Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pollinator Health Strategy for Ontario - everyone has a say

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  

Over the last months - well, over a year - I've been doing so much reading about bees and other pollinators, and neocotinoid insecticides that I've sometimes thought I'd burst.  

Today  I attended the first of four public meetings, set up by the Ontario Agriculture and Environment ministries, to receive comment on a proposed Pollinator Health Strategy (PHS).  The controversial part of the PHS is its aspirational goal of reducing use of neonicotinoid treated corn and soy seed by 80 percent. 

People with very different perspectives exchanged ideas and opinions. Facilitators ensured everyone participated.  I am an urbanite concerned about food systems, environment and economy; differing opinions around the table did not "dilute" my comments.  I use that word "dilute" because the Grain Farmers of Ontario complained that their opinions would be diluted if they made them in a room full of city dwellers.  I've got to admit, that hurt my feelings at first  ... then I just laughed about how silly it was.

Isn't it supposed to be a good strategy to "be at the table", hearing what the other guy is saying?  Or, to use the joke, Isn't that the same as "keep your friends close and your enemies closer"?  (I figure members of Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) were at the meeting despite advising its members to boycott it; good strategy would require it)

The PHS recommendation to reduce acreage planted using neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds is based on peer-reviewed studies of  those insecticides' negative effects on pollinators, arthropods, and birds.   

Ag/chem interests are always saying we should base our decisions on "sound science". "Science" is a set of methods for gathering and interpreting information.  Rigorous scientific method may or may not give you the answer you want to a question; getting an answer you do not want does not make the "science" unsound. 

In my thinking the science behind the PHS is pretty sound.  And I've sure done the reading over the last year!

There are actually even stronger measures I'd like to see our provincial government take, and I'd like to have a much expanded over-arching pollinator health strategy than is outlined in the proposal.  I'm hoping the big picture stuff will be more fully worked up in the report due out July 2015.  

But I'm really pleased to see my provincial government take a step ahead of other provinces and the feds, and acknowledge that something has to be done to save our ecosystem and food supply, and to come up with a practical measure to make change ... even tho' it's ticked off the big ag chemical companies to a degree they haven't been ticked off in years.  

O.k., ... I admit ... especially since it's ticked 'em off.

Good on ya, ministers Leal in agriculture and Murray in Environment and Climate Change. 

Very best regards.  I hope your day was as satisfying as mine.

Why's Woman

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A New-Fashioned Food System


I hope this day finds you well!  The new issue of Mother Earth News landed in my mail box this morning and Joel Salatin's article got me all excited and into writing mode.  I've cross-posted this to the Community Gardens London website, which I try to keep up to date.

Very best regards!

Wise Woman

"Conscientious farmers need to do a better job of explaining their proven, cutting-edge methods"

This is the message in Joel Salatin's newest post in the Dec14/Jan15 issue of Mother Earth News.

"If I denounce genetically modified organisms (GMOs), I'm naive and anti-science. If I disagree with a food-safety policy that criminalizes an artisan who sells homemade yogurt to a friend at church, I'm an anarchist."

Salatin says that healthful food producers and environmentalists have to develop and use better language to explain and promote what we do. When we denounce something, we have to spend time and energy defending against the corporate cries against us.

Our time and energy is better used in promoting what we know to be better. Find new language to say why we are for something, use it with all the media-savvy we can, and get on with it.

What lexicon works? Salatin says "It has to be big enough, innovative enough, sacred enough to capture the hearts of all types of people"

We have to get away from the corporate/media promoted idea that we want to go "back" to old farming techniques or, in the case of environment issues, to non-technologic times. 

Acknowledge that people don't want to go "back". Even as we find ourselves media'd and consumer'd out - is it Christmas yet? - most of us don't want to be thought out of date. And frankly, we don't want to do all the labour we associate with "old-fashioned".

Food production systems are even more amazing than we ever realized, and deserve respect and care.

We can promote that what's newest is based firmly on the literal groundwork of generations of gardeners, farmers, and environmentalists. And yes, this is all based on good science and its practical applications can give food producers a living wage.

Salatin suggests we tell people that we want "integrated food and farming rather than segregated". Then we can speak enthusiastically about how the new farming understands the interactions between soil microbiology and animal and plant health, and both embraces and innovates technologies that save time and extend seasons. .

He goes on to explain about "food systems that caress rather than conquer" and "healing rather than hurting", and that up-to-date farmers don't use Grandpa's methods. We take his (or Grandma's!) best practices and upgrade them with environmentally sound and practical technologies and ideas.

And he reassures us that "getting a reaction is what we need to do, because it means people are paying attention".

Altogether, a great read.

Note: New-Fashioned Food System s not online yet because it is in the current issue, so a purchase of this excellent magazine or a trip to the library may be in order. A visit to Mother Earth Newswebsite is always interesting and useful. It posts articles from back issues, and its website carries articles on-line only and has blogs and forums about important topics like raising chickens, food, and homesteading (lots of great things even for urbanites). Several of Joel Salatin's books are in the London Public library and his Poly Face Farm website is: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/

Thursday, October 30, 2014

If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions


Hello everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.

I'd like to say thanks to the Guardian News online (www.theguardian.com) for its environment pages.  There's always something new and interesting.  And altho' there is all the serious stuff, there are often galleries of fascinating photos and sometimes articles like the one I just ran across: If we want to make climate action happen we need to hear about the solutions.  (Mal Chadwick, Guardian News online, http://www.theguardian.com, Wednesday 29 October, 2014)

The article tells us that "the biggest threat to progress on climate change is cynicism" ... certainly not a new idea.

What was a pleasant and hopeful surprise was hearing about the 10:10’s #itshappening project's "brighter view to ‘restore a sense of possibility’ on climate action, showcasing real solutions such as this giant suspended bike roundabout."

I don't understand what this even is, but is sort of sounds like fun ... as well as a practical thing that makes bicycling easier.

The 10:10 project also highlights Dutch-style bike lanes planned for Los Angeles, solar-powered hospitals in Haiti and Nepal, a state of the art lifeboat station in Cornwall England that keeps lifeguards warm with the UK’s first marine source heat pump, community-owned river turbines in the Philippines, and an Aberdeenshire hair-dressing salon that reduced its energy use by 90% in its go-green efforts.

The 10:10 project describes its gallery as a simple "selection of things we wish more people knew about – a trove of inspirational stories that team 10:10 find during the year and squirrel away for autumn ... there for people to share, to start conversations with friends and for when you need a reminder of what humanity is capable of."

The 10:10’s #itshappening project is found at http://www.1010uk.org/itshappening and will brighten your day.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

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