Posted by: shahira | April 1, 2013

Interesting Ideas

Reading other blogs and articles brought my attention to this really interesting idea that a 19 year old developed to clean up the oceans of plastic.  I think the TreeHugger article was awesome so here it is, but to give you an overview; there are giant gyres of plastic in the ocean (giant plastic hubs which some people actually go to visit as a tourist attraction).  What does giant mean?  Well the North Pacific Gyre is actually twice the size of the United States.  I am going to assume that you can think of a number of reasons why this is bad, but just to give a few examples include marine life eating the plastic and it poisoning them but it doesn’t stop there, the plastic can go through the food chain and end up in the seafood you consume and along the way it can release various chemicals into the ocean.  The long term ramifications for the ocean habitat is completely unknown.

However a young student, Boyan Slat has come up with a potential plan for cleaning up this plastic.  You can hear about his idea  in his TedTalk found here:

While this is a great idea to clean up the oceans I am sure that we can do better by preventing its destruction in the first place.  This is definitely something you can do, chose not to use plastic bags, chose not to use plastic bottles, recycle any plastic you do use.  There has been an increased awareness and people have been using less plastic bags since most major grocery stores now charge for them but try to eliminate as much plastic as you can from all your purchasing decisions.  This includes small plastic bags, plastic wrap, etc. chose to transport your lunch in reusable containers, chose glass bottles when buying items at the store, just a few small changes can significantly reduce the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean.

Posted by: shahira | January 3, 2013

What is your Green New Year’s Resolution?

Ahh it is that time again.  Make a promise, break a promise!  There is no shame, we have all been there.  But I like the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, it’s a  good intention, a genuine reflection and realization that we can always do better.  So why not make one for awareness and change for a more sustainable life?

What does that mean?  Well the awareness part is becoming easier and easier, technology allows us to have information at our fingertips.  For instance check out this blog post by Philip Cohen on Sustainablog listing the various apps that can help you make responsible decisions when shopping.

Want to learn about how energy is used in your home? Read this infographic.

Or read about how gravity can be used to power a light that can be used anywhere in the world (that’s right, gravity!  It might be better than solar?) .  There is so much creativity and inspiration out there so go make a good choice, even just one and you can say you have fulfilled your resolution!

Happy New Year.

Posted by: shahira | November 13, 2012

Global Food Supply

Wow this video is so informative and powerful.    Watch the whole thing, it is worth it!  Although I do not agree with regulation since it was actually government incentive that caused the banking crash, not because it was left unchecked :P But there is a role for government to play in supporting agriculture, especially when we think about zoning regulations and urban sprawl encroaching on prime agricultural lands.

Anyways, let me know what you think!

Posted by: shahira | September 21, 2012

Bill Nye the Climate Guy!

This whole time I have been writing about how we need to concentrate on the achievable, and ignore the overwhelming catastrophic headlines since those do not motivate us to act.  But I was so disturbed by this article in The Guardian entitled “Arctic expert predicts final collapse of sea ice within four years”that I had to share it.  It has some very important new analysis on Arctic sea ice trends that are worth a look over.

In other news I had to share this amazing video by Symphony of Science, please share!

Posted by: shahira | September 12, 2012

Recent News…

Many of you may have seen these two articles but if not, they are very important for framing our current regulatory failings.

The first article was in the Hill Times about Allan Gregg’s address to students at Carleton University.  It is a bit of a lengthy read but the essence can be discerned from the title of the lecture “1984 in 2012: The Assault on Reason,”.  Mr Gregg went through several examples of recent government actions which are contributing to diminishing democratic discussion and personal freedoms.  One of the most striking quotes were

“This was no random act of downsizing, but a deliberate attempt to obliterate certain activities that were previously viewed as a legitimate part of government decision-making—namely, using research, science and evidence as the bases of policy formation,” Mr. Gregg charged.

“It also amounted to an attempt to eliminate anyone who might use science, facts, and evidence to challenge government policies,” he added.

It reminds me that we have to be more vigilant to hold the government accountable.  Media is not always able to fulfill this role and we cannot become passive when it comes to the rules that govern us, the services our tax dollars go to, or what we value at the world stage.

The other article that is worth a read was entitled “Stephen Harper’s environment watchdog to investigate ‘risks’ of federal budget bill” which goes through what changes the new budget has introduced to Environmental Regulations.  What was shocking was

“The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency revealed in August that part of the 400-page budget bill, adopted a few weeks earlier in support of the Harper government’s 2012 federal budget, eliminated 2,970 environmental assessments across the country, including hundreds of projects involving fossil fuels or a pipeline.”

Stay informed!

And for those science geeks out there who are frustrated with having to prove and defend facts with people who are unwilling to think rationally this Nature article may appease those frustrations for a time!  Enjoy.

Posted by: shahira | September 1, 2012


Dragon Water II © Dennis MojadoI came across a great article last week that actually targeted my whole goal of this blog and my own recent lack of engagement. It was written by Craig and Marc Kielburger (no surprise there) entitled “How do I overcome my eco inertia” in the Globe in Mail. They acknowledge and try to address how to overcome the overwhelming sense of helplessness when faced with global scale, multi-generational injustice or issues.  In this case, it addresses what we can do to motivate ourselves to actually make positive changes in our lives to minimize our contribution to climate change and/or the environment overall.  However, this inability to act can also effect us when trying to deal with world hunger, poverty, corruption, injustice etc.  There just seems to be so much to address that it can seem impossible to do anything at all and instead we just close our eyes to it and continue with life assuming that world and national governments will be enough to handle it.

This is one of the reasons I wanted to start this blog, to share some of what I was reading and seeing, thinking that knowledge can be enough to cause action. But as pointed out in the article by Dr. Gifford (editor of the Journal of Environmental Psychology and founding director of the University of Victoria’s program in the Human Dimensions of Climate Change), and through personal experience, that is not enough.  From my own experience, I have had 7 years of “higher” learning about environmental issues, I have joined community organizations and I even work in the field of environmental consulting and although I am always trying to think of only eating local food or using more sustainable transportation I know that I am not doing as much as I could.  Life is busy and hard and it is easy to make the convenient choice even if it is not the best choice.

Dr. Gifford identifies several “Dragons of Inaction” that influence people.  People are motivated by different dragons and you need to figure out which one is yours and try and address it.  For me, I think its the idea of how can one person make a difference (and that is what I hear from people the most), the lack of empowerment. Dr. Gifford is quoted as saying:

“Each one of us, citizen or CEO, makes choices every day, and these choices matter in the aggregate,”

This makes me feel powerful.  I challenge you to read the article and identify your dragon so that you can feel empowered too.  And then we can all be an “eco action hero”



Posted by: shahira | June 4, 2012


Posted by: shahira | May 29, 2012

I Like Air Conditioning…

And I will not apologize for it.  Today, facing one of the warmest days so far in the year, I am happy to be at my air conditioned work.  The notion that we must give up our standard of living in order to be proper stewards of the Earth does not work for me.  Rather than going backwards we must go forward and re-invent and re-imagine how we can live.  Innovation.  And I do not mean a simple technology fix, I mean a paradigm shift in our consciousness coupled with invention and imagination.  Consider it.

On another note, I would like to bring your attention to some recent news and developments in our own backyard.  How can we move forward when the government is trying to take away our democratic rights? Having the freedom to speak up, regardless if you are an environmental charity or not, is fundamental to the fabric of being a Canadian.  If you know me, you know that David Suzuki is not my favourite environmentalist but I will be participating in the black out speak out campaign, learn more here

In other news, a couple of weeks ago the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food of the UN, Olivier De Schutter was in Canada.  And while the government continues to show that pride is much more important than hunger being experienced by its citizens, the recommendations were an eye opener for most.  Don’t sit back and think that this is ok.  It is not.

One of his quotes “one in ten families with a child under six is unable to meet their daily food needs. These rates of food insecurity are unacceptable, and it is time for Canada to adopt a national right to food strategy,”

Read his conclusions here.

And finally we move to energy… these TED talks are great.

We should do better than this.  Words to live by.

Posted by: shahira | May 10, 2012

International Compost Awareness Week!!!

I bet you did not realize that right in this moment (the second week of May) every year is the International Compost Awareness Week!  I could not let this week pass by without trying to spread the information and enthusiasm surrounding composting.  So buckle up…. we’re gonna get dirty!

1) The name is not misleading… composting is celebrated in a number of countries around the world!  To learn about Canadian events/celebrations and information check out this site

2) Composting is a simple and easy thing you can all do in your backyards to give back to the Earth that gives you all your sustenance!

Compost is a natural process where organic material (food waste, yard waste, garden waste) is converted into a soil product or humus. The process works with the help of micro-organisms such as bacteria and fungi combined with air and moisture.

Compost is an important way to recycle and can be done at home. It is an easy way to reduce the amount of household garbage by about one third. As well, it produces a valuable soil amendment for use in gardening and landscaping.

3) Items to not put in your compost

Meat, fish and bones
Fats and oils
Dairy products
Pet waste
Cheese, meat or other sauces

4) Cool Canadian Stats:

  • 98 percent of the residents of Prince Edward Island compost
  • Nova Scotia with 95 percent.
  • Compare and contrast: In compost-crazy Alameda County, Cal., about 24 percent of home owners with yards are active composters.
  • Once people start composting, they don’t stop — nine out of 10 people who start composting are still at it 10 years later.

5) Ways to Feel Good!

  • Participate in your municipal green bin program
  • Join a community composting initiative
  • Make an indoor worm bin
  • Make an outdoor open pit or enclosed compost bin
  • Learn more about setting up your own compost system

Happy Composting! :)




Posted by: shahira | April 20, 2012

Do the best you can.


I recently saw Dirtphoto_2840250013_b21218e94b_t.jpg! the Movie  for the second time and it really struck a chord in me this time.  The difference was that this time I was feeling much less optimistic and less empowered than in previous months and the idea of simple actions, doing the best you can, is the power we have really inspired me.  So if you have already done so, great, but if you have not yet seen this movie, I recommend it to everyone.  Not only is it inspiring and give practical real life suggestions of what you can do, it also has a lot of information about how dirt is the basis for everything.  If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, than watch this clip by Wangari Maathai.  And remember, you are never too old to go and play in the dirt!  When was the last time you did that?  Try it, you will be surprised on how liberating and empowering it is.

Be the Hummingbird!



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