Let’s infiltrate the CBC

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson

On the brisk morning of October 21, a vanguard of media innovation made its way into CBC/Radio-Canada’s Annual Public Meeting (APM) in Vancouver. The plan was unspoken, but each of the wry smiles we exchanged was more than enough to acknowledge our purpose. After all, although insidious, our goal was quite simple: infiltrate the CBC and make it more community based, participatory and awesome.

Not long into the meeting, executives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation described their network as a “public space.” They also noted that Canada is at the centre of a revolution in media, with more opportunity for citizen participation than ever before. “We want what Canadians want,” said Hubert Lacroix, CBC’s president and CEO, “a vibrant CBC/Radio-Canada that gives voice to a creative nation.”

Wait a second, were they on to us? They were speaking our language, but why?

While there was evidence of a shift in thinking at the CBC, it didn’t feel tangible enough to satisfy us. We mingled with local CBC personnel after the event. Several of us innocent looking “citizens” encircled a CBC person and repeated our propaganda points while trying to avoid revealing our secret plan to make the CBC more awesome.

“One of the best ways to ensure the CBC’s survival and growth is for it to be more community based,” one of us said earnestly. “Yes, why not partner with community groups to cover local stories?” another blurted out. “Use web tools to engage people and provide a platform for creativity and dialogue,” another chimed in.

I motioned for us to make our way to door – we’d done all we could here.

But our work wasn’t finished yet. We needed to find out if there were people on the inside that agree with our media awesomeness ideology. We needed a champion of media innovation.

We set out to find an open minded CBC person we could invite into our Fresh Media community, and evaluate. We chose Steve Pratt, director of CBC Radio 3 and CBC Digital Programming. We would host him at our next Fresh Media ReMixology event.

At 5 PM on November 8, the festivities began, including live DJs, a Twitter wall that displayed comments from the audience and the Internet, a live web TV feed that permitted any one on the web to watch and comment on the talk and a cash bar and snacks. Would it all prove to be just too awesome for Pratt to handle? It turns out not.

Pratt said things like, “Turn the keys over to the audience and start empowering the audience to help each find what they want… and to give up control.” Pratt also talked about Radio 3, noting, “It is an innovation centre for the public broadcaster,” adding “We’re not a radio station, we’re a music discovery service.”

He may not have known it at the time, but Prattt was one of us – a Freshie as we sometimes call ourselves. Turns out we have a whole project within the CBC that has put innovation and participation at the forefront of their operation.

The best way for the CBC to ensure its survival is to build a community of supporters that truly has a sense of ownership over the organization. As Pratt says, “Empower the people and you’ll get a level of trust and ownership you never thought possible.”

Lets not sit on the sidelines and wait for the CBC to move in the right direction. If we believe in the potential of public media in a digital era, it’s our responsibility to do our part to ensure that potential is realized. It’s through engaging with the CBC, particularly the elements most conducive to participation, that will enable it to act as an open platform for media innovation and community collaboration.

Let’s infiltrate the CBC with awesomeness.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times andAdbusters.
steve@democraticmedia.ca
www.FacebookSteve.com
www.SteveOnTwitter.com

Dreaming of a Vancouver Island Diet

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

My life changed after my new book The Zero-Mile Diet was released in June. I was invited to speak to many communities around Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, which suited me perfectly because I was talking about a Vancouver Island Diet. By year’s end, after all my travels and many conversations, I’d gotten a good taste of what the Vancouver Island Diet looks like. So to cheer you up for the festive season, here’s a little sampler.

Arriving at the end of the lane onto Madrona Farm in September, the vision of the Blenkinsop Valley, covered by gently sloping fields of vibrant vegetables, brought tears to my eyes. It was year three of the ‘Chef’s Survival Challenge,’ a fundraising event in aid of the farmers’ survival challenge. In my mind, I saw the fertile valleys running the spine of Vancouver Island from Cowichan to Comox and beyond. My vision was of food growing in the fields, instead of hay.

In this era of ‘foodies,’ a ‘taste of Tuscany’ from our backyard makes a great incentive for travellers to visit here. Think how much we could benefit from developing an Island ‘Gastro economy,’ harvesting local seafood, berries, wild mushrooms, seaweed, artisan breads, herbs, vegetables, artisan cheeses, beer, wine and chocolate. We’d be creating food security for all of us. What an opportunity.

At the Wine and Culinary Festival at O.U.R EcoVillage in Shawnigan Lake, a representative of the Canadian Chefs Culinary Association, who had just finished travelling across Canada from coast to coast, informed us that Vancouver Island was streaks ahead of the rest of the country and if the Vancouver Island Diet was launched more substantially, Vancouver Island would be poised to benefit from an ecotourist bonanza. How inspiring.

More than 19,000 people live in Squamish and their Saturday Farmer’s Market, with 50+ local vendors, was truly amazing. The perfect gathering place for the community, it showcased baked goods from artisan bakers, produce, preserves and coffee, providing anything one’s heart could desire, right in the heart of downtown. How convenient.

My friend Susan told me how happy she was that she’d finally got an Oak Bay community allotment after waiting six years and that Oak Bay was going to double the current allotment size. Meanwhile, Rainey and Margot could not wait that long and planted up the boulevard instead, using public space in an urban environment to grow food for others. This had a transformational effect on the neighbourhood, bringing people together in conversations, encouraging others to plant food in their front gardens and boulevards and enabling local children to harvest fresh food for dinner and plant seeds. Imagine the upcoming revolution in horticulture when gardeners start growing all the beautiful food plants we have forgotten about again. Back to the future.

In the Gorge area of Victoria, the ‘Gorge Tillicum Urban Farmers’ started out meeting in each other’s homes, but soon needed a larger venue after a hundred neighbours came together to produce food and promote food security. We don’t have to do it all; we can share the load of making the change with friends, family and neighbours. In a recession, there’s less money and more time, but perhaps it’s just what we need to rethink our ways – getting back to the land to feed ourselves and build community.

Eat well and have a delicious holiday season.

Carolyn Herriot is the author of The Zero Mile Diet – A Year-round Guide to Growing Great Organic Food. (Harbour Publishing).earthfuture.com/gardenpath/


Community agriculture vital for food security

Maximizing local food production will enhance food security and improve the nutritional value of food. Local food can be delivered to the tables of consumers faster than imported food, which loses a lot of its nutrients in transit. Public health will improve as a result of people eating more nutritious food and being more active as they engage in growing food. Biodiversity will increase as monoculture lawns disappear to be replaced with diverse plantings that provide habitat for wildlife. Having a ‘Community Agricultural Plan’ encourages development of more sustainable residential, commercial, institutional and industrial places. Additionally, there will be greater diversion of compostable waste from the landfill and an associated improvement of soils with the use of compost. Further, agriculture is an important strategy to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Growing a relationship

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

The greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. 

– Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

If we look back over past generations, we see many areas where progress has been made. Whether we think in terms of technological change, advances in medicine, environmental awareness or human rights, we can see how things are much better than they once were. We are infinitely better off than our grandparents and great grandparents.

Ironically and surprisingly, there is one area in which little seems to have changed. That is the area of intimate relationships. Certainly, there is more equality; women work outside the home and men change diapers, but I am not talking about these things. I am referring to the patterns that occur between couples.

Communication is still often an area of difficulty. Couples still get into cycles of conflict, anger and withdrawal and still have great difficulty understanding the other’s point of view. Often, they are not even interested in how the other sees things, so determined are they that their view is the correct one. They get stuck in adversarial positions and are unable to move past them.

Most marriage vows include something about loving, honouring and caring for the other. When a relationship is new, the individuals are excited to have this person in their life and tend to treat them well. Over time, when the newness is gone, sometimes things shift so the relationship becomes more of a competition or a contest and less of a cooperative venture.

So what happens to move things from wedded bliss to the divorce courts or to lives of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation? Ego happens.

True love is unconditional. Think of the love we have for a baby or a favourite pet. They may inconvenience us at times or make messes for us to clean up, but we take all of that in stride because we accept it will not always be perfect. We forget those things quickly and easily return to a place where we can give love freely.

Although we may start out that way in relationships, ego takes us off course. We may have baggage in the form of old hurts or defensiveness that we bring to a relationship. Ego may have ideas about what it should receive and how it should be treated, without too much thought about what it should give to the other and how the other should be treated. Ego has tunnel vision that way.

When we are in conflict, ego has taken over. Even if things happen in the relationship that cause distress for one or the other, in an evolved relationship the sense of love and caring for the other allows for real listening and working it out.

Conflict tends to come when the other is not taken into consideration and is neither heard nor valued. When ego is busy defending itself or going on the attack, it is completely unavailable to the other. Often the one in distress ends up feeling even worse after bringing up the issue for there is an added sense of rejection and abandonment in the face of an unsympathetic, uncompassionate ego.

It is not surprising that this same pattern has existed for generations. Effective communication and relationship building seem to be a blind spot in our culture.

In school, children learn to write essays and solve math problems, but not how to solve interpersonal problems and verbally communicate in a productive way when there are differences.

At home, if parents are still reliving the old patterns of their parents, the children will not learn new ways there either.

We have a long way to go. If we could simply grasp that we do not kick the dog or hit the baby and similarly we should not be harsh with loved ones, it might be a start. We must value the happiness of others as much as our own and sometimes even put their happiness first. And not simply to please them, but rather to show genuine compassion.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles, and information about her books, CDs and new “Creating Healthy Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.

Diverse offerings from Whistler Film Festival

FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead

In the 10th Whistler Film Festival, which ends December 5, it is worth noting that cult Canadian filmmaker Bruce McDonald has three new feature films in the festival: 1) the world premiere of Hard Core Logo 2, the sequel to his popular Hard Core Logo (1996); 2) the jailhouse blues documentary Music From the Big House; 3) the rock ‘n’ roll drama Trigger.

Trigger travels to Vancouver for a week at Vancity Theatre (10-16). The film sees McDonald on home turf depicting under-the-skin, rock ‘n’ roll lifestyles, with two of Canada’s finest actors: Molly Parker and the late Tracy Wright as Vic and Kat, ageing rockers from a ‘90s rock band called Trigger. (Don McKellar, Callum Keith Rennie and Sarah Polley also feature.) The two reunite for a tribute show, but as the night unfolds, old antagonisms keep flaring up.

As the title suggests, the period setting for Carlos Saura’s sumptuous dramaI, Don Giovanni is 18th century Vienna around the time that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was penning his opera Don Giovanni. The story focuses on libertine Lorenzo da Ponte, a priest exiled from Venice as a result of his string of affairs. Lorenzo is the inspiration behind Mozart’s opera and he also became the lyricist for the project. I, Don Giovanni also screens at Vancity Theatre, from December 17.

It’s been almost a full decade since the documentary Promises managed to find a ray of hope in the entrenched Israeli-Palestinian conflict when it turned the camera on a group of seven local children from either side of the divide. The plight of a single child is the starting point of a new thought provoking Israeli documentary, Precious Life (Haim yekarim), which looks at personal responses to the endless violence and instability in the region.

During Israel’s 2008-2009 blockade of Gaza, narrator and Israeli television journalist Shlomi Eldar, looking for a story, helps a local surgeon raise $55,000 for a bone marrow operation for an immune-disorder Palestinian baby, Mohammad. However, what would initially appear to be a story about two sides overcoming prejudices to save a child’s life is not so straightforward. Raida, the religiously observant baby’s mother, struggles with anti-Israeli sentiment from her community in Gaza and at one point endorses suicide bombing, creating unforeseen moral dilemmas. The doc is due out this month.

The feel-good factor is there in spades in mainstream drama Made In Dagenham (out Dec. 17), a heart-warming feminist tale based on a British labour dispute in 1968. Sally Hawkins plays a feisty factory worker who, at the urgings of her union representative (played by Bob Hoskins), leads 167 machine workers at the Ford Motor Company’s plant in the London suburb of Dagenham on a strike for equal pay. The two-year-long campaign resulted in landmark legislation.

Another crowd-pleaser is The King’s Speech (out Dec. 10), which sees Colin Firth in that buttoned-up, upper crust role that he does so well. King George VI (Firth) struggled desperately with a stammer at a time when more than ever before, with Hitler’s rise in Germany, England needed a leader with strong oratorical skills. Successive attempts to conquer his debilitating condition ended in failure until an Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) helped him to untangle his tongue.

Finally, the European Film Festival runs at Pacific Cinémathèque until December 9, with films from Poland, Slovakia, Lithuania, Finland, Sweden, UK, Romania, Portugal, Hungary and Slovenia screening this month. One to look out for is France’s Of Gods and Men (3rd, 6.45 PM). The Grand Prix winner at the Cannes Film festival, it dramatizes with great poignancy the true story of a brotherhood of Cistercian monks who, during the Algerian war of the 1990s, chose to peacefully face Islamic extremists rather than quit their monastic duties.

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike Alone.www.youneverbikealone.com. He writes at www.2020Vancouver.com.

Sustain ban on Gulf drilling

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

We saw what happened when the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for three months. Imagine a similar incident in an inland sea one-sixth the size of the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a very real fear for people in the five provinces along the Gulf of St. Lawrence – Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia – as well as the French territory of St. Pierre and Miquelon.

The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board recently approved a permit allowing Nova Scotia-based Corridor Resources Inc. to explore for oil and gas at a location called the Old Harry prospect in the Gulf, halfway between the Magdalen Islands and Cape Anguille in western Newfoundland near the Quebec border. The company began seismic testing this fall and could start drilling as early as next year.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence represents about two-thirds of Canada’s overall national maritime-related gross domestic product. It provides a unique and fragile environment for more than 2,200 species of invertebrates and 19 species of marine mammals and it is culturally, biologically and socially important for the people of Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Scientific studies, as well as reports by the governments of Quebec and Canada, have concluded that even during the oil and gas exploration phase, sound waves from seismic surveys can disturb and damage marine wildlife, including endangered species such as blue whales and cod. But drilling causes the most concern. Computer simulations by the David Suzuki Foundation’s Quebec office show that a spill of 10,000 barrels of oil a day over 10 days in different seasons could have a devastating impact on all five provinces along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, affecting tourism, fisheries and marine life. In the Magdalen Islands, which are near Old Harry, fishing directly and indirectly affects 75 percent of the local population and generates annual revenues of about $78 million. A spill in this area would have a catastrophic effect on the people of the Magdalen Islands.

Because a spill would affect all the Gulf of St. Lawrence provinces and territories, one jurisdiction should not be allowed to exploit the resources without approval from all the other jurisdictions that would be affected by an accident. Researchers estimate that only about 15 percent of any oil spill can be cleaned up and the damage can last for years. More than 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spill off the Alaska coast, its effects are still being felt.

The Quebec government recently released the results of a strategic environmental assessment that concluded the negative impacts of oil and gas exploitation in the estuary of the St. Lawrence would far outweigh the benefits. That led to a ban on exploration in the estuary, but not in the Gulf itself. Quebec already had a moratorium on exploration in its Gulf waters, but that could be lifted by late 2012 if the second part of the strategic environmental assessment concludes the benefits of exploration outweigh the risks.

Given the importance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the provinces that border it, and indeed to all of Canada, we just can’t afford to risk a spill like the one that devastated the Gulf of Mexico. The David Suzuki Foundation has joined other organizations in calling on the federal and provincial governments to develop an integrated management plan for the Gulf and to impose an immediate moratorium on oil and gas exploration and drilling for the entire Gulf. You can help by sending a letter to federal and provincial government representatives supporting this call.

Our dependence on fossil fuels is not sustainable. In burning these fuels for energy, we cause pollution and greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Exploration and drilling threatens the health of our waterways and all the life that depends on them. The sooner we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, through energy conservation and by developing cleaner, renewable sources of energy, the better off we’ll all be. It will certainly be better for the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the people who live there.

Write to our government protesting drilling in the Gulf at davidsuzuki.org/st-lawrence

GE food and animals – the year in review

 

by Lucy Sharratt

 

Starting with the humble alfalfa seed and ending with a genetically engineered (GE) Atlantic salmon, the controversies in 2010 over genetic engineering multiplied and tumbled over each other, with the year ending in unprecedented uncertainty.

This year, the GE Atlantic salmon and GE “Envriopig” began lurching towards commercialization in both the US and Canada. The fate of these GE animals, and that of the unassuming alfalfa seed, will shape the future of our food system and of democracy.

Alfalfa seeds are tiny and generally keep a low profile, but this year the little perennial seeds were in the limelight during a showdown between Monsanto and organic farmers. It is no exaggeration to say that GE alfalfa threatens the future of the entire North American organic food and farming system because of the diverse and unique role that alfalfa plays in many different types of farming, as well as the inevitability of contamination. In 2010, Monsanto was forced to go to the US Supreme Court to try to get its GE Roundup Ready alfalfa in the ground; the company essentially lost the case and it is still illegal to plant GE alfalfa in the US. The USDA is being forced by the courts to publish an Environmental Impact Statement, but once it is complete plantings could begin. Canadian organic farmers shared their experience of GE contamination of organic canola with the USDA in the hopes of swaying the outcome against Monsanto. Meanwhile, here in Canada, conventional and organic growers continue to lobby the federal government to try to find a way to stop GE alfalfa.

In a parallel case, organic farmers in the US successfully challenged the GE sugarbeet (white sugarbeet for sugar processing). In August, a US court ruled the department had failed to conduct an adequate analysis of the impacts of GE sugarbeets on farmers and the environment. The beets were therefore ruled illegal to plant or sell until the USDA completed a full environmental assessment. However, because this study may not be finished until 2012, Monsanto and the sugar industry have pressured the USDA by proposing plantings next spring. All of Canada’s sugarbeet seeds, grown in Alberta and Southern Ontario, come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon so if GE sugarbeets cannot be planted in the US, there may be no GE sugarbeet seed for Canada.

The year of “We told you so”

In a predictable, though unfortunate, “We told you so” moment (one of too many in 2010), university researchers found transgenes present in 80 percent of the wild canola plants they tested in North Dakota. The canola provides new evidence that GE crop plants can survive and thrive in the wild, possibly for decades. But this is not the first documented escape into the wild. It was recently revealed that the Oregon Department of Agriculture and the USDA refused to alert the public that GE Roundup Ready bentgrass spread from a test plot in Western Idaho to irrigation ditches in Eastern Oregon. The feral GE bentgrass is a warning about the future of GE alfalfa. But, of course, this contamination brings up the particular problem of herbicide tolerance where the feral plants are engineered to survive specific herbicide sprayings. Most GE crops on the market are herbicide tolerant and the majority of these are Roundup Ready, resistant to Monsanto’s brand-name herbicide “Roundup” and its active ingredient glyphosate.

Overuse of Monsanto’s GE Roundup Ready soy, corn, canola and cotton is now showing a predictable result. 2010 was the year of the superweed. Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, is among 10 weed species in 20 US states, and one in Ontario, that have become resistant to glyphosate. The rapid spread of glyphosate resistant pigweed is a major agronomic failure of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology and an economic shock to farmers. In the US cotton belt, the pigweed is forcing farmers to revert to more toxic herbicides such as paraquat and they are abandoning their cotton-picking machines in favour of hired labour. This problem has actually triggered a race among chemical companies to develop new GM crops or to use old herbicides to attack the resistant weeds. “The biotech industry is taking us into a more pesticide-dependent agriculture than they’ve always promised and we need to be going in the opposite direction,” said Bill Freese at the Center for Food Safety in Washington.

Monsanto also overreached in 2010 and is now feeling the pinch. In 2009, the US and Canada granted approval for Monsanto’s new eight-trait “SmartStax” corn, a combination of different insect resistant and herbicide tolerant traits with a whopping price hike of up to 42 percent. Monsanto’s stocks fell significantly at the end of this year when results showed farmers were not buying “SmartStax” in levels projected by the company. It was a difficult year for the world’s biggest seed and biotech company as the US Justice Department intensified its antitrust investigation, farmers in Haiti burned Monsanto’s hybrid corn seed donation and Monsanto began giving rebates to farmers so they could buy competitor’s herbicides in order to kill Roundup resistant weeds.

Monsanto is also being investigated in West Virginia for possibly misleading growers who were promised improved yields from Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybean. After converting its chemical business to “seeds and traits,” Monsanto is beginning to show the strain of a technology that has yet to fulfill its early promise and struggling with all of its anticipated troubles.

Farmers first!

This year, for the first time in our 15-year history with genetically engineered crops, farmers had a voice in Parliament and our MPs debated some of the real issues. This debate was thanks to Bill C-474, which would require that “an analysis of potential harm to export markets be conducted before the sale of any new genetically engineered seed is permitted.” This one-line Private Members bill challenged the biotechnology industry to defend its practice of introducing GE crops, even when contamination will ruin the export markets of Canadian farmers. Canadian regulation does not include, or even allow, consideration of the question of economic impact of GE crops and there is no space for farmers to share their knowledge or voice their concerns. In 2001, flax farmers predicted GE flax would ruin their European market and they were proven right in 2009 when GM contamination shut down our flax exports. Despite this clear case, the Liberal and Conservative parties refuse to acknowledge there is a problem, even with the partial solution of Bill C-474 on the table.

Before the Liberals and Conservatives shut down hearings on Bill C-474, the House of Commons Agriculture Committee heard testimony from groups representing conventional and organic alfalfa growers who described how GM would inevitably ruin farmers. Conservative and Liberal MPs could barely believe this revelation and rather than pursue this line of inquiry, they shut down the hearings. On October 28, the president of the National Farmers Union was turned away from Parliament Hill when the scheduled hearings in which he was called to participate were cancelled. The debate on Bill C-474 was so effective up to that point that the Liberals and Conservatives built an escape hatch in the form of a new motion to the Agriculture Committee: that the Committee “conduct a study on the status of the Canadian biotechnology sector, in which it travels to the universities across Canada where this technology is primarily being undertaken, and that it recommend, where necessary, legislative, policy and regulatory changes in order to foster an innovative and fertile biotechnology industry in Canada.”

This study would neither address nor explore the problem Bill C-474 identifies. Instead, it would provide the biotech industry with a public relations platform while allowing the Liberals and Conservatives to tell constituents they are doing something, however useless, about this controversial GE issue.

Bill C-474 identifies the core problem with genetic engineering: there is no democratic decision making process with regard to genetic engineering and GE crops can and do harm the very people they are supposed to benefit – farmers. The tremendous industry backlash over Bill C-474 shows that, when farmers and food come first, Monsanto is last. The final vote on Bill C-474 should take place in mid-December. Take action at www.cban.ca/474

Lucy Sharratt is the coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network. www.cban.ca.

Bringing tigers back from the brink

Protecting habitat by linking human and environmental security will save tigers

by Dr. Keith Martin

The goal of this high-profile Summit, initiated by Russian president Vladimir Putin and World Bank chief Robert Zoellick, was to galvanize the public into supporting the goal of doubling the number of tigers in the wild by 2022. The Summit ended with sustained concern over the loss of the world’s tigers, despite $330m worth of donor pledges to make living tigers more valuable while alive.

At the present time, a dead tiger can net a poacher up to $50,000. This illegal practice has decimated tiger populations worldwide. Unfortunately, the Summit did not conclude with the implementation of a measure to ensure the punishment of individuals poaching and trafficking tigers and it is significant that China, which constitutes the largest market for tiger parts, did not strongly commit to ending the practice. A number of celebrities also supported the Summit, with actor Leonardo DiCaprio pledging $1m of his own money.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is hard to imagine a world without tigers. Yet today, there are fewer than 3,200 of these magnificent predators left on the planet. In the past century, their populations have plummeted from 100,000 to only about 2,500 breeding adults.

This catastrophic decline in tiger populations is a direct result of two things: 1) habitat destruction, and 2) relentless hunting for their bones, claws and teeth, which are used to make ornaments and products that falsely claim to have medicinal value. To save these animals, rapid and effective action must be taken to protect their habitats and reduce demand for their body parts. Additionally, domestic laws should be strengthened to prosecute those involved in the poaching, trade, or sale of tiger products and penalties should be increased and enforced for those identified as being involved in these activities.

World’s first Tiger Summit

On November 21, the 13 countries where tigers still roam (TRCs) met in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a four-day summit to launch a last ditch effort to save this magnificent animal. At this meeting, two major initiatives were addressed:

To protect tiger habitats by supporting local projects, such as eco and ethno-tourism opportunities that have small environmental footprints and which also can generate substantial revenues. Funds from these ventures can be used to protect and expand critical habitats and to finance the economic, health and infrastructure needs of the people who live near these biospheres. When people who live near ecosystems receive direct economic benefits from them, they will preserve them. Demonstrating that the habitats of tigers have greater value preserved than destroyed creates a personal incentive for people to protect them.

To reduce the demand for tiger parts. An international public awareness campaign must be started that clearly shows that tiger parts are utterly ineffective at treating medical problems. National and international naturopathic associations should become partners to spread this message.

The annihilation of tigers is not an esoteric issue. Tiger habitats can have immense, long-term, sustainable economic and ecological value to the people who live near them. They can also act as carbon sinks and buffers to deforestation and the degradation of water sources.

Human security and environmental security are two halves of the same whole. Initiatives that support both of these objectives will preserve the remarkable biodiversity on our planet and will enable us to save keystone species like tigers. It would be hard to imagine a world without them.

To support the Global Tiger Initiative, visit www.globaltigerinitiative.org. To learn more about the Save Tigers Now campaign, visit www.icforum.info andwww.savetigersnow.org.

Dr. Keith Martin is a physician and Member of Canada’s Parliament, as well as the founder and chair of the Canadian Parliament’s first All-Party International Conservation Caucus. In 2010, he launched the International Conservation Forum (www.icforum.info), which offers conservationists, environmentalists, scientists, NGOs and the general public a platform to share research findings and solutions to urgent environmental challenges. Most recently, Dr. Martin launched an international campaign to save rhinos from extinction. Learn more at www.icforum.info/category/rhinos/

Christmas wishes for the homeless

by Daniel Keeran

Across Europe and North America, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people, especially in recent years in Vancouver and Victoria in BC. A growing body of information also indicates our current approach to homelessness has led to an inefficient use of public resources; it costs more to leave people homeless than to provide them with permanent housing and support services.

Who are these people we pass on the street, begging for food and money, sleeping in doorways and parks and pushing grocery carts full of containers and stuff from garbage bins?

This Christmas, you can help fulfull the wishes of a homeless person. At homelesspartners, read the stories and modest Christmas wishes of the individuals who will be spending their Christmas holidays at a shelter. Through the website, you can choose to send a personal gift or a caring message. Only the first name and ID number of the individual is provided to protect their anonymity. You may choose to send a gift online or deliver it to the reception desk at the shelter. Shelter addresses are provided on the website.

Homeless people are men and women who have lost their home and perhaps their family. Each person has a real life story with poignant reasons for their homelessness. They are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, aunts and uncles. No one deserves to suffer as the homeless do – often beaten, robbed, diseased and dying on the street.

Sometimes, they are recently homeless. Others have lived on and off the street and in shelters for many years. It’s not uncommon for someone to prefer the street to a bedbug infested single room occupancy hotel room where they are at risk of being assaulted. For many, this is worse than sleeping on the street and having the shoes stolen off their feet and all their personal possessions taken, including photos of loved ones and their personal identification, which makes it difficult or impossible to register for many services like welfare. There is an urgent need for some kind of lockers or secure place they can keep their belongings.

Many of the homeless suffer from mental illness. This can lead to drug addiction as they try to help themselves feel better. Although they may sometimes look able bodied, mental illness is not always outwardly apparent and it prevents people from holding down a job, as much as a physical handicap prevents a wheelchair-bound person from walking.

What do homeless people need?

One of the most pervasive problems with the homeless is “street feet.” Their shoes and socks become wet for long periods of time and they are unable to find a warm, dry place where they can stay inside long enough for them to dry out. This creates sores, pain and infection. They need waterproof footwear and warm dry socks.

Those who are capable of working, especially in the building trades are not able to work because they have no tools, tool belt or steel-toe work boots. These can be donated new or used as long as they are in sturdy and reusable condition.

Many homeless people are talented artists, musicians and writers. By gifting art supplies like canvasses, acrylic paints, brushes, etc, they can be afforded the tools to create works of art.

If they were your family members, regardless of their circumstances or choices, you would want them to know you care. We believe everyone is our family member and these people are in trouble.

The most important thing a homeless person needs is to know that you care: a smile as you pass by, saying hello or a small gift or caring message at Christmas time.

Daniel Keeran, along with Jennie Keeran, is the co-founder ofhomelesspartners.com

Yoga – the doorway to true happiness

by Farah Moolji Nazarali

 

I didn’t know what I was searching for until I found it. And on that auspicious day, I realized I had found what I had been looking for my entire life. The details of that day are so vivid for me, deeply etched into my mind and into the memory of every cell in my body. It was the day I met myGuru, Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda.

Until that day, I hadn’t realized how restless I had been as a yoga teacher – always interested in the latest yoga fad, even though the blissful experiences of the latest yoga styles were always short lived. When I met Paramhans Swami Maheshwarnanda, I realized that in front of me was not someone who practised yoga or who knew Vedanta and yoga philosophy, but a human being who embodies the consciousness that awakens when a person practises yoga. In that moment, I realized how shallow my understanding of yoga was.

For some people, the concept of guru invokes feelings of skepticism and cynicism while for me, meeting my Guru has been the greatest blessing of my life, awakening within me the attributes of viveka (discernment),vayaigra (detachment) and bhakti (devotion).

Guruji also helped me understand mantra and gave me guidance in using mantra-japa (repetition of sacred Sanskrit sounds) as a way to focus my mind from restlessness and as a way to find inner peace.

In the months after meeting my Guru, I began to understand how precious yoga is. Guruji taught me a yoga stripped of all the things we as Westerners impose on it in order to make it beautiful, trendy and hip. Yoga is, and always will be, a body of wisdom for living in this world, helping us understand our purpose in it and a way to realize and awaken our Divine nature. Yoga helps us avoid becoming entangled in materialism, consumerism and greed – the external attractions and distractions of modern everyday life – and brings us closer to love, truth and peace.

Guruji helped me understand how important diet is, encouraging me to adopt a vegetarian diet as a way to awaken compassion for all living creatures. Since becoming a vegetarian, I feel more connected to animals than ever before and I also feel that my karmic footprint is lighter. I will never forget the night I was riding my bike home and I saw a dog that had just been run over by a car. When I looked into the eyes of that dog, I witnessed his suffering and pain and his fear and loneliness in facing death. While I realize my dietary choice may not be right for everyone, I’m glad I have the opportunity every day to support the well-being of other living creatures and to help promote the health of the planet.

I now know I had been searching for a source of lasting happiness outside of myself, but that source is within me and yoga is the vehicle. All I have to do it practise – practise every day. And how appropriate that the system he founded is called Yoga in Daily Life; there are so many layers of meaning in that one phrase. Yoga is not something I do. It is not something I teach. Yoga is who I am in all areas of my life. Yoga is the choices I make on a daily basis with my karma indriyas through my hands (actions and behaviours), my tongue (speech) and my thoughts.

Before I met Guruji, I had many fundamental questions about life, including the question, “Why am I here and what is my purpose in being here?” Through the loving guidance of my Guru, I realized the postures in yoga not only help the body stay healthy but, more importantly, they awaken consciousness and wisdom. As wisdom awakens, we achieve clarity about our deepest questions and our strongest desires and yearnings. Indeed, my sadhana (practice) has provided me with answers to many of my questions about life.

What I love most about my Guru is his openness to all paths and to all the “Great Teachers.” It affirms for me what I have always known to be true: that love and wisdom can never be contained in any one religion or path, but are the essence of all religions and all paths.

I hope that through my daily practice, more and more of my Divine nature can be revealed and that one day, in this lifetime or the next, I can realize the words of my Guru, who when asked what yoga is, held out his hands and said, “These hands. What are they for? They are for serving others.”

Farah Moolji Nazarali is a yoga teacher and a student of the Yoga in Daily Life system. Her Guru, Paramhans Swami Maheshwarananda, will be visiting Vancouver in March as part of his annual World Peace Tour. Visitwww.vanyoga.com for details.

image © Mahesh14 | Dreamstime.com

Bill C-36 – Canadians face trespass and raids

 

A federal bill purporting to make Canadians safer will actually make them less safe and, if passed, will likely face a barrage of constitutional challenges in the courts, according to a leading constitutional lawyer and a growing number of concerned citizens, health consumer groups and legislators.

Bill C-36: The Canada Consumer Product Safety Act gives Health Canada sweeping new powers, shifts control to bureaucrats and puts Canadians at risk of trespass and raids by Health Canada, without requiring government officials to go through the courts. The bill has passed 3rd reading in the House of Commons and is now before the Senate.

Shawn Buckley, a Kamloops-based constitutional lawyer and president of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA), originally challenged earlier versions of Bill C-36 (Bills 52 & 6) that died due to widespread opposition from health consumers and vendors of natural health products and/or when earlier parliamentary sessions were dissolved or prorogued. Responding to outrage from consumers and vendors of natural health products, the government and MPs from all parties backed off, specifically exempting natural health products in the latest version: Bill C-36.

In spite of the exemption, Buckley remains concerned that Bill C-36 is still a “Trojan Horse” that will ultimately pave the way for government to re-introduce the same sweeping provisions that by-pass the rule of law to apply to Canada’s natural health industry, which has been under siege since natural health products (NHP’s) were included under the Food & Drug Act in 2004. As a result of Natural Health Product regulations, thousands of products have become unavailable to consumers, restricting access to healthcare alternatives.

“Bill C-36 is sold to us as necessary for our safety,” says Buckley, “but if I’m correct, this bill represents one of the most unsafe legal moves – certainly in my lifetime.”

Senators Elaine McCoy (PC), Joseph Day (Lib), Celine Hervieux-Payette (Lib), George Furey (Lib) and Tommy Banks (Lib) – all lawyers – have expressed concern that the bill is a breach of civil liberties and will probably not stand up to what will likely be many court challenges, should it pass. Banks says, “It is undoing 400 years of common law.”

Fasken Martineau, one of the country’s leading law firms, has also expressed concern about the impact of Bill C-36. Peter Pliszka, a partner with Fasken Martineau’s Toronto office, says, “Bill C-36 will introduce a revolutionary upheaval in product regulation in Canada,” noting it goes against 140 years of Canadian history.

The NHPPA is dedicated to protecting access to Natural Health Products and Dietary Supplements. www.nhppa.org


“Freedom in Crisis” lecture tour

Shawn Buckley, president of the Natural Health Products Protection Association (NHPPA) is one of a few lawyers with the expertise to explain the laws that could extinguish our freedom to choose vitamin, mineral, herbal and traditional natural health products. Buckley’s cross-country lecture tour “Freedom in Crisis” began on November 18 and continues to December 7. Throughout the tour, Buckley has been alerting the public about the potential threat to rights and freedoms that Bill C-36 poses, as well as informing people about the negative impact the Natural Health Product Regulations will have on NHP businesses and consumers as the regulations come into full force. Buckley has also provided a guide for NHP businesses to help vendors understand their rights and protect their businesses in the event of a Health Canada raid.

The more people the NHPPA can reach, educate, get angry and get active, the better chance it has to re-set this unfair trajectory. Health Canada’s NHP Regulations have been set up to begin greater enforcement in 2011. It is not ‘too late.’ It is not an exercise in futility to ‘challenge the government.’ In the face of such powerful opposition we all have a tendency to accept the status quo. But we can change; we need not be quieted into submission. Canadians’ outrage has moved the government before.

Listen to the live 30-minute taping of Nelson Before Nine (atwww.nhppa.org) to hear how Bill C-36: The Consumer Product Safety Act continues to threaten our constitutional rights. 
Shawn Buckley in Vancouver: Monday Dec. 6, Integrative Medical Centre, 601 W. Broadway, 7 PM. 
In Edmonton: Tuesday December 7. 
In Calgary: Wednesday December 8. See full tour schedule atwww.nhppa.org