Civilization Isn’t That Civilized

Those of you who follow this blog will know that my family and I spent last week canoeing in the Woodland Caribou Provincial Park in northern Ontario’s boreal forest.  It seems that the world has done as well (or poorly) as usual without my daily posts here, and I confess to some reluctance about getting back into cyberspace. It’s a world which can very easily eat up the minutes in a day until minutes turn into hours which turn into whole days lost at my desk.

Life in the wilderness was physically challenging (we did a total of 55 portages over our seven days of canoeing) but spiritually refreshing. We canoed routes that had been traveled since time before memory by the First Peoples of this continent. We saw drawings they left behind, amazingly still visible on the rock face rising out of the lake. We saw turtles, otters, loons, kingfishers, moose, and even a bear. We gratefully ate fish that had been plucked from the lake an hour earlier.

Now we’re back, and headlines blare out about the intransigence in Washington, the stock market plunging, the Harper government slashing nearly 800 jobs at Environment Canada, devastating drought in Texas, riots in London, famine in the Horn of Africa, and the list goes on…

Civilization just doesn’t seem that civilized after a week in the wilderness. I don’t know the whole answer to how one stays sane and hopeful in an insane and often cruel world. But I do know that I just had the good fortune to spend a week canoeing in our beautiful Canadian wilderness, and I will cherish it. I think it might be that cherishing the people and experiences, even uncomfortable ones, in one’s life is part of the answer. Now I’m off to do just that.

Woodland Caribou Park, August 2011:


Go Big Or Go Small: Mapping A Sustainable Future For Ontario

Mennonite Central Committee Ontario (MCCO) is committed to caring for creation.  As part of that commitment, they have produced a youtube video that they’ve entered in the Watts Next contest, which is inviting video submissions from across the province with a theme of mapping a sustainable future for Ontario. Here’s MCCO’s entry, Go Big Or Go Small:


If Go Big or Go Small gets the most views, MCCO will win a 10 kw solar energy system to install on the roof of its new building. So you are invited to watch it, share it, and link it, for a good cause!

More links:

Creation Care Crossroads

Watts Next


Ontario’s $8 Billion Renewable Energy Investment: The Most Significant Climate Change Investment in North America

With an exciting announcement yesterday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty secured the province’s place as the North American leader in green energy. The 184 projects, which include 36 community and aboriginal proposals located throughout the province,  will be receiving the money. The projects are expected to generate 20,000 new jobs in Ontario,  which has been among the Canadian provinces hit the hardest by the recession in recent years.

Premier McGuinty and Energy Minister Brad Duguid made the announcement in Cornwall yesterday. They said the projects are expected to create almost 2,500 megawatts – more than Niagara Falls generates – of renewable energy from wind, solar and run-of-river hydro projects, and generate enough energy to power 600,000 homes in the province, McGuinty said.

A breakdown of the projects looks like this:

  • 76 ground-mounted solar panel
  • 47 onshore wind
  • 46 waterpower
  • 7 biogas
  • 2 biomass
  • 1 rooftop solar
  • 1 offshore wind

This is the most significant climate change initiative in all of North America,” Duguid said. “It puts us ahead of the game and that’s where we fully intend to stay.”

It’s just the kind of investment in clean energy that is needed to create good green jobs, and revitalize the economy.” Rick Smith, Executive Director of Environmental Defense said in response to the announcement.

Click here to read more at The, and here for the OPA news release.

Wind-Works Co-op Lagerway Turbine

India Emerges as Climate Action Leader While Canada Stays Stuck in Oil Sands

An article on Yale Environment 360, “In India, a Clear Victory on The Climate Action Front“, discusses a recent sea change in India’s approach to climate change, as evidenced by the resignation of  its Special Envoy of the Prime Minister on Climate Change, Shyam Saran. Saran’s departure, the article points out, is related to the rising influence of Jairem Ramesh, Minister for the Environment and Forests. It is a good thing for a country, and a world, that needs to be moving towards reducing CO2 emissions now, not in 10 or 20 years.

India’s traditional negotiating stance, shaped and defended by Saran, could be summed up in one truculent sentence: The developed world had caused the problem and the developed world should fix it. Ramesh, though, pressed for a change in approach: Though India may not have been part of the problem, he insisted, it had to be part of the solution.

Ramesh has long argued that it is in India’s best interests to address climate change, and is now poised to move India toward low-carbon policies at home and in the international arena.

In his short stint as environment minister, Ramesh has managed to walk a difficult political tightrope. He has moved India’s climate policy forward against the opposition of much of the civil service and India’s influential civil society, both quick to accuse politicians of pandering to outside pressure and failing to defend India’s interests. In an influential speech to Parliament last year, Ramesh argued that it was in India’s own interest to be proactive on climate measures, regardless of international frameworks, because a failure to do so left India’s future prosperity vulnerable to climate shocks. India, he said, should offer a 20 to 25 percent reduction in emissions intensity by 2020, a proactive policy, he argued, that would allow India to claim leadership internationally. It infuriated the traditional climate negotiators who had spent years avoiding any suggestion of leadership.

Closer to home, Ontario will be making another move towards a greener and cleaner economy soon.  Ontario’s Minister of Energy, Brad Duguid, is expected to make an announcement later this month on an ambitious provincial program aimed at helping Ontario’s biggest industrial players become more efficient users of electricity and stronger competitors on the world stage by paying up to 70 per cent of the cost of an energy retrofit. Read more about Watt Guzzlers Get Green Retrofit at the

Alas, at the federal level in Canada, as discussed earlier, the Harper Conservatives’ strategy is tied to short-term economic gain in the Alberta oil fields at the expense of Canada’s long-term environmental and economic health.  Contrary to last week’s throne speech penned by the Conservatives, which talked about the need to become a clean energy superpower and lead in green job creation, in reality their policies are set to take Canada in the opposite direction. Read more at Hamilton: Federal Green Strategy Goes From Bad to Worse.

In contrast to Harper’s much-repeated mantra that addressing climate change will hurt the economy, Canada’s economy in the long-run will be much healthier if we embrace, rather than resist, the new green economy.  Harper would be well advised to view the video, Are we fixing fundamentals, or just pretending? It addresses the question “Will the environment lose out to the economy in 2009?” and was made prior to the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos, Switzerland last year.


For more information on this video, including the full script, go to

Norway Outlines Its Climate Cure, Climate Change Response Plan for Ontario Urged, Meanwhile Alberta Tar Sands Growth Unchecked

In the news this week, those progressive Scandinavians are at it again! Norway has announced one of the world’s toughest climate goals, with a target of 30 – 40% reduced CO2 emissions from 1990 levels by 2020. Unlike recent announcements of a progressive new Canadian environmental policy, which turned out to be a Yes Men hoax (click here or here for more), Norway is serious about pursuing this strategy.  The “Climate Cure” plan that has just been released is a 300-page document prepared by Norwegian state agencies to guide deep cuts in the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. This policy is in line with the reductions that the best science say are necessary to avert global climate destabilization from greenhouse gas pollution.  The economic cost is considered in the plan as well, with Norwegian Environment Minister Erik Solheim saying the modest impact on economic growth predicted will mean that Norway will be as rich by Easter in 2020 than the country otherwise would be at Christmas in 2019. Seems a small price to pay to keep the planet habitable for future generations! To read more about Norway’s announcement, click here.

Meanwhile, closer to home, a blue ribbon panel of experts has produced a 96 page report entitled “Adapting to Climate Change in Ontario” which makes 59 comprehensive recommendations on how to deal with coming climate change-related effects. By this spring, the report states, Ontario should produce a “climate change adaptation action plan,” to guide policy creation in everything from physical infrastructure – such as building better roads and bridges – to agriculture, water, at risk species, and human health. Click here for more.

No announcements from the Canadian government on an environmental plan that will ensure a safe and healthy future for Canadians, though. The federal and Alberta governments’ support for the oil sands, the dirtiest oil in the world, continues unabated. However, there are signs from outside the country that campaigns that target the tar sands and the companies associated with them are having an effect. As discussed earlier on this blog, two Fortune 500 companies – Whole Foods and Bed Bath & Beyond – recently announced they were going to remove the oil sands from their supply chains. Meanwhile in Britain, campaigners are encouraging people to lobby their pension plans if they hold shares in BP or Shell, two major oil sands investors. And in the U.S. a “Love Winter Hate the Oil Sands” campaign is just getting started. It seems these companies will only listen when their bottom line is threatened – sanity, science and long-term planetary security don’t seem to make a difference. A campaign that targets Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for its bankrolling of the tar sands is also underway – and is having an effect. This week, RBC Chief Operating Officer Barbara Stymiest (yes, that really is her name) and Rainforest Action Network met – click here to read “Getting to Maybe with RBC” or here for a Macleans article about this issue. To send a letter to Royal Bank of Canada CEO Gordon Nixon telling him to stop investing in the tar sands, click here. To join the Facebook group “Ending Investment in Tar Sands” click here.

New $7 Billion Wind and Solar Energy Investment in Ontario Announced

The province of Ontario announced yesterday that a deal has been struck with a Korean consortium, led by Samsung, for a multi-billion dollar investment in solar and wind projects around the province.  The hope is that the deal will also bring new manufacturing jobs to the province, which has been badly hit by the downturn in the auto sector. Premier Dalton McGuinty stated:

With this step, Ontario is becoming the place to be for green energy manufacturing in North America.”

The project is not without its detractors (click here and here for more information). One of their complaints is that the deal gives Samsung an unfair advantage over local wind and solar producers. But the deal is in line with the province’s new Green Energy and Green Economy Act (GEA) which, according to Renewable Energy World:

takes a two-pronged approach to creating a green economy. The first is to bring more renewables to the province and the second is the creation of more energy efficiency measures to help conserve energy. The bill also includes measures that the ministry hopes will foster a new green economy for Ontario by giving organizations and local communities such as First Nations and Métis communities more opportunities to develop distributed renewable energy generation projects.

To read more about the GEA and the feed-in tariff (FIT) program that the province introduced in 2009, check out this article by The Star’s Energy and Technology columnist Tyler Hamilton.

It is exciting to see my home province  move boldly in the direction of a “green economy”. It is the future. Some governments and leaders have the foresight to realize which way the economic wind is blowing, and their citizens will reap the benefits in the years to come.  Unfortunately, the Canadian federal government hasn’t yet joined the 21st century, and it still putting all of its “eggs” in the fossil fuel “basket”. And all Canadians are going to pay the price – both in an unstable climate and in a unsustainable economy.