Sunday, June 25, 2006

Bullfrog Power

We're considering switching over to Bullfrog Power.

Bullfrog Power is one of Ontario's green electricity retailers. Their power is sourced from wind farms and low-impact hydroelectric. No physical change to your power supply is needed; you access power through the local electricity grid, but you get billed from Bullfrog instead of Toronto Hydro. It's a little more that you pay 9.1 c / kWh for power with Bullfrog. This is higher than the 5.8-6.1 c / kWh from Toronto hydro.

I like this new company but at the same time I'm a little frustrated by the implication that enviros should be paying double for their power. Sustainable development is not an obscure hobby or a luxury for righteous celebrities like Margaret Atwood. It's a huge problem that needs to be addressed through stronger mechanisms.

For example, let's take an analagous situation. Say we have a problem with stereos being stolen in our city. Let's say a lot of stereos are being stolen, and we want to fight this problem in some way. So, option A would be to solve it through economic choice. Call it the free market approach. We'd simply let people choose what kind of stereo to buy. According to economic theory, as long as there is enough demand for non-stolen stereos, the market will supply them. Under the free market approach, government will do nothing and it will get out of the way of the marketplace. Well, the only thing it might do is to facilitate things a little bit.. To help stereo purchasing do-gooders make choices, we might set up little government approved badges, that certify stereos as 'Certified Non-Stolen Stereo Equipment' or 'TheftStar' or something like that.

So what's the problem here? Why is this not a good solution? The do-gooders can buy their certified used stereos from the specialty shops, and other people can buy the cheap stereos from the shady pawn shops. Everybody's happy because they made their choice right?

Well, there are two problems with that solution. First of all, this is actually a very weak and ineffective way of addressing the problem. There is no economic incentive to buy non-stolen property. Stolen property will generally be cheaper because it is stolen property. That's why it's cheap! So if you want to actually reduce stealing, you need something a little more nippy than making sure that the choice of non-stolen things is available. You need a more effective way of dealing with it other than persuasion and market choice and certifications and badges.

The second problem with the market mechanism solution, is that well, bluntly put, stealing stereos is wrong. People who deliberately buy stolen stereos are assholes. Why should my neighbor have the right to buy things that were taken by a thief from my house?

The good news is that we've actually addressed the problem of stolen stereos in a rather effective way in the past. We call this the government regulation approach. We simply define the purchase of stolen stereos as an unacceptable market choice. You want to buy some stolen stereos? Too bad. You don't have the right to buy stolen stereos.

And it turns out that it actually is not too hard to prevent people from buying stolen stereos. And it actually doesn't involve a huge cost or a lot of heavy handed intrusion by government into the average person's life, because it mainly involves regulating people who are in the stereo business. The police visit pawn shops which sell stolen stereos and if they find any stolen stereos, they simply take them away and give them back to their owners. The people who make their living supplying pawn shops with stolen stereos sooner or later get arrested and they are prevented from conducting their business.

So basically that's what I don't like about Bullfrog Power. As a temporary solution, a way to promote sustainable development, yippee it's great. I will happily jump on the bandwagon.

But as a long term solution it's a bad idea, because it's inffective. Most people don't know about Bullfrog, and if they do know about it they may not pay extra for it, because there is no economic incentive. And because it's a moral issue. Pollution affects everybody; we need a more effective solution than some people paying double the price for power, and most people blasting their A/C and paying the subsidized rate for power.

Saturday morning, 8AM

Wow, I don't usually get up at the crack of 7 on a Saturday (or any other day) but there I was on Saturday morning in the garden. There's a whole different world out there on an early weekday morning. The city is much less crowded, and the streets very quiet.

I was trying to figure out what this plant is in our garden. It is most likely astilbe (false spirea). We tried to plant astilbes this year but the seeds didn't sprout, so we dumped the seeds earth in this location, and this new plant has sprouted from the same location.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Dundas & Manning

This mini flower garden is around the corner from the 7-11 on Dundas Ave. The sign identifies the garden as a drought-resistant garden planted in September 2000, and it is doing quite well. I am not sure who maintains it, if anyone.

The city has a program to encourage community gardening. Also, FoodShare has a manual for people who want to start community gardens.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Carbon tax

Canada's first carbon tax was announced today. Finally, a politician with some backbone on climate change. Quebec gets it. Stephen Harper doesn't. The only way to rejig the economy to a more sustainable footing is to tax activities that are harming the planet, and funnel the money to activities that are sustainable.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Park Day, June 4

We spent an enjoyable Sunday afternoon in the park. The Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park held a fundraiser and planting day. Brought tools. Planted annuals around stick like trees. Ate hot dogs. Made donation. Met neighbors.

Truth told, I am more interested in naturalized spaces, not Victorian parks. The north end of this park has some areas that would be suitable for naturalization. Maybe I will sneak in there in the middle of the night and plant something indigenous and rampant...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Another green feature at MEC

Here's another feature of MEC Toronto's green building. No unnecessary use of material. The store is a no-frills space, without the usual drywall or (ugly) ceiling tiles. You can see the metal frame of the building.

MEC's green roof

Mountain Equipment Co-op, Canada's outdoor gear cooperative, displayed their fabulous green roof on Doors Open. Doors Open was held on May 27-28 this year. We got to climb a ladder from the upper floor of MEC to the roof and check out their two types of green roofs. The section of roof pictured here is the original green roof, and they also are testing a newer type of green roof which is lighter and cheaper to maintain. The outdoor stores are clearly committed to sustainability and their web site has extensive articles describing the green features of the Toronto store, and other stores.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Sky is Falling

wvs has some good photos of Toronto, including this one of a bike crushed by a falling tree. Check out his photos of the Brickworks too.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Holy F****** Shit

Just checked the news. Terrorism suspects have been arrested in Toronto with THREE TONNES of ammonium nitrate. That is a scary thought. That would make the Timothy McVeigh bombing look like a love tap.

Air Quality Backlash

Well, I faced a minor backlash from my Ultimate team after suggesting that we cancel our game due to Tuesday's poor air quality. I was informed that the TUC league policy does not allow for cancellation due to air quality or heat. So I declined to attend. And later the same day, a whiny email from the captain went out about how we lost because of a short bench and how we 'ran out of steam'.

That is a short-sighted and foolish policy. We would not play if the field is full of broken glass, or in a lighting storm. Why play when your lungs may be damaged? It's not simply a matter of comfort or convenience, but a matter of health.