Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One Plant at a Time

Hello everyone,

It's been a while, again.  I hope you are all well, enjoying the amazing colours of fall leaves we are having this year.  Perhaps noticing late-blooming roses, extra-tall Japanese anemone, Michaelmas daisies, scented alyssum, hardy Asian vegetables in your late vegetable garden (including Daikon radishes that may set records this year), and lots of children 'round about who are trying to catch every bit of after school light they can before the time change happens.

Over the last month I've been working to transform several gardens.  This is a real test of my knowledge, speed, and physical stamina!  I haven't keeled over yet, altho' there've been a few moments! 

The amazement at seeing a yard change its geography, then the plant-life in it, really keeps me going.  Knowing that I'm the one doing the changes amazes me too. 

That the changes are all in my mind's eye is an odd thing to realize.  After all, the new shoots and blooms won't start in either garden until next March!  But I know what's going to happen, what the sequence will be, what colours and textures there will be.

Saving the world, one plant at a time.  That's where I've been.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Friday, September 19, 2014

Peace and Climate Change - A busy September 21

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

I've been busy working with some amazing people on a pollinator sanctuary idea for my city. Haven't done much writing here.  I'm just now lifting my head from that project, and finding that autumn is almost here.

Sunday, September 21 is a busy day.

Saturday September 21/14 is International Peace Day, with peace activities around the world.  Here in London, Ontario there'll be a rededication of the Peace Garden near the forks of the Thames River.  Start time is 3:00 p.m.

It's been a neglected garden.  Most Londoners have no idea it's there.  Built in 1987, through the work of local peace activists - and mindful of labour's role in peace movements -  it was a lovely space ... quiet.  Over the years, its plantings became standard and easy-upkeep for City staff (which I don't blame them for ... they sort of inherited caring for the space and City budget is strapped for money for flowers).  The area of the river has far more foot and bicycle traffic now than years back too.  There's an even bigger need for a quiet space ... just off the beater (asphalt) path and across the path from the splash pad that was put in for summer use.

I'm looking forward to seeing what the Peace Garden is changing into, and hope to get down there for at least some of the event.  The facebook page set up for the garden and event is https://www.facebook.com/pages/London-Peace-Garden/243864725805956

Sunday September 21 in New York will see tens of thousands of U.S. and Canadian citizens – demanding action on the climate crisis. The march is timed to build pressure on world leaders and in support of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Solutions Summit on September 23.  I noted in the news yesterday that Ban Ki-moon is going to be in that parade.  I'm not sure if participation in such a radical event has ever been by someone in his position.  My first thought when I read the article was: this man's a grandfather. 

And I just noticed ... on the Peace Garden facebook page ... that London is holding a Climate Change march, beginning at 1:30 at the Fountain at the Forks ... which will end at the Peace Garden.

Nice circle there.

And, of course, we think of September 21 as being the equinox - the start of autumn in this case.  I think that astronomically the equinox is actually another date, but I'll stick with the 21st.

Yes, it's a season of change.

Kindest regards to you all,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Robin Williams and a Sky Full of Stars

Hello Everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.

I've been thinking a lot about Robin Williams, who died - by suicide - almost two weeks ago.  I've read articles in the papers, looked at old pictures, put some of his films on hold at the library.

One columnist (and I can't find the article just now) wrote about why it is that when someone well known dies we mourn as if the person is someone we know.  The reason is because that person is someone we know.  

I've seen at least a dozen of Williams' films - laughed and cried with his characters.  I've heard him on t.v. interviews.  He has been for most of my adult life.  His characters get a bit mixed up in my mind ... possibly because the film characters he played were all Individuals my mind creates a bit of Williams-the-person in all of them, puts them together, and ... well, there he is ... someone I know ... just like I know the characters in favorite books.

Stories are real.  Just ask a 4 year old.  My own four year old remains, manifest with all the versions of me there are ... and they all recognize the reality of the stories and characters I see or read.

As for the depression Robin Williams lived with and which must surely have made him the Individual he was ... I'm going to grieve some more, and think on a lot of things.

Two (of no doubt many) articles worth reading are noted below.  The Redhill piece about the commonalities of depression is close to the heart/mind.  He mentions the last line from Dante's Inferno, as an idea to hold on to because it reminds us that depression may chew you up but it may then spit you back into a reality you can appreciate:  Thence we came forth to rebehold the stars.

I hope Robin is somehow, somewhere rebeholding the most beautiful sky full of stars.

Sincerely and with all best wishes,

Why's Woman

Thoughts on depression from an artistic mind
MICHAEL REDHILL, Contributed to The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, Aug. 15 2014

The mystery of creativity and madness
The Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente, Published Thursday, Aug. 14 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Monday, August 4, 2014

World War I ... where are the voices of the pacifists?

Good morning everyone,

I hope this day finds you well, gardening, cycling, reading, or wall climbing ... whatever activity you enjoy!

This morning's CBC had yet another mention of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the first world war ... an important event without doubt: did I hear the number 8,000,000 as the number who died?

There's been a series on CBC, a re-discovery of interviews with WWI veterans done 50 years ago.  TVO is about to run the 4th part of a series, which shows worse images each part.

Commemoration services are across the country, and probably across the world.

What I have yet to hear on the admittedly few media I follow is information about people who were against the war.  I'd like to hear their ideas, know how they served in non-combat roles.  What little I do know - and you might laugh at my source - comes from Agatha Christie's stories.  She made several mentions of those who objected to the war who served as ambulance drivers and medics (right at the front), in hospitals, and generally in very difficult physical jobs.  They "served" but did not serve in ways they had to kill.

And that is what any war is about: killing.  Film from WWI - on the TVO series - does not hide the bodies, the amputations, the facial disfigurements, the pain.  One hundred years ago ... whatever kind of lives did the men with horrible facial disfigurement have?  I bet they didn't go out of their homes, or hold jobs.  The culture was that way; such people were hidden. 

None of the war shows so far has talked about the agricultural disruption, the education disruption that must have occurred for children. 

And, from the TVO series, even at the end of the first episode, all I could think was: men need to be kept inside their homes where they cannot get at each other.  I'll be kinder here and say, political leaders.  Political leaders need to be put in a locked room until they sort out whatever the personal power trip is that they are on. And if they kill each other, send in the second in command and let them stay in with the bodies and work it out. Don't involve the intelligent and capable men, women and children of a country in a boundary dispute or a resource dispute.

Perhaps let the problems be resolved by grandmothers or kindergarten teachers, people who have a proven track record of teaching how to share and be kind to one another.

The above is badly expressed, I realize.

Listening to the voices of soldiers from nearly 100 years ago, seeing photos of bodies piled on bodies ... and then listening to today's news of Ukraine, Gaza, Syria ...

... it's being done wrong ... it's being handled wrong ... I don't know the answers, or even the questions ... but I know it's wrong.

Sincerely and with kindest regards,

Why's Woman

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: http://foecanada.org/en/2014/06/gardeners-beware-2014/   (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: http://foecanada.org/en/takeaction/home-garden-petition/
Sierra Club also has an action on the go:  http://www.sierraclub.ca

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: http://foecanada.org/en/
       and the report on its site: http://foecanada.org/en/2014/06/gardeners-beware-2014/
Friends of the Earth Canada Bee Cause site: http://foecanada.org/en/environmental-justice/the-bee-cause/
Friends of the Earth Canada petition to stop neonic plant sales:
Friends of the Earth U.S. http://www.foe.org/beeaction
Pesticide Research Institute: https://www.pesticideresearch.com/site/
Task Force on Systemic Pesticides and the report: http://www.tfsp.info/

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