Tag Archives: green

The Olympic Torch and Being Green

Vancouver 2010 Olympics, given a bronze medal by the Suzuki society for green initiatives. Just made it but still somewhat green, right? I’m in New Westminster and today the torch has gone through on Columbia Street. Here’s what it looked like.

First there were four Greyhound bus size trucks that went through. I might have missed one or two but at least three of these were Coca-Cola with people in red playing drums, waving flags, drumming, cheering. Then there was a five minute gap and a bunch of cars drove down the street, just trying to get through.

We waited (I watched from the second floor of a building) and then a large 2010 bus drove by, empty from what I can tell. Next two motorcycle cops drove by pushing people back from the road, and then and RCMP car and two more cops. Then a 2010 (what we would call Handydart) bus drove by. Next came the runner with six people jogging about him to keep the crowd back that had surged onto the street. There were about 100 people out there at most but then the torch and runner have already been through most of New Westminster by this point. Then came another four motorcycle cops. And then we saw where that billion dollar security budget came from.

At least six more RCMP unmarked trucks/SUVS brought up the rear, sitting in their sleek new vehicles, just driving along. In all, not including the motorcycles I counted 15 or 16 vehicles for one runner and a torch. They were so far back that if something happened it would only be for picking up the pieces of the runner and finding the bad guys after the fact. But you’ve got to give the guy space, right? Of course, but then why so  many vehicles for one runner so far behind. And just think, the same in every part of Canada.

Fifteen. How is this green? None of those vehicles looked like hybrid vehicles. Oh yes, there was also one Olympic guy who pedaled by on a bike. That was green as were the people on their feet. Fifteen vehicles. Okay sure, four were big branding hullabaloos and not a free Coke between them. Two were buses, empty I must say. But are we just finding jobs for the 15,000 security guys who are living on a cruise ship just waiting for bad to happen? Can we say overkill.

This, folks, are your Olympic dollars at work and the great brains of the Olympic committee doing more than taking the fun and sport out of the Olympics. This is puffed up importance and Olympic BS. Some security is needed but these guys were joyriding. Pretty sad to see and a detraction to the runner with all those vehicles. I wonder how many runners are getting sick from sucking exhaust.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, driving, environment, news, security, sports

Plastic: Recycle or Ban

Vancouver has recently been debating whether to ban plastic shopping bags or not. I was of a mixed mind. After all, if all plastic bags are banned, what do we put our garbage in? I also try to use cloth bags but forget about half the time. Still, I’m sure if there were no plastic bags tomorrow, I would have enough bags for garbage for over a year.

Plastic bags have only been around fifty years or so and they are already a major problem for landfills. But landfill would not be that much of a problem if in fact our garbage was only organic and biodegradable. I would bet that studies will show that plastic water bottles are also contributing largely to the problem. Many North American cities now have recycling programs to filter out paper, glass, tin and plastics so that they are not sitting for hundreds of years in landfills. It’s not a policed system (much) so it takes people’s participation to really work. And not all cities have recycling, which in this day and age, is a sin.

I had a theory that when I use plastic bags for garbage it makes more sense to leave organic waste in than to filter it out because it would help compost the plastic. In theory I was right, but I found out a couple of things that counteract this. Many landfills are lined with clay and other materials to retain seepage of dangerous chemicals. As well, a layer or dirt may be pushed over the garbage to keep down the odor. That’s good for containing the problem but organic waste only breaks down if it has the right amount of bacteria, light and oxygen. Burying the garbage restricts the ability of UV radiation and air needed to break down even a lettuce leaf.

One bacteria that breaks down some types of plastic is Pseudomonas in a process called
bioremediation. Plastic is man-made from petroleum based hydrocarbons and polyethylene (there are other materials as well). The hydrocarbons in the plastic serve as food for the bacteria but there is a question of how long it can take to break down, and what toxic residue is left behind.

The plastic bags that many of us use in many countries are not always discarded safely, nor are they reused. I mentioned an incident in India in my “Not Throwing in with the Crowd: Litter” article. https://colleenanderson.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?action=edit&post=76  Plastics in ground and sea get into the water and the soil, slowly poisoning it and affecting all life forms. They can also kill an animal that accidentally eats the plastic, mistaking it for food. And many animals are ensnared by plastic, trapping or injuring them until they expire.

This heartbreaking slideshow was sent to me by a friend. Just click on it to see the effects of plastic bags. If you don’t believe the statistics, the pictures alone should encourage us all to try harder.  thedangersofplasticbags After seeing this and doing a bit of research, I’m now wholeheartedly for banning plastic bags. There are ways of making garbage removal/composting work without the bags or with using other recycled materials that won’t redirect the burden onto trees for paper bags.

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_12751.cfm

http://www.reusablebags.com/facts.php?id=2

http://www.rcbc.bc.ca/index.htm

 

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, environment, health care

Go Green

I have already mentioned how I wouldn’t litter even as a teenager, and what I think of Sam Sullivan’s “eco-density” movement (another word for cramming people into smaller spaces). Along the way of my own greening I started to look at what I could do to lessen my impact. Like most people there is even more I can do.

At one point I was a book rep and had many book samples as well as reams of catalogues and order forms. Blue boxes had not quite made it into every household. Instead of loading up the garbage cans with all the paper, I would take loads to the Kent St. station, the only place in Vancouver that would take material for recycling. They had bins for paper, glass, plastic, tin and electronic equipment such as toasters or fridges. Unless you were bringing large containers or items it was free to dump and the Kent St. depot is still there.

I started cleaning my sinks and tub with baking soda as it was less harmful than using chemical cleansers. I look for biodegradable detergents for laundry and I try to buy make-up that’s not tested on animals. Though the nasty stuff in the makeup that isn’t good for humans is something I still need to research.

I also try not to buy anything that’s overpackaged. However, that’s difficult because small items are often packaged in a box that’s packaged in a molded, plastic blister pack. I understand the reasoning for this, which includes marketing–making the piece more visible on the shelf, and as an anti-theft deterrent–make it big and bulky. But buying something like a box with 24 snack-size bags of chips, crackers, cheese, whatever wrapped in plastic is a sign of convenience, or laziness, and not environmentally sound. Consider that you can always buy a bulk bag or box of the same product and portion the sizes out into reusable containers.

When I have a party I keep extra plastic cups but I have bags set up for people to put their bottles and used cups into. I recycle and wash the plastic glasses until they crack. I haven’t had to buy plastic cups in years. I don’t use paper napkins but have cloth napkins. I don’t use plastic utensils but wash my metal ones, and the same for plates. I don’t use paper towels but have rags for spills. I do however, use toilet paper. 🙂

I’m not so good at composting. Lee Valley has these nice stainless steel composting buckets and I’ll need to get one of those. Anyone who has kept any sort of vegetable scraps in a bucket knows they stain, but the smell of decomposing organic matter smells just like an outhouse, so the container needs to be sealed. I keep all my used batteries in a plastic bag and when there are enough of them I take them to Ikea. I hear London Drugs also has battery recycling as well as other depots.

I’ve just finished painting my bedroom and will have several empty paint tins. I wasn’t sure where to take them, a paint depot or to the garbage? Although empty there is still paint residue. They’re no longer allowed to be in the blue boxes and the hardware/paint stores don’t necessarily take them back. Likewise, painting has caused me to purge other items. I have a working fax/printer and a scanner that I refuse to throw into the landfill. Besides, one can now be fined for putting these things in the garbage. So I clicked on the Recycling Council of BC’s website. They have a host of information on where to take all sorts of items, as wells as ways to lessen our environmental footprint. http://www.rcbc.bc.ca/index.htm

Many cities may have something similar for recycling and information on programs. If they don’t, public encouragement can get them there. The RCBC’s website also has the Waste-o-Meter. Like places I’ve seen that show the number of species going extinct by the day, this shows how much we’re tossing in the landfill and it’s frightening.

A year ago the greater Vancouver area suffered a strike, which included garbage collectors. Between my landlords and me, we managed to keep the garbage down to the large plastic bin for over a month. My garbage amounted to one small bag every two-three weeks. Hopefully I can still improve on that. I encourage everyone else to try a little harder. I’ve always said, If necessity was the mother of invention, then laziness was the father. I’ve had too many people tell me they didn’t recycle because they couldn’t be bothered. It’s too bad we treat our world with such disregard.

Leave a comment

Filed under consumer affairs, Culture, environment, health care

Not Throwing in with the Crowd: Litter

Once upon a time, in my teenage years, I used to wander around with my friends. We’d go to school, we’d stroll to the University of Calgary lands, we’d go to the mall. And like most teenagers, we would buy our share of gum and chocolate bars. I never littered and this was before “Going Green” had ever been heard of. I’d take my wrapper and put it in my pocket.

One day a friend asked, “Why bother, everyone litters?” I replied, “Just because everyone does it, doesn’t mean it’s right. Today it might just be me. But tomorrow it might be me and someone else and then it might be four people who don’t litter. And someday maybe everyone will change.”

Well, not everyone changed but as years went by it became more of a concern; recycling wasn’t just a word for the conscientious few. Green meant more than just the colour of grass. Of course, I wasn’t the pioneer, but even as a kid I valued my world and I read about the Gaia hypothesis at a young enough age. I was also reading science fiction at twelve and the possibilities of what-if were already working in my mind.

Move to 1989 when I went to India. I was there when the Berlin wall came down. For the first month I was in the tribal state of Meghalaya, one of very few white people (maybe three) in the predominantly Khasi lands. My girlfriend was from this Himalayan hill tribe and her relatives would drive us around to different sites. The Khasis are traditionally of an animist religion though Christianity is also prevalent these days.

Overlooking the town of Shillong was a high point and a sacred grove. It was sad to see tetra packs, tin cans and plastic bottles littering their protected area. One day, Hanocia’s cousins took me to see this site. We had some “take-out” from a local restaurant. This consisted of a meal wrapped in a banana leaf and then put in a plastic bag. We ate our lunch overlooking this beautiful, small waterfall. When we were done we threw our banana leaves into the bush. And then the two cousins threw their plastic bags.

I gathered them up, aghast, and said, “You can’t do that.” They looked at me, puzzled, and asked why. How to explain it. These guys weren’t stupid but just lived a different way of life. Like many Indians, they saw pictures from magazines or a few movies that revealed fairy tale glamour lives and ways. They wanted what North America had; the riches, the lifestyle. How can anyone deny what they already have? But how can you get across that it’s okay to try and achieve that life without making all the same mistakes?

I tried to explain it this way: If you throw the plastic on the ground, it will go into the plants and the water. The cows will eat it and it will make them ill and then you’ll eat the cows. (Khasis are not Hindu and do eat beef.) It was a simplified version and I didn’t have the knowledge to explain the full process but I tried.

It saddened me. India holds at least one-sixth of the world’s population. Being third world, they didn’t have all of the technology (cars, factories, etc.) as we have in N. America. But they already had their pollution problems. I received a valuable education in India and that day was just one reminder of how much work we still have to do, how far the world must go to still save itself. Like that day long ago when I put the wrapper in my pocket, I continue to try and stay green and become greener.

I have a long way to go still. But I still believe that if we try and even encourage one other person, we’ll continue to work against the tide.

Leave a comment

Filed under Culture, environment, health care, spirituality, Writing

The Slow (and Planned?) Demise of Medicare

I consider the various world governments that have suddenly proclaimed the environment as in dire shape as having really just tried to gain popularity with their voters. They’re not doing this in many cases because it’s right but because it will garner votes. Likewise, I see the present Canadian government as having put out the smokescreen of environmentalism to draw our attention away from the dire straight of our health care system.

Over the years, Alberta went through a stage where the Klein government cut back on many services. My mother, a senior, needed a blood test and there were only two labs in the city of Calgary because the rest had been closed down. She waited eight hours. Other similar cases lead to a crisis, wherein Klein then started letting in privatized clinics because of the waiting lists. Of course he set up the situation in the first place. Gordon Campbell in BC, like Klein, was a Liberal as opposed to a Conservative in sheep’s clothing, did the same thing. They both proved themselves to be the wolves at the doors of the health care system.

Healthcare in Canada is free to everyone. Except in BC and Alberta, richer provinces than any of the Maritime provinces, where people must pay a premium. How is this fair? How is this right?

On top of that, the healthcare system has never considered basic dental care as integral to someone’s health. As anyone who has ever had a toothache, broken tooth, crooked teeth or gum disease can tell you, dental care not only matters for hygiene, it matters for overall physical and mental health. In BC, chiropractic, massage and physiotherapy have been cut out of the system, leaving many people with trying to rely on drugs should they not afford the therapies that help with soft tissue problems. As someone who suffers from this condition it is massage that is most effective and yet denied. Should I even mention that the Liberal government also cut out podiatrists and optometrists, somehow not see foot or eye care (the areas that can have many problems for aging people) from the healthcare system. We’re living in an age of whittling away our healthcare benefits.

Granted it takes a large budget for all the country’s benefits but how is penalizing some people fair? I now know people who exist everyday in pain because they can’t afford the therapy needed to fix their problem. Private clinics won’t change that. It may put the good doctors into the clinics and the specialists, leaving a majority of the public with fewer good resources.

I have many friends in the US. Sometimes they must drive an hour or more to go to their doctor because that doctor is the only one on their company paid healthcare coverage. Others, even working, can only afford to cover their children, not themselves. A friend who is diabetic was paying over $800 a month for healthcare. Another friend who had uterine cancer surgery last year now owes over $20,000 to the hospital. That’s where privatized medicine will get you. Albeit, our system isn’t perfect and you must sometimes wait months for a specialist appointment, it is still better than paying thousands.

This is by far, not the end of this topic. I’ll have more to say and rant about another day.

4 Comments

Filed under consumer affairs, health care, life, politics, Writing

On the High Horse: Greater Vancouver’s Attitude Toward Transportation

Transportation has always been an issue, but as gas prices bloat and government brings in carbon taxes, toll bridges (the Port Mann bridge is scheduled to have a toll booth, which will slow down the traffic even more) and other measures, all under the guise of being green, it means that people will want to seek alternative means.

Over the years, yes, people have relied more and more on their cars. When I was a child I would walk the ten-twenty blocks to school. These days everyone drives their kids. That’s partly because of the greater fear of predators, not to mention traffic has become exceedingly congested and inconsiderate, making it unsafe for younger children.

Housing prices have become exorbitant so people have to buy farther and farther out and then commute to work. If you live east of Vancouver you have the choice of taking buses; not a time efficient mode. There is the West Coast Express or a combination of SkyTrain and buses. The first is prohibitively expensive for many. But let’s look at using buses and SkyTrain. The farther out you live, the more you pay for a bus ride as the GVRD (now changing their name to Metro Vancouver)/Coast Mountain Bus  have conjointly allowed for the area to be split into zones. Which means you are punished for living farther from the downtown core.

Many people, including me, have opted to continue driving as it was cheaper for gas than a bus pass and more time efficient. Mexico City, with a population of plus 25 million keeps their trains cheap or the city would freeze from gridlock and completely decay from the pollution, which is already extremely bad. Cities like New York have an efficient subway system that runs frequently to all the boroughs and is comparably priced.

Efficiency means reliable. The bus/train system here has suffered from numerous breakdowns, especially in the winter. The stations are filthy and have a high criminal element lurking about. There has been a recent change to the stations with brighter lighting being put in and more security around the platforms. However, the level of filth (dirt, spit, gum, spills) on some of the platforms is still fairly high.

As well, people have been stranded when an overfull bus passes them by and there is no later one running. “Reliable transportation” would include buses running frequently and on time. Somehow the city decided it was a good idea to let downtown clubs and bars be open till 4:00 am if they wanted, but Coast Mountain closes down the SkyTrain just after midnight and the buses become infrequent or stop running to some areas far before most bars close. Incidences of weekend car thefts go up because somebody has come to town to party and find they can’t get home. I’d love to know who was the brainiac that thought that part out.

Taxis are likewise impossible to find on a weekend and would be too expensive to most other cities. Sure you can ride a bike, if you trust the drivers. I don’t, and that’s a story for another day. The public is held by the short and curlies. The GVRD, Coast Mountain and the BC government continue to tax everyone, raise prices of local transportation and add more tolls. They want to encourage us to use less fuel, mostly to garner votes in the “green” category. But where are the viable alternatives? Not enough public transportation that is affordable, reliable, safe and timely leaves people with spending more for not better.

Stress levels will increase, pollution won’t lessen because the green alternatives are missing. In the long run, this is the GVRD’s and the government’s ways of having more money coming in without putting effort in to true alternatives.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, Culture, driving, environment, news, people, politics, travel

Carbon Tax: Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The latest craze that even the government on all levels has realized brings popularity and kudos, is to go green. From civic to federal governments, this last year we’ve seen such buzz words as “eco, green, carbon tax and environment.”

Vancouver mayor Sam Sullivan has been championing his “eco-density” movement as we move closer to an election campaign. For the busy, unthinking or easily duped they hear the word “eco” and will go, Oh it must be good for us and the environment, so I’ll vote Sam. What does it really mean? It’s another word for condo, high-rise and sardine city. Eco-density, like the use of collateral damage to mean dead people, is just disguising the continual downgrading of our living spaces to smaller and smaller areas for higher prices. Oh, but they’ll put a little greenspace outside so that when you’re pressed up against the glass and staring down five stories, you can dream of a previous era where people gamboled in the grass.

The BC government, so good at tearing up contracts and firing hospital workers to the tune of saving money, cleanliness issues and losing lives, who started singing the song of saving our environment has just instituted the carbon tax, to take place July 1. Because, they parrot, it will make people use gas less and think of greener alternatives. Supposedly it will affect every use of fuel, including those who have to heat their homes this way. It will include gas, diesel and natural gas. Much better to let those little old people with their thinly insulated skin shudder away and wrap up in old blankets. Then the government can say, well look at them; aren’t they doing a great job.

The carbon tax makes no sense. It’s like saying, oh people are buying too much food, so we’ll raise the price of food. The rich will just pay more and the poor people will eat less and starve. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were cheap, viable and environmental alternatives. But there aren’t. A hybrid car is already more expensive than a gas-powered car. But the federal government was giving a $1000 rebate should you buy one. The price was still more than a cheaper gas car and the government decided it sends a better message to get rid of this rebate.

Bus/SkyTrain transportation is so expensive that it was still cheaper for me to take my car to New Westminster from Vancouver than to take the bus and its requisite hassles (not reliable, not always on time, strange, sometimes dangerous street people). I’ll have to check again but the green alternatives aren’t there. Those buses still spew gas. Electric or hydrogen buses would be better. Vancouver has been testing one fuel cell bus that I know of.

Alternative fuels or making the gas and oil companies change the composition in the fuels could help. There is ethanol for one, though it has its own issues. Putting better systems into new cars for fuel and emissions also could help but I don’t know how much can be done there or how much research has been done. I’d like to hear about it though and the government isn’t chatting about all the green alternatives they’re offering or looking into.

Perhaps the government thinks it’s a frivolous option for people to go to work. There are many smaller areas and farm communities where people must drive to go anywhere. It really doesn’t help them and punishes them. Not to mention, the truck drivers that haul goods and food across the country are doing us a service. Perhaps they should stop driving too. Oh no, of course not; the price of everything will just go up. And try to sell a car right now so that you can go green: you can’t.

Should I even mention that this does nothing for the existent problem of pollution and greenhouse gases and it’s the least effective (energetic) way of implementing change. I’d like to know what the tax money will go to except lining government coffers. Bringing in better mass transportation and alternatives would make the carbon tax more feasible if it was actually applied to the big users. If even the little people, the poor people and those who have no choice are punished, it just means that in the end as always, the poor will get poorer and the rich will just continue to pay more to consume the same amount. And the government will sit back like a fat cat and lick its chops.

Leave a comment

Filed under cars, consumer affairs, Culture, driving, environment, news, politics, security