An indecent proposal


On August 9, I woke up to headlines like “Google Goes Evil” and “Google Greed and the End of Net Neutrality.” As someone who has worked alongside Google to keep the internet open (AKA Net Neutrality) in Canada, I was stunned. Did the open internet community just lose its biggest industry supporter?

The headlines stemmed from a controversial “joint policy proposal” that Google and Verizon had just submitted to US policymakers. The industry heavyweights hoped the proposal would be adopted as a framework for the future regulation of internet service.

Despite the headlines, the proposal does present some important provisions, such as non-discrimination and non-prioritization of online content and services, which will help ensure an open internet in the US. However, it also omits the ever-important mobile access to the internet, through smart phones and other devices, from oversight in the US. Increasingly, consumers will use wireless broadband as their preferred medium for internet access.

Also problematic, the proposal goes on to suggest that ISPs should be allowed to offer “differentiated services.” Such services “could make use of or access internet content, applications or services and could include traffic prioritization.” Allowing ISPs to offer such services creates an incentive to use their bandwidth to provide access to these services through cable television, which reaches citizens’ homes through the same infrastructure as the internet.

The result would be bandwidth scarcity for the open public internet and disproportionate investment in ISP-controlled private internet services. Allowing such services provides a backdoor for ISPs to use to sneak around open internet rules.

Closed government the real villain

US public interest groups like Free Press are up in arms over the proposal and the FCC has also expressed concerns with it. While most of the outrage from consumer groups has targeted Google, the real culprit is the FCC’s closed-door approach to rule making.

The proposal comes just days after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced it was abandoning its own efforts to develop a plan through negotiations with leading phone, cable and internet companies. The proposal and accompanying public outcry are the result of limiting public input and longstanding policy neglect concerning internet openness in the US.

Canada’s media regulator, the CRTC, took an important step in the right direction last October by putting forward open internet (“traffic management”) guidelines. On June 30, the CRTC extended its Traffic Management rules to mobile wireless data services.

Although these are clear signs of positive momentum for ensuring internet openness in Canada, as it stands right now, ISPs have not yet been told to stop throttling access to the open internet. Furthermore, under the current CRTC guidelines, the onus falls on the consumer to file a complaint and prove that an ISP is unjustly throttling traffic.

While Canada is clearly ahead of the US in that we have some net neutrality guidelines for both wired and wireless devices, we still do not have net neutrality in actual practice. It is thus still unclear how or if Net Neutrality will be enforced in Canada.

Eerily similar to the FCC’s industry meetings, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Industry Minister Tony Clement have also reportedly had closed-door meetings with representatives from the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC). ITAC is Canada’s most powerful lobby group for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

If the government continues to develop public policy through closed-door meetings while Canadian individuals and organizations lack clear internet openness enforcement rules, we’re open to the same sort of industry policy development shenanigans that we see playing out in the US.

Online democracy and offline democracy are inextricably linked; neglect of either is neglect of both. The Google/Verizon proposal isn’t indecent as much as it’s imperfect, much like any public policy developed without a democratic process.

I encourage Canadians to stand up for online democracy by sending a message to Tony Clement at:

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times andAdbusters.

Sumptuous sandwiches

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Someone I know took a peanut butter sandwich in his lunch bag every day – for seven years. Then what happened? He didn’t give up peanut butter, but when he finished school and got a job as a computer whiz, once in a while he ate a warm meal in the company cafeteria, to add a little variety.

Sandwiches are named after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), who enjoyed eating while he worked and played. To avoid dribbling meat drippings onto the work on his desk and his cribbage board, he had his valet contain the meat between two slices of bread. This Earl wasn’t the inventor of the sandwich, though he seemed adept at getting things named after him. In his position as First Lord of the Admiralty, he supported Captain Cook’s Pacific exploration and Cook subsequently named the Sandwich Islands in the Earl’s honour. Just think, we might easily have been named Sandwichtown instead of Vancouver.

Variations of the hand-held lunch exist around the world. Asian versions include nori rolls, in which the wrap is a dried sheet of seaweed and rice paper wraps, which may contain rice, veggies and peanut sauce. In Mexican cuisine, we encounter corn or wheat tortillas as wraps for tasty fillings.

If you are facing months of bag lunches for yourself or your family members, check out the sidebar for some healthy ideas to make lunchtime more interesting. This is just a start. There are plenty of flavourful veggie “meats.” Combine slices to make a ‘Hero’ and fill a fresh roll with guacamole. Spread rice cakes with a variety of nut butters, with or without jam.

Check out the vegetarian sandwich fillings at natural foods stores and mainstream supermarkets. On New Westminster’s Columbia Street, a cute little market called Karmavore (, 604.527.4212) offers a fascinating range of products from veggie meats and patés to the outstanding new Daiya cheese, which tastes good, melts and is soy and wheat-free. A favourite sandwich is the raw Tapenade Roll in a collard leaf at Gorilla Food on Vancouver’s Richards Street.

An easy meal to take when flying out of YVR is a package of vegetarian nori rolls, complete with pickled ginger. You can find these at airport concessions across North America These rice rolls also work well in lunch bags for those with wheat and gluten sensitivities. Oh, and we forgot to list peanut butter in the sidebar!

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, Raising Vegetarian Children, the Food Allergy Survival Guide, Becoming Raw and the Raw Food Revolution Diet. For personal consultations, phone 604-882-6782 or visit

Tempting sandwich fillings



Help bring the bees back

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

The honeybee Apis mellifera was brought to North America by European colonists in 1662 to pollinate their crops. Before European honeybees were imported to North America, generations of growers depended upon the 4,000+ species of native bees that lived there. In Canada, there are 800 species of native bees. These bees do not live in communal hives; they are solitary, dwelling in little caves in the ground or in bark crevices in trees where they raise their young.

Today, more than 25 percent of North America’s 2.4 million honeybee colonies have been lost to what has been named “colony collapse disorder.” The bees are stressed by mites, viruses, toxic pesticides, long-distance trucking and poor nutrition. Hundreds of acres of mono-cultured crops do not provide the diversity of food they need to stay healthy. This has farmers worried about how they are going to get their crops pollinated in future.

A bee box (with stackable trays) attracts solitary pollinating bees to the garden.

The answer is right in front of them: if we returned to the smaller-scale, diversified food production model of our forbears, one that protected habitat such as hedgerows and ponds for wildlife, we would not be concerned about the failures of ‘rent-a-bee’ services.

There are 20,000 species of bees in the world, which means there are thousands of bees we know little about. In Victoria, BC, where I live, there are 30 species of native bees, which live in wild places such as salmonberry thickets, dead trees, decaying logs, riverbanks and abandoned railway corridors. The closer they are to a city, the more native bees are under threat, due to loss of habitat.

Here in Victoria, my friend Rex Welland spent many years studying native bees as a result of his interest in heritage fruit trees. He noticed that apples typically produce 10 to 20 seeds, depending on the variety. When he noticed that seed numbers had dropped in his fruit, he became concerned that bee populations were being negatively affected by mite infestations. He decided to try attracting native species of bees to increase the rate of pollination.

Rex perfected a wooden bee box, with slotted trays that could be taken apart at the end of the season to clean pollen mites off the cocoons. Hatching unencumbered by mites enhances the adult bee’s survival rate. In no time, the native blue orchard mason bee Osmia lignaria had located and moved into Rex’s bee boxes. This non-aggressive solitary bee is a shiny, blue-black colour and slightly smaller than a honeybee, making it easily mistaken for a bluebottle fly. There are 35 different species of orchard mason bees in North America.

Plant these and 
bring the bees
Apple, cherry, plum
Blackberry & raspberry Rubus
Saskatoon berry Amelanchier alnifolia
Dandelion Taraxacum officinale
Mints Mentha
Marjoram Origanum
Nasturtium Tropaeolum
Red clover Trifolium pratense
Sunflowers Helianthus

This wood-dwelling bee emerges in early spring, at the same time as the early-flowering fruit trees that they pollinate. They forage under overcast skies at temperatures as low as 54°F ( 12°C). They are effective pollinators, visiting up to 2,000 blossoms a day. Effective pollination by mason bees does not require large populations; 50 bees can adequately pollinate a small orchard of a dozen trees.

Bees like to nest in a dry place protected from wind. Somewhere that receives morning sun that warms them up is best, such as under the eave on the southeast side of a house or shed. Orchard mason bees have a limited foraging range of 300 feet (90m) so place bee houses close to the area in need of pollination.

Studies have shown that they pollinate certain crops – apples, cherries, squash, watermelon, blueberries, sunflowers and cranberries – with greater efficiency than honeybees. It was shown that only 250 female orchard mason bees were needed to pollinate an acre of apples, when 15,000 honeybees would be needed to do the same job.

Females are the primary pollinators and the sole nest builders. Males also pollinate, but their foraging is done purely for nourishment. The female lays about 30 eggs in her lifetime, with activity ending in June. Within a week of laying the eggs, the larvae hatch and start feeding on stored nectar and pollen reserves. After two weeks, most of the food has been consumed so the larva spins a cocoon and pupates. Later in the summer, the pupa develops into the adult bee, which remains in the cocoon throughout winter, to emerge again the following spring.

Carolyn’s new book The Zero Mile Diet – A Year-round Guide to Growing Great Organic Food is now available (Harbour Publishing)

Mirror, mirror

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. – Carl Gustav Jung

Life is like a laboratory for our learning and other people are the raw materials with which we work. There are no absolutes, however, because everything is based on perception. Human perception is infinitely variable. Everyone has his or her own unique perspective that can change over the course of a lifetime or in a single moment of insight.

The problem is that the human ego believes that its perception is reality. Of course, this means that any other perception must be wrong. It is a little like two people having an argument; one is on the fifth floor of a high rise while the other is on the twentieth. They are arguing over their cell phones about whether the tenth floor is up or down. Each insists he is right and, according to his perspective, he is! Each uses his perspective as his basis for being right. The battle can go on endlessly unless they stop and take the time to understand the perspective of the other.

It is no wonder human communication can be difficult. Not only can we have differing perspectives about situations, but we may also project our own perceptions about a person on to that person and assume that is the reality of who they are. So I can insist that I know you better than you know yourself and that my perceptions about your intentions are more accurate than your own statements of intention. This becomes crazy making, because, as in our example above, we can argue endlessly about whose perception is correct.

What is the way out of this hall of mirrors-like maze? It is to keep our focus on ourselves and maintain the highest level of integrity we can regardless of what others are doing. Most of us have enough work to do fixing ourselves without worrying about fixing others.

One way to begin to break the habit of criticizing and judging others is to think of others as mirrors of ourselves. If we see something we do not like in another or which irritates us, consider the possibility we are being shown this behaviour because we also possess it, perhaps without realizing it.

In fact, in my work with couples, I very often see one partner being so upset at things the other does or says, when that individual behaves in exactly the same ways. She wants him to be sweet and romantic, but she is harsh and demeaning towards him. He does not want to be criticized by her, but he has an itemized list of everything that is wrong with her.

Think of the things that irritate you the most about someone in your life or, better still, make a list of all the things that irritate you. Then look over the list and see how many of those traits also apply to you. Get to work on changing those in yourself.

What if something really bothers you about another and you absolutely do not have that quality in yourself? In that case, the situation may be showing you your own tendency to be intolerant, judgmental and even “holier than thou.”

Remember when you were in grade school and one side of the report card was for academics and the other related to personal development? One of those categories was “gets along well with others.” How well do we get along with others? If we often find ourselves in conflict with others or ranting about their shortcomings, it may be time to take a look in the mirror. We might ask the image staring back at us exactly what it is that gives us the right to be so judgmental of others, exactly what that behaviour accomplishes and how exactly we would feel if others treated us this way.

Gandhi advised, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” It is quite amazing to see how when we start being how we wish others would be our world begins to change.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practise and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit See display ad this issue.

VIFF’s eco docs


It seems more like a decade than a year since VIFF last came round. Make that two decades. With Copenhagen’s failure fast becoming a dot in the rear view mirror, one filmmaker has returned to footage from the first “Earth Summit” in Rio for inspiration. In Severn, The Voice of Our Children, Jean-Paul Jaud frames his thoughts for the future of the human race around the resonant words of David Suzuki’s daughter in 1992, when, at 12 years of age, she told delegates at the Rio Earth summit, “What you do makes me cry at night.” Now 29, and living in Haida Gwaii, Severn is still crying, but the mother-to-be is not totally without hope. Jaud balances a teary-eyed and elegiac tone with some encouraging portraits of organic pioneers around the world. I particularly liked the detailed portrait of Takao Furuno, a sage Japanese rice farmer who has used fish and ducks to fertilize rice fields and control pests, with a 30 percent increase in crop yield over industrial farming methods.

VIFF’s green film strand, “Ecologies of the Mind, is particularly at pains this year to find a life-affirming green thread. In this sense, German doc The 4th Revolution – Energy Autonomy hits the spot and with its scattergun approach, everything around the spot. The forceful German politician Hermann Scheer spearheads the assault on the energy status quo, which, we are told, is perpetuated for political, not technological, reasons. Meanwhile, director Carl-A. Fechner introduces us to change-makers such as electric sports car pioneer Elon Musk, and Preben Maegaard, who talks about a Danish micro-energy success story. Together, these experts bat alternative energy naysayers – epitomized by a hapless International Energy Association (IEA) economist – out of the stadium. The ideas raised in this slick production could easily fill a whole television series.

Robinson in Ruins, set in the South of England, is a strange but curious piece of art. The premise is that 19 film cans were discovered in a derelict caravan in a field. The footage has been assembled with a dry, factual narrative based on the writings the itinerant Robinson made in his notebook. We are told Robinson believed that “if he looked at the landscape hard enough, it would reveal to him the molecular basis of historical events and in this way he hoped to see into the future…”

Point of view doc David Wants to Fly constantly surprised me. I almost wrote it off as navel-gazing by Berlin-based student director David Sieveking, as he raked around for inspiration. “I wanted to make dark films like my idol David Lynch,” he says near the start. “But I was lacking the darkness.” Lynch, a devotee of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, initially gives the younger man supportive advice, but also inadvertently opens a door into the darkness surrounding this mysterious cult, popularized by the Beatles. Sieveking, to his credit, keeps matters low key and personal and shows great tenacity in the pursuit of the truth. It’s an expose, but it also contains much sweetness and light.

Psychohydrography shows the passage of water from mountain to sea in time-lapse. Big subject, especially for water-deprived Los Angeles. But I felt this was too stylistically rigid and would have been more expansive using other cinematic techniques. In The Wake of the Flood might interest fans of Margaret Atwood, although I found it a little too rudderless.

Finally, I’ve only seen the teaser clips on the NFB website, but Sturla Gunnarsson’s biography Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie looks a likely contender for “best documentary.”

Robert Alstead made the Vancouver documentary You Never Bike He writes at

More drilling, more disasters

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

The Gulf of Mexico disaster is just the latest in a long history of “accidents.” As Canada considers drilling for oil in the Arctic now that ice seems to be less of an impediment, we should remember that in October 1970, a blowout at a natural gas well on King Christian Island in the Arctic Ocean created a massive flame, as up to 5.6 million cubic metres of gas a day spewed for more than three months. It was the second blowout in the Arctic since drilling began the year before. Around the same time, the drilling consortium, Panarctic Oil Ltd., was slapped with a huge fine for dumping junk steel, waste oil and other garbage into the Arctic Ocean.

The drilling companies found a novel solution to the latter problem: they convinced the federal government of the day to issue ocean dumping permits, making the practice legal and common until 1993, when the Inuit challenged one of the permits.

Oil industry people are fond of claiming that practices and technology are improving, that we don’t have to worry any more – and then, boom, we get another disaster like the one in the Gulf of Mexico or the recent Enbridge pipeline leak in Michigan. Often, the initial reaction of industry folks is to downplay the incidents. In the Arctic, a small population means that fewer people notice the disasters and pollution. It’s harder to ignore in a heavily populated area like the Gulf Coast of the US and Mexico.

Still, the industry does what it can to keep people in the dark. According to Alabama’s Press-Register newspaper, BP has been trying to buy scientists working on oil and marine issues in the Gulf. As the paper’s Ben Raines reports, “BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university.”

The newspaper obtained a copy of the contract the oil company was offering to scientists. “It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years.” This would prevent these scientists from testifying in any legal action brought against BP for the catastrophe.

If we were to allow stepped-up drilling and exploration in the Arctic, or off the BC coast, we could expect more of these kinds of disasters in sensitive ecosystems. And, as I’ve often pointed out, what we do to the oceans, we do to ourselves. We depend on the oceans for our survival – for our food and our oxygen and for so much more.

But we can’t lay all the blame on the fossil fuel companies. They’re just doing their job, fuelling an ever-increasing demand. They may appear to act with the scruples of crack dealers, but we’re all contributing to the global petro-economy. As demand for energy continues to grow, we can expect governments and industry to seek out fossil fuels from ever more remote, dirty and dangerous sources.

And yet how many of us are willing to make changes in our own lives to cut back on our use of fossil fuels? The Gulf of Mexico situation is horrendous, but the amount of oil represents only about one quarter of the world’s daily consumption. That means, every day, we consume four times more oil than that spilled in the Gulf, spewing the associated crap into the atmosphere, rivers, lakes and oceans.

But as I look out the window of my office, I see a steady stream of SUVs, trucks and cars – most of them with just a driver and no passengers and many of them driven for the convenience of avoiding walking or taking a bus.

We must convince governments and industry leaders to invest more in clean-energy solutions and to put certain areas off limits to oil exploration, drilling and shipping, but we also must all take personal responsibility for the fossil fuel-related disasters, from blowouts to climate change. We and our world would be healthier if we relied less on our cars and more on transit, bicycles and our feet. We can also educate ourselves about other ways to reduce fossil-fuel consumption, such as using fewer plastic bags and disposable plastic products and insulating our homes. We’re all a part of the problem and of the solution.

Learn more at



Be ocean wise

The Ocean Wise logo on a restaurant menu, seafood-counter or seafood product is the trusted symbol of ocean-friendly seafood choices. With more than 360 partners and over 2,800 locations across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for years to come. Learn more at

The Invitation Global Work Party 10/10/10
Bill McKibben and the team

It’s been a tough year: in North America, oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico; in Asia, some of the highest temperatures ever recorded; in the Arctic, the fastest melting of sea ice ever seen; in Latin America, record rainfalls washing away whole mountainsides. So we’re having a party.

Circle 10/10/10 on your calendar. That’s the date. The place is wherever you live. And the point is to do something that will help deal with global warming in your city or community. We’re calling it a Global Work Party, with emphasis on both ‘work’ and ‘party.’ In Auckland, New Zealand, they’re having a giant bike fix-up day, to get every bicycle in the city back on the road. In the Maldives, they’re putting up solar panels on the president’s office. In Kampala, Uganda, they’re going to plant thousands of trees and in Bolivia they’re installing solar stoves for a massive carbon neutral picnic.

Since we’ve already worked hard to call, email, petition and protest to get politicians to move, and they haven’t moved fast enough, now it’s time to show that we really do have the tools we need to get serious about the climate crisis.

On 10/10/10 we’ll show that we the people can do this, but we need bold energy policies from our political leaders to do it on a scale that truly matters. The goal of the day is not to solve the climate crisis one project at a time, but to send a pointed political message: if we can get to work, you can get to work too – on the legislation and the treaties that will make all our work easier in the long run.

You can sign up to host a local event at or search for an event to join at And don’t worry about being alone at this party; there are already 1,077 groups in 109 countries around the world scheduled to do something great that day. We’ll knit all these groups together with a powerful mosaic of photos, videos and stories from around the world. You wouldn’t want to miss it.

It’s been a tough year, but it can be a beautiful day on October 10 if we work together and party together. And if we do it right, we’ll take a big step towards the kind of political solutions we desperately need. Onwards!

Photos like these will soon be part of a travelling exhibition in North America and Europe. (Ian McAllister photo)

Proposed oil pipeline motivates Conservation Photographers

A selection of the world’s most celebrated and talented nature photographers will deploy to BC’s Great Bear Rainforest. Home to white spirit bears, ancient forests and stunning marine biodiversity, it is one of the planet’s most priceless treasures. Asian oil interests wanting access to western Canada’s tar sands, the second largest known oil reserves in the world, have prompted the International League of Conservation Photographers to focus on this region. Enbridge, Inc., the world’s largest pipeline construction company recently filed an application to the Canadian National Energy Board to build a 1,200-kilometre twin pipeline between Alberta’s tar sands and BC’s north Pacific coast. The unprecedented proposal, facilitating Asian access to Canadian oil, would be constructed over a thousand streams and rivers, while introducing super oil tankers to the pristine waters of the globally recognized Great Bear Rainforest. The indigenous First Nations who call this area home unanimously oppose this project.

Documentation by ILCP will showcase the immense ecological importance of western Canada’s threatened rainforest and marine environment. The images and stories from the expedition members will be shared with international media and partner organizations and will be featured in a travelling exhibition across North America and Europe. The ILCP will hold a press conference in Vancouver on September 14. (At press time, the location for the press conference has not been established.)

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup

With over 650 cleanup sites registered across Canada, it isn’t too late to register for the 17th annual Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup as a site coordinator or cleanup participant. Most shoreline litter originates from land and land-based activities so by stepping up and signing up, we are all taking action to stop one of the most widespread pollution problems endangering our oceans and waterways. Plus, what crazy item do you think you’ll find along your shoreline?

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation in action program that began in 1994 with a handful of Vancouver Aquarium employees who wanted to participate in the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

In 2009, nearly 57,000 Canadians registered to cleanup 1,568 sites across Canada. Over 160,900 kg of litter was removed from a cumulative distance of 2,500 km of shoreline, approximately equivalent to the driving distance from Vancouver to the Manitoba/Ontario border.

Some of the more unusual items found in the past include a message in a bottle (the message: “Please don’t litter”), false teeth, a living room set, a canoe made out of duct tape, a wedding dress, a disco ball, a safe from an hotel, a toboggan, a mini trampoline and a clothesline complete with poles and pins.

This year’s Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup takes place September 18-26. For more information or to register, please visit For more information on the program, check out or call 1-877-427-2422.

Take a pass on Chilean sea bass

In Canada, Chilean sea bass became the poster child for seafood unsustainability following a campaign led by the US National Environment Trust asking consumers and chefs to “Take a pass on Chilean sea bass.” More recently and under pressure from consumers and environmental organizations including Greenpeace, three major Canadian supermarkets (Overwaitea, Safeway and Loblaw) stopped selling it, with Metro planning to follow suit in September, leaving only Sobeys still carrying it. But it can still be found in high-end restaurants and fish shops.

Canada is currently one of nine leading toothfish importers. How about we become instead a leading toothfish conserver?

Greenpeace has released the report Defending the Last Ocean: How Seafood Markets Can Help Save Antarctica’s Ross Sea. Read it and be sure to keep passing up the Chilean sea bass.

tunning stone sculptures from Zimbabwe return to VanDusen Garden

VanDusen’s September offerings

Zimsculpt returns to VanDusen Garden for a second year bringing stunning stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. More than 200 pieces are artistically displayed throughout the Garden. Two artists from Zimbabwe, Passmore Mupindiko and Patrick Sephani, are in attendance throughout the exhibition and carving on site daily. All pieces are for sale with partial proceeds going to support the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association.


September 9

Cedar Series Lecture, “GMO and Terminator Seeds, The Old and New” with April Reeves in Floral Hall, 7:30 pm. April Reeves will be discussing the history and technology of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) with a focus on terminator seeds. As we address the question, “Why should we be aware of terminator technology?” Ms. Reeves will also explore the long-term vision and dangers of this technology and what you can do about GE Terminator crops and trees. Bring your questions for answers about all types of GM technology. Tickets in advance from the Administration Office or, subject to availability, at the door on the night of the lecture. Individual tickets: Members $10, non-members $15. Trio Pack includes three tickets that can be used on any three lectures in 2010. Members: $25 for 3; non-members: $40 for 3.

September 11

Bird Walk, 10 am. Meet at the Garden entrance. Join Jeremy Gordon from Nature Vancouver for a guided birding exploration in the Garden. Rain or shine. Limited to the first 20 people. Free for members or included with Garden admission. For more information on Nature Vancouver, visit

September 18

Volunteer orientation, 10am-3pm. Orientation is a prerequisite for volunteer activities at VanDusen Garden. Bring your lunch; refreshments will be provided. Dress for the weather. Meet at the Totem Poles near the Garden Entrance at 10am. Learn about the many volunteer opportunities at VanDusen. Meet representatives from the VBGA staff and Board. Tour the Garden with experienced guides who will share their knowledge and enthusiasm. To register or for more information, call Judy Aird, 604-257-8674 or email

September 19

Medicine Wheel Ceremony, 12-3pm at the First Nations’ Medicine Wheel in the Canadian Heritage Garden. Join elders from the First Nations community in a spiritual ceremony to mark the changing of the season. Wear clothing appropriate for the weather and bring a small stone to bless and leave at the wheel as well as a food item to share at the potluck meal at the conclusion of the ceremony. For information, contact VanDusen’s librarian Marina Princz at or call 604-257-8668.

September 19

HSBC VanDusen Family Program – Super Seeds for families with children ages 5 to 11 years. Seeds come in different sizes, shapes and colors. Some can be eaten and some can’t. Discover the ingenious ways that seeds travel, what they are composed of and how they grow. Two sessions: 10:30am-12pm or 1:30-3 pm. Member family $15; non-member family $25 (includes admission to the Garden). One-time bursaries are available for families with limited resources. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Pre-registration required. Call 604-718-5898 or email

September 25

VanDusen’s Annual Compost and Spring Bulb Sale in the parking lot, 10am-3pm. $5 for a 20kg bag of compost. While picking up your compost, why not add a few bulbs to your purchase? Wide selection available.

September 25-26

Dried Flower Sale in Entrance Pavilion, 10am-4pm. Sale of dried flower centrepieces for Thanksgiving and autumn wreaths of vibrant fall colors made from materials gathered in the Garden.

VanDusen Garden is located at 5251 Oak Street in Vancouver.

News from Burns Bog

September is all about Ray Zahab, fresh off the heels of his Siberian and Tunisia expeditions. He’s sure to have tons of exciting and inspiring stories to tell us. Start making plans to order your tickets and register for the run today. Both events are sure to sell out so don’t delay.

Ray Zahab with The Hour host George Stroumboulopoulos

September 24

Ray speaks at the Burns Bog Gala, Eaglequest Coyote Creek Golf Course. $75/person; $750/table of 10; $1,000/table sponsorship. A silent auction, raffle tickets and 50/50 draw are all part of the evening’s fun. Auction items include an original painting by Delta Artist of the Year Linda Jones, a print from acclaimed Canadian photographer Graham Osborne and a Nintendo Wii. Register at

September 26

Ray leads the Jog for the Bog. Walk, jog or run with Ray. Spots are filling up quickly. Register online at or call 604-572-0373.

The Burns Bog Conservation Society is getting ready to launch a new website and we want to hear from you. Tell us what you like, dislike or anything new you would like to see. The new site includes a better resource library, a kid’s corner, interactive quizzes, improved maps and directions as well as video footage of trails inside the Delta Nature Reserve. Let us know what you want to see and keep your eyes peeled for the new coming soon.

4 easy ways to go green & save money

1. Build a clothesline.

Besides the obvious costs of electricity, a tumble dryer wears out clothes more quickly.

2. Skip the bottled water

Buy a reusable container. Fill it with tap water, a great choice for the environment, your wallet and your health. The EPA and other international governments’ standards for tap water are always stricter than the FDA’s standards for bottled water. Hard to believe, but water is more expensive that gasoline when you buy it by the litre.

3. Go digital

Saving energy means saving money by adjusting your thermostat a little cooler in the winter and a little warmer in the summer. Install a digital thermostat with timers. Drop the temperature of your house a few degrees while nobody is home then bring it back up right before everyone gets back.

4. Tofu Tuesdays

Going vegetarian once a week saves money and the planet. Staples such as rice, corn and beans can make trips to a grocery store less expensive. The biggest savings come in health-care costs years later as eating less meat lowers your risk of heart disease, cancer and dementia. It’s better for the planet, reduces water usage and global-warming gases.

HST or democracy?


Vander Zalm urges Premier to hold free fall vote on HST initiative petition

Fight HST leader and former BC premier, Bill Vander Zalm, has sent a letter urging Premier Gordon Campbell to agree to accept the Initiative petition to end the HST for a vote in the legislature this fall.

Vander Zalm says the court ruling on August 20 paves the way for the legislature to vote on the draft Bill now, and the time for delays is over. “We have asked the premier to indicate to the Standing Committee that he is willing to receive the draft Bill to extinguish the HST in a fall sitting of the legislature. We have told the premier that a costly and undemocratic, non-binding “Initiative Vote” is a waste of time and money, since even if it passes, the Bill will only come right back to the legislature for a vote anyway.”


Vander Zalm says the threshold for an Initiative Vote is 50 percent of all registered voters, instead of a majority of votes cast, meaning that twice as many people who voted for the BC Liberal government are required to defeat a policy implemented by that government. “That is totally undemocratic and an exercise in futility. It is contrary to Canadian democratic tradition which has always relied on a majority of votes cast, not a pre-determined number of people showing up to vote,” said Vander Zalm.

“It is also a colossal waste of money. It is estimated to cost $30-$50 million to conduct such a non-binding vote. During a time of economic hardship for so many, and massive deficits by the government, that is money that could be better spent on health care or education or other services.”

Vander Zalm says he has told the premier that if a vote is not conducted this fall, it will be seen by British Columbians as just another delaying tactic by the government. “We won’t let them derail this process again. Their big business partners tried it last week in the courts and failed. The judge was very clear – this is a matter for the legislature. Failure to deal with it fairly and expeditiously will result in Recall campaigns against BC Liberal MLAs starting in November.”

Vander Zalm says that the only acceptable vote in the legislature is one that will defeat the tax and obey the will of an overwhelming majority of British Columbians as evidenced in the dozens of opinion polls taken on the matter, as well as the hugely successful Initiative petition.

“The people have spoken. The Supreme Court has spoken. It is time now for the government to get rid of the HST or bear the consequences of an outraged public,” Vander Zalm concluded.

HST Extinguishment Act a valid matter for Province to deal with

BC Supreme Court Chief Justice, Robert Bauman, ruled on August 20 that the Initiative petition to end the HST in British Columbia is a valid matter for the legislature and gave the go ahead to the Chief Electoral Officer to hand over the petition and draft Bill, “The HST Extinguishment Act,” to the legislative Standing Committee.

Initiative proponent, Fight HST leader and former Premier, Bill Vander Zalm, said lawyers for the business lobby tried to argue that the HST Extinguishment Act was beyond provincial authority. “They said the HST was an exclusively federal tax that could not be extinguished by the BC government once implemented. Justice Bauman’s decision has essentially nullified that argument by allowing the legislature to ‘undo’ the HST by whatever means is necessary.”

Vander Zalm explained, “The HST Extinguishment Act’s purpose is to get rid of the HST by terminating the CITC Agreement that gave rise to it. We have said all along that may involve negotiations or discussions with the federal government to give effect to our intentions. Now all of that can happen.”

“This decision allows for the provincial legislature to deal with the matter irrespective of whether the HST is considered a federal tax or not. We now have the means to undo the severe damage caused by both the HST, and the premier and finance minister’s unilateral actions to give away BC’s sovereign authority over provincial sales taxes. This is huge.”

Vander Zalm says the BC government can now formally request the federal government to agree to remove BC from the “harmonization” scheme in the Excise Tax Act while at the same time passing the HST Extinguishment Act, freeing BC from the HST and restoring BC’s sovereignty over provincial sales taxes.

Vander Zalm says the judge rejected all of the business lobby’s arguments, essentially confirming Fight HST’s suspicions that the lawsuit brought by big business was in essence a nuisance action that had little legitimacy or foundation in the first place.

“The magnitude of today’s decision cannot be overstated. The business lobby, as we said before, was running blocker for the government. They filed their suit a day before we submitted the petition. It was a 100 percent political challenge, and not one shred legal. They and their clients should be ashamed today for their attempts to thwart the democratic will of the people in exchange for money. It was pathetic.”

Vander Zalm says his timetable for repealing the HST has not changed, and that the government has until November 15 to get rid of the hated tax or he will begin Recalls.

“The people of BC have spoken. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has spoken. There is no more room for delays, political tactics or legal games anymore. It’s time now for MLAs to stand up for their constituents, and end the HST in BC by voting to get rid of it in a fall sitting of the legislature,” Vander Zalm concluded.

Help support the legal battle and make a donation. Make cheques payable to HST Legal Challenge and mail to 370 East Broadway, PO Box 95023, Vancouver, BC, V5T 4T8. Donations can also be made online at and/or sign up to register with Fight HST for BC Recall at


Arctic adventure for hope

article and photos by Ezra Manson

From August 4-20, 16-year-old Ezra Manson, along with 78 other international students, participated in a an exploration of the northern reaches of Nunavik and eastern Baffin Island, with the goal of developing the knowledge, skills, perspectives and practices needed to become polar ambassadors and environmentally responsible citizens. Despite modern influences and conveniences, Inuit have retained their language, core knowledge and beliefs. Future decisions regarding Arctic sovereignty, governance and development will affect Arctic environments, societies and international relations. Youth have a key role to play in shaping the world of today and the world of tomorrow.

Sitting in a zodiac at the bottom of an 850-foot cliff while a cyclone of thousands of birds swooped all around brought my mind into a world of awe. Digges Island is home to 180,000 pairs of Thick-billed Murres, a seabird found exclusively in the Arctic. Garry Donaldson, a scientist who studies the birds, considers them to be the flying penguin of the north.

Through a program called Students on Ice, I spent two weeks exploring the Canadian Arctic. I am a 16-year-old from Vancouver, BC, who just graduated from the TREK Program at Prince of Wales Secondary. I was drawn to this opportunity to get a stronger grasp of climate change, learn more about my country and explore the possibilities of my future. This experience has transformed the way I will think and care about this planet for the rest of my life.

Kuujjuaq, located on the north coast of Nunavik, Quebec, was the farthest north I had ever travelled. As we drove through Kuujjuaq we passed hundreds of relatively young-looking trees. Upon our arrival at the town centre, the mayor of Kuujjuaq and a senator from Nunavik gave us a warm welcome to kick off our expedition. The mayor then talked about the blatant effects climate change has had on the region – one being that trees were an entirely new addition to the environment in Kuujjuaq; it had always been a region too far north for trees to grow. Climate change was actually capable of shifting the Earth’s tree line north.

Sailing through the Hudson Strait in the days to come presented me with perceptions and scenery that will forever be engraved in my memory. “In the past, we used the ice charts to avoid ice, but this year we are using them to find ice,” said expedition leader, Geoff Green. And there was no ice to be found.

Despite the lack of ice, we still had the chance to see spectacular sights such as icebergs, walrus colonies, polar bears and vast landscapes, which incessantly reminded me how insignificant we really are. One night I had the pleasure of seeing a sunset stretched 180 degrees across the horizon, followed by the northern lights dancing throughout the clear night sky.

Kekerten Island was a revelation. It’s an old whaling station from the 1800’s that was shared cooperatively by the Americans, Scottish and Inuit. I got a very strange vibe from this place. The surroundings were silent as I softly walked through a graveyard of perished whalers and thousands of bowhead whales. It made me feel ashamed that, as humans, we had yet again been the cause of an environmental tragedy, nearly wiping out the entire species.

The highlight may have been the day we sailed to Auyuittuq National Park, located in Cumberland Sound. We hiked through a valley with massive mountains encircling us on either side. After 12 kilometres of hiking through rivers, sand, moss, mud and no ice, we finally reached the Arctic Circle. Ironically, “Auyuittuq” means “the land that never melts” in Inuktitut. Now there were only a few rapidly retreating glaciers in this previously frozen land. For this reason, I found it very disheartening to look at some of the most beautiful scenery in the world and know that its ecosystems are at risk due to our actions. With scientists all over the world saying that we are fast approaching the point of no return regarding climate change, I could not help but feel frustrated, sad and powerless.

The next morning I woke up to an announcement over the intercom, “Bowhead whales at the starboard side of the bow.” Green said that he and the crew had counted over 40 bowheads in this little fjord. The simple realization that a species that was once nearly extinct now numbers in the thousands gave me assurance that humans can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Of the many presentations during the expedition, one by Alanna Mitchell resonated deeply within me. She described how the overload of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is causing the oceans to acidify, which is harmful to Earth’s most basic, yet vital, life forms. For the Thick-billed Murres and many other arctic species, this is detrimental for their survival since they feed off ocean life. And just as another spell of helplessness and gloom began to come over me, Alanna said with passion and concern, “You can choose hope.”

Ezra Manson first became interested in environmental studies through his father Paul Manson, who taught him the importance of renewable energy and why humans must live co-dependently with the environment. Next year, Ezra will attend VanTech where he hopes to spread his knowledge to his peers and the community. Email Ezra at ezramanson@hotmail.comLearn more at

Greenwashing biotech


by Lucy Sharratt

Ten years ago, Monsanto tried to convince the world – Europe, in particular –that genetically engineered (GE) crops were needed to ‘feed’ the hungry. At that time, the message was largely greeted with derision as a cynical ploy to sell a product that no one, including people in developing countries, wanted.


Now, the biotech industry is regrouping and re-branding itself, but the PR message looks very familiar. Food and climate change – two urgent global crises – are the context for a second major public relations push for genetic engineering. This time, however, there is an added twist: biofuels and the promise that biotechnology can fuel the world as well as feed it.

This month, the Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Conference (ABIC: September 12-15) “Bridging Biology and Business” kicks off in Saskatoon with a “Flower Power Biodiesel Workshop” aimed at the public. During this conference, we will likely see more media stories about how GE crops are needed to solve the major crises of our time. Conference sponsors include Bayer CropScience, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, Genome British Columbia, Novozymes and Ag-West Bio Inc.

Believe the hype?

The biotech industry is attempting to participate in sounding the alarm over the global food crisis. One of ABIC’s keynote speakers, Julian Cribb, a journalist from Australia, will present a talk entitled “The Coming Famine: risks and solutions for global food security.” (This is also the name of his new book.) Cribb will stress that the urgent “global food security problem” is one of resource scarcity: we are running out of water, farmland and oil and that these and other factors, like the collapse of fisheries and changes in local climates, will all constrain our ability to meet future food needs. He is right, of course, and this is where the biotechnology industry wants to insert itself. No one disagrees that there is a world food crisis so the industry can argue this point without debate and try to take the moral high ground. Controversy arises, however, due to the corporate agenda to sell patented GE technologies as the solution, at a profit.

While industrial agriculture receives ever increasing criticism, from which it cannot defend itself, the biotech industry is strategically trying to paint its technologies as ecological and equally compatible with other smaller, less-intensive models of farming. “There is an urgent need, not only to redouble the agricultural research effort worldwide but to develop a new ‘eco-agriculture’ that is sustainable and less dependent on heavy use of energy, water, nutrients and other increasingly scarce industrial inputs,” says Cribb.

Recently, the biotech industry tested the eco-PR waters with articles arguing that genetically engineered crops should be accepted in organic agriculture (GE is currently prohibited in organic farming), a move that stands as testimony to the growing strength of organics and the coming showdown between organics and GE where only one will survive.

Cribb goes on to say that creating the new eco-agriculture is “humanity’s most pressing scientific challenge.” This characterization of the problem as a scientific one is the perfect description for the biotech industry because it invites them to put their GE crops and GE trees forward as the solution. Not surprisingly, ABIC’s closing keynote address is entitled “The Global Challenges Ahead in Energy, Security and Food.”

He blinded me with science

ABIC is a Canadian creation from the industry-associated Ag-West Bio Inc., which describes itself on its website as being “at the forefront of Saskatchewan’s bio-economy.” Ag-West members include the now defunct Canadian GM crop company Performance Plants Inc., medical giant Pfizer Canada Inc., biotech and pesticide corporation Dow AgroSciences Canada as well as government departments Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada, Industry Canada and the Department of international Trade. The premier of Saskatchewan is scheduled to participate in the opening ceremonies.

ABIC will offer workshops from industry, academia and government, which highlight GE and related research and inventions under the three themes “Energy & Bioproducts, Health, Sustainability.” Genetic engineering is not the only technology on the table, however, as the presentation entitled “Synthetic Biology Solutions” makes clear. One of the major sponsors of ABIC 201, the company Novozymes, is experimenting with synthetic biology to create enzymes to more efficiently break down feedstocks into biofuels. The presentation “Agbiotech: The Global Sustainability Challenge” by Dr. Prem Warrior of the Gates Foundation – which is spending millions to establish what it calls a “Green Revolution for Africa,” despite the protest of African farmers – is sponsored by Novozymes.

The goal of industry conferences is that of networking and selling ideas. The conferences are designed to get everyone on board with a common communications strategy and to reaffirm the industry’s ideological position for corporate employees and scientists.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture, for example, is sponsoring a presentation called “Addressing Environmental Sustainability Through Biotechnology” by Clive James of the ISAAA (International Service of the Acquisition of Agri-biotechnology Applications). Every year, ISAAA publishes global GE crop statistics in reports that should be objective, but which are actually based on industry reporting and steeped in narrative in favour of the industry.

ISAAA has recently completed “a biosafety and biotech communication skills enhancement training” for Philippine government officials in a training that was part of a series of “capacity building and technology acceptance initiatives” related to GM eggplant product development, the product that farmers and consumers in India have soundly rejected. The communication workshop module “allowed the participants to improve their skills to effectively share information, respond proactively to inquiries and anticipate public’s information needs in relation to issues raised about the Bt eggplant technology.”

Real solutions are in the hands of farmers

In its “Proposals for family farm-based, sustainable agriculture,” La Via Campesina, the international movement of small scale farmers, states, “The major impediment to achieving sustainable ways of producing food is not the lack of appropriate technologies or the lack of knowledge of people working the land. The biggest obstacle is the way in which international and national policies, as well as the agro industry, are interfering in the food production system, forcing farmers to adopt unsustainable methods of production through a model of competition and ongoing industrialization.”

Across the world, small farmers are fighting to retain their knowledge and skills for the future. Dr. Melaku Worede, world-renowned director of Ethiopia’s National Gene Bank, argues, “Plant genetic resources are seldom ‘raw materials.’ They are the expression of the current wisdom of farmers who have played a highly significant role in the building up of the world’s genetic resource base.” Dr. Worede says, “Talk to the farmers. Go to their fields. Their knowledge of diversity and their selection criteria for different traits are the keys.”

Regassa Feyissa, director of the Ethio-Organic Seeds Association agrees, noting that farmers are sharing their detailed knowledge of how plants adapt to their soils and local weather with government researchers. “After a couple of days among farmers during a workshop in the Ethiopia highlands, the researcher from the national agricultural institute cried. They were tears of joy and sadness… In all his years of study in labs and formal research stations, no one had taught him to seek out the most important action in the food system: a farmer,” Feyissa recounts. According to Feyissa, lack of farmer involvement in research is often the cause of problems in the first place.

The criticism faced by Monsanto and other corporations – that their GE crops are inappropriate for small farmers and local conditions – have led corporations to pay some lip service to working with small farmers, particularly in developing countries. Because they are trying to sell their GE crops in Africa and Asia and have come across the political and cultural power of small farmers, the biotech industry is trying to paint a kinder, gentler image of itself as a cooperative research partner.

The ABIC Foundation states, “Helping the developing world through agricultural biotechnology is a complex challenge. An all-encompassing solution to this enormous challenge could only be achieved by the joint efforts of all those presently trying to find an answer. That’s precisely ABIC’s main focus: building a better world.” ( “Helping” with GE, however, is precluded by the centrality of the profit motive and the reality that the technology is patented.

At best, genetic engineering is a distraction that diverts resources and attention away from the real solutions; the worst-case scenario is that it actually destroys the possibility of creating those real and long-lasting solutions. The more we rely on high-tech solutions, the more we place ourselves at the mercy of those corporations that own and sell them. Faris Ahmed of USC, Canada’s oldest development agency, argues, “Most of all, food sovereignty is about making choices that will keep land, resources, and food production practices in the hands of those who know their landscapes best: farmers.”

The future of food relies on the level of control in the hands of farmers while the success of the biotechnology industry fundamentally requires eradicating that control.

Lucy Sharratt is the coordinator of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.