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Posts Tagged ‘David Suzuki’

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I love this photograph of two pollinators visiting summer flowers. That’s a honeybee on the left, and a big, fat bumblebee on the right. I love to watch bees, all kinds of bees, and other pollinators enliven my garden. But you have probably heard that honey bees are severely threatened by a syndrome that has been named Colony Collapse Disorder. Although multiple causes may be implicated, the smoking gun points to one major culprit: neonicotinoid pesticides. And you can bet that it’s not just honeybees that are being affected. Other pollinators, birds and aquatic life are all at risk as well.

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In Europe, precautionary bans of some neonicotinoids are being instituted.

The Ontario Beekeepers’ Association is supporting a call for a ban of neonicotinoids in Ontario. The banner, above, is from their website. You can sign their petition and read more information at ontariobee.com.

The Sierra Club of Canada is also supporting a ban. You can sign their petition and read more information at Sierraclub.ca.

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The American Bird Conservancy have looked into the effect of neonicotinoids on birds.

ABC commissioned world-renowned environmental toxicologist Dr. Pierre Mineau to conduct the research. The 100-page report, “The Impact of the Nation’s Most Widely Used Insecticides on Birds,” reviews 200 studies on neonicotinoids including industry research obtained through the US Freedom of Information Act. The report evaluates the toxicological risk to birds and aquatic systems and includes extensive comparisons with the older pesticides that the neonicotinoids have replaced. The assessment concludes that the neonicotinoids are lethal to birds and to the aquatic systems on which they depend.

The beauty of bees and the desperate crisis that threatens them, and by extension, us, is documented in the award-winning video, The Vanishing of the Bees. I was able to borrow a copy from my local library and highly recommend it.

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Another source is David Suzuki’s Nature of Things special, To Bee or Not to Bee. If you missed this show, you can still watch it online. Time well-spent.

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In addition to becoming informed and supporting a ban on neonicotinoids, you can help by buying local organic honey. Did you know that a lot of commercial honey isn’t pure? It has been ultra-filtered to disguise ingredients:

Ultra filtering is a high-tech procedure where honey is heated, sometimes watered down and then forced at high pressure through extremely small filters to remove pollen, which is the only foolproof sign identifying the source of the honey. It is a spin-off of a technique refined by the Chinese, who have illegally dumped tons of their honey – some containing illegal antibiotics – on the U.S. market for years.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration says that any product that’s been ultra-filtered and no longer contains pollen isn’t honey. However, the FDA isn’t checking honey sold here to see if it contains pollen.

Food Safety News found that more than three-fourths of the honey sold in U.S. grocery stores had been ultra-filtered.

Note: additional images here are copied from my facebook page where they arrived from unknown sources.

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davidsuzuki

Today is David Suzuki’s 75th birthday. It is impossible to think of another Canadian who has worked so tirelessly on educating the public about the world of nature and the need to mitigate our impact on the planet. Suzuki says that he takes solace in knowing that he can look his grandchildren in the eye and tell them “I did my best.”

Given the performance of the current government at international climate action meetings and on other environmental issues, it’s hard to imagine what these politicians could say to their grandchildren. Perhaps “I had the chance to help change things, but I turned my back on your future.” Perhaps if you are an egomaniac, grandchildren don’t matter.

You can sign a card for Dr. Suzuki at The Nature of Things website.

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The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing The World and What We Eat by Charles Clover. The New Press, 2006.

Here, in the middle of the continent, more or less, if we think of the ocean at all it is as a place one might go for a vacation, to admire the beautiful blue water that spreads endlessly off to the horizon. Huge, virtually untouched by we landlubber humans, and certainly, full of fish. There’s even an expression: Plenty of fish in the sea.

As it turns out, these superficial perceptions are untrue. The world’s ocean has been deeply impacted by humans and there are no longer lots of fish in the sea. A free-for-all fishing bonanza has emptied the ocean of its fish at a rate far greater than what reproduction can replace. A crisis looms on the horizon. The populations of all the big predator fish in the ocean have plummeted by 90% in the five decades or so since modern industrial fishing began. By 2003, the last year for which data on global commercial fish catches are available, 29 percent of all fished species had collapsed, meaning they are now at least 90 percent below their historic maximum catch levels.

There are a number of excellent books available on the state of the world’s fisheries. I enjoyed Carl Safina’s Song for the Blue Ocean, among others, but for a thorough, eminently-readable account, I found Charles Clover’s The End of the Line to be the best and highly recommend it. He grabs the reader’s attention from the opening page of his introduction, entitled The Price of Fish. Consider this excerpt:

Imagine what people would say if a band of hunters strung a mile of net between two immense all-terrain vehicles and dragged it at speed across the plains of Africa. This fantastical assemblage, like something from a Mad Max movie, would scoop up everything in its way: predators such as lions and cheetahs, lumbering endangered herbivores such as rhinos and elephants, herds of impala and wildebeest, family groups of warthogs and wild dogs. Pregnant females would be swept up and carried along, with only the smallest juveniles able to wriggle through the mesh. Picture how the net is constructed, with a huge metal roller attached to the leading edge. This rolling beam smashes and flattens obstructions, flushing creatures into the approaching filaments. The effect of dragging a huge iron bar across the savannah is to break off every outcrop and uproot every tree, bush and flowering plant, stirring columns of birds into the air. Left behind is a strangely bedraggled landscape resembling a harrowed field. The industrial hunter-gatherers now stop to examine the tangled mess of writhing or dead creatures behind them. There are no markets for about a third of the animals they have caught because they don’t taste good, or because they are simply too small or too squashed. This pile of corpses is dumped on the plain to be consumed by scavengers.

This efficient but highly unselective way of killing animals is known as trawling. It is practiced the world over every day, from the Barents Sea in the Arctic to the shores of Antarctica, and from the tropical waters of the Indian Ocean and the central Pacific to the temperate waters off Cape Cod.

Dr. David Suzuki’s TV program, The Nature of Things, is currently featuring a four-part series about the plight of the world’s ocean. It is packed with good information and great visuals. The trouble with TV, though, is the images fly by so quickly, it is hard to take everything in and it is hard to present all the facets of a complex topic in a relatively short time slot. Reading a book has the advantage of letting you take in the information and digest it at your own pace. There is a lot to know.

One topic I found particularly interesting is the manner in which government subsidies worldwide contribute to overfishing. Subsidies can take many forms, from money to support a ship-building industry where supply has long since outstripped need, or, as is the case here in Canada, unemployment insurance, which amounts to a massive subsidy to fishermen to stay where they are, with a fully equipped fleet ready to go fishing the moment there are even small numbers of fish to catch. To read more on the decline of Canada’s cod fishery, you can check out Unnatural Disaster here. Of course, that’s not a topic politicians would care to tackle.

I also found the details behind a McDonald’s Fish Filet of interest. It is actually sourced from certified sustainably-caught stock. McDonald’s would need to pay royalties to advertise that their fish is Marine Stewardship Council approved. Presumably they don’t do so because much of the public is too woefully uninformed about such issues to care.

The Nature of Things program has a connected website at One Ocean where you can watch the four episodes online.

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One of the route markers on the road to winter is the first thin coat of ice to cover ponds and puddles. When I went out to feed the horses on Saturday morning, there it was. The surface of the pond was sealed by a delicate film. The virgin icecoat was fragile and thin, but nevertheless added emphasis to the “other world”-liness of all things that live in water. The ice was transparent and I could still see schools of little fish swimming near the shore, but now they looked protected and safe, sealed off from our outer world of air and earth.

The smaller puddles that dot the field had air pockets trapped beneath their surfaces. It’s impossible to resist poking some of them with a toe to see the ice shatter like glass. The river to the north of the house is scarcely touched by the frost. It takes more than a few cool nights to cover its surface. Even though the water isn’t very deep, it’s persistent movement keeps the ice at bay until the temperature dips well below freezing.

The weekend was sunny and bright, but a cold wind was blowing. I was content to spend time sitting in the sun, enjoying the outdoors via my view out the window. On weekends, I like to browse through the Saturday Globe & Mail, preferably while sipping a cup of hot coffee. On Sunday, I also looked up the podcast of Jian Ghomeshi’s interview from November 25th, which I wasn’t able to catch at the time. Jian had both Dr. David Suzuki, Canada’s voice for conservation and change, and Ex-Almost-President Al Gore on the show. You can listen to the podcast of the interview here.

I was interested to learn that David Suzuki was strongly influenced by Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. I read it as a newbie gardener and was never tempted to spray poisons on my plants. Thank goodness Ontario finally banned the use of cosmetic pesticides. Better late than never. Al Gore tread cautiously through the minefield of commenting on another nation’s policies, but did note that “I have been surprised in recent years at the appearance that some in the government were willing to turn their backs on environmental agreements like the Kyoto Protocol.” Yeah. Me too. And: “I understand there’s a lot of money to be made in the tarsands,” but they are “the single most dangerous and polluting energy source on the planet.” He observed that gasoline made from the tarsands gives a Toyota Prius the carbon footprint of a Hummer. While Suzuki was impatient with conferences such as the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Change summit, Gore remained hopeful that a treaty would be forthcoming in the next year.

In light of the upcoming summit, the Globe and Mail featured a number of interesting articles related to climate change. In Lowering the Doom, John Allemang discusses how to motivate the public to support change. The People’s Republic of Green, by Mark MacKinnon, looks at steps that China is taking towards a more sustainable energy future. The city of Baoding has gone from being a major polluter to being the world’s first carbon-positive (emission reductions created by the technologies produced here exceed the city’s own carbon emissions) city in the world in just 6 years.

World Wildlife Fund full-page feature, G&M, Sat. Dec 5, 2009

In A changing planet – by land, sea and air, the damage caused by global warming is examined. In Everybody talks about the climate, but … Karim Bardeesy reviews three books that examine climate change solutions and the obstacles to their implementation.

There will probably always be climate change deniers. After all, 150 years after Darwin published On the Origin of Species, there are still people who are unable or unwilling to grasp the concept of evolution. The science of climate change and mankind’s ability to impact carbon-dioxide levels have been understood since Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius examined the subject in 1895. All that remains uncertain are the exact details. In fact, climate change is happening faster than predicted. Perhaps the main benefit of the Copenhagen summit will be to unite more people in supporting action.

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Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. We're at 387.

As the UN Climate Summit to take place in Copenhagen grows nearer, people around the world are uniting to show political leaders the we’re ready and able to deal with climate change. Saturday, October 24th is International Day of Climate Action. At 350.org, you can find the location of an event near you. If you find yourself near Ottawa, Ontario, you can join the Fill the Hill event.

Canada’s political leaders made it clear that they need to hear from Canadians who care about the future of the planet, as the Liberals joined forces with the Conservatives to vote down the Hyer Bill, Bill C-311. The bill would have allowed Canadians to go to Copenhagen with some semblance of integrity intact. Here is a news report about the lack of progress on Canada’s Climate Change Accountability Act. The news report is reproduced in part below:

OTTAWA – Liberal and Conservative MPs today joined forces to stall the only legislation addressing climate change before the House of Commons. Bill C-311, the Climate Change Accountability Act, is MP Bruce Hyer’s private member’s bill that commits Canada to firm science-based greenhouse gas pollution targets. More than 40 Canadian conservation & environmental organizations including Nature Canada, the Jane Goodall Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, and the Council of Canadians sent an open letter yesterday to all MPs urging against delay.

It is feared that without passage of C-311 before the Copenhagen global climate treaty negotiations this December, the Conservative government would be free to arrive on the world stage without a plan, and hold back a climate agreement from being reached. “Adopting this bill will not only reflect the sentiments of the majority of Canadians who are deeply concerned about climate change, it would also signal the commitment of Canada to do its part,” said Bruce Hyer, the New Democrat Deputy Environment Critic. “Today’s vote was a chance for Liberals to join the rest of the opposition to direct the government on Canada’s stance for Copenhagen. Instead, they have chosen to side with Conservatives and delay action.”

The vote comes on the heels of testimony by leading climate scientists at the Environment Committee, who voiced strong support for the Bill’s science-based greenhouse gas pollution targets and urged the passage of the Bill in advance of Copenhagen.

Canada’s “leaders” seem determined to reduce Canada to third-world status. I can understand that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is obsessed with winning the next election, no matter the cost. What I can never understand is why he doesn’t care about the world his own children will inherit.

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davidsuzuki

With the government set to spend megabucks reviving the economy, you’d think investing in green energy would be a no-brainer. Check out the Green Energy Act Alliance website to see what’s new. Watch the David Suzuki video. Sign the petition.

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