Sunday, January 17, 2010

Convenience……….The price we pay!...Saturday, January 2. 2010

I want to start out by wishing every one a Happy New Year and a Happy New Decade. It is hard to believe we have already seen the first decade of the new millennium pass by. Many things have happened in the past decade that will have an impact on how we live our lives in this decade and others to follow. I guess the defining moment was September 11, 2001. Since that day borders have become more guarded, and North America has been caught in a war in Afghanistan. We witnessed many extreme weather and environmental disasters including Hurricane Katrina and the Asian tsunami in December 2004. There is much debate on whether these and other extreme weather patterns are in part being caused by man made environmental damage. Another thing that has shaken up the modern world in a sense, was the sudden spike of the price of fuel two years ago, which was followed by the near collapse of the economy. To start the new decade the price of oil has come down and stabilized and the economy has stabilized as well to some degree. The past ten years has also seen an increase in environmental awareness and the “go green” movement. The “go green” movement is something that will only intensify in the decade ahead as we continue to abuse our planet in an alarming way.

A few weeks ago, on a Saturday morning, I jumped in my car and headed to the coffee shop down the street to get a coffee to go. While waiting in the drive thru line up for ten minutes it dawned on me that this was something that I should not be doing if I really want to practice what I preach. I looked around and there were close to twenty cars idling for an extended period of time all waiting to get that cup of coffee to go. That is a lot of pollution and a lot of fuel being wasted. Not only that, what happens to the disposable cups and plastic that is used? Most of it is not recycled and goes directly in the garbage afterwards. In North America and other parts of the world there are hundreds of thousands of drive thrus all built with convenience in mind. For example, a recent report by CTV news in Canada, states that in Edmonton, Alberta, the drive thrus combined in that city released 750 tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in one month alone. In a year that is 9000 tonnes from a city of slightly less than a million people. Fast food restaurants and coffee shops have drive thrus for customers that want fast service without having to use too much effort. Some of these people are too lazy to even walk 50 feet to get their double burger, king sized fries and soda pop! This is a heavy burden on the environment.

Many of these restaurants don’t go far enough to encourage people to walk in instead of using the drive thru. They would rather have people use the drive thrus. Drive-thru use has been increasing across North America. There are two main reasons for their growing popularity, convenience and money. Fast food chains are in increasing competition to offer the best service, while eliminating the cost of the larger restaurant. Having smaller restaurants with the drive-thru window saves the company money because the customers don’t even have to come inside your restaurant, which is a cost when you consider seating and washrooms. Also the customer never has to leave their car and gets fast food on the go, which generally makes them happy. Even if they have to wait in line idling their cars for ten or fifteen minutes they can check emails on their cell phones or text their friends while waiting (got to love modern times). These drive-thru window services contribute to smog, emissions, noise pollution, and air pollution. They also contribute to our so-called lazy society adding to health problems, which is an ever-increasing burden on our health care systems.

Restaurant drive thrus are not the only culprits in regards to the waste we create to cater to our convenient fast paced lifestyles. We want meals to go and we want meals ready in 5 minutes, often made in only one portion. Whether we go to our favorite fast food joint or a grocery store, the amount of plastic and cardboard used to package these meals is staggering. Also, in the past few decades the consumption of bottled water has drastically increased causing a lot of plastic to be discarded. Other disposable items in our society built around convenience are disposable diapers, disposable batteries, disposable cameras, disposable razors and so many other things we use everyday. It would be unreasonable to assume we can stop using all disposable items in society, but we need to cut down on the use of them. We need to find alternatives to disposable items when possible, especially when it helps our environment and reduces waste. We all love convenience in our lives but with convenience there is often a price to pay.

Weird Weather and Global Warming …..AKA Climate Change...Saturday, October 24. 2009

I am sure we all have heard the term “Global Warming” hundreds of times by now. Living in Canada when someone says the term global warming during a deep freeze in February, I tend to frown, but actually global warming is a serious matter. However, the term “climate change” is better suited for the weather patterns and eco-systems changes that seem to be occurring with more frequency these days. If global warming meant warmer Canadian winters and no other ramifications, I would be saying, “Bring it on”. However, global warming, which is now often refered to as climate change, means much more.

The Arctic is the measuring stick for climate change. The Arctic is an extremely sensitive region, and it's being greatly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists consider what's happening now in the Arctic as a hint of things to come. Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere on the planet. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. Extreme changes are occurring in the Artic region, affecting the ice both in the open ocean and the ice, which is attached to the coast. With this occurring the ocean levels will rise and currents will become affected. Scientists state that much more rain is anticipated in many areas in coming decades as the ice caps melt. Rising sea levels could mean severe flooding in low-lying coastal areas in the future. Increasing sea temperatures in the Atlantic and Pacific have increased the environmental stress on the coastlines of Canada and the United States as well as other areas. There are even a few scientists that believe that changes in weather and climate can rip the earth’s crust apart, resulting in volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis and landslides. Over the past few years there seems to be more frequent earthquakes, however it is not yet certain if climate change is to blame.

An example recently of strange weather patterns saw the second weekend of October 2009 having 40 record lows in the US Midwest, including Denver, Colorado, which saw snow and a record low of 17 Fahrenheit. In the Canadian prairies, snow and record cold arrived for the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, just a few weeks after record high temperatures. In previous months there have been wildfires in California caused by dry weather. In other parts of the US there have been floods and excessive rain. These are a few examples in North America. Other parts of the world have been hit with violent weather with devastating consequences. One example was a deadly typhoon that slammed into China's coastal provinces and Taiwan in August 2009 that killed hundreds and displaced more than a million people at that time. In third world countries these types of storms are especially tragic because poorer countries do not have the means to recover as quickly from devastating storms.

It is not only the weather we need to be concerned about in regards to climate change. The change in our climate will affect plant and animal life. Our eco-system is interconnected in a way that when one species of plant or animal life is affected, it filters down to other ones. Warmer temperatures in one part of the world can bring different species to that section. In addition to that, it can also wipe out certain species in an area that is affected by changing weather patterns. Insects may travel further north and bring certain diseases with them to previously immune areas. The polar bear is one of the most used symbols of climate change and the effect it has on animals, however, climate change can potentially affect thousands of animal species. There is already undeniable evidence that animals, birds and plants are being affected by climate change in their dispersion and behavior. Unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, climate change could lead to a quarter of land animals, birdlife and plants to become extinct. Climate change is certainly not the only danger to animals as humans have already destroyed many of the natural migrations of animals by increased urbanization and poaching. When animal and plant species are wiped out of their habitant, it filters down the food chain of other species including humans. We all depend on animals for our survival in one way or the other. With the earth’s population fast approaching seven billion, a shortage in food along with fresh drinking water, which is also a effect from climate change, will have devastating effects around the globe.

There is a lot of debate in the past few years about global warming. Some people think it is overblown and that it is not that serious. That leads people to ignore many environmental issues and continue with their wasteful ways. The fact is that global warming is more than having a warmer climate everywhere. I will say it again, being a Canadian with Canada having one of the harshest winters on the planet, I am all for a warmer climate here. (I don’t like the cold and have often wished in the winter months that I were at a beach in Florida.) But it is much more serious than that. There are more frequent weather extremes, which sometimes can result in colder temperatures. There are animal and plant species that are becoming extinct. There are more frequent storms and floods in some areas and droughts in others. I am not a scientist myself or am I an expert on climate change. I don’t know the extent of climate change but I do believe it is real and it is a serious issue that everyone needs to not only be aware of, but also take action on. While people debate on the extent and causes of global warming and climate change the planet is suffering damage that every day becomes more irreversible. I believe the proper term for global warming is climate change, which gives the true meaning to what is happening around the globe.

Media Manipulation...Wednesday, September 9. 2009

Today in the age of mass media whether it be television news, internet, or magazines and newspapers, we are bombarded with information on global warming and climate change. Most of these messages are not consistent. One news report may say something different than the next one in regards to the seriousness of the effects of global warming and climate change and the views of the causes of climate change and global warming often differ. The same holds true with pollution. There are different reports on the causes and seriousness of pollution and how it affects human health and our atmosphere.

The Arctic is the measuring stick for global warming. The Artic is an extremely sensitive region, and it's being greatly affected by the changing climate. Most scientists view what's happening now in the Arctic as a hint of things to come. Average temperatures in the Arctic region are rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world. Arctic ice is getting thinner, melting and rupturing. Drastic changes are occurring in the Artic region, affecting the ice both in the open ocean and the ice, which is attached to the coast. Arctic thawing is likely to result in worldwide consequences from an increase in greenhouse gases and global weather pattern changes, according to a World Wildlife Fund report recently released. They have also discovered that Arctic ice is shrinking at a much quicker pace than previously expected. The thawing Arctic is likely to have far-reaching implications that will affect hundreds of millions of people the WWF said. Most of us have never been or will never be at the arctic in person. We can only rely on the media to give us their interpretation of the artic ice melt. No doubt it is real, but many of us feel that what happens up in the arctic will not affect us in more southern climates. That is not true. The planet is interconnected in so many ways, so what happens in the Arctic may not necessarily effect us today, but will certainly effect us in the future. We all hear reports of floods and droughts in different regions of the world when we watch the news. We also hear reports of wild fires, tornadoes and hurricanes. There is no disputing that these things are happening. What is disputed, however is what is causing these weather patterns. Does global warming cause it? If so, how much of these storms and weather patterns are contributed to climate change? What contributes to global warming? One thing is certain. In the business world a corporation's number one goal is their profit margin. If a corporation's main business contributes to something that harms our environment and affects climate change they will not jeopardize their business by reporting anything negative if they are not forced to do so. If they do have to admit to something that is negative in regards to the environment it will be watered down and they will put a positive spin on it to make the public feel better. While the artic ice is melting and maybe on a course of catastrophic consequences for the next generations, no huge company that contributes to climate change will admit to how serious it is if it means a huge loss of profit for them. They sugar coat the facts if they have to.

In some areas of the world in and even in North America, pollution levels in our air, soil and water are unacceptable. In many cases the media is controlled by corporate powers that want to dilute the truth about pollution and global warming. Do you think big oil companies want us to know about the full dangers of the pollution caused from refineries? One example is in southern New Brunswick, where I live. We have one of the largest oil refineries in North America along with two paper mills and an liquefied natural gas facility owned mainly by the company that controls all the major newspapers in the province and has control over the local government to a large extent. I believe the rates of asthma and other repertory illnesses along with other diseases, like some cancers, can in part be contributed to the high level of pollution in this area. In fact, a good friend of mine who lived in Saint John, New Brunswick for close to ten years complained about shortness of breath and decreased energy levels over the past few years (he is a non-smoker). He moved to a rural area of Nova Scotia a month ago and has told me his breathing is better already. I have heard of others that have left the Saint John area and begin breathing better shortly after. It is not a coincidence, and I believe we a not told the entire truth when it comes to the health affects of pollution in this area.

Around the globe many businesses that are doing the wrong thing in regards to harming our environment and polluting our air, soil, rivers, lakes and oceans often get away with a lot of things that they shouldn't. Many times large companies control our media and governments to a large extent. Considering that the media survives on corporate advertising revenues, do you think they are going to bite the hand that feeds them? As well, governments are dependent on the tax revenues that these companies provide and the tax revenues received by the people that are employed with these companies. It stands to reason that the more powerful a company is and the more money they are worth, they can buy positive information provided by the media as well as manipulate governments. We as people living on this planet need to pay attention to the real issues and learn to decipher through some of the information that is constantly thrown at us by the media

In the Name of Money...Thursday, August 13. 2009

I live in Saint John, New Brunswick Canada, a city of about 100,000 people. Although this area has weathered the current recession better than some areas in North America, it has historically not thrived economically as well as many other areas in the past number of decades. Many people in this area seem to have always put jobs ahead of the environment.

Recently it was announced that there would not be a second oil refinery built in Saint John at Eider Rock. This was supposed to be a joint project between Irving Oil and BP. There were some people that were really disappointed in this decision. I was not one of them. Saint John already has one of the largest oil refineries in North America only about 2 miles from the downtown area. It also has a newly developed LNG facility on the eastern boundaries of the city. Add to that two paper mills inside the city, two power generating facilities in the area, and a nuclear power plant less than 30 miles outside the city, I think we have enough heavy industry and pollution to deal with. Of course the people who were extremely disappointed at the recent news of the cancelled oil refinery were the ones that stood to make money of the project. From business contractors to even real estate agents and landlords who thought property values would jump, are upset the project did not go through. Many people in the Saint John area seem to have the attitude that if they can make some money then who cares about the environment. Actually this attitude is not limited to this area. This is the attitude that seems to be at the root cause of environmental issues around the globe.

Is there any wonder why some companies set up heavy industries in somewhat economically deprived areas? They do this for a few reasons. The first reason is that labor is cheaper. In an economically deprived area with high unemployment people will work for less, therefore the labor cost is cheaper for the companies. Secondly, people are so starved for employment and the economic spin-offs from this; people and even governments will often be more lenient regarding environmental issues. Therefore, large corporations that operate large paper mills, oil refineries and other manufacturing facilities get away with more in regards to being able to pollute our air, soil and water. People that are unemployed or work for minimum wage often overlook environmental and health concerns for hopes of earning a decent wage.

I wonder why Irving has set up many industries in the Saint John area. Yes, this area has a geographic advantage being close to the United States marketplace, but the Saint John area has been historically an economically deprived region in many cases. With that being said, the citizens here as well as the government often turn a blind eye to environmental issues with the threat of losing jobs. Also, many people here will work for less than other places in the country. With this attitude, this area will always be exploited and a few powerful businessmen will control the people and government.

I wish to point out that I am by no means against business and development. I am pro business, but I am against one or a few powerful companies dictating the terms of their policies to the citizens and governments. I am against companies that turn a blind eye to environmental issues in the name of money as well. Every company, whether high and mighty or small should follow the same rules and be treated the same by governments when it comes to environmental standards. Governments and industries should be developing clean green energy sources of power. Saint John sits on the Bay of Fundy, home of the world's highest tides. Why aren't we developing tidal power in the area more? Recently, I had the chance to visit the Kent Hills Wind Farm a few hours outside of Saint John. Why can't we build a wind farm in the Saint John area to take advantage of the wind that often blows off the Bay of Fundy? I never hear too much talk of green energy in the Saint John area. It seems that a powerful oil company holds us hostage as citizens and governments. How much longer do we need to be brainwashed as citizens? We as individuals and governments should be following the green trail more than the money trail.

Green Energy Sources versus Traditional Energy Sources...Friday, July 3. 2009

Today there is a lot of hype and a movement in some sectors to promote and implement green renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and tidal. In many cases cost is a deciding factor in what type of energy is used in the home and business. I think we all deep down want a cleaner planet with less pollution, but unfortunately some of us do not heed the danger of global warming and climate change and the fact the traditional energy sources are finite, and in many cases toxic to our environment and our health. For many of us, we would like to use green renewable energy but the startup cost is too expensive and the options are not readily available to us yet.

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, coal, fuel oil or natural gas, which were formed from the remains of plants and animals. These energy resources provide a great percentage of the electrical power the world uses and are used particularly for activities such as heating, transport and generating electricity. When fuel is burned dangerous substances are produced, such as carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide. These gases cause pollution and contribute to dangerous processes for the earth, such as the greenhouse effect and acid rain. The advantages of these energy resources are that a lot of energy can be generated using inexpensive materials and that the power stations in which these resources are handled can be built almost anywhere. There are many special interest groups such as big oil companies that want to keep their lucrative business going so they tend to control governments and consumers to a large extent to ensure they keep making record profits. "Big Oil" wants control. I have seen this first hand here in Saint John where one giant oil company tends to control the government and some individuals and gets away with being able to pollute our environment to a certain extent.

Greener energy sources, such as wind, solar and tidal power are starting to make headway as a large group of people are really concerned about the health of our planet and at the same time save money and not be dependant on traditional energy sources. Wind power is one example of a clean renewable energy source. I had an opportunity a few days ago to visit a giant wind farm in Kent Hills, New Brunswick. The project was estimated to have cost 170 million dollars. That is certainly a high price tag, however once the farm is set up, the costs of operation are minimal compared to other traditional energy sources. The wind farm in Kent Hills that went into production earlier this year has thirty -two turbines and produces 280,000 megawatt hours per year, enough power for 17,000 homes. The government of Canada invested 29 million in the Kent Hills Wind Farm through the Renewable Power Program. This initiative will reap benefits in the future with lower energy costs and help to reduce pollution and climate change. Now, not every business has 170 million dollars to set up a renewable energy source. There are many small companies and individuals that can set up sources of wind and solar power for as little as a few thousand dollars. There is an initial cost that deters some people from implementing green energy sources in their home or business. We have to weigh the costs of going to green renewable energy sources compared to continuing to use fossil fuels such as oil and be at the mercy of a few corporations that want control and continue on a path of destroying our environment. We can all make a difference whether it is buying a hybrid car, or having energy efficient homes, to a large company building a huge wind farm. The choice is ours to make. We need to continue to swing the pendulum the other way. The way towards green renewable energy and away from traditional sources of energy such as oil.

The Creed of Greed to Fulfill our Needs..Monday, June 15. 2009

In our western world, there is no doubt that our society is materialistic. Now, there are different levels of materialism, ranging from basic needs to indulging in a never-ending orgy of endless materialism. I do want to admit that I am somewhat materialistic, being brought up in the western world, but I am happy just to have food in my fridge, a roof over my head and a modest car to get around in and a television to watch the news and the odd hockey game on. I have learned that the most important thing in life is health, whether it is physical, mental or spiritual. I do like electronics and sometimes have to catch myself when I get the urge to upgrade my existing computer, television or digital camera just so I can have latest features. I do realize that there are over a billion people that don't have enough food and lack of shelter in this world. They are certainly not worried about upgrading their CRT television to a 40-inch LCD television or whether to put that fourth bedroom in a home with only three family members. I am glad to live in this part of the world and have the modern conveniences in life. There is nothing wrong with a certain level of materialism. The problem is with excessive materialism and greed.

It is astonishing at times to drive by new subdivisions in my area and see the size of new homes when the average family size is smaller than ever. Do we really need these mansions, or are we just getting them to impress our neighbors. Many of us can't even afford them. Then there are garages attached these new homes, and from what I have been told, some new subdivisions make a garage mandatory. We all know what has happened in the United States over the past few years with the home foreclosures and real estate crisis. First the banks got greedy lending to people that had no real hope of being able to pay it back in a timely manner, and people buying the home wanted more than they needed or could afford.

The amount of electronics being discarded and thrown into landfills today is astonishing. In many cases it is not that they are damaged. They are discarded because they don't have the latest features that our friends have and the media tells us that we should have. We are bombarded with advertisements on television and the Internet and movies telling us that if we only had this we would be happy. Consume, consume and consume more and we will be happier and the economy will be great. I heard one time from someone, that many of us in society are missing spiritual and inner peace and fulfillment in our lives, so we think that buying material things will make us happy. Consumer items do make us happy for a while but it only lasts for a limited time until we feel the need to buy something else that we really don't need. We also buy so much for our children now and we always say to our defense "we are just giving our kids everything we couldn't have". Are today's kids any happier? Are they better? Generally they are not. Sometimes today's youth are more empty inside because they are in broken families and don't have the traditional family settings that were once a big part of our society. The more kids get, the more they want in a lot of cases. That applies to much of the adult population as well.

Corporations today in many cases are only concerned about the bottom line. Being green and being environmentally friendly comes second and is often used as a marketing ploy. If you had a good year financially as a company, the next year any thing short of an increase is a failure. Many of our corporations are raping our planet and its natural resources just to make a short-term profit. It is never enough for a corporation to sit still and be happy with a profit; they need to find a way to make a larger profit next year, even if it comes at the expense of our environment.

Excessive materialism and greed by individuals and corporations are partly to blame for climate change and global warming. Excessive, needless consumption leads to more pollution in our air and water. It also helps contribute to water shortages plaguing parts of the world. We don't need to apologize for living in the western world and having material things. What we do need to do is ask ourselves how much is enough and how are we impacting others

Catch the Green Wave...Thursday, May 7. 2009

In Canada, and other parts of the northern hemisphere, May is a beautiful month. It is wonderful because the outdoors turn "green". The leaves blossom on the trees and shrubs, plants and flowers come to life and the grass is green. It is a time when more people get outdoors. People will visit a park to walk, hike or just sit and relax over a cup of coffee or tea. Cycling enthusiasts will be on their bikes and some may even take that early camping trip. I love this time of year. After a brutal, cold Canadian winter, I appreciate the warmer weather and the ability to enjoy nature at its best. Spring is like the rebirth of nature around this part of the world.

Many of use tend to take Mother Nature and the environment for granted. Just going to the park and seeing ducks swimming in the pond and birds flying about make me want to do my part in protecting our environment. Just the sounds and smell of nature are refreshing. Listening to birds in a park, away from the noise pollution that we are accustomed to in the city is relaxing. If you are in a wooded area this time of year, you probably can smell the freshness of the trees blossoming and the flowers blooming. The fresh smell of nature certainly beats the smell of urban pollution caused from automobiles, trucks and heavy industry. I frequently hike a few of the big parks in my area which over looks the Bay of Fundy and scenic lakes. The two main parks in Saint John, New Brunswick are the Irving Nature Park which is a peninsula on the shores of the Bay of Fundy. The other one is Rockwood Park, which has numerous lakes throughout, and miles of combined walking or biking trails. There are areas in these parks that have spots for barbecuing and benches to sit down relax and just enjoy nature. These parks and others are gems that we are fortunate to have. There are also many other smaller parks and beaches in my area that I often visit to enjoy the great outdoors. Many areas in North America and other parts of the world set aside areas that we can go to relax and get away from our stressful busy lives to enjoy nature. I personally, never get tired of the great outdoors, assuming that the weather is tolerable.

Many parks and scenic areas are falling victim to our modern lifestyle. Pollution, whether it is air pollution, soil pollution, water pollution and even noise pollution has a detrimental affect on the balance of nature. You don't have to be a big company to contribute to harming our environment. Many individuals perform harmful environmental practices. It is disturbing to see the amount of garbage thrown around in neighborhoods, parks and water supplies. Everyday I walk by litter, which includes plastic food containers, paper and plastic bags, coffee cups and more. There is a strict indoor smoking policy in my province which forces people to go outside to smoke. This is a great thing; however the fringe benefit of this is the amount of cigarette butts on the ground. If I had a nickel for every cigarette butt I pass by everyday when out walking, I could quit my day job. It is sickening. Where do these butts go? In our soil and water of course! Also there are people with dogs and other pets that when they let them outside they can't clean up after them. I am not sure if this is laziness, ignorance, stupidity or a combination of these, but this is unacceptable. How much effort does it take to put garbage in its proper spot? There should be more stiff fines and penalties for people caught doing this. As well, businesses and corporations need to be more environmentally responsible in regards to dumping toxins into soil, water and our air.

Many of us need to step back from our busy, hectic lifestyles and get out and enjoy nature. We as humans are designed to interact with the outdoors and nature. Nature is a gift to the human race. While we are outdoors hiking, biking, camping or any other outdoor activity we should take some time to reflect on the beauty around us and realize that as remarkable as nature is, it is still fragile in many ways and our actions can affect nature and our climate, for not only our generation, but our children's and grandchildren's generation. It is up to all of us to be environmentally responsible.

Green or Greed....Saturday, April 11. 2009

The two words "GREEN" and "GREED" sound a lot alike and believe it or not they are more connected that you may think. Many companies now are starting to use the green movement or environmental concerns and fear of global warming as a profit motive or in some cases just pure greed.

One example is large retail stores and restaurants that promote themselves as being "green" and environmentally friendly to the consumer, but behind the scene they are wasteful and throw countless amounts of merchandise and food out daily. It is appalling how much stuff is thrown out in North America daily, even stuff that has value and could be used. I used to work in a large Canadian retail store chain that used to throw clothes out in the garbage if they had a slight tear or stain on them. Their policy was to throw it out instead of donate it. It was easier for them. But in their weekly fliers I remember they used to have mentioned environmentally friendly living habits from time to time. Hypocritical isn't' it?

Another example is a ploy from some retail stores to charge customers a fee for plastic bags. They bully the customer into thinking a few bags will cause global warming when these same stores throw more garbage in landfills more than the total amount of bags that end up in landfills. These so-called surcharges for plastic bags in the name of being environmentally friendly add up to millions in extra profit for some retailers. Are they giving this back to society in environmental ways? We need to ask this as consumers and demand that these stores do so.

In the United States and other countries farmers have been given grants to use their farmland to grow corn and grains used for ethanol. For some farmers it is more profitable for them to grow crops for ethanol than to grow crops for food. In the United States for example, the ethanol industry is supported by government incentives. How can we fuel our cars with an energy source made from crops that are normally used for food, when there are food shortages in parts of the world? Across the world today one billion people live below the international poverty line, earning less than a dollar per day. Every day, approximately 15,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every six seconds. They certainly are not concerned about what type of fuel should power their vehicles. They are struggling just to get a portion of food and water to stay alive for another day. Ethanol should only be made from waste products and nothing else. If we are diverting crops and farmland away from food sources we are heading down a dangerous and unethical path. Also we should not be chopping down trees to satisfy our hunger for fuel. Ultimately, human greed and profit motive play a huge part in the types of fuel we use to power our gas guzzling vehicles?

The word "green" is a buzzword these days. In some cases it is used by some companies as a marketing ploy and nothing else. In other cases industries such as oil refineries will say they are environmentally friendly just to keep environmentalists happy and quiet, but in reality they spew toxins into our atmosphere including our volatile water supply at an alarming rate. I am not saying all companies use the word green as a marketing ploy, but when companies use words like "green, reduce, reuse and recycle, and combat global warming" just as a profit motive and dismiss real environmental issues behind the scene they are guilty of hypocrisy. Green for Greed…is that the way to go? I think not.

One Small Green Step per Person = One Giant Green Step for Mankind...Thursday, March 5. 2009

Whether you believe it or not, each one of us can make a difference in saving our planet from environmental harm and combating global warming. Small actions by everyone of us all add up. We all contribute to either harming the environment or making green decisions to help save our environment. What is your choice?

In the next couple of months there are many green initiatives that we can all participate in. Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 8:30 to 9:30 PM is Earth Hour. Earth Hour is an annual international event created by the WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature/World Wildlife Fund), held on the last Saturday of March, that asks businesses and households to turn off their non-essential lights and electrical appliances for one hour to raise awareness towards the need to take action on climate change. Earth Hour began in Sydney, two years ago, when 2.2 million homes and businesses switched off their lights for one hour. In 2008 the message had grown into a global sustainability crusade, with 50 million people switching off their lights. Earth Hour 2009 movement intends to reach more than one billion people in 1000 cities around the world, encouraging communities, business and governments to participate.

Earth Day 2009, April 22, will mark the beginning of the Green Generation Campaign. This initiative will culminate with the 40th anniversary of Earth Day in 2010. In conjunction with the Green Generation, thousands of events are currently being planned in schools, communities, villages, towns and cities around the world.

On Saturday April 25th 2009, we are challenging you to make your streets and neighborhoods cleaner, by simply picking up one piece of litter and putting it in the garbage or compost depending on what it is. This could be any discarded piece of trash from the roadside, sidewalk, park, etc. The more people who participate in this event the cleaner and safer our neighborhood will become. Cleaner neigherboorhood day is an initiative launched by Nexplan recycling last year and we plan to make it an annual event with more people participating every year.

It should be noted that while these events are one day, these events are really symbolic to the way we should live everyday of the year. These events are there to remind us the power of each one of us collectively to make a real difference. We must expand these habits beyond just these dates to make a lasting impact and leave a better planet for our children and grandchildren. We need to conserve energy. We need to precycle and recycle. We need to encourage one another to live environmentally friendly lifestyles and hold businesses and goverments accountable for enviromentally harmful practices. We are at a crossroads in regards to the economy and the environment. There never has been a better time to go green. The time for action is now. Are we up for the challenge?

Green Stimulus...Tuesday, February 10. 2009

In North America and throughout a great part of the world, governments are trying to find ways to stimulate their economies. We are hearing of tax rebates and spending programs to be initiated by governments to help get the economy back on track. Deficits seem to be in style again, especially in the US when over a trillion dollars of taxpayer's money are planned to be used to bail out big corporations that are failing. I am not going to go on about the politics behind bailouts and the reasons we are in this mess. I am going to suggest that if governments want to spend money, that they do so in a reasonable way. This is a once in a generation chance for governments, businesses and individuals to get on the green train.

We have environmental issues facing us. North Americans are dependant on oil and fossil fuels. These energy sources have a negative environmental impact. We have a decaying infrastructure, which includes roads and bridges. Imagine if the American government took the billion dollars that they plan to give to banks and other fallen corporations, to promote alternate energy sources. Do you think these greedy banks and other corporate CEOs care about going green? In fact they have been thinking green for years. Yes they think green day and night. Green as in money!! The majority of them care only about numbers (as in dollars) and power, not the rest of the country and the environment. We need to work together as a nation whether you are in the US, Canada or somewhere else in the world, and work towards a better society. Lets direct government stimulus packages to develop cleaner, green vehicles and mass transportation sources. Lets put money towards fixing our aging infrastructure. We need to direct government money into developing and promoting energy sources such as geothermal, solar power, wind power, and solar power. We can direct money into healthy lifestyles and researching cures for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and MS. Lets not waste this opportunity and throw this money on foolish schemes that benefit the rich. We need to stop bailing out the wealthy. Big oil companies have dictated way to long as well. Former President George Bush was a puppet for big oil and big banks. I see hope with Barack Obama. Lets hope that he makes the right decisions. He is not going to be perfect, nor can he change anything by himself. We all need to pitch in and do our part. We need to think a different way as people of a nation. This is our chance to make things right for future generations. We as citizens of our countries need to make our leaders accountable for the money they are going to spend the next few years. Our children and we will be faced with a huge bill after the economic cleanup. The question is will our planet and ideals be cleaned up?

Reduce, Reuse and "Precycle"...Monday, January 5. 2009

Happy 2009. It is a new year and hopefully a greener one for planet Earth. I was going to write something about global warming this month, however I don't think it would sit well with a lot of us in Canada and parts of the United States right now. As I write this article we are in the midst of an Arctic chill where the temperature is sub-zero. Don't get me wrong, I think we are experiencing climate change overall which includes global warming, but being a Canadian in the middle of a January cold spell, makes me want warmer weather! But all sarcasm aside, the overall effects of climate change and global warming are not pleasant in most cases. Weather extremes may be a part of the global warming phenomena, but I will talk about that when it is warmer out.

You may have heard of the term "precycling" recently. What is precycling? "Pre" means "before" and "precycling," refers to "preventing recycling" by taking some steps before. We as must all recognize that while recycling is a good thing, we must not accept recycling as an "end all" to environmental issues. Waste reduction is the process and the policy of minimizing the amount of waste produced by individuals or a society. While recycling is a positive thing, it still requires energy to transport the materials, melt them down and then re-manufacture items. Precycling tries to avoid the amount of stuff that gets chucked into landfills and the recycling bin to begin with. Precycling means considering the life-cycle of what you buy, the amount and types of materials and energy that went into its manufacture, the amount of packaging, the length of useful life, the opportunities to recycle the item, and its total impact on the planet from these choices.

There are many ways individuals and businesses can precycle. First you can buy products in bulk with less packaging. This cuts down on the need for packaging materials. One of the largest materials used in packaging today is plastic. Plastic comes in many different forms and most of it can be recycled, however if we cut back on the initial use of it, it will help combat environmental problems. One example is to buy a water filter system as opposed to consuming numerous small bottles of water. You should also purchase items that come in recyclable packaging instead of non-recyclable. One other way to precycle is to cut down on the use of mail and paper and opt for e billing instead of paper billing when you can. Not only does this save raw materials but also it saves energy indirectly. Retail business should cut down on the practice of printing so many weekly flyers that get tossed out as fast as they get delivered. Posting an e-flyer online not only saves the business money, but it cuts down on needless waste. Catalogs are another source of waste. Instead of sending huge catalogs to every household in the neighborhood, make them available online or at the store for a small environmental fee. Rent or borrow items you rarely use and share them with family, friends and neighbors. Before buying that book or magazine you may read only once, check out your local library, yard sale, or book club. Other ways are to purchase rechargeable batteries, reuse, sell or donate magazines, toys, books, clothes, and household items. Buy for quality and maintain and repair items such as tools, appliances, shoes and clothing to extend their useful life. You can also reuse plastic tubs and glass jars as storage containers.

Precycling is the most effective waste reduction strategy and refers to reducing the amount, or the toxicity, of your waste before you create it. Pre-cyling helps to cut down on the initial production of things that eventually needs to be recycled or even worse gets thrown in landfills. Recycling is very important, but precycling is the prevention of the creation of things, that need to be recycled. Everything that is produced has to be made or manufactured. Think about what you have to buy or use, then try to find ways to precycle, when you make those choices. Support the companies who make an effort to conserve, not only in what they produce, but how they produce it. See if they have other options so you can precycle too. Pre-cycling not only will help save our planet and help the environment; in a lot of cases it will save you money. Being somewhat frugal and environmentally friendly at the same time will be practiced more and more during these economically and environmentally challenging times. I mentioned only a few of the many ways we can precycle. If you know of any other ways, please share them with us on our blog.

The Green Revolution...

Finally the election campaign in the United States is over. After months of political bickering, promises and much publicity, the Democrat Party under Barack Obama has been elected. One of the things that Barack Obama has campaigned on is alternative energy sources and the will to combat global warming and climate change. We as Canadians and Americans must do our part on an individual level if we really care about global warming and environmental issues. The governments can only set guidelines and offer incentives to make it easier to go green. While we can't all convert our homes to solar power or build a wind power turbine in our front yard, we can all play a part in performing acts of green everyday.

If everyone in the western world, did one deed of green everyday it would go a long way towards a cleaner planet. Perhaps we can pick a piece of garbage off the ground and throw it in its proper place. Maybe we can use a mug in the office for our coffee or tea instead of a disposable styrofoam or paper cup. Maybe we can walk or bike to work instead of taking or car or if you live far from work you can carpool or take public transportation. Another idea is to perhaps fill an empty plastic water bottle instead of buying a new one when you head out for a walk or to the gym. It will save the amount of plastic produced and may save you some money in the long term. Perhaps we can insulate our windows at home today to keep the cold draft out and reduce your heating bill. I sealed my windows at home this week using duct tape around the window edges and covering the windows with plastic. Keep in mind that this can be done for less than twenty dollars in most cases and the savings will more than pay for it. I really don't like wasting heat and money. Another thing we can look at doing is buying LED Christmas lights this year for your home. These are just a few examples of "acts of green" that we can follow.

If everyone practiced at least one act of green everyday we would help combat global warming and environmental issues. This is what we should be doing while we urge corporations and governments to bring about greener sources of energy such as solar power, wind power, and tidal power. Being environmentally conscious starts on the individual level. We can only expect politicians and corporations to promote and practice environmentally friendly practices if we practice them ourselves.

Short Term Pain for Long Term Gain...Wednesday, October 8. 2008

During the past month, individuals and businesses here in North America and around the globe have been deeply concerned about the state of the economy. Big banks have been faltering, the stock markets have been falling and people in the United States, especially, have being losing their homes and their jobs. There is much debate over bailout packages for banks and the rich institutions and debate over which political party will be best equipped to deal with pending economic downturn.

The one thing that has happened over the past month is that the price of oil has fallen to below $100 a barrel again. The price of gas, which dominated the news earlier this year, has taken a backseat to other issues. I hope we don't lose focus of the need to develop alternative sources of energy. We have a serious problem in relation to climate change and global warming issues. These environmental issues can't be ignored.

We in Canada, the United States and other parts of the world are in for a change in our way of doing things. I personally believe that we are headed for a severe recession on this side of the globe. As the credit crunch and the economy gets worse, we as a society will be more open to different ways of doing things. In some cases we will have no choice but to change our ways. Green energy and alternative energy is one thing that I believe that will make positive headway in the next decade.

I recently was reading an article about the future upcoming employment boom in jobs relating to "green energy". "Green jobs" or jobs relating to alternative renewable energy sources will probably be a desired field to be involved in. Consumers, businesses and organizations will seek green energy souces in order to save money, and help reduce the environmental impacts of conventional electricity generation and increase our energy independence. Employment relating to solar power, whether it is research or the manufacture of solar energy sources such as solar panels should increase in the coming years. Wind power and tidal power companies are other sectors that should enjoy some growth in the future. We will become more conscious towards energy conservation issues, as individuals as well as businesses try to survive these challenging times. Alternative energy sources will probably be used more.

Also our transportation sector will see changes. We should see a shift to more hybrid vehicles and even electric vehicles. Vehicles that run on methanol and ethanol might be used more. Even solar energy will be explored as a way to power a car. Giving an economic downturn more people will use mass transportation such as buses and trains.
Bikes and scooters will be used to drive short distances and more people will walk. Another thing that may happen is that people will get in the habit of "reduce reuse and recycle" more often. There will surely be less waste in a bad economy as more people keep and repair what they have instead of throwing it out.

It is somewhat discouraging that in our society many people want to switch to alternative clean energy sources for cost and economic reasons before "saving the planet" reasons. But the economic downturn might be the real catalyst in deployment of solar power, wind power and tidal power on a wider scale. The use of bio fuels and geothermal energy will also be used more as we are forced into using alternative energy sources.

I think we are in for some huge changes in North America. You have probably heard the expression; "no pain- no gain". I think that applies to what happens on the other side of the economic pruning we are starting to see. I believe we will see a renaissance of a new era of clean green energy sources in the future. We need solutions and less pollution.
There is no doubt that most of us will experience pain and anxiety in the coming years with a severe recession and shift in how we live in many aspects of our lives. But in the long term we will all benefit in and a perhaps a fairer, less corrupt economic system and be left with a society with greener energy sources. Renewable energy is cheaper and the long term and makes more sense environmentally. We must learn from the challenges that we are facing now and move forward with a healthier environment and society tomorrow.

Pollution, Politics and Platform Promises...Tuesday, September 9. 2008

Currently in the United States, as well as my country of Canada, there is an election campaign going on. The word "recycle" comes to mind as I watch these politicians use the same old rhetoric to get votes. The word "pollution" also comes to mind when you hear of all the bickering, talk, and empty promises coming out of politicians. One key issue on both sides of the border is the environment and issues relating to global warming. Yes there are other issues, like the economy, wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the globe, and moral issues, but the environment is an issue that politicians can't ignore. The main hurdle is how to be environmentally friendly while making sure being environmentally friendly does not negatively hurt the already shaky economy.

In Canada, the Liberal Party's main platform is the carbon tax. A carbon tax is an environmental tax on emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. It is quite simply a pollution tax. The Canadian Liberal party proposes a tax on fossil fuels and an overhaul of Canada's tax regime in order to offset higher costs to individuals and businesses. In fact, in their election campaign they recently stated, "the greenhouse gas emissions generated by our campaign tour will be neutralized through the purchase of carbon offsets, provided by CarbonZero". This is a great idea in theory, however many of us here in Canada are already heavily taxed and we certainly don't want to pay more for gas and other types of fuel. There is a less known political party in Canada, as well, lnown as the Green Party. They are known for their environmental beliefs. The Conservative Party, who presently holds a minority government, does not want to tamper too much with the economy and under the Conservative Party we would probably not see much change in environmental policies.

In the United States the two main partys, the Democrats and the Republicans are going back and forth on issues relating to the environment and global warming. Which party can you trust? Which party will be more environmentally friendly? The Democratic Party has been the more environmentally friendly party recently. As you probably know, Al Gore, who has recently platformed for environmental issues and sent out alarms on global warming, was the Democratic Party leader eight years ago. Barrack Obama has promised to Promote green technologies and fuel efficiency standards, protect the Great Lakes and US National Parks and Forests, as well as other environmental promises. The Republican Party seems to be less sensitive to environmental issues and more concerned about assisting big business and oil companies. There are other independent parties in the US and some have environmentally friendly ideas as well.

So which political party is the most environmentally friendly? It is sometimes a monumental task to cut though a lot of talk and promises to decide just which political party will really do as they say. Before an election they all seem to say the right thing to get our votes. If we could fuel our vehicles with all the hot air and talk from all of our politicians before an election we would not have to rely on a drop of foreign oil!

I personally believe in a carbon tax in some form. In theory it is a good idea. Big oil companies, energy companies, manufacturers and other businesses should not be given a green light to pollute and harm the environment at will and not give something back. We need to make polluters more accountable if we are going to combat global warming. However, we can't blindly just throw in a carbon tax overnight. We need to phase it in taking in to account that we can't pay more for gas and energy to drive our vehicles and heat our homes. In Canada, especially, we live in a vast territory with an often-cruel climate and we simply need energy to survive. We need cleaner sources of energy, however. So we need to balance environmental policies with reality and make sure it does not cripple the lower and middle class.

Politicians should be doing more to promote clean sources of energy. Whether it is rebates or incentives that entice businesses and individuals to adopt more environmentally friendly practices, we need to move in that direction. We need more hybrid cars on the road now. Finding alternative energy sources for vehicles will eliminate the need to purchase oil from other countries. It is also a good way to be earth friendly because vehicles that use this technology will not emit pollutants into our atmosphere like gasoline powered vehicles do. We need to develop wind energy, tidal power and solar energy. We need to explore the uses of natural gas and nuclear energy where it is safe and practical. We need to move in a different direction in the twenty first century as far as environmental policies and practices are concerned.

So which party will get in this fall? What environment policies will be administered over the next four years? There is no question that global warming, climate change; pollution and human health issues due to environmental issues are issues that cannot be ignored by any party. We must as citizens vote with our conscience regarding these issues and demand action from our political leaders on combating pollution and climate change when they are in power. Talk is cheap. We need action.

Industry & Environment....Thursday, August 7. 2008

I live in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada. I don't want to offend anyone in Saint John that happens to read this, but many parts of Saint John stink. It is an old industrial city and is controlled greatly by one giant company that has had its way too long as far as environmental issues are concerned. I do want to point out that Saint John has natural beauty, being surrounded by the Bay of Fundy and two major rivers and various lakes. Also, I am not anti business and believe that business is a key part of a vibrant community. What I am against is business turning a blind eye as far as environmental toxins and pollution are concerned. It seems that around here the almighty dollar comes before the environment. This could be an example of the town or city you live in. People in many parts of the world can relate to the following examples of putting money ahead of the environment.

I will begin this article with Mispec Park. I remember going to this beach as a little boy (that was 40 years ago). It used to be packed with people of all ages enjoying a nice summer day. When the tide was out it was one of the nicest beach areas I have ever seen. People could be seen building sand castles, throwing a football or a frisbee, or walking along the dunes. There were even a few brave enough to swim in the frigid Bay of Fundy waters. There is even a small hiking area and picnic area there. It was the place to be back then. Irving Oil and the Spanish-based Repsol are now building a $750 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) at Mispec Point and the beach is practically empty. The liquefied natural gas facility is expected to begin operation in late 2008. It seems that Mispec Park as a beach and family park is currently dying a slow death. In addition to this, Emera Inc. is completing 145-kilometre natural gas pipeline to ship the LNG from Mispec through Saint John to the Maine border. This pipeline is being constructed through the city, including Rockwood Park, despite objection from many people and businness throughout the city.

In Saint John it is common practice to dump raw sewage into the harbour. The harbour feeds into the Bay of Fundy, which has a rich ecosystem. Saint John has the distinction of being the only municipality in Canada that discharges raw sewage into streams that run through the heart of its city, and finally into the harbour. Health risks associated with waters receiving raw sewage include amoebic dysentery, cholera, typhoid, Hepatitis A, and a variety of other gastrointestinal, respiratory and skin disorders. There are parts of the city close to the streams and the harbour that a person can actually smell raw sewage. In fact, at times you can get a strong whiff of raw sewage while walking along a certain part of Saint John's main walking trail. The Bay of Fundy has been described by some as the world's largest toilet because of the density and high tides of the bay and the garbage and raw sewage being dumped into it. It is difficult for the naked eye to see the size of the problem. This is totally unacceptable in the twenty-first century to allow this to happen. It will cost millions of dollars to solve this problem, while we, as citizens of this city sit and wait for the problem to get fixed, while the three levels of government decide who and how this will be paid.

The pollution levels in Saint John have been something that has plagued this city for a number of years. It is worse depending on the wind direction and air mass. Sometimes foggy days make the situation worse. I have heard many people that live outside Saint John as saying the city is "dirty and it stinks". Why is that? A lot has to do with the pollution. I have heard many people that have asthma say that it gets worse living in the city. Our main shopping district and a couple of sub-divisions are located within two miles of Canada's largest oil refinery! I made I trip to that area a few weeks ago on a foggy night and the smell was awful. In fact it aggravated my slight asthma condition that night. Again, politicians and media tell us that the issue is not bad at all. But anyone in Saint John knows that one big company primarily controls the government and media.

This is my home city. There are lots of beautiful areas and bright spots in Saint John. I am not all negative, however some issues need to be addressed. The media and politicians try to avoid talking about the dirty issues. They would rather ignore it or sugar coat it. I would assume that this could be somewhere you live as well. It seems that these days that the environment takes a back seat to big business and industry, especially where big business and industry control politicians. Politicians look after big business first and the environment and the average citizen second.

Oil Slick or Oil Sick ?...Tuesday, July 1. 2008

Every time you turn on the news these days we are bombarded with reports of the ever-increasing price of oil. If you don't listen to the news, you certainly will notice it when you fill up your vehicle with gas or diesel fuel. Our leaders in North America are more focused on finding more sources of oil and getting the oil producing nations to produce more to fuel our addiction to it. North America and a large portion of the world are addicted to oil. If we don't change our way of thinking and find alternative energy sources we will have an economic catastrophe not seen since the great depression.

It is not just the personal use of cars that we have to worry about. If you think that you will be OK because you don't drive… think again!! The cost of transporting all the food we eat is escalating. The cost of operating a farm that produces our food is increasing steadily. The cost of transporting and producing other products we consume increase when the price of oil increases. One example recently is the Dow Chemical Company recently raising prices by as much as 40 percent. Dow Chemical makes everything from the propylene glycols used in antifreeze, coolants, solvents, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, to acrylic acid-based products used in detergents, wastewater-treatment and disposable diapers. The company's raw ingredient costs as well as transportation costs have increased drastically. Now may transportation companies including trucking businesses charge customers fuel surcharges. Airline companies are implementing fuel surcharges, cutting routes and cutting jobs.

The US government wants to overturn a 26-year ban on offshore oil drilling. As well, many now consider the Arctic as a hotbed for future oil production. The paradox here is that global warming is melting much of the ice in the arctic region. Melting ice means that drilling for this oil will be much easier. More human arctic activity could spell an environmental catastrophe killing off many species and further hastening the melting of the polar ice shelf. In addition to environmental concerns, getting oil in these regions is more expensive and the costs will certainly be passed on to the consumer.

Many people (even Americans) think that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are being fought over oil. There is a large pipeline that ships Saudi oil running through Afghanistan. This is oil that helps feed the North American hunger for fuel. Many lives have been lost due to the war in these countries. There are many other countries in the world with unstable, inhumane governments that US forces have not invaded. Ironically many of those countries do not have oil. Consider this: The US army and air force are perhaps the most powerful on the planet. Take away the oil to power these institutions and the US defence system becomes extremely weak.

Our dependence on oil leaves us very vulnerable as citizens. We are held hostage to forces that dictate the price of oil. Some say it is speculation on the markets. Others believe that there is a shortage and we are running out. What happens if we have major hurricanes in the oil refining regions of the US? What happens if there is an act of terrorism on an oil producing country? What happens if tensions escalate between the US and Iran? These scenarios will certainly push the price of oil even higher. Oil is the backbone of our modern civilization. Without it, the world as we know it ceases to exist. With expensive oil or scarcity of it, our standard of living declines. There is only one way to avoid an economic nightmare. We need to focus on implementing alternative sources of energy before it is too late. Let's not wait for this to happen. The time to act is now.

The Ethics of Ethanol...Tuesday, June 3. 2008

There has been much discussion lately on the use of ethanol as a fuel to replace gasoline to power our vehicles. I have many questions about the use of ethanol for automobiles.

How is ethanol made? Ethanol is a liquid alcohol made of oxygen, hydrogen and carbon and is obtained from the fermentation of sugar or converted starch contained in grains and other agricultural or agri-forest feedstock. In North America, ethanol is presently made primarily from corn and wheat. Ethanol can be produced for different applications, for example, industrial ethanol or fuel grade ethanol. There are different grades of ethanol used for fuel. E85 is a blend of gasoline and ethanol that is 85% ethanol by volume. E10 is a blend that is 10% ethanol by volume. In North America it is common to blend ethanol with gasoline at concentrations of 7 to 10 percent by volume. All cars built since the 1970s are fully compatible with up to 10 percent ethanol in the fuel mixture. From a vehicle performance and fuel consumption perspective, low-level ethanol fuel blends are equivalent to gasoline. Ethanol can be used in much higher proportions - up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline (E-85), however many cars in North America are not equipped to use this. Biofuels are considered by some as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing energy security by providing an alternative to oil and gasoline.

In the United States and other countries farmers have been given grants to use their farmland to grow corn and grains used for ethanol. For some farmers it is more profitable for them to grow crops for ethanol than to grow crops for food. In the United States for example, the ethanol industry is supported by government incentives. A mandate that urges refiners to use an increasing amount of ethanol each year, and a 51-cent-per-gallon tax credit for refiners that add ethanol to gasoline are a few examples. Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute states that increased biofuel production is responsible for 30 percent of the higher cost of corn and other grains since 2000. How can we fuel our cars with an energy source made from crops that are normally used for food amidst a global food shortage? In North America most of us really don't know what starving is all about. So we think nothing of it. But stop and think, if you have an E-85 powered vehicle and fill it up to take a pleasure trip, a few children on the other side of the world just died of starvation while you had that nozzle in your car to fill it. Across the world today one billion people live below the international poverty line, earning less than a dollar per day. Every day, approximately 15,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every six seconds. They certainly are not concerned about what type of fuel should power their vehicles. They are struggling just to get a portion of food and water to stay alive for another day.

I think that production of hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs), plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles (FCVs) should be more encouraged. However, North American governments don't seem to be doing enough to promote and encourage this. Currently, there is not much of a choice as the type of vehicles available to us in the North American market. The majority, whether fuel-efficient or not, are powered by gasoline. Without gasoline, billions of dollars would be lost in tax revenue. Both gasoline and ethanol are substances that can be easily measured and sold through authorized dealers only. That means they can easily be taxed. In Canada, for example, the government collects close to 8 billion dollars from gasoline taxes per year. The United Kingdom has a gasoline tax equivalent to $2.80 per gallon. Ethanol would probably be taxed in a similar way. It would be very hard for them to tax electric battery recharges. The government is afraid to lose a huge cash cow.

Newer technology converts biomass forestry by-products, such as wood chips and non-compostable trash such as municipal waste into ethanol. This type of cellostic ethanol is a promising development, as our food supplies are not used as fuel. A Canadian based company, has been working for a few decades on technology that can produce gas from heaps of trash. Canadian ethanol producers estimate that there is enough garbage, without the recyclable materials, to fuel three million cars a year. Ethanol will likely be widely used in one form or another as an energy source in the near future.

Ethanol should only be made from waste products and nothing else. I can see ethanol playing a part of our future energy sources in a minimal way. If we are diverting crops and farmland away from food sources we are heading down a dangerous and unethical path. Also we should not be chopping down trees to satisfy our hunger for fuel. Ultimately, human greed and profit motive will ultimately play a huge part in the future role of ethanol as a fuel source.

If you are going to talk the talk…you need to do the walk....Thursday, May 1. 2008

It seems that every time you go into a restaurant, grocery store or retail store you hear the word "green" or "reduce, reuse and recycle". This is a great initiative by business and it makes customers aware of the simple things we can do to offset global warming and reduce CO2 and other emissions into the earth's atmosphere. But what is the real motive behind the "green" message that many businesses send to their customers? They can issue reusable shopping bags and advertise environmentally friendly products, which are a start, however what happens behind closed doors is a different story. Take the large fast food restaurant that throws out food at the end of every day instead of donating it. This is in the midst of food shortages in many parts of the world. Many large retail stores commonly throw merchandise in the garbage if it can't be put back on the shelf for resale. They tend not to donate used merchandise, as it is too much hassle for them. There is something wrong with this picture.

How about the individual that pretends to be environmentally conscious but does not really change the way they live? They may waste a large amount of water in their home, drive inefficient vehicles, and use an enormous amount of pesticides and chemicals in and outside their home. In a lot of cases these days, corporations as well as individuals, are more concerned about their image rather than protecting the environment. A business can have "green logos" everywhere to make them selves look good. A lot of people have a big home with garages and a few cars to give off an image and impress others. We are primarily judged by material things and what we own in North America. So a huge home with a 3-car garage and the greenest yard in the neighborhood (using dangerous pesticides most of the time) are more important to some of us than the environment. A lot of people in our society seem to think; "I myself will not make a difference so let's have someone else and our governments take care of the problem". We have seen what happens when the majority have that attitude.

I don't want to give anyone the impression that I am faultless. I am part of the North American society and have materialistic values to some degree. But I realize that I need to adhere to environmental friendly practices if I am going to write about them. All of us need to look at their own actions and ask, "Am I doing my part and practicing what I preach"?