Grow beauty and eat it too

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

To understand just how disconnected we are from food today, consider that in the 1930s, 30 percent of Canada’s population was actively involved in farming, while today it’s only 1.6 percent. Also consider that while gardening is a major leisure activity in North America, only 10 percent of gardeners grow food. This shows how seriously disconnected we are from our food source, which has become an industrialized commodity shipped around the planet, thereby contributing to climate change.

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The year of innovation


In my January 2009 column, I encouraged readers to make opening up the media in Canada their 2010 resolution. I asserted that 2010 would be a pivotal year for communities working to open communication in Canada and beyond. And so here we are at the end of the year and it appears that, indeed, there is a growing community focused on openness, with the open Internet at its core.

For example, more than 22,000 people (and counting) have signed the Stop The Meter petition (, demonstrating widespread discontent with big telecom companies that are attempting to hogtie competing indie Internet service providers (ISPs) and make the Internet much more expensive to use.

What about 2011?

While the open media community will likely continue to gain momentum, I believe that, in 2011, innovation will take on an increasingly central role in defining the future of communications and society in general.

Here’s the situation:

1. Big Internet service providers (Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus, Videotron) plan to make Internet access more expensive by imposing usage-based billing (charging per byte). According to, this could cost Internet users $60 more per month starting this year.

2. Many of these same providers continue to slow access to innovative online content and services. Most recently, Rogers’ customers reported problems accessing content after the company experimented with its traffic-slowing technology.

3. Major Internet service providers are investing in and experimenting with a new, more controlled version of the Internet, delivered through TV and mobile devices.

What this amounts to is a campaign to make the Internet more expensive and circumscribed while providers experiment with their “managed” TV/mobile Internet services. The market is being structured so that, either way, the big telecom companies win. They either successfully corral us into their TV version of the Internet, make the Internet more expensive and restricted, or both.

What does this have to do with innovation?

The main challenge with initiatives designed to preserve and build on the open Internet is that people take the Internet for granted. This is where online innovators play an essential role.

Big telecom companies will make deals with Facebook and other big players so that you’ll find them on your Internet TV. However, you might have trouble finding the small, independent online services like those that carry this column or the new crowd-sourced journalism project OpenFile, CBC Radio 3 and innovative services like HootSuite.

Innovation takes centre stage

Canadians need to understand the value of online innovation. Innovators in Canada need to be, well, more innovative. They need to be de facto champions of openness – just as many of their predecessors have been.

Canadians will step up to defend the open Internet more whole-heartedly when its value is more clearly demonstrated. Online innovators and the community that support them need to capture more audience from big media.

If Canadians en masse are more deeply engaged by, and fall in love with, innovative online services and content, they will be better equipped to defend the open Internet when needed. More importantly, Canadians will actually notice that “Internet” services provided on TV don’t include their favourite online services.

Innovation isn’t just an awesome thing to do; it has played and will increasingly continue to play an essential role in ensuring that the revolution unfolding in communication continues.

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

not so happy meals

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Over a 15-year period, studies show a dramatic increase in the number of overweight (tripled) and obese (quadrupled) Canadian children. (1) In the US, which has similar statistics, the Centers for Disease Control states that one child in three born since the year 2000 will develop diabetes during his or her lifetime. In many families, even young children consume too many calories, too much fat and far too much sodium. Studies show that at one to three years of age, sodium intakes averaged close to 2,000 mg a day (double the recommended level). Among four to eight-year-olds, the average daily sodium intake was 2,700 mg and 93 percent consumed more than the upper limit. Trans fats are harmful and, young or old, we have no need for dietary cholesterol.

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Enlightened agriculture

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

It is evident that globalization is not working well when it comes to feeding people. Last year, the number of hungry people in the world topped one billion, which means that, under the current system of industrialized agribusiness, one in six people are going without food. Not to mention that the safety and nutritional quality of the food supplied is being questioned due to all the medical ramifications of eating it.

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Learning from our elders

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

As I approach my 75th birthday, I find myself often thinking about mortality. I’m in the last part of my life and that’s reality. This is the time when we must fulfill our most important duty: to reflect on a lifetime and then sift through the detritus of experience, observation and thought in order to winnow out lessons to pass on to coming generations.

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