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A ‘Green’ World Cup with a carbon footprint of 2,753,251 tons of CO2?

Amid the excitement of the World Cup it is easy to forget that international sporting spectacles as large as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa have significant environmental impacts. The media has tended to focus our attention to controversies surrounding the World Cup such the banning of the vuvuzela, predicting final contenders, and more serious concerns such as the inequalities that plague South Africa. However, the media has been quick to turn a blind eye to the carbon footprint of the World Cup. How ‘climate-friendly’ is the World Cup? According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the FIFA World Cup in South Africa is undeniably ‘green’. Three days before the kick-off, UNEP issued a press release highlighting its major initiatives to reduce the carbon emissions of the World Cup. The initiative is a result of a partnership between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNEP, and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).  Supported by US$1 million in GEF funding, the initiative includes three major greening projects: renewable energy interventions in six World Cup host cities, an awareness-raising drive on green tourism, and a programme to offset the carbon emissions of eleven World Cup teams. In addition, the DEA, identified five carbon offset projects to counter travelers' emissions. The projects include solar cookers, soil composing, energy efficient lighting, wind energy, and domestic fire lighting. But are these efforts at reducing the carbon footprint of the World Cup really enough? Not according to a study conducted by the Norwegian embassy and the Government of South Africa.  The study found that this World Cup will emit 2,753,251 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is roughly equivalent to the amount released by one million cars over the course of a year. In other terms, the games will emit as much CO2 as 6,000 space shuttle fights or a 1 billion cheeseburgers. Even worse news is that the emission levels of this World Cup are six times higher than the last World Cup in Berlin.  The reasons include the number of international flights, the ‘necessary’ new infrastructure developments, and the reliance on coal burning to meet the influx of tourists’ energy demand. Ironically, this World Cup’s massive carbon footprint coincides with the June 2010 Bonn international climate talks, where, once again, negotiators failed to move forward on a post-Kyoto text. Naturally, the international talks in Bonn have been completely foreshadowed by international World Cup fervor. So before we watch the next match, perhaps we should take a moment to consider how our thirst for entertainment might impact the global climate system.

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NIMBYism and windfarms in Toronto

The City of Toronto was well ahead of the Canadian curve when it came to adopting basic principles of sustainability around public transport, intensification of building density and the need to increase sources of renewable energy. The Ontario Green Energy Act has provided marvelous opportunities for increasing provincial sources of renewable energy. I have been amazed at how wind farms built in recent years in southwestern Ontario and on the way to Grey Bruce have livened up the landscape.

But, as the province moves on from terrestrial wind farms to offshore projects, one Toronto community is mobilizing against them. Some Guildwood residents have asked their city councilors, Paul Ainslie and Brian Ashton, to bring forward a motion to the city’s executive committee asking the province for a blanket-moratorium on wind-power development. The Globe and Mail article, Bluff residents fight wind turbines, explains that this motion, if passed, will be purely symbolic. But, while it will have little impact, it illustrates the nature of local opposition to such projects. The article quotes my colleague, Mark Winfield: "it would be “tragic" if fear of angering residents prevented the city’s politicians from pursuing much-needed renewable energy initiatives."

I am grading final exams right now. Since my head is in this space, my response on hearing about this motion in the last week was to imagine a take-home exam that I would like to set all of the voting residents of this local community. Here are the essay questions:

1. Explain what the acronym NIMBY stands for and discuss how this may or may not be applicable to Guildwood.

2. Define the term “ecological footprint” and explain how you would calculate your personal footprint.

3. In the documentary, The Age of Stupid, the filmmaker, Franny Armstrong illustrates the case of local residents opposing a wind farm project on the basis of landscape aesthetics. Compare and contrast this case with that of Guildwood in terms of how you are still “do[ing] your bit for the environment” (quote from wind-farm opponent in The Age of Stupid).

4. Discuss the evidence in the peer-reviewed literature for the harmful impacts of wind farms on human health and the environment. In your answer, define the term, peer-reviewed literature. (hint - you may want to use Google Scholar for this).

The purpose of these questions? Well, none of them have definitive right or wrong answers, so they are aimed at improving the level of informed opinions on the issue, because, obviously, there is homework that would need to be done to answer these questions. In the Globe article, Mr. Ainslie comments “there’s a lot of things that are unanswered”. These questions would help in addressing his concerns.

And, I am NOT advocating for only peer-reviewed science to drive action and policy. My close colleague,  environmental ethicist, Dr. Nicole Klenk proposes that “scientific narratives should be denied a priori privilege over non-scientific interpretations of nature for policy purposes”. I completely agree – local knowledge is very important and should be taken into account. BUT just how much local knowledge is there about wind farms in Guildwood?

I have lost patience with the dominant notion in our society, that an uninformed opinion should count for as much as an informed opinion. Too many people, including my teenager,  are getting away without doing their homework. The question of exactly whom I see as being responsible for this lamentable state of affairs is a topic for another blog.

Dawn R. Bazely

PS the quote is from the 2008 article, Listening to the birds: a pragmatic proposal for forestry in the peer-reviewed journal, Environmental Values, volume 17, pages 331-351

Upcoming conference 21-22 Oct 09: Environmental Assessment at a Crossroads

The Ontario Association for Impact Assessment (OAIA) invites interested researchers, students and faculty to attend their upcoming conference  (see UniversityPoster2009) at the Ontario Science Centre, Toronto, on October 21st and 22nd 2009.

Student registration is $75. The OAIA is dedicated to supporting students, and is hosting a range of networking events at the conference.

Age of Stupid to be screened in Toronto at M.U.C.K. film festival and forum Saturday October 3rd at 6:30 pm

The engaging docu-drama about climate change, The Age of Stupid, will be screened this coming Saturday, at 6:30 pm at The Royal Cinema, 608 College Street (Little Italy) (416 534 5252) at the M.U.C.K. Film Festival and Forum.

The M.U.C.K. film festival and forum runs from Thursday October 1st to Sunday October 4th and features "movies of uncommon knowledge" that aim to "enlighten, enrage, engage and change", along with panels comprising the film makers and experts.

Read Dawn Bazely's review of the film, here.

Pistachio’s Heather Reisman – “Buy less. Buy better. Buy forever”

This past Christmas, I was delighted to find a great range of cards from Pistachio (the latest project of Heather Reisman of Chapters-Indigo). They were "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" cards, which thereby extended the Christmas card-sending season to March.  Plus, they were FSC-branded, 100% post-consumer waste fibre, Soya Ink, powered by Green Energy - Mohawk, Made in Canada.  Yeh!! Every kind of serious sustainability logo, right there. My decade-long lack of enthusiasm for cards has largely been driven by concerns about ecological footprints, as well as time crunches associated with grading 100s of final exams and essays at Christmas and attending untold numbers of "festivals of lights" school celebrations. But, I acknowledge that cards are an important means of staying connected and serve an important social purpose.  These Pistachio cards allowed me to do that, and simultaneously underscore my sustainability message to friends and relatives.

Pistachio was back in my thoughts today, thanks to Jennifer Well's article in the Globe and Mail Business magazine: "It's not easy being Pistachio - Heather Reisman is moving eco-products upscale. But will her aim exceed consumers' reach?" Reisman is quoted as saying: "Buy less. Buy better. Buy forever." Wow!!

Reisman has found that people are willing to pay a 5-15% premium for sustainable, ethically-sourced items.  This compares surprisingly closely with the student responses to question 9 of IRIS' Carbon Offsetting survey, in which just under 50% of those surveyed saying that they would pay 5-10% more for environmentally friendly products.  Only 20% said that they would be willing to pay over a 10% premium.

I wish Pistachio all the best, and recently stocked up on their thank you cards. But what I'd really like to see, and would buy, is a set of cards with the "Buy less. Buy better. Buy forever." slogan emblazoned across the front.

Dawn Bazely

Are we finally reaching a tipping point?

Yesterday Al Gore gave a speech challenging the United States to produce all of its electricity from renewable energy within 10 years. This is one of the first examples I have seen that is truly a dramatic step toward change, versus the incremental policies and initiatives we have seen so far from North America's businesses and governments (small unreliable subsidy programs, greenwashing type products and services, etc).


The Necessary RevolutionAnd, earlier this week I was introduced to a new book titled The Necessary Revolution, How Individuals And Organizations Are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World, by Peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina Kruschwitz, Joe Laur, and Sara Schley. The book describes real examples of collaborations that are happening around the world to create transformative change, leading to regenerative solutions, which are essential to the creation of a flourishing, sustainable world. I'm only about a third of the way through the book, so will report back once I'm finished. So far, I can say that the book is really inspiring, and I love the way it incorporates systems thinking to shake us out of our silos and see the bigger picture. I also really like their focus on creating a desired future, versus problem solving. This is a far more motivating and engaging approach.

We know that the world needs to seriously change, and only time will tell at what point humanity wakes up and not only takes notice but actually plants itself on a different path. The noticing part has been growing strong over the last couple of years, and maybe, just maybe, we're ready to take action in a serious way!

IRIS & Toronto Net Impact Professional Chapter March Event

March Event: Renewable Energy Panel Discussions

Join Tom Heintzman, the co-founder and CEO of Bullfrog Power, leading provider of 100% green electricity; Kerry Adler, CEO of SkyPower, the leading independant renewable energy developer in Canada; and Jose Etcheverry, a respected researcher with the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability ("IRIS"), as they discuss the future of renewable energy in Ontario.

TNIPC is proud to partner with IRIS for this, our first co-hosted speaker panel. Thanks to IRIS' generous support, there will be no fees for TNIPC and IRIS members and only a nominal - $10 fee – for non-members.


  • Tom Heintzman, President, Bullfrog Power;
  • Kerry Adler, CEO, SkyPower;
  • Jose Etcheverry, Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS) and the David Suzuki Foundation (DSF)

What: Growing Renewable Energy in Ontario - TNIPC and IRIS speaker panel
When: Thursday, March 27, 2008 (6-8 PM)
Where: Osgoode Professional Development (Osgoode Hall Law School of York University),1 Dundas Street West Suite 2602 (at Dundas and Yonge), Room E
Cost: Free for all TNIPC and IRIS members, $10 for non-members
RSVP for this event is required –