are a rare commodity, we’ll pay more attention.

In the meantime, the text from Rio+20 has been released. And it ain’t pretty. Here’s some coverage of it from other parts of the world:

George Monbiot, in The Guardian, writes that “Rio+20 draft text is 283 paragraphs of fluff”:

The declaration is remarkable for its absence of figures, dates and targets. It is as stuffed with meaningless platitudes as an advertisement for payday loans, but without the necessary menace. There is nothing to work with here, no programme, no sense of urgency or call for concrete action beyond the inadequate measures already agreed in previous flaccid declarations. Its tone and contents would be better suited to a retirement homily than a response to a complex of escalating global crises.The draft and probably final declaration is 283 paragraphs of fluff. It suggests that the 190 governments due to approve it have, in effect, given up on multilateralism, given up on the world and given up on us. So what do we do now? That is the topic I intend to address in my column next week.

The Rio+20 conference is remarkably listless; the energy of 1992 has bled into a formulaic bureaucracy-fest. The text negotiators have agreed to punts on virtually every major issue (one analysis showed that governments agreed to “encourage” and “support” actions 148 times, but only on three issues summoned the courage to say “we will” actually do something).

But it came spontaneously alive for a few hours this afternoon, when a youth-led demonstration turned into an Occupy-style sit-down that in turn agreed to a mass walkout. We’ve just marched out the front doors of this sprawling complex, 130 strong, surrounded by as many cameras and tape recorders.

The youth-led demonstration violated all the U.N. rules — security squads surrounded us at the first sound of controversy, announcing that our gathering was “unsanctioned” and if we didn’t stop immediately we’d lose our accreditation. People discussed the threat through the human mic for a few minutes, and then decided it wasn’t a threat at all — in fact, we were eager to surrender our badges, because then we wouldn’t be part of what had turned into a sham.

Adam Vaughn is blogging for The Guardian from Rio, and does a good summary of reactions to the text: check out his Rio+20 Final Day Live Blog

Raised Beds And Riots

Another Monday and my hugelkultur piles aren’t done; in fact they are growing daily;  I didn’t realize they were like rabbits, and would start reproducing at a crazy rate!  As any of you gardeners out there know, when it’s time to get the garden ready, there’s no rest until it’s done. Here in northern Ontario our season starts much later than many other parts of North America, but we are blessed (usually) with long hot summer days that make a garden harvest feasible.

It’s not only our garden plots that we are getting ready. In our family all of us, my southern B.C.-born and bred husband Mark in particular, love harvesting our own fruit, so this year we ordered 10 new fruit trees/bushes and 24 raspberry canes to add to the dozen cherry, plum, and apple trees already established in our yard. And all that tree planting takes a lot of hard labour, especially on our rocky Canadian Shield acreage. And on top of all this, Mark is also constructing a new greenhouse; and like most of his construction projects (he has the mind of an engineer trapped in an M.D.’s body) there’s nothing straightforward about the greenhouse; but that’s a topic for another post.

With all of the shoveling, digging, and “hugelkulturing” it’s difficult to make time to keep up with what’s going on in the outside world; but to those who are aware that our civilization is on the cusp of a “great disruption” it’s clear even from my sporadic access to national and world news that upheavals are flaring up more and more often, as are the attempts by the current power structures to crush this dissent/democratic movement. Close to home, a draconian anti-protest bill was passed in the Quebec legislature on Friday, in a move to quell student protests that have increasingly paralyzed the province. The students were galvanized onto the streets when the provincial government moved to dramatically increase post-secondary tuition rates, which are the lowest in Canada, but the spreading protests are about much more than that. The students and their supporters are out in the streets demanding nothing less than a more equitable society that values citizens more than corporations. The question is, why aren’t all Canadians out in the streets demanding more from our governments? That was asked this past Saturday in nothing less than the staid, middle-of-the-road Globe and Mail newspaper, whose editorial board supported Stephen Harper in last May’s federal election. Click here to read Forget Tuition Fees: If Anything Calls For A Riot, It’s Harper’s Stealth Governance.

Yes, the world is in crisis. But right here, right now, the sun is shining, and my “piles” are beckoning, so I will leave you with these recent pictures of our efforts, with more detailed explanations to come. As Martin Luther King said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

More links:

Quebec Student Protests: 300 Arrested in Montreal Night of Protest, Protest Gains International Exposure

Forget Tuition Fees: If Anything Calls For A Riot, It’s Harper’s Stealth Governance

Quebec Student Movement Threatens Austerity Agenda

Little House in the Suburbs: Building A Hugelkultur Bed

Thirty Minutes To Change Your World

The Spring of Sustainability is a three-month series of events that allows callers to interact directly with world-class visionaries by phone or webcast, for free.  Since the end of March, this amazing series has brought visionaries like Vandana Shiva, Hunter Lovins, John Robbins, and Van Jones to people all over the world, for free. If you  haven’t tuned in yet, don’t waste any time, as free access to each talk expires after 48 hours. Because I haven’t been able to listen to many of the talks within the 48 hour time frame, I invested the money to have unlimited access to all of the talks; but if you’re more organized than I am, you can access all this wisdom and insight for free. Click here to go to the Spring of Sustainability website.



Spring of


Just Say No – It’s Time For Canada To Wean Itself Off Its Addiction to Tar Sands Crude

This hour protestors are gathering on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to show their opposition to the Alberta tar sands, and specifically the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline that could be built from Alberta across the U.S. to carry tar sands bitumen to Texas refineries.

I would dearly love to be there, but by the time this event was organized I was committed to helping with all-day events for Moving Planet day this past Saturday, and a sustainability workshop on Sunday. As I live a 5 1/2 hour drive from a direct Ottawa flight, and am a 24 hour drive away from Ottawa, I struggled with the decision about giving up my local commitment to building sustainability or traveling (and burning carbon) to make a very important national statement to our government and to other Canadians. In the end, a friend suggesting a low-carbon alternative. She couldn’t attend, either, but recruited a friend in Ottawa to go. As it turns out, a friend and fellow Citizens Climate Lobby member was in Ottawa visiting her daughter this weekend, and so we were able to negotiate extending her ticket so that she could attend today’s event, and represent both of us. It’s a creative and low-carbon solution, so thanks Kaaren for the idea, and thanks, Val for standing up for all of our children’s future on Parliament Hill today!

The event is being livestreamed here.

Meanwhile, here’s Robert Redford “Punching Back at Big Oil”

When you challenge Big Oil in Houston, you can bet the industry is going to punch back. So when I wrote in the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that we should say no to the Keystone XL pipeline, I wasn’t surprised when the project’s chief executive weighed in with a different view.

The corporate rejoinder, written by Alex Pourbaix, president for energy and oil pipelines for the TransCanada Corp., purported to cite “errors” in my oped. Let’s set the record straight, point by point.

First, the Keystone XL, as proposed, would run from Canada across the width of our country to Texas oil refineries and ports. It would carry diluted bitumen, a kind of crude oil, produced from the Alberta tar sands. On those points, we all agree.

I say this is a bad idea. It would put farmers, ranchers and croplands at risk across much of the Great Plains. It would feed our costly addiction to oil. And it would wed our future to the destructive production of tar sands crude. Click here to read the full article on