Wednesday, 25 March 2009

CSA-related survey....

We have joined our CSA again this year, and I feel quite fortunate that it is fairly close to our place, given the distances that people normally travel in this country/province. It is about the same distance to the CSA as it is to the town we normally go grocery shopping in, that is, about a half-hour trip by car, one way.

I have a couple questions for people who are members of a CSA farm, or who would consider being members of one:

1) How long does it take you to get to your CSA (or drop off point) going by car, bike or on foot?

2) How far/long would you be willing to travel once a week to get to a CSA (or drop off point)?

Any and all feedback appreciated - thanks!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Canada's Environment Minister denies water is a human right.

So, this morning I hear on the CBC Radio One news that Canada, courtesy of our so-called 'environment' minister Jim Prentice has thwarted efforts to have water declared a human right, not just a human need. Apparently Mr. Prentice is worried that if water is declared a human right, that Canada will be obligated to export water to countries that don't have enough of it. This is a total red herring. If that were the case, then we would be obligated to export everything that already is declared a human right, like food for example.

I find it absolutely astounding that, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights linked above, leisure time and property ownership are considered human rights, and yet access to safe drinking water isn't. How is this even possible?

Sadly, I know the answer to that question: it's possible because private water companies want it that way, so they can further commodify and commercialize water, selling it to those who can afford it. And that big Canadian project that Minister Prentice also talked about, the Global Environmental Monitoring System, will just help these multinationals get even better at finding where the good water is, so they can exploit it further.

This is why it is absolutely essential that we as citizens do not support private water supplies in any way, shape, or form. We need to make it a point not to buy any bottled water, including water that comes in the form of bottled juice or pop. Companies like Coke, Pepsi and Nestle are notorious for tapping into the aquifers in places like India, and even Florida, denying those citizens their right to clean water.

Today is World Water Day. But it's a sad day for water and a sad day for Canada.

Picture courtesy urbansprout

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Free Book: "Tar Sands"

Here is a link to a free book (in PDF format) about the tarsands - the offer is good through tomorrow. It's written by a well known Alberta activist, Andrew Nikiforuk.

Thanks to Experiments in Efficiency for the heads up about this offer.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Safe Water: Canada must endorse it as a human right!

Today the CBC ran an article outlining that Canada's bid for a UN Security Council seat is being undermined by Canada's refusal to endorse the view that safe water is a human right. This is as it should be: there is nothing more essential to life than water. I wholeheartedly agree with Maude Barlow, Chair of the Council of Canadians, who says that if the Harper government doesn't step up and take action about the world water crisis, then Canada doesn't deserve the Security Council seat.

And hooray for the Council of Canadians, for keeping this issue front and centre! March 22nd is World Water Day, and it is the day that the Council of Canadians launches its Blue Community Project. What can we do locally to promote water as a basic human right? We can start by talking to people about why privatization of water supplies is a bad thing. We can stop drinking bottled water and drink tap water instead. We can stop buying bottled pop and bottled juice, which are just fancier ways of bottling water. We can write to local, provincial and federal elected representatives to remind them that bottled water isn't a soloution to unsafe water supplies, but ensuring that our water supplies remain uncontaminated is. We can ask our local municipal councils, festival organizers, church groups, labor unions, or workplaces to stop selling and promoting bottled water.

One thing I've done lately to keep the importance of water foremost in my mind is to take one slow, mindful sip of water as the last thing I do before I go to bed. This serves to remind me how fortunate I am to have clean, clear, safe water coming out of my tap!

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Winter, continued.

About this time last year I was yearning for Spring, and this year is no different. We have had a season of vast fluctuations in temperature, and just when I thought we had finally come through Winter, today we get another six inches or so of snow.

I don't mind the snow really -- we do need the moisture in the Spring. But I am longing to see the actual ground again, and those first few shoots of green. I will have to be patient.

I learned a Winter lesson today: It is better to mark the location of the cistern lid and vent before the snow covers it up, then to have to dig all over the place later and hope you find it! I finally did find the necessary bits, and have now marked them with some flaggy items. At least now the water delivery guy will know where to go!

Well, back to shoveling....

Thursday, 12 March 2009

"A strong back and an open heart"

I am trying to get more serious about meditating regularly, as I find that when I do make time for it, it helps me to feel less frazzled. Whether it's concern for the state of the world, frustration over office politics, or wondering why my broccoli sprouts are taking so long to grow, even 10 - 15 minutes of meditation at the end of the day helps me regain a measure of mental equilibrium.

One day last week, I was feeling some grumpiness about something or other, and felt like spending my lunch hour searching the internet for all manner of things meditation-related. I even found an Alberta-based website with info on meditation, and came across this lovely description there:

We sit meditation upright and open. This develops the habit of being both steady and relaxed regardless of external circumstance. Sometimes it is difficult to find our true home of awakening in the midst of trying circumstances. Sometimes things around us might sway us into feelings of anger or misunderstanding. We need to have a strong back and an open heart to sit upright.

Our steadiness does not close us off from the reality of our interconnection with others. We only sit upright because we sit upright with others. We don’t hunch over or lean because we have nothing to protect. Our hearts are open and we welcome circumstances exactly as they appear.

Well, let me tell you, this idea really woke me up because I have been a bit of a slacker in terms of the posture I use when I meditate. More and more I've been sitting on a chair and putting a pillow behind my back to keep myself upright, rather than sitting on the floor with the pillow under my butt and holding myself in the proper posture. It's more comfy that way, and I could sit longer.

It was one of those neat 'aha' moments -- I realized that the actual physical aspect of the sitting was just as important as taking the time to sit in the first place. That sitting that way isn't just for show or to make my back uncomfortable on purpose, but that it is the form-al representation of what meditation is supposed to be all about: simply opening oneself to and accepting what is. I found the unity of this form and function very profound. This merging of form and function makes my brain all tingly when I think about it.

Silly Theresa: it's not about how long I sit or how comfy I am! It's about genuinely cultivating a strong back and an open heart, both literally and metaphorically. (Just now, I'm thinking that the exact same thing applies to Tai Chi.)

May we all develop the habit of being both steady and relaxed regardless of external circumstances.

Picture courtesy this flickr site.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Getting tough on crime? Whose?

The Canadian government is in the midst of trying to pass new legislation that would 'get tough on crime.' This has been in the works for some time now, but an election and then proroguing of parliament slowed things down. The heat is back on to get this thing passed now, particularly after a recent spate of gang-related violence in Vancouver and Calgary. The Act calls for things like mandatory minimum sentences and overall longer sentences for a number of offenses.

I could go on and on (and on) about why such things typically don't have a deterrent effect in the two categories of people who make up the bulk of the prison population (i.e., antisocial, impulsive types who don't consider consequences before acting, and gang members who consider doing time the price of doing business as well as a good way to get more recruits), but I won't. (Even though I have done research in the area and have worked in the field for the past 13+ years.) Instead I'd like to focus on a much bigger picture: the hypocrisy of the whole proposition.

In my view, the crux of the matter is this: why would anyone come over to the 'good side' of society when the so-called 'good side' consists of governments that cover up the crimes of their own members, and who let people like Bernie Madoff get away with billions of dollars in fraud? When society at large endorses psychopathic tendencies, including the unfettered pursuit of individual goals regardless of the consequences. When doctors who try to bring attention to the effects of the tarsands on the population of a small town are harassed by the government's health department. When 11 million litres PER DAY of toxic leakage from tarsands tailings ponds is considered within acceptable parameters. When the person in charge of ensuring a nuclear reactor is safe is fired when she says the place isn't safe anymore. When big pharma can muzzle research that is contrary to their business interests. When the ocean contains massive zones of plastic detritus that kills birds and deforms turtles. When we keep on over-consuming and sending our garbage to China for peasants to pick through. When we tell other countries to deal with the consequences of decades of OUR actions, while we do NOTHING.

We have lost the moral ground on which to stand and point fingers at the B&E artists, the con-men/women, the robbers, the fraudsters, even the murderers and rapists. They are us. We are them. There is no fundamental difference.

Because of our insatiable desires for more, always more, Western society has become a place not of fulfillment, but of a harried and crushing emptiness. We need a re-making of society, from the ground up. Just like we demand of the criminals in jail, we the non-jailed must be accountable for all of our actions, take responsibility for all of their consequences, and start acting to repair the harm we have caused to everyone and everything.

This starts here. Now. We must walk the walk, not just talk the talk. We must lead by example, not just point fingers at "criminals" and say, "what you've done is worse than what what I would ever do." No. Enough.

If we want others to be kind, then we must be kind. If we want others to be truthful then we must be truthful. If we want others to value fairness, justice, and peace, we must live our lives like we value these things too.

We can not legislate our way to a better society. This must instead start with each and every one of us, right now, in what we think, say and do every minute of every day.

Let's get started.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Good news for water....

Just thought I'd share this piece of news I heard today about more and more municipalities taking a stand against the use of bottled water on their properties. Hooray! Clean safe water is a human right, not a marketable commodity available just to those who can afford it. And all that wasted plastic, most of which doesn't even get recycled.

Thank you Federation of Canadian Municipalities, for taking this bold step!

Picture courtesy watersecretsblog

Friday, 6 March 2009

Cataclysm, anyone?

In today's Edmonton Journal, there is an article in the business section that advises people to brace for more than just a mere recession or depression. Instead, in the headline itself, we were warned to take heed of a coming cataclysm. The article in the paper is longer than the one provided online, but the final paragraph is the same:

"In the end, Hamon said, we will return to the way we used to live a generation or two ago. That means grandparents living with their children. Workers taking lunch pails to work instead of eating at [iconic donut shop]. One-income families. People raising their own children and cutting their own grass. Camping instead of cruising. "There will be a reduction in living standards," Brennan said."

This article struck me as both a good and bad thing. On one hand, I think it's good that the seriousness of the economic situation is finally being talked about in the mainstream media. And words like "cataclysm" certainly draw attention, and might serve as a wake up call to those still slumbering in the soporific stew of consumer culture.

But on the other hand, I don't agree that living the way we did a generation or two ago can be considered a "reduction in living standards." I already take my 'lunch pail' to work and I already cut my own grass. In fact I'm cutting it less and less often, and there is less and less to cut, as I let grassy areas grow wild. I already prefer camping to cruising, but don't even need to go camping really, since I've got a nice garden to putter about in, whenever I want. And, we've been weaning ourselves down to one salary for a couple years now, and could go further. None of this has been a hardship, and it certainly hasn't been cataclysmic.

A dictionary definition of 'cataclysm' is: "A violent upheaval that causes great destruction or brings about a fundamental change." Some synonyms for the word 'cataclysmic' are: disastrous, devastating, catastrophic and calamitous.

In fact I'd take the radical approach that what we have wreaked upon the earth in the past 50 -100 years has been the cataclysm, not what's happening now. I'm looking forward to things getting back INTO balance again. And for that I will happily keep packing my lunch pail and skipping the obligatory cruise.

Chapter 37 of the Tao Te Ching has something to say about this, about returning to basics and knowing when enough is enough:
The Tao never does anything,
yet through it all things are done.

If powerful men and women
could enter themselves in it,
the whole world would be transformed
by itself, in its natural rhythms.
People would be content
with their simple, everyday lives,
in harmony, and free of desire.

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.
Tao Te Ching translation by S. Mitchell
Picture courtesy this website.