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Live Green Toronto Festival

With the sun shining and the mercury soaring (30+ degrees), I think we can breathe a collective sigh and say, "summer is here". The July long weekend is the official start of cottage weekends, summer concerts, and events and street festivals in the city. From Pride Week to Taste of the Danforth, the Honda Indy to Caribana, there is no shortage of action this summer.

One of the festivals I am most looking forward to is the Live Green Toronto Festival at Yonge and Dundas Square on July 16. This is Toronto's largest outdoor green festival with hundreds of green products and services, outdoor vendors, and live music throughout the day!

I can't wait to check out the vendors, munch on some local (and wheat free!) food, and take in some great live music. I'll also bring some of my duplicate, or less loved, DVDs for the SWAPZONE. I'm always looking to update my DVD collection at home and at the cottage (I need to at least entertain the possibility that there might be a rainy day) and this swap event is a totally free way to add some new titles to my collection -- plus, unlike other no cost options i.e. holding up your local blockbuster or downloading titles online, it is legal! 

Meaning, after it's all said and done, I'll have some new movies and music, and some extra coin in my wallet for some more tasty treats or perhaps a local microbrew on a patio that evening…

LCBO probably makes more progress in one flyer than Toronto’s cycling advocates make in two years…

My latest set of blogs are a bit delayed, because following on from teaching BIOLOGY 2010, York's Plant Biology course, and the arrival of a very early spring, I am writing a lot about food - security and sustainability. These blogs take a lot of fact-checking and research and are time-consuming to write.

So, here's a quick shout out to the LCBO - the Liquor Control Board of Ontario - who this past weekend, likely did more to promote cycling as a form of sustainable transportation among non-enthusiasts, than all of the cyclists, cycle clubs and cycling advocates that I know, put together, including the City of Toronto cycling office!


They put a very handsome young man, dressed in an impeccably tailored suit on a bike, and made it the cover of last weekend's flyer promoting French wine. This arrived as an insert in our Saturday paper.

Marketing-wise, we'd normally expect to see this chap in an ad for an expensive sports car, but here he is, on a bike, looking cool and trendy. Ahem, note to male members of my fellow middle-aged cohort "you are more likely to keep fitting into your expensive suits, if you cycle, rather than buy a sports car".

I have cycled hundreds and hundreds of kilometers in Oxford and Cambridge, as well as in the Netherlands, and Sweden. Everyone and their dog cycles around. BUT here in North America, despite the best intentions of  advocates, cycling's just not as widely perceived as something that everyone should do, for all of their life. I hope that this flyer cover has some unintended consequences that are good for the environment and people's health.

Just one beef about the adverts: as the parent of a teen, who thinks that bike helmets are totally dorky, despite the stats and the wide availability of cool helmets (widely reviewed, including at the website, Outdoor Urbanite) - I do wish that the inside shot with the baguette and flowers showed the model wearing a bike helmet.

[photopress:LCBO_french_lessons2.jpg,thumb,pp_image] DrumTom

Dawn R. Bazely

Eyjafjallajokull: Necessity is the mother of green invention?

This morning’s episode of CBC’s ‘The Current’ featured the sounds of birds singing in West London. A newsworthy event, since no one knows if the birds sing everyday. On most days, the songs are drowned out by the ever present droning of jet engines overhead. Local residents interviewed commented both on how nice the sounds of nature are, and how refreshing silence can be in the city. A radical idea: nature is part of the city and contributes to our well being. Elsewhere, the British Navy has sent ships to take stranded travelers home; others have taken trains home. And for those whose travel plans have been canceled, they are opting to go local by taking trips to the countryside.  A radical idea: we can relax close to home, and we can move across Europe by train, boat, and not plane.  Business is adapting as well, with the grounding of employees on their way to meetings, conferences, and presentations, business is replacing travel with video conferencing.  Another radical idea: business people do not have to fly for every meeting abroad.  Perhaps the Icelandic volcano was fortuitous for climate politics, because without any advocacy from environmentalists, people have found alternative ways for moving, consuming, and conducting business. It is estimated that the grounding of planes has saved about 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in less than a week (plane emissions minus volcano emissions).  This is not to sideline the frustration of millions of travelers or the loss of millions to the airline industry. But, just before the planes take off again, we should take a moment to think about how this one geological event opened a space of potentiality, and showed us that we can find alternatives to emitting GHGs, if necessary.

COP15: The entitled, the resentful and the powerless


From one perspective, the climate change conference in Copenhagen looks rational.  It’s about science – understanding the implications of the largest scientific project in history – and it’s about deliberation – well briefed representatives of 192 nations brought together to write an international treaty.  But the meeting is not so rational.  People come to the negotiating table not only with interests, but also with emotions.  The negotiators in Copenhagen represent some who feel entitled, others who feel resentful and yet others who feel powerless.  This play of emotions seems to be the story of the conference, a global summit of desires, fears, outrage and frustration.  Out of this mix of emotions, the challenge is to feel and act on the latent but powerful feeling of mutual responsibility.

The feelings of resentment and powerlessness come into focus when the feelings of entitlement are acknowledged.  No leader of any developed country can say to its citizens, “We are not entitled to our way of life.”  The point of view is implicit in the language: “we” are developed; those who do not share our prosperity are “developing” or “underdeveloped.”  Surely the road ahead, as the international development industry has taught for decades, is for others to model themselves on us, to work hard and succeed, just as we have.  “We” can help the underdeveloped.  Money is available for assistance in climate adaptation and mitigation.  There are intellectual and organizational resources as well to support the transformation of the global energy system.

All this good will does not challenge the feelings of entitlement in developed countries, or even admit that entitlement is an issue.  People have become accustomed to - and the economic system dependent on - transportation, food and building practices that are comfortable and satisfying, but unsustainable.  Even leisure activities that produce high greenhouse gas emissions – air travel, destination holidays, cruise ships – seem unlikely to change dramatically on a voluntary basis.  This sense of entitlement is understandable.  Prosperous countries have meaningful historical narratives of hardship, struggle and success.

It is precisely this sense of entitlement that is the focus of the resentments that have surfaced so strongly in Copenhagen.  China, India and the others in the G77 use the language of “historical responsibility” - greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere when the West dominated industrial production.   The West has been responsible for the problem; the West has the responsibility to clean up the mess. Because the West’s prosperity is based on creating a global crisis, it also has the responsibility to assist others with the clean technologies that the global crisis requires.  To do otherwise is to ask the victims to pay for the damages.  The resentment gets even stronger.  Consider the history of the India textile industry.  When India was a colony, village weavers, using low GHG producing hand looms, were driven out of business by the importation of cheap cloth from British coal fired textile mills.  Now, India, with its impoverished multitudes, is being asked to restrain low per capita green house gas emissions in order for the West to continue its prosperity and higher per capita GHG emissions!  Perhaps the expressions of resentment are partly verbal posturing, intended to produce an agreement more favorable to the interests of the G77 plus China, but the outrage and anger are much more than tactics.

Some other countries, lacking the political leverage of China, India and a handful of others, are the beggars at the banquet.  The 39 members of the Alliance of Small Island States are, with the exception of Singapore, low income and vulnerable.  They can plead, but their ability to influence is slight.  The Alliance includes the most desperate, and the most frustrated.

The outcome at COP15 depends on more than the science, the negotiators’ clarity on national interests, and the skills at compromise.  The outcome, and even more the follow through, depend as well on the emotions that come out of the conference.  The perpetuation of entitlement, resentment and powerlessness jeopardize global success.  Rising to the challenge of climate change requires other emotions, of mutual care and concern, across the globe and across generations.  Success will ultimately come from shared personal commitments, and leadership that evokes them.

Stuart is a long-serving member of the IRIS Executive.

Dawn R. Bazely

Sustainability and exhaustion – don’t let it get you down

[photopress:Messy_desktop1.jpg,thumb,pp_image][photopress:Messy_desk2.jpg,thumb,pp_image][photopress:messy_study_3.jpg,thumb,pp_image]Being a director of a sustainability institute and an academic is very tiring - even for a hyper Type A personality who can still put in a 16 hour field day. Not only am I always having to think about my ecological and carbon footprints, and where to buy good offsets, but in a world of greenwashing, scrutinizing everything for its authenticity is also de rigeur.  Uggh - AND THEN THERE'S THE BLOGGING. I have always had two settings - on and off. I like to jump out of bed and hit the ground running, but these days, I often feel like a car engine that's starting on a cold winter's morning. So, it's time for a mechanical overhaul. Here's what I have used  in the past, and will again, to fix the stalled engine:

These may also be helpful for those of you out there who feel overwhelmed by your life, the state of the world and the fact that Terence Corcoran in the National Post is still insisting that the science of climate change is suspect:

1. A life coach (I wrote about this in the article, Coaching for My Life, University Affairs, 2005) (I don't have time for this, these days, but you might).

2. Some great organizational and behavioural modification (often, from business) books. My ipod is filled with audiobooks such as Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy, The Golden Rule of Schmoozing by Aye Jaye, Ready for Anything by Dave Allen, The 60 Second Procrastinator by Jeff Davidson (may be out of print, so borrow it from the library), Your Management Sucks by Mark Stevens, Women and Money by Suze Orman, Crucial Confrontations and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and colleagues, Making Work Work by Julie Morgernstern (Oprah's organizing guru - and my favourite organization person to read, including her other book, Never Read Email in the Morning), What got you here, won't get you there! by Marshall Goldsmith (and, of course, The Art of War).

3. Podcasts. If you are a poor student and can't afford to pay for a life coach or audiobooks, then download some podcasts, such as Motivation to Move's Daily Boost, The Suze Orman podcast (on itunes), Marcus Buckingham (big time life coach) and Oprah's Take Control of Your Career and Your Life (itunes), and while you are at it, grab some Yoga lessons from Yogamazing (itunes), plus the Manager Tools podcast (itunes) will give you all kinds of sound advice on organizing things.

4. Other people who are more swamped than me: and, you can see the incredible mess on my computer screen and in my home office (above), and feel a sense of superiority. I find that it's always comforting to know that someone else is worse off. Here's what I will be using today, in my surroundings to give me motivation and energy:

The 2006 farewell Globe and Mail article by Ken Wiwa about his decision to return with his family to the UK and to work with the Nigerian government,  pinned to the wall in front of me. The dried edelweiss flower that my former student, and current research collaborator, Andrew Tanentzap gave me as a gift, from a trip to Europe. The photos of past and present grad students and family that are part of the clutter: they make me smile and feel guilty at the same time - a great carrot and stick, combined into one item!


Dawn Bazely

“Whatever happened to the paperless office, anyway?”

I was browsing through topics on sustainability on The Global and Mail website and I came across an article describing something with which we have a love/hate relationship: paper.

It passes through our hands at least a dozen times each day, often simultaneously giving us headaches (not to mention paper cuts!). It has the power to give us pain or pleasure (or both). It bridges the gap between hands and minds. We have designed elaborate systems and products for organizing, storing and presenting it. These facts ring particularly true in the office, where paper has virtually become a defining component.

This really makes you wonder: is it a tool in our service, or are we the ones being enslaved?

This article discusses growing initiatives in companies to reduce paper usage (and ultimately, disposal) for environmental, as well as financial reasons. Ironically, despite the rise of technology and the sparkling visions of digital texts, Statistics Canada has found in 2006 "that Canadians' paper consumption 'more than doubled between 1983 and 2003' and that 'the production and use of paper products is at an all-time high'" (Silverman 2009). These statistics, however, need not overshadow the reality of tactics and technologies that are being developed and applied to ease our obsession. In addition to the option of electronic pay statements, companies can now provide Web-based time-sheets (offered by Nexonia, a Toronto company), snail mail by email (Earth Class Mail, in the United States), and a digital archive of a company's paper receipts (Shoeboxed). Here, we must insert another "however"; our generation still clings tightly to these artifacts of our culture. Only 35 per cent of employees at Indigo have subscribed to electronic pay statements. The University of Calgary is still towered by the 20,000-feet stack of paper it produces per year. As much as I cringe at the sight of new pages spilling forth to correct a single word, I cannot yet imagine a world without our fine printed friend. I don't believe there is a need to. Like other issues in sustainability, the first step should be awareness, followed by reduction and moderation. In this vein, the article closes with a more realistic perspective on the situation, proposing the more reasonable goal of shifting to the 'less paper' - rather than 'no paper' - office.

By the way, I found it very interesting, almost touching, to see the dedication of a Xerox executive (François Ragnet) to the future and sustainability of his company's product. His blog, titled The Future of Documents, can be found here.

Obesity adds to global warming – but where’s the paper?

The reason why I found blogging so tough to sustain, was that I could not overcome my urge to check into every last detail, and the time needed to fact-check my blogs was getting way out of hand. Here's one hitherto unpublished blog: last May, 2008, the Globe & Mail's Life section had an article about the research of Dr. Phil Edwards, Senior Lecturer, and Prof. Ian Roberts, at the prestigious London School of Hygeine & Tropical Medicine. Basically, the Globe (along with other media outlets, including the USA's MSNBC site, CNN and the UK's Daily Telegraph) carried the story, entitled "Obesity adds to global warming", about the research that describes how obese and overweight people "require more fuel to transport them and the food they eat", and then makes the link between this and the greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, that is driving climate change. I interpreted this as leaving me with the following take home sustainability message - "eat less and lose weight, and not just for for your own health, but for the environment."

This reported research finding illustrates two really important things about the pain of peer-reviewed research: As scientists, we often take years to show that intuitive ideas and guesses do hold. There are no surprises about this particular result - it takes more energy to move heavy goods (you pay more for it at the post office). BUT - I am more likely to take this finding seriously because it comes from academics who have published their research through the highly-scrutinized peer-review process. This is known as "publish or perish" and it's what makes university-based research more reliable than non-refereed, unscrutinized research.

The second thing, is that as a scientist, it's not enough for me to read about this in the newspaper. I immediately went to access The Lancet, the prestigious journal in which the study was published. And this is where the fun began. First, I could not find any such article in the latest on-line issue, which I accessed through the York University Library. So, I searched the entire contents of the journal. I found a just-published article called "Transport Policy is Food Policy" by the two authors, which I thought MUST be the journal paper that all the media outlets were referring to. BUT, the download link to the pdf was wrong and it gave me another article (this does occasionally happen with on-line science journals). After a bit more persistence, I DID get the article, which turns out not to be a full journal article, but an item of correspondence. Hmm - I wonder what the review process is for 'correspondence'?

Next I found, by googling a bit more, that there are numerous peer-reviewed journal articles making the links between greenhouse gas emissions, food transportation policy and obesity. Wow - I had no idea that this was such an academic issue. Next, I read some articles that quote a bunch of US Academics who counter the point of the Edwards & Robert's paper.  Wow, this could have taken the entire weekend to research, so, in the end I gave up my Saturday morning blogging in frustration at the time sink I was turning it into, and grabbed another cup of coffee. Next time someone asks me exactly how the kind of thinking that I do about sustainability differs from non-professorial sustainability thinkers, I will direct them to this blog.

Dawn Bazely

We Are the New Radicals

[photopress:book.jpg,full,alignright]“We are the New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World” (McGraw Hill, New York) is a new book by Julia Moulden. I first heard of it while listening to CBC radio’s Sounds Like Canada where Moulden was describing this movement of baby boomers and others that are positive, constructive and hopeful, and are choosing to give something back to the world through their work. That is that they are doing good and making a difference by doing more than simply volunteering and philanthropy. I love this idea! Not only is it a feel good story of some 30 million Americans that are part of this movement, but there is a strong business case to be made as well. As employees achieve success and move up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the needs to solve problems and be creative are more pertinent. Having a job that allows one to give back can be more engaging and rewarding than traditional work and can give companies an upper hand in the war-on-talent with higher retention rates, as well as giving them more productive employees. This book may contribute to the changing face of the workplace, especially on the CSR (corporate social responsibility) front as companies may choose to take on more ownership of their social or environmental initiatives to be able to meet the changing needs of their employees. Although it is nice to be able to do volunteer work in one’s own free time, this can sometimes be a challenge. Doing good while at work has the added benefit of making it somewhat easier to achieve work-life balance.

There will be a New Radicals Soirée April 15th in Toronto to celebrate the launch of the book, complete with food by Jamie Kennedy.