Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Toronto's air quality index hits 50 + yesterday, and it's only May.

An economist calls this situation an externality, that is the economic decision maker does not bear the costs from his or her action. Simply put, the car drivers and heavy hydro users in Ontario and the U.S. are getting a free good - the right to pollute the air.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


A new study in the Arctic is encouraging; it shows that stopping production of dangerous chemicals can have rapid and effective results. In 2000, the 3M corporation voluntarily agreed to stop producing the chemical PFOS (perfluorooctane sulphonate). The new University of Toronto study found reductions in PFOS contamination levels in Arctic seals ranging from 67-80% among various populations

This is good news for humans too - PFOS has been detected in humans across North America and it has also been linked to bladder and liver cancer.

Once environmentalists convince the public of an environmental threat, industry officials and conservative politicians often switch tactics and claim that action will have no noticeable effect, or that taking action is too difficult. This study is encouraging because it undermines those claims.

Yard Sale

A street wide yard sale in Toronto, May 28. There's something exhilirating about getting rid of your old furniture and junk for money. You feel as though your life is open to new possibilities, new configurations.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

A new building pierces the Toronto skyline

Daniel Libeskind's hallucinatory construction takes shape on Bloor Street. The crystal made of steel is one of the most challenging structures built by Canadian ironworkers. Libeskind's original design called for a crystal structure made out of glass, but later it was discovered that in winter this design would cause ice to form and then slide off the building, raining death on passers-by. The revised design includes special surfaces on the steel crystal to inhibit such ice formation.

A new vegetable pierces the Toronto skyline

On Thursday we cooked these fabulous organic asparagus spears. The Dominion usually has asparagus from Peru or somewhere extremely far away, which is pure madness. The Welsh Family Organics asparagus are tastier and thicker, and produced in Simcoe County. I was able to pick them up in Kensington Market.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Plant Day, May 13

Toronto's non-profit food sharing and healthy food distributor, Food Share, had their annual general meeting and plant sale on May 13. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and we picked up some promising heritage plant varieties, including
  • broccoli
  • parsley
  • basil
  • Swiss chard
  • zucchini

Since our soil is fairly acidic, I went out and got some dolomitic lime to sweeten the soil in our vegetable patch. Unfortunately I applied the lime without paying enough attention to the dosage instructions. Apparently I exceeded the recommended dose by a factor of 4x. Hmm. We shall see what grows in that particular patch this year.

The Current talks the green talk

The Current, Radio One's current affairs show, had an excellent show this morning on environmental technologies, specifically around climate change. The panel discussion included Beatrice Olivastri from Friends of the Earth Canada and David Keith from the University of Calgary. This discussion covered a number of key points including some discussion of 'tech fixes' and the popular belief that a magical future tech fix will solve our climate change crisis. The reality is that Canadians have access to technologies that allow a 50% or more reduction in CO2 emissions; it's a matter of political will and social attitudes that need to change.

One guest commented that while it's true that some technologies will not affect lifestyles (e.g energy efficient refrigerators), other aspects of lifestyle will require changes (commuting long distances in 3,000 kg vehicles). It's good to see an informed debate on this critical issue

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Resign, Ambrose

It's time for Rona Ambrose, Canada's disgraceful excuse for an environment minister, to resign. Her performance in the last 3 months is unacceptable, culminating in an announcement that the Harper government intents to renege on Canada's Kyoto committments. What's more, Ambrose plans to go ahead and chair a United Nations meeting on Kyoto in Bonn later this year, despite the Harper government's anti-Kyoto shenanigans. Talk about the foxes guarding the henhouse. The foxes have eaten the chickens and are pouring gasoline all over the henhouse at the moment

Bernard Bigras was interviewed on As it Happens tonight. The Bloc Quebecois environment critic is mobilizing the opposition to force the government to meet its Kyoto committments. Bigras called on the government to formulate a plan by October 15, 2006 to. Ambrose is following the Bush approach - delay, obfuscate, and dither.

"The big polluters must reduce their emissions. The Bush administration did not choose to fight climate change emissions. The big polluters must step up to the table, " said Bigras.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pear Tree blossoms

Our pear tree has blossomed. It looks to be a good year for pears.


A Megabin rears its head on Queen West, near Shaw. The megabin pilot project has garnered controversy ever since it was proposed. The debate pits spacing, a local Toronto advocacy group, versus EUCAN, the megabin contractor. According to spacing's last update on this issue, the megabins are toast, and no more bins will be deployed.

This has been a difficult issue for the city to sort through. Clearly the existing garbage cans are inadequate - they often overflow and as a result litter piles up, and recyclables end up in the land fill. And it's absolutely necessary that Toronto reduces the nearly 100 garbage trucks per day that are sent to far-away Michigan. But does that mean we need six-foot tall "solar-powered garbage cans."

Check out the product specs for the Megabin at EUCAN's site, where they list "City Domination Opportunities." as a key feature. The environmental claims made on EUCAN's web site ring hollow. Why does a trash can need power at all?

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Yellow Pear Tomatoes

Every year we buy tomato starter plants from Foodshare's Plant Day, but this year we're trying something new. We are trying to grow yellow pear tomatoes from seed. Our favorite variety is a heritage variety called Yellow Pear tomatoes. The plants produce masses of tiny yellow pear-shaped tomatoes.I have never grown anything from seed before; it is pretty exciting.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Get Lululost

I noticed this annoying display in a Toronto location of lululemon: a semi-political display about why lululemon is manufacturing in Asia. After researching the issue it seems that lululemon which previously manufactured locally only, is shifting its production from Canada to Asia. The reasons they list for the manufacturing shift include "an overabundance of skilled seamstresses", and "proximity to our offshore retail stores".

Yeah right. The reason lululemon is manufacturing in Sri Lanka is because of the enormous popularity of the brand in Sri Lanka. We just can't ship our finished goods to Sri Lanka fast enough, so we built a factory there. It has nothing to do with lower wages in these countries. Their web site echoes this statement, saying they are shifting "a percentage of our production" so that it is "closer to our offshore retail stores."

Anyhow, every time I walked by that window, that pompous, patronizing bit of corporate nonsense was bugging me. People weren't born yesterday; they know that offshoring is happening. Lululemon may not be able to compete without Asian labor, but at least call a spade a spade and tell us how your Asian sweatshops are better than the other ones, etc. etc. Anything's better than this intelligence-insulting happy face corporate crap. I may never buy lululemon again