Thursday, December 27, 2007

top weather story of 2007 was about climate change

This from CBC News

'Shocking' Arctic ice melt year's top weather story: Environment Canada

The top weather story of 2007 was about climate change, Environment Canada said Thursday in releasing its annual list of most important, widespread and newsworthy events.

The tornado touches down near Elie, Man., late on June 22. It was the first Canadian tornado ranked F5, the most severe on an international scale.The tornado touches down near Elie, Man., late on June 22. It was the first Canadian tornado ranked F5, the most severe on an international scale.
(Wayne Hanna/Canadian Press)

"At the top of the world, the dramatic disappearance of Arctic sea ice … was so shocking that it quickly became our No. 1 weather story," the agency said in a news release.

Although the disappearance of the sea ice is not strictly a weather story, "it's one of the major climate controls" that has been linked to extreme weather, Environment Canada senior climatologist David Phillips told CBC News.

Other stories that made the Top 10 include the first Canadian F5 (most severe) tornado, which hit Elie, Man., on June 22, the shrinking Great Lakes and early summer flooding in British Columbia.

The melting of Arctic sea ice was Environment Canada's top 2007 weather story. The melting of Arctic sea ice was Environment Canada's top 2007 weather story.

The B.C. floods could have been a lot worse, the release says. The Fraser Valley was spared when a storm that might have pushed the river over its banks missed the area, saving an estimated $6 billion in potential damage and losses, Environment Canada said.

B.C. also figured in the early December storms (No. 3 on the list) that hit the country from sea to sea. Up to 50 centimetres of snow fell on parts of Vancouver Island, followed by heavy rain. On the Prairies, temperatures plunged to –40 C (with wind chill). Ontario and Quebec got a great dump of snow, and then as the storm moved east, it was Atlantic Canada's turn.

"For a time at the beginning of December, a white Christmas mantle covered Canada from coast to coast to coast," Environment Canada said.

The agency's Top 10 weather stories are:

  • Vanishing Arctic ice.
  • B.C.'s flood threat.
  • Pre-winter mayhem across Canada.
  • Prairie tropical summer.
  • Dry summer in southern Ontario.
  • Post-tropical storm Noel hits Atlantic Canada.
  • Shrinking Great Lakes.
  • Delayed and low-snow winter in Eastern Canada.
  • Record Prairie hailstorms.
  • Canada's first F5 tornado.

Environment Canada ranks the events on factors that include the impact, the size of the affected area, economic effects and how long the story stayed on top of the news.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

James Howard Kunstler; Making Other Arrangements

Here's this article I found in Orion Magazine with Howard Kunstler telling it like it really is. I recommend you read the entire piece.

"We have to do better. We have to start right away making those other arrangements. We have to begin the transition to some mode of living that will allow us to carry on the project of civilization—and I would argue against the notion advanced by Daniel Quinn and others that civilization itself is our enemy and should not be continued. The agenda for facing our problems squarely can, in fact, be described with some precision. We have to make other arrangements for the basic activities of everyday life." James Howard Kunstler

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Social Justice and the Environment

Yesterday, December 8th, Crystle Numan of True City's eco-team gave a superb presentation called "Justice; Shalom with God, People and the World," at Melrose United Buffet Breakfast
(and what a tasty breakfast the men in the kitchen cooked up!)

A pity there were so few of us in attendance; I suppose everyone was out at the World Climate Day of Action rally in Toronto. Or perhaps they were at home writing angry letters to Harper. Maybe they had parked their vehicles and were negotiating the HSR bus system. No? Don't tell me. They were shopping at the Makers Market, that's it!

Anyway, Crystle described how the choices we make about how we live, what we buy, where we invest include a justice component. She posed the question "what are these implications?"

Justice is indeed tied up in the health of the environment. Where there is no justice the land, the people and the animals suffer.

Crystle got the brains thinking about consumption and the distance between what we consume and where it's made and by whom and under what conditions.

She presented us with a case study; Gold. The nasty business of gold production and it's terrible effects on people and the environment.
I thought guiltily about my recently pierced nose and the white gold jewel on it. Never even occurred to me to enquire as to where the gold came from.

And what about techno waste? Do our computers and cell phones sent to China for recycling really get recycled in an ecologically sound way?
Crystle read scriptures from the bible and presented the talk in the context of a Christian's God love of justice; His call to people to be in right relationship with the other. Are we?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Girl Guides Rock!

What a great group of girls I had the privilege of talking with yesterday night! These girl guides all knew about global warming and climate change; they knew why it was happening and they also were able to tell me all the different ways they and their families are reducing green house gases and fighting pollution.

Some of the ways the girls mentioned included walking more, bringing cloth bags to the grocery store, composting and so on. They were reflective about what climate change is doing to species such as the polar bear (it was weird because when I asked the girl who was telling me how polar bears will drown as the ice melts I asked her how she felt about that and she drew a blank- at a lose of words. Able to recite the facts, the question of feeling seemed to throw her off).

I only had a half hour so we weren't able to all that I planned but we had fun, I gave out 24 energy saving kits or so for their families and they gave me 2 boxes of chocolate mint girl guide cookies! Yum. Now if only they could get rid of the trans fats in them.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hamilton Day of Action on Climate Change - December 8 2007

Hamilton Day of Action on Climate Change - December 8 2007

December 8 has been designated a day of global action on climate change and Hamiltonians can register their concern for the fate of the planet in a very individual way. Environment Hamilton invites you to be part of the first Hamilton Day of Action on Climate Change by taking at least one of the following individual actions on Saturday, December 8.

To participate, register with EH by email or phone, and tell us which of the following actions you will complete on December 8.

1. I will write a personal letter to Prime Minister Harper and my Member of Parliament expressing my concerns about climate change. (You can come to the EH office on the evening of Wednesday, December 5 for assistance, and to join others in this action).

2. I will sign up for the Environment Hamilton pilot vehicle use log and commit to recording all use of my car for one month.

3. I will park my car for the weekend and try out public transit (this option should not be chosen by regular HSR users).

4. I will borrow a copy of the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth and show it to friends or family over the weekend.

5. I will take public transit to Toronto on December 8 and participate in the climate change rally starting at 12 noon – at Dundas Square on Yonge Street.

Call (905) 549-0900 or email to register. Just tell us the number of the action(s) you are pledging to take, and provide us with your contact information. Call anytime and leave a message. Please register by December 6 so we can announce how many Hamiltonians are participating in the Day of Action on Climate Change.

Also as part of Environment Hamilton's workshops and presentations series, Melrose Buffet Breakfast will host Crystle Numan (Evangelical Environmental Network) who will be presenting a talk on Climate Change and Social Justice. Suggested donation $10 (includes breakfast)

Talk starts at 9am at Melrose United Church,
86 Homewood Avenue in Hamilton.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Vehicle Log

We are launching a vehicle log that will help gather information to learn how people use their vehicles. Participants record their vehicle use for a month and might find it useful to map out where their fuel costs go. Hopefully it will reveal ways to reduce fossil fuel use.

If you are interested in participating and would like a vehicle log mailed to you, please contact Environment Hamilton by phone- 905 549 0900
or email

Here's a condensed form of what the log contains; consider one line one return trip.


Start date odometer reading: _________________

Date of trip
Highway or City driving?
Purpose of the trip (check all that apply, specify other)
Number in the Vehicle
Parking costs
Time Spent in Vehicle

work__ school__ food shopping __ other shopping __ recreation/entertainment__ kids_ other (x 30 days)

End Odometer Reading: ______________________________

Please provide the following additional information:

Do you use your car as part of your job?_______________
Vehicle make/model/year:__________________________
Annual vehicle insurance cost:______________________
Monthly vehicle payments: _________________________
Estimated annual maintenance costs: _________________

Braden House Tour

The tour was a great success with 35 interested people who came out to visit Dave and Cathy Braden's off - grid house. Participants learned a lot about building a home energy efficiently, and about powering the home with out hydro ( but using wind and solar energy).
Thanks Dave and Cathy.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Eco -Friendly Holiday Season

Looking for ways to simplify the holiday season? Here are some tips from local Hamiltonians on how you can curb over consumption, reduce your carbon footprint save money and celebrate the true meaning of the season!

Making wreaths or swags to adorn any door for the season out of collected pine cones and twigs etc. This is a great craft for kids at any age at after the season it can be go into the green bin or the compost. Sylvia

My family and I got overwhelmed with gifts one year and decided not to do it again. The following year, and the three years since, we have used Mission Services to find a family in need. Instead of spending the build up to the holidays running around the mall, be do our shopping for our family together in one day, and have dinner together after. On Christmas day i like to think of our family enjoying their day as we enjoy being around loved ones. OH! and this year we may try Geocaching..... Nancy

My siblings and I, along with my parents donate in each other's names, in lieu of gifts. Last year we bought goat's for my sisters and a donkey for my parents from Oxfam.

I try to buy second-hand toys, but I confess, children gift giving is still a conundrum for me.

I did just attend a 5-year-old's birthday whose Moms requested a $15 donation that Libby would take out to buy one favourite toy and donate the remainder to Cerebral Palsy. I really like that idea.


We try to wrap all gifts in reusable gift bags rather than paper. We cut up Christmas cards rec'd in previous years to make gift tags. We save and reuse tissue paper, bows, ribbon. We carpool to houses. We minimize exterior Christmas decorations. We don't keep our tree lights on when we're not home or throughout the night. We encourage donations to charities of our choice via rather than giving us gifts. We try to give to charities in others names in lieu of a gift to them.


I used to make preserves and baby spider plants and xmas card 'boxes' from used cards (which are kind of cool actually, but never knew what to put in them) and similar homemade stuff for teacher gifts.
Instead of giving each other gifts, my two daughters and I sponsor a
family at Mission Services and buy them all gifts and food for theChristmas Holidays. The two grandchildren join in too, but we do get
them a gift.

1. Pick names and place a monetary limit
2. Host a "white elephant" gift exchange with a mix of $10 and gag gifts
3. Put money toward sustainable development assistance for a family in a developing country (ie: world vision gift guide)

A few tips we do at home:
1. use newspaper to wrap gifts and then tie them up with twine or pretty ribbon.
2. reuse old Christmas cards as gift tags - just cut off the back and punch a hole through.
3. On Christmas morning have brown bags ready to receive the folded used gift wrap as you unwrap things and take them all out to the blue bin.
4. LED Christmas lights on tree and outside.
5. Put Christmas lights on timer so as not to take up so much energy.


Support local and Free Trade; Mixed Media on James st N has really neat stuff.
OPIRG McMaster has some free trade items and goodies too. Church bazaars and craft shows are nice places to support.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Peaked Out?

For another good article on peak oil check out Michael T. Klare's piece Beyond the Age of Petroleum in The Nation

Michael T. Klare is the defense correspondent of The Nation and a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College.

Here's an excerpt from the article;

"This past May, in an unheralded and almost unnoticed move, the Energy Department signalled a fundamental, near epochal shift in US and indeed world history: we are nearing the end of the Petroleum Age and have entered the Age of Insufficiency. The department stopped talking about "oil" in its projections of future petroleum availability and began speaking of "liquids."
The global output of "liquids," the department indicated, would rise from 84 million barrels of oil equivalent (mboe) per day in 2005 to a projected 117.7 mboe in 2030--barely enough to satisfy anticipated world demand of 117.6 mboe. Aside from suggesting the degree to which oil companies have ceased being mere suppliers of petroleum and are now purveyors of a wide variety of liquid products--including synthetic fuels derived from natural gas, corn, coal and other substances--this change hints at something more fundamental: we have entered a new era of intensified energy competition and growing reliance on the use of force to protect overseas sources of petroleum."

Peak Oil Expert Speaking to Council; Nov 12th 2007

Monday morning’s committee of the whole meeting will hear from Daniel Lerch, author of a new guidebook for municipalities on peak oil and global warming. The presentation to city councillors comes in the wake of recent rapid increases in the price of oil and concerns about looming fuel shortages.
Lerch is the program director of the Post-Carbon Institute, a California organization that has been warning about the end of cheap oil since 2003. Concerns about peak oil led Hamilton’s council to commission a report in June 2005 – only the second municipality in Canada to do so – just a couple of months before Hurricane Katrina briefly sent gas prices soaring.
That report was delivered by Richard Gilbert in April 2006, at a time when peak oil was still widely regarded as a fringe theory. At that point oil futures were selling around $55 a barrel. This week they climbed above $98 a barrel for the first time, having more than doubled in the last year.
The Institute believes those prices will continue to rise dramatically, making long distance shipment of food and other consumer goods prohibitively expensive. They argue that cities should respond with a strategy of “relocalization” including “the local production of food and energy, and the relocalization of currency, governance and culture.”
Yesterday’s New York Times says the world is heading for an oil shock and warns consumers to brace for significantly higher fuel costs. As evidence it quotes a spokesperson from one of the world’s biggest oil companies.
“The concern today is over how will the energy sector meet the anticipated growth in demand over the longer term,” Linda Z. Cook, a board member of Royal Dutch Shell. “Energy demand is increasing at a rate we’ve not seen before. On the supply side, we’re seeing it is struggling to keep up. That’s the energy challenge.”
But the newspaper isn’t using the term peak oil yet, and contends that a “frenzied search for new sources” will, over time, provide additional supplies.
Peak oil theorists suggest that’s unlikely, arguing that the world has probably already reached the point where the most accessible oil has been extracted, and the difficulties in obtaining the rest mean the amount on the market is going to shrink. That will mean the growing demand from countries like China and India will exceed the supply and result in much higher prices.
The Spectator’s international columnist Gwynne Dyer is using the term peak oil and is willing to accept that it may have been reached, but holds out hope that the impending fall in availability can be successfully managed if action is taken quickly.
“The German-based Energy Watch Group declared last month that global oil output peaked in 2006 at 81 million barrels per day,” notes Dyer. “It will fall to 58 million b/d by 2020, they predict, and to only 39 million b/d by 2030.”
Lerch is in Hamilton to address the annual Spirit of Red Hill Valley lecture on Monday evening. Panelists helping to question him include Gilbert and Mayor Eisenberger. He’s also speaking in the afternoon to students at Assumption high school in Burlington, and Tuesday morning to a graduate class at McMaster.

CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Converting your home into a greener one

Saturday 10th November at 9am;

Melrose Breakfast Buffet
invites you to attend another Environment Hamilton workshop featuring Green Venture presentation of-

Converting Your Old

Home to a Greener


Melrose United Church

86 Homewood Avenue | Hamilton, Ontario | L8P 2M4 | 905 522 1323

Drop by &

Join the Discussion!

Suggested Donation: $10 (Free for kids 10 and under)

Monday, October 29, 2007


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Hughson Baptist Church

Forgot to mention that we were invited to set up a booth at the energy saving workshop (Green Venture) at Hughson Baptist church , October 17th.
There was a small turn out but it was really interesting to hear that this church is interested in figuring out a way they can help their members with their battery disposal needs- it sounds a little complicated (license?) but it's something worth looking into anyway.
Sean Botham is helping deliver our pledge and also the energy saving kits to interested parishioners who want them.

Buidling an Environmentally friendly home-off grid living

Free Tour

Building an Environmentally Friendly Home

Environment Hamilton and Dave Braden invite you to learn more about:

An environmentally-friendly home that

can be heated with a hair dryer

comes with its own electricity supply

avoids the use of toxic materials

Dave Braden is a former city councillor and

a member of the Board of Directors of Environment Hamilton
who has been building energy efficient homes for many years,
including homes specifically designed for people with extreme chemical sensitivities.

He is now constructing his own family home near Valens Conservation Area. He will take us through it and explain the techniques that he has used to make this the most environmentally friendly home in Hamilton, and perhaps in the province or the country.

Dave will be happy to answer your questions,
including on how you can reduce the energy costs in your own home.

Sunday, November 18 – 2 pm

(in Flamborough near Valens Conservation Area)

Please pre-register by November 6

To register of for more information, contact Beatrice Ekwa Ekoko at or

Or phone (905) 649-0900

1130 Barton Street East, Suite 207, Hamilton, Ontario L8H 7P9

Upcoming EH workshop

Melrose Buffet Breakfast

Melrose United Church is all set to present another Melrose Buffet Breakfast discussion organized by Environment Hamilton and featuring a Green Venture speaker;

Saturday Nov. 10th [9am]: Converting an Old Home to a Greener Home ( greening your home room by room)

Suggested Donation: $10 (Free for kids 10 and under)

86 Homewood Avenue | Hamilton, Ontario | L8P 2M4 | 905 522 1323

Drop by &

Join the Discussion!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

EH's first workshop

Environment Hamilton's climate change project partnered with Green Venture to deliver the first of our workshops- a practical response to climate change (see below for list of workshops).
Matt Xagoraris hosted the workshop- Energy Saving in the Home at his Melrose Breakfast October 13th.
It was pretty well attended. Most people heard about it through the church proper- the demographics were mostly seniors.
Matt reported that he would have liked a more in depth approach-( screwing in energy efficient light bulbs is all very well but not nearly enough).
He looks forward to the next session being more about using renewable energies and general renovations we can make to the home November 10th
(one of workshops with Dave Braden goings into depth about living off grid etc)

Perhaps there is truth to the notion that we ought to ask people to do more instead of less.

That's what people like at the Step it Up - 1 Sky organization in the US are finding out as they try to establish a climate change movement comparable to the Civil Rights movement. ( To read this article see The Nation October 22, 2007
Any body out there ready to 'march for the climate?'

EH workshops

To December 2007

Energy Conservation in the home

Power Shift Community Presentation: Energy Conservation provides

a general overview of energy saving retrofits for the home/business

owner and/or apartment dweller. Information is divided into

categories which include: lighting, heating and cooling, windows and

drafts, and hot water. Presentations can be tailored to specific

circumstances or areas of interest (i.e.: Electrical, Gas, or Oil

heating, etc.). Through demonstration items, we encourage audience

members to participate at a hands-on level.


Green Venture Energy Coordinator to discuss the conservation,

retrofits & government incentives

Greening your Home One Room at a Time

Take a virtual walk through Green Venture's EcoHouse and find

out how taking simple steps can lighten the ecological foot print of

your living space. Through a power point presentation, one of Green

Venture’s EcoHouse coordinators will demonstrate ways you can

usewater wisely, conserve energy, garden naturally, and reduce

waste in the home or apartment.

Leader: Eco House, Green Venture Co-ordinator

Living Off the Grid

Leader: Former Councillor Dave Braden will lead hands-on

workshops at his home.

Really want to reduce your ecological footprint?

Reduce your car dependency

'Commuting Challenge' (CD) game; this involves using a city map to

locate your home and dropping a CD over the spot. The radius of

the CD represents 2km.

Challenge yourself to walk or cycle within this radial distance.

Cycling in the city: safety tips

and bike routes

Transit in the city: More buses more often

Getting around by bus; Bus pass, tickets

an fare guides, free route maps and

schedules, information on new routes

(Bee-line, Bayfront Shuttle), safety tips

while riding the bus, trans-cab services.

Also included: Letter writing station to

write to elected representatives for more

buses more often.

Leader: Don McLean–Environment Hamilton

Randy Kay–Transportation for Liveable Communities

Make Your Own Rain Barrel

Come and learn how to make your own rain barrel

and bring home your masterpiece to put to the test.

Discuss other sustainable uses for water on your


Leader: Sean Burak

cost: cover costs of materials ($50)

location-Sean's residence

How to eat locally all year round:

planting and eating from your garden, how to properly store/freeze

summer yield to eat all year round, recipes for seasonal cooking, the

'100mile' diet. Free eat local map.

Leader: Sarah Megens,

(Environment Hamilton Eat Local project manager)

Power Shift Expert Panel Presentation: Renewable Energy Now

In panel format, representatives from the local renewable energy

sector provide practical information on innovative technologies,

products, processes, and services related to wind, solar and

geothermal energy. Because we tailor each presentation to the

individual audience, speakers can focus on urban or rural

residential, commercial, or industrial applications (e.g.: Solar hot

water heating for urban multi-use building, geothermal applications

for residential home in the rural environment, and investment

opportunities around Wind energy, to name a few). Regional case

studies and energy champions are integrated into each presentation

making the information relevant and tangible to the viewer.


Local Hamilton resident or business owner who has invested in

renewable technology (Case Study)

Green Venture Energy Advisor

Representative from the Renewable Energy Sector to discuss

innovative products and/or services

Pesticide free lawns

Green Venture’s Naturally Hamilton project is visiting community

groups across the Hamilton area conducting free seminars on

healthy safe pesticide-free lawn and garden maintenance. More

specifically, learn the difference between organic and petroleum

based fertilizers and pesticides. Information on the following topics

will also be available: healthy lawns, questions to ask lawn care

companies, alternative and native landscapes, dealing with weeds or

insects, and more.

Leader: Green Venture Energy Advisor

In touch with Nature

You have to know and love what you're fighting for! Get in touch

with nature with Dieter Staudinger, Dundas-based spiritual


Dieter will take the group on a hike where they will get reacquainted

with wild life and plant life.


Climate Change and Social Justice

(Details to follow)

Leader: Crystle Numan

Film Screenings:

An Inconvenient Truth will continue to be screened on request.

A Crude Awakening is available for screening with a following

discussion on peak oil with Richard Reble, retired teacher and EH

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Clean Air Hamilton

Thanks to Brain Montgomery of Clean Air Hamilton who invited me to speak about the climate project at a meeting yesterday.
The need to make crystal clear to people what they need to be doing was stressed.

There was a speaker before me who was marketing a tool for measuring air quality and green house gases emissions in a municipality. Sounded pretty high tech indeed- combined monitoring methods such as satellite remote sensing, atmospheric modelling and ground level monitoring to deliver active, web based maps of environmental processes.
(A-Maps Environmental Inc).

I had to skip out before they got to the Upwind Downwind Climate Change and Healthy Cities Conference next February 2008-

EH expects to attend this.


We attended the KAIROS event at Mount Mary Retreat Centre in Ancaster on Friday 12th October. Emily and I staffed the booth and we many some interesting contacts.
Our wonderful volunteer Betsy Agar was registered for the conference and was able to staff the booth as well when she wasn't in the workshops.

She wrote up a report which I have edited below;

Transportation and the future of cars

Presented by: Liz Benneian (Pronounced Bennyan)
President, Oakvillegreen Conservation Association

Key Transportation Issues: Peak Oil and Global Warming

Peak Oil

Oil is a finite resource and the world’s geologists estimate that half of our oil reserves have been used. Peak Oil is not to be confused with running out of oil. Peak oil is a point at which demand exceeds supply, which carries with it tremendous social impacts.

Citing the statistic that 20% of our fossil fuel energy is used in transport, Liz made the direct connection between transportation and Peak Oil. In fact, she refers to Peak Oil as a transportation issue, reasoning that built environment energy needs have so many alternatives available. As such, she projects that we will travel less in the future.

Global Warming

She spoke briefly of the limited fuel alternatives currently proposed for transportation: biofuels, ethanol and sugar cane.

Biofuels are not the answer because of the threat to food production.

Ethanol she discredits as an energy loser. That is to say, it takes too much energy to produce ethanol.

Sugar cane is the most promising alternative energy for transportation, but this option is not without drawbacks. Sugar cane is associated with deforestation and monocropping. Field burning is a practice that facilitates harvest but also produces pollution. Finally, sugar cane fuel production is another energy intensive process. The Return on Investment (ROI) is 8:1, which is significantly less than oil’s ROI of 40:1

North-South, East-West

Liz drew audible gasps from her audience when she reported that that the U.S. is responsible for 45% of global auto emissions, and that SUVs in the U.S. emit as much as the sum of 55 of their biggest coal-fired power plants. She is particularly concerned with the land use patterns developing nations are adopting: they are building suburbs; they are repeating our mistakes.

Environmental (In)Justice

She briefly mentioned the environmental impacts of the practices of the developed world, not to diminish their importance, probably to reserve attention for the social justice issues that, in my view, are often overshadowed by more locally relevant environmental issues. She highlighted our intense use of energy and raw materials.

Social (In)Justice

She directly connected our car culture with an undeniable rise in obesity rates, as well as pollution related illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and respiratory diseases. The prevalence of road accidents and our perception of risk were also discussed. We seem to have accepted these risks or somehow discounted their importance.

However, impacts not easily ignored but not often felt by people in developed nations, such as Canada include wars, civil conflicts and food scarcity. Without mention of every environmental activist’s favourite target, she drew attention to the immoral choices made in the name of oil. She linked the lack of action in Darfur to China’s import of Sudanese oil. Taking action in Darfur could, and likely would, threaten Chinese-Sudanese relations.

She illustrated the connection between food scarcity and Peak Oil, using corn as the example. Corn-based fuels increase demand for corn. Corn prices rise. Corn becomes expensive for consumption and farmers begin to cater to fuel producers. Also, excess corn is no longer available for humanitarian aid.

Under the heading:

“Why it is hard to change?” Liz suggested 10 reasons why these problems persist:

10 biggest companies in the world (

  1. Wal-Mart

  2. Exxon Mobil

  3. Royal Dutch Shell

  4. BP (British Petroleum)

  5. General Motors

  6. Toyota Motor

  7. Chevron

  8. DaimlerChrysler

  9. CononcoPhillips

  10. Total (Petroleum)

Her technique was effective. She stirred her audience, but did not leave them feeling helpless. She then proposed a challenge.

Envisioning the future

To begin the interactive portion of the workshop, she explicitly reminded:

  • We can’t take more than we give back

  • We can’t give back petroleum

Then she formed six groups of 5. Each group was to envision an ideal living scenario and work backwards to determine the necessary steps to achieve that ideal.


What – Explore visions/options

How – Strategize how this ideal can be achieved

Who – Examine who will have to take action

When – Examine short and long term goals to set out a timeline for action

Following the small group exercise, she invited the whole group to discuss their results. The following are some of those suggestions:


  • self-reliant community

  • walkable cities

  • individual involvement in community

Short Term

  • eat locally

  • dense living

  • lobby government to cut oil and gas subsidies

  • pesticides will disappear, they are petroleum based

Medium Term

  • systemic change

  • leadership

    • from the people

  • workplace “Green Team”

  • mandatory local civil service

    • like German model

Her final point was that no matter what the demographic, every group she meets with calls for a re-engineering of society. She has promised to post her slides online, which will be very valuable as she suggests a number of personal and corporate actions that can be taken. The highlights of her suggestions include:

  • Policy changes happen at the budget stage, the planning(?) stage is too late

  • Public transportation must be in place before people move in or they buy two cars

  • Bus rapid transit is the cheapest most flexible public transit option

The other workshop report from Betty is

Greening Sacred Spaces

Presented by: Rory O’Brien
GSS Coordinator, Faith & the Common Good


Rory was not originally slated to speak and chose to screen their movie: Greening Sacred Spaces, the research for which is credited to Rory O’Brien. The following are notes from the movie.


  • good stewards of Earth; calling for people of faith

  • multi-denominational

  • balance utility of space with environmental requirements

Energy Audit (In shortened version)

  • insulation

  • air leaks

  • appliances

  • water conservation

    • municipal subsidies may be available

  • HVAC distribution systems

  • Guide available at

Light Green

  • place to begin

  • hand wash dishes

  • Recycling program

  • Compost

  • Environmental cleaning products

    • Recommended types?

  • Fair trade products

  • Plant trees

  • Low maintenance plants

  • Rain barrels

  • Community garden

  • Congregation participation

Medium Green

  • more time and money

  • longer term payoffs

  • educate congregation

  • structural engineering analysis

  • churches are landmark buildings

    • lead by example

  • High efficiency furnace

  • Geothermal or ground source heat pumps

  • HVAC

    • Sophisticated distribution system

  • Natural lighting

    • Skylights

Deep Green

  • long term project; time to deliberate

  • LEED certification

    • Reuse of materials to divert waste

    • Daylighting

    • Reducing water use

  • Link between architecture with theology

  • Passive solar collection

  • Displacement ventilation

    • Cool air from raised floor

      • Fake floor; plenum

    • Hot air rises and is redirected

      • Into floor plenum in the winter

      • Outside in the summer

  • Living wall

  • Fundraising

  • Volunteering

  • Congregation involvement

Four Major Barriers

Following the video, Rory discussed the major barriers to greening sacred spaces.

  1. Motivation

    • For those not convinced of the social or environmental purpose, good energy conservation is just economic sense

  2. Knowledge

    • Guidebook available on website

    • Maintain HVAC systems

    • Retrofit

    • Energy audit

  3. Organizational

    • Develop a green team

  4. Financial

    • Audit can cost thousands

    • Recommendations can be very expensive

    • Long term benefits provide whole picture and convince it is worth while

Energy Audits

Green Communities Canada is an umbrella organization of Canadian energy auditors. Hamilton’s own Greenventure is a founding member ( A guidebook for going green is provided on the website of Faith and the Common Good, and it includes a “walk through” energy audit template. He strongly supports a professional audit, suggesting that the walk through audit starts people thinking and prompts behavioural change.

Monday, October 1, 2007

CEOs call for 'aggressive' action on climate change

CBC news
last updated:Monday, October 1, 2007

An influential group of Canadian chief executives says climate change is the "most pressing and daunting" issue the world faces today and business must do its share to fight the problem.

A task force of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives released a report Monday that calls for a national action plan that would see government, business and individuals working in concert to make real reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

"We know enough about the science of climate change to recognize that aggressive global action is required," the report said.

The CEOs acknowledge that success in this area will come at a "significant" cost, but say it's one that must be borne by all sectors.

"The key is to make the right decisions about what investments in the short term will produce the greatest returns both now and over the long haul, for Canada's economy and for the global environment," the report said.

The CEOs argue that Canadian businesses have already done much to make their operations more energy-efficient, but say industry must do more.

The document said: "The ultimate goal must be to achieve substantial absolute reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases in Canada and globally."

But to achieve that, the report said government must ensure that companies are not "arbitrarily penalized in the short term" so they can make the necessary investments to cut their emissions while still improving productivity.

Investing in technological innovation is the best way to bring about the cleaner technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the task force said.

The technology funds being proposed by the federal and Alberta governments are critical to provide industry with the kind of incentives needed, the CEOs said.

Government intervention seen

They acknowledge that market forces alone are unlikely to be enough to do the job and that some kind of government intervention will be necessary.

One way to foster the needed change, they say, is through emissions trading systems that set a cap on emissions and then allow companies to take part in a market in tradable permits — much as the Kyoto Protocol does.

The federal government is proposing a domestic emissions trading system that would allow heavy polluters to buy carbon credits from other companies as one way to meet new greenhouse gas targets.

The CEOs' report said emissions trading is "attractive in theory" and that challenges in creating a fair and effective system can be worked out.

The other way governments can persuade businesses and consumers to cut emissions is by imposing a carbon tax. "But Canadians must recognize that significant levels of taxation likely would be required to drive significant changes in behaviour."

The CEOs said they are not proposing a new carbon tax. But they say if government decides to go that route, it should replace other forms of taxation so it doesn't turn into a "revenue grab."

They also warn that "any new tax in Canada must not discriminate against any particular sector or region" — a clear reference that Alberta's oilsands operations not be singled out for special tax attention.

The report was released the same day that Quebec's controversial carbon tax on energy companies goes into effect — the first of its kind in Canada.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

next (big) steps

A tremendous sucess by all accounts. Saturday morning about 30 people representing faith groups in the Hamilton area gathered at the Melrose United Church for a mini conference on the topic of climate change and what to do about it.

Guest speakers talked for about five minutes each describing the eco-ventures their churches are involved in. To name a few;
Matt Xagorais talked about the film series he has organized for his church and the Melrose breakfasts that bring in guests who talk about social justice and environmental issues.

Dean Carriere talked about Recycle Cycles (Erskine Presbyterian) that takes donated or throw-away bikes and fixes them up for low price re-sale.

Bill Johnston of the Unitarian church caused a bit of a excitement with the extent of his faith group's activities;all things from carrying out energy and waste audits, to setting up a 'write to your elected officials club.'
Denise Neutel from the Meadowlands Fellowship Christian Reformed Church described how the church was built to use geothermal energy and other 'green' features.

From Environment Hamilton, Don McLean gave good suggestions on directions faith groups can take to further their 'greening' work. Jarah West shared with attendees the resources EH can offer to help them on their way.
Sapphire Singh from Green Venture shared information about the Green Venture programs.

We enjoyed organic fruit juice, munched on delicious berry muffins and cookies baked by Jarah as well as drank fresh coffee courtesy of Matt.

Huge thanks to the 'Rebel' Richard Reble who MC-ed the event- very entertaining delivery Richard.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Walk it off ; from the Daily Grist

September 24th 2007

Walk It Off

Land-use decisions a key factor in emissions reduction, says analysis

How to reduce U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions? Building compact, mixed-use neighborhoods would be just as effective as much-touted policies like boosting fuel economy, cleaning up power plants, and building green, says a new analysis from the Urban Land Institute. The U.S. population is expected to grow 23 percent by 2030; under the sprawl-encouraging status quo, driving is expected to increase 59 percent in the same time period. But it doesn't have to be that way, says the ULI: some two-thirds of homes and other buildings expected to be needed by 2050 have yet to be built, and they don't have to be part of outward-oozing communities. According to the report, walkable neighborhoods can decrease driving by up to 40 percent -- which would reduce CO2 emissions, help save our arses, and perhaps reduce our arses as well.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What Sara said

Door-to-Door Experiences

This past summer I was working for Environment Hamilton on their Climate Change Challenge Project. While it has a variety of components I was helping primarily with the door-to-door pledge work. Volunteers were going door-to-door in several neighbourhoods asking people to take the challenge and pledge to change their habits to reduce their impact on climate change.

We visited four neighbourhoods and each had its own challenges and attitudes. The four neighbourhoods were Corktown, Durrand, Westdale and Dundas. I was not yet on board for Corktown, but we were only there for a short while since we realized quickly that this was not a neighbourhood that we needed to target since the residents were already doing everything on our pledge forms out of financial necessity.

The other three neighbourhoods were much more worthwhile to visit and a lot of pledges were taken and a lot of Energy Savings Kits were distributed.

For most people, the idea of going door-to-door is very intimidating. I’ll admit I was one of these people myself at the beginning of the project. By the end, however, I was actually looking forward to my two hours every day of meeting people and discussing their role in environmental protection.

The key difference to our door-to-door work that makes it enjoyable and more successful is that we are not selling anything, in fact we are giving away free Energy Savings Kits. These were donated by Union Gas and some additional information from Environment Hamilton went in as well.

Often, if someone was immediately dismissive and trying to close the door on me right away I would mention that fact and sometimes it worked and I was able to get pledges. The vast majority of people in all three neighbourhoods who answered their doors were very receptive of the idea and willing to commit once they heard the concept.

I got a lot of positive feedback form people who loved that we were out doing what we were doing. There were of course, always people who were unwilling to listen or unwilling to pledge and they would list all kinds of excuses about why they felt they didn’t need to pledge.

The best course of action in these cases was just to leave and not waste time arguing. Overall, though, as mentioned, the response was positive which made the entire experience very enjoyable.

In the Durrand neighbourhood the biggest problem was that people were already doing most of the items on the pledge list. Some were even going above and beyond and gave us additional ideas of things to do. This was actually a bit of a challenge sometimes because we wanted to give away free kits but we couldn’t do that if people weren’t able to pledge.

Usually if people were stumped on what to pledge I would suggest the first item which was to install energy efficient devices and would point out that if they pledged that one, received the kit and installed it they would have it done already. Otherwise I would point to the tenth item which was to eat more locally grown produce and point out that all the information for doing just that was in the kit in the Eat Local Map.

Usually this would jump start the conversation and get the ball rolling and then people might chose one or two more items. For the people who said they were doing almost everything I would suggest the items in step three that are much more challenging or suggest that they get involved in the transit campaign and write a letter to city council.

Very few houses in this neighbourhood after a few minutes of gentle prodding were unwilling to pledge at all.

In Westdale the response was fantastic, this was probably the best neighbourhood not least of all because we had a lot more volunteers which made the work go much faster. The only problem here was that a lot of people said they had already received the kit and then were very dismissive.

We had to explain that this was not the same project and suggest that they pledge, take the kit and pass it on or just pledge and forget about the kit, or hand then the Eat Local Map without the kit. Otherwise though we got a lot of pledges and ground covered until we moved on to Dundas for a week.

In Dundas we were only able to go out a couple of days and I was only out for one of these days. I found Dundas to be the most challenging neighbourhood. At first, I was getting a lot of people listening to the whole description of the project.

I would suggest things people could pledge and they were very unwilling to commit at all. This was worse than people just dismissing me right away because I wasted time going through the pledge with people only to have them refuse to commit at the end.

Things began to pick up after an hour and the houses that did decide to commit were very warm and receptive. It was apparent that this neighbourhood was very suburban. The people in these homes were as affluent or less than the residents of Durrand and Westdale, but much less interested in what I had to say. I found that the feeling of community was much weaker.

For example, in Westdale people would often point down the road and tell me about their neighbours and let me know whether they were home or not. There was very little of this in Dundas. People were much less conscious of their neighbours and much less trusting of people who showed up to their doors. We still did get a few pledges from people and some very good feedback on the project again.

Overall the best part of going door-to-door for me was getting to talk to people and share in their experiences with this problem. This is something that is in the general consciousness and a lot of people have opinions and concerns to share.

Usually elderly residents had the most stories to share and I could spend over half an hour a one door sometimes just listening to fascinating stories of people who had emigrated here from Europe after the world wars.

Even younger parents would be happy to talk about the challenges of running a household and finding time to worry about environmental issues.

The best part about this project was talking to people and seeing how much people actually care about our world and how willing they are to change their habits.