Wednesday, July 9, 2014

We Save the World Together in Our Spare Time

Good morning everyone,

I hope this post finds you well ... certainly not under the influence of a miserable summer cold like the one I've had for over a week.

I've been in an exercise of choosing priorities.  Gardening when I'm able, first and foremost.  Then the step-by-step work of getting the word out about the Gardeners Beware 2014 report mentioned in my last post.

For the gardening, I've gotten help from the over 6cm (2 inches) of rainfall we've had over the last couple of days.  I swear that if I watched out the kitchen window for an hour I'd see the cucumber vines grow!

For the Gardeners Beware 2014 report, I've discovered that I'm one of a network of people across Canada and the United States who have been involved in saving the world for the long haul.

I'm putting down just the names I know ... I'm sure there are others involved in the groups helping these people!

The people at Friends of the Earth Canada include Beatrice Olivastri (director), and Micaela Buchnea-Chew, Karen Cartier, Maria Leung
People involved at Friends of the Earth U.S. are Lisa Archer, and Tiffany Finck-Haynes.
Pesticide Research Institute out of the U.S. are Timothy Brown, Ph.D., Susan Kegley, Ph.D.
 (Lisa, Tiffany, Timothy, Susan and Beatrice wrote the report)

Across the U.S. and Canada, the people who purchased plants for testing are involved with established local environment groups and projects.
Janet Kilby, Bee Safe Neighborhoods
Lisa Arkin, Beyond Toxics
Tracey Easthope and Melissa Sargent, Ecology Center
Heather Leibowitz, Environment New York
Luke Metzger, Environment Texas
Bill Hamilton, Environmental Youth Council
Heather Spalding, Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Michael Goehring, Friends of the Earth Canada
Maureen Temme, Community Gardens London (Canada)
Arlyle Waring, Friends of the Earth Canada
Roger Williams, Maryland Pesticide Network
Lex Horan and Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network

Lynne Walter, Toxic Free North Carolina
Mindy Goldstein, Turner Environmental Law Clinic
Megan Stokes, Toxics Action Center
Timothy Brown, Pesticide Research Institute
Susan Kegley, Ph.D., Pesticide Research Institute

People reviewed the Gardeners Beware 2014 report too.  Just like for a journal published article.
Prof. Jim Frazier, Ph.D., and Maryann Frazier, Sr. Extension Associate, Pennsylvania State Univ.
Prof. Vera Krischik, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Scott Hoffman Black, Jennifer Hopwood and Aimee Code, Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation
Pierre Mineau, Ph.D., Pierre Mineau Consulting

I've never participated in anything like this.  We've been on a few conference calls, and that makes all these people real.  It's awesome, in the correct meaning of the word.

Thanks to all of these people.

And thanks and best regards to all of you who read this.  I know you are saving the world in your spare time too.

Why's Woman

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Gardeners Beware 2014 - neonicotinoid residue in garden centre plants


Bee-killing pesticides have been found in "bee-friendly" plants purchased in London ... and in the 17 other Canadian and U.S. cities where volunteers for Friends of the Earth randomly purchased plants to test for neonicotinoid pesticide residue.

A new study released today by Friends of the Earth Canada shows that "bee-friendly" home garden plants sold at garden centres in Vancouver, London, and Montreal had residue showing they had been pre-treated with neonicotinoid pesticides, which have been shown to harm and kill bees. 

All four (4) plant samples from London, Ontario contained neonicotinoids ... giving us the sad distinction of being the only locale of all 18 participating North American cities to have all its samples contaminated.

Gardeners Beware 2014 looks at neonicotinoids in the horticulture industry ... important, because most research has been on agricultural use.

 For me personally, the report confirms that gardeners who want to plant pollinator friendly, healthy gardens simply cannot do so from plants purchased at the standard retail greenhouses and big plant centres.  We have to buy organic.  We have to know our suppliers.

Friends of the Earth Canada's press release is here:   (attached for your convenience and list of references is below signature line).

Of the Canada/U.S. total of 71 plants tested, 36 tested positive for neonicotinoids at an accredited USDA laboratory.  Of the 36 positives, 15 of them - 40% - had 2 or more neonics present. Concentrations of the various neonicotinoids present ranged greatly from lethal to bees on contact/oral dose levels to "sublethal" levels which cumulate over time and repeat exposures to impair such things as motor and memory, fertility, and foraging efficiency.

The Gardeners Beware 2014 report is a joint undertaking of Friends of the Earth in Canada, Friends of the Earth U.S., and Pesticide Research Institute.  It goes through the important issues concerning neonicotinoid insecticides, gives all testing information and sample results, has suggestions for individuals, governments, and retailers, and has a big resource list. 

Please consider some of the ideas below to make your voice and actions heard on the issues of neonicotinoid contamination of plants. 

Please check out the press release, the Gardeners Beware 2014 report in summary or in full, and send information over your networks. You will probably get at least one other notice from me today because your names are on the Community Gardens London main mailing list, and thanks for your patience.

Send letters to the editors of whichever local newspapers you choose, phone in to a radio station, write a blog, give a talk, write whichever level of government and party you choose.

Send a letter of support to whichever organization you know is trying to get neonicotinoids banned.

Please sign the Friends of the Earth Canada PETITION if you have not done so:
Sierra Club also has an action on the go:

Pick a nursery or plant retail outlet and ask questions of its manager and/or staff. 

Keep an eye on the Community Gardens London website, where more articles will be posted on the News pages

Let me - Maureen, webkeeper - know if you/your organization are planning a bee-friendly event or an action against neonicotinoids.  I will post this event, and do my best to get the information sent 'round on our enews list. 

Also, please let me know of any garden suppliers who raise plants organically.  I'm working on a list.

Those of you keeping closest tabs on the neonic issue will be aware that a new meta-analysis of 800 peer-reviewed studies was released yesterday (June 24/14) by the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides - a group of global, independent scientists - and confirms neonicotinoids are a key factor in bee declines and are harming beneficial organisms essential to functional ecosystems and food production, including soil microbes, butterflies, earthworms, reptiles, and birds.  The Task Force called for immediate  regulatory action to restrict neonicotinoids.

Such reinforcement between reports is important, and hurts the heart all at the same time.

Kindest regards, and sincerely,

Why's Woman

Gardeners Beware 2014 report:
Friends of the Earth Canada:
       and the report on its site:
Friends of the Earth Canada Bee Cause site:
Friends of the Earth Canada petition to stop neonic plant sales:
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Pesticide Research Institute:
Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and the report:

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Prince Edward County Council takes some action on neonicotinoid insecticides

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, gardening, bicycling, and/or generally having time to do some of the things you enjoy during this time of year.

I've continued reading about neonicotinoid insecticides - not  a cheery thing to read about.  Just the other day, however, I did run across something that cheered me.

The Prince Edward County (Ontario) Council has taken a look at issues concerning bee health and neonicotoinoid insecticides, and has taken some positive steps to eliminate their use where the Council has jurisdiction, and will bring the matter to other councils' attention.  The Council resolutions below cover a lot of territory and I bet there was a lot of citizen input to bring these ideas forward!

Resolutions from the Prince Edward County Council minutes of May 27/14 follow.

Now therefore be it resolved that:

1.  We call on the provincial and federal governments to declare a moratorium surrounding the use of Neonicotinoid crop treatments, as soon as possible, pending further study;
2.  We support the Health Canada requirement*, and we urge local farmers to utilize the new commercially available seed lubricants during the 2014 planting season when using seed coated in Neonicotinoid crop treatments, if appropriate, to their farm equipment;
3.  The County show local leadership in this regard by discontinuing use of Neonicotinoid products on municipal property immediately;
4.  The County consider creating funding for the inclusion of the planting of bee and butterfly friendly spaces on appropriate County property in the 2015 budget;
5  This resolution be circulated to other municipalities through the Association of Municipalities of ONtairo, to request their support on this serious issue, and further;
6.  This resolution be forwarded to The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Federal Minister of Health, Federal MP Daryl Kramp, Federal Opposition Members at this time, and the Premier of Ontario, Provincial Minister of Agriculture and local Provincial MPP immediately after the Provincial Election.
7.  Until such time as a moratorium is enacted where an agronomic assessment shows particular fields to be at minimal risk of damage from soil insects, we urge farmers to order seed not treated with insecticide for the 2015 growing season, and we urge seed companies to make adequate supplies available.

        *  comment: this would be the January 2014 requirement that Bayer fluency agent be used along with N'd seed coating (and I'm pretty sure the requirement came through the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, not Health Canada ... but I'll check)

I could argue that there is some wishy-washyness in the phrases like "pending further study", "if appropriate", and "consider creating"  ... however, it really is a huge thing for a Council to have considered issues concerning neonicotinoid insecticides at all.  I'm absolutely impressed that Council addressed some of the details like seed coating and impressed even more by its resolve to bring its actions to the Association of Municipalities of
Ontario and to send letters to all the people letters will go to.  And, of course, to look at practices on its owned lands.

The resolutions do not bring about a ban or a moratorium on neonicotinoid use in Prince Edward County (I doubt if the Council would have the legal ability to declare or enforce).  However, the Council made some important statements, seems committed to actions, and is showing initiative at the most important political action level.

Prince Edward County Council and (no doubt) citizens have done important work here. Let's hope other places follow. 

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, May 30, 2014

What are our Ontario political parties saying about neonicotinoid insecticides?

Good morning everyone,

I hope you are fine, and enjoying the sunshine we've been having lately.  I've been doing a lot of garden work at my own place and for several people who even pay me for it!

I've been having a huge dilemma tho'!  Everyone asks me where to buy plants.  And I'm afraid to suggest any place like a grocery or hardware chain parking lot, or even a greenhouse operation, because bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides are so often used in greenhouses.  These days I'm just not buying plants or putting in anything new, unless plants are certified organic, or come from a source (like a neighbour!) where I know there's never synthetic chemicals used.  

For others who want to fill a bed easily with annuals ... I just don't know what to  say (altho' I'll say more on a future post ... and you know I'm going to say something!)
The Ontario Beekeepers Association sent 'round a press release - May 28, 2014 - to let interested parties know which political parties have responded to these two questions about neonicotinoids:

"1)     Ontario's beekeeping industry has suffered through the loss of thousands of hives in both 2012 and 2013 that Health Canada has confirmed were the result of exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides in soy and corn planting. Should you be elected to lead the Government of Ontario, would you support the Ontario Beekeepers' Association's call for an immediate moratorium on the sale of the neonicotinoid treated seeds that are killing our bees?
2)     Ontario is suffering a serious decline in the population of the insect pollinators we rely on for our locally grown foods as the result of the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid pesticides. Health Canada and other studies have shown significant amounts of persistent neonicotinoid pesticides in water and soil samples across Ontario. If elected, will your party declare this an urgent environmental problem?"

As of May 28, the OBA had received three replies.  The entire responses can be found on  The NDP had not yet replied!  The Green Party calls for a moratorium

"From Kathleen Wynne, leader of the Ontario Liberal Party:
1)     “The Ontario Liberals are committed to working with the agricultural and beekeeping sectors to (1) ensure full and equitable access to non-neonicotinoid treated seed for growers, and (2) establish a system that allows for targeted use of neonicotinoids only in production areas or production circumstances where these pesticides are actually shown to be required.”
 2)     “The OBA proposal to hold a targeted forum to develop recommendations and identify a pollinator health roadmap is one that a Liberal government would identify as a priority action to be undertaken within the first six weeks of being elected.”

From Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario: 
"1)     “The Green Party of Ontario proposes a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides until scientific evidence can conclusively determine that there is another cause for bee kills. The Green Party believes the precautionary principle should be applied to threats to our food system.”
2)     “We firmly believe that the provincial and federal governments should not put our food supply and our local economy at risk by failing to protect insect pollinators.” 

From Tim Hudak, leader of the Progressive Conservative party of Ontario:
“We appreciate the opportunity to listen to your priorities for
Ontario. We share your commitment to Ontario’s future and believe that with more and better jobs, we can do what’s necessary to bring about the change Ontario needs.”     "

The Ontario Beekeepers Association goes on to say:

“We are heartened by the response from Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne. She understands the issue and is committed to a science-based solution that balances the needs of farmers with the survival of bees and native pollinators. If implemented, this approach could reduce the amount of neonicotinoid treated seed by 80% or more.” said OBA president Dan Davidson. “We are also grateful to the Green Party for their continued commitment to this issue.” 

"The NFU in Ontario has adopted a similar position to the OBA on neonicotinoids and bee health. Both organizations have been working together on a solution that benefits bees and beekeepers while maintaining the economic viability of farming. 

“The NFU is pleased that the Liberal Party of Ontario is prepared to make untreated seed the default option and would only allow the targeted use of treated seed in limited circumstances, and that the Ontario Green Party supports a moratorium. As farmers, we will work with the OBA to ensure the next Ontario government takes concrete action to protect Ontario's native pollinators, bees and beekeepers,” said Karen Eatwell, Ontario President, National Farmers Union. "

OBA also pointed out that:

" In 2012 and 2013, over 14,000 hives were lost to bee kills linked to the indiscriminate use of neonicotinoid pesticides by Health Canada. Last year, nearly 99% of the 2.2 million acres of corn in Ontario were treated with neonicotinoids, even though the Ontario Ministry of Food and Agriculture crop specialists indicate that only 10% to 20% of acreage needs pest protection."

Just another issue to think about in the upcoming Ontario election!  Vote and vote often!

Best regards,

Why's Woman 

For further information:
Julie White OBA, 647-988-5942
Karen Eatwell, NFU, 519-232-410

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Books About Town Benches - wonderful literacy project!

Good morning everyone,

Just got my Agatha Christie enews from the official Agatha Christie website

Books About Town is a celebration of London England's literary heritage and reading ... just sitting down to read. There are going to be wonderful benches around the city!

One of the benches is a tribute to my favorite author, Agatha Christie ... there's even a facebook page to see the bench and meet the artist.  I think the artist is Mandii Pope, however, like many facebook pages, there's no direct place where it says whose page it is!    Enjoy the photo!  best regards from Why's Woman

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

To turn the truth into a story

Hello everyone,

I just listened to Elizabeth May on CBC, being interviewed by Carol Off about her longtime friend Farley Mowat, who passed away yesterday. 

Elizabeth spoke about Farley Mowat as an environmentalist, and environmentalists in general.  She said that it didn't matter how many data we put together, and how many studies we cite, we may not be able to change a person's mind or actions on a particular environmental need.  However - if we can turn the science, the facts, into a story that touches people then those people will participate and, perhaps, change for the good. 

Farley was that kind of a storyteller.  He experienced, he cared, he understood, he spoke.  I sure send kind thoughts to any and all of his family; and to Elizabeth and her family on the loss of this friend.

I appreciate Elizabeth pointing out the need for stories - something I know and forget - often - as I become caught into the need to document or follow links and "prove" what I'm trying to say.

I'll start rereading Farley Mowat's stories.  It'll be good for me.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Symphony of the Soil

Hello everyone!

Yes, It's been a while!  I hope you are all well and busy with gardens and life.

That's why you haven't heard from me in a while.  Not that I mind the busy with the gardens part.  We've been making piles of branches, debris and leaves around the place ... sort of mini Hugelkulture* piles ... at intervals along a hill, regenerating some soil and height in preparation for terracing over the next few years.  Our neighbours must think we are nuts.  Last fall, they bagged up their fallen leaves and we dragged them home to the yard (about 100 bags and we realize we could have used 200).

Last evening we went to see the most marvellous film: Symphony of the Soil by Deborah Koons Garcia.  (

It's a beautifully crafted web of plant and soil science, amazing photography from microscopic to vistas of wonderful plants, interviews with so many great gardeners and soil lovers one can't keep track, the most amazing watercolour animation, and - most important - some hope for soil, the planet and ourselves.

My husband and I sat in the library auditorium, holding hands, mumbling to each other things like "I've heard her talk before" and "that idea was in a book I read thirty years ago" and "it's about time they're realizing that's how to do things".   For us, it was a superior "date night".

Rodale experimental farm figured in the film, and see my note below to get a report** Rodale just came out with to do with carbon sequestration and regenerative agriculture. 

Has U.S. President Obama mentioned this report in whatever his statement was today on climate change?  (haven't read that yet ... there's too much to read most days!)

This post is a bit short on order and lyricism, I know! But ... well, I got it posted! 

Very best regards!

Why's Woman


* hugelkulture - check the entry at and then follow thge links to a great page full of "how to"

** Rodale report: Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change.  For the press release and a link to the report: