The cost of spying online


It’s time to re-imagine the role of both citizens and government. It’s past time for governments to become more permeable and to encourage and empower citizens to govern themselves.

In many ways, the process to re-imagine citizenship and governance seems to be well underway. Citizens are newly empowered by online tools and governments seem to be evolving in order to facilitate deeper citizen participation. Sometimes, that process is expressed through willing governments opening their activities to the public, such as when the City of Vancouver adopted its openness motion. At other times, the catalyst for this change comes in the form of public pressure in reaction to a poorly thought-out government decision.

The latter appears to be at play concerning the Conservative Party’s impending online spying legislation. I’ve written before about how the legislation, if passed, will allow a range of “authorities” to use the Internet to spy on Canadians, without a warrant. I’ve also explained the cost of this invasive online spying will be passed onto you.

The legislation is expensive, excessive and downright bizarre.

If we care about privacy, the open Internet and our basic democratic rights, it’s time to show Public Safety Minister Vic Toews that ramming online spying down our throats has repercussions. Forcing ISPs to install and employ costly online surveillance infrastructure takes Canada in the wrong direction – a dangerous move during an already precarious time in our digital history.

This government wants to achieve “natural governing party” status. If it wants to earn that status, its members must show respect for Canadians. And when they don’t, we need to speak up and let them know there are political consequences for their irresponsible actions.

Recognizing the power of engaged Canadians, the Conservatives, to their credit, did respond quickly on the issue of internet metering earlier this year; backed by the voices of nearly half-a-million Canadians and all major political parties, the Conservatives sent the CRTC back to the drawing board on key pricing rules for independent Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

That decision worked out very well for Conservatives – they temporarily shifted the blame for the dismal state of Canada’s telecom market onto the CRTC, making it seem as if the CRTC is solely responsible for Canada’s market being one of the worst of all industrialized countries. Many Canadians saw the Conservatives as heroes when they told the CRTC to reconsider its rules that would allow big telecom companies to impose Internet metering on nearly all Canadian Internet users.

If the Conservatives learned anything at all from that experience, they’ll move swiftly to adapt their online spying legislation so it is in line with the will of Canadians. We’ll have to wait and see, but the clock is definitely ticking. The Conservatives made an election promise to ram through their online spying (what they call “Lawful Access”) legislation within the first 100 sitting days of Parliament.

This legislation is reckless and irresponsible. We need to make it clear that using our personal information without our permission is unacceptable and that our fundamental right to privacy is important to us. Any proposals to expand telecommunications surveillance must be based on a clear need for new powers, demonstrated through verifiable evidence.

We need to send a strong message: when our representatives take a swipe at our privacy and digital economy with no public consultation, there will be consequences. Canadians can speak out at

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

Kids can cook

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

Would you like your kids to have fun in the kitchen while learning to make nutritious foods for themselves? The ideal way for children to learn about good nutrition is if they become our little kitchen helpers starting from the time they can hold a plastic spoon. Youngsters learn to like veggies when they can grasp and gnaw on a carrot stick, pick up peas or corn niblets with tiny fingers and watch a tomato plant bear fruit on a balcony. As they get older, children can help to prepare one or more favourite meals each week and eventually take an occasional turn as the main chef. It helps to set up a cheery atmosphere with music, with tasting allowed.

For some youngsters, it’s an eye opener to learn that soup doesn’t just come from a can and pizza doesn’t always come in a box. In fact, pizzas don’t need to be grease-laden; they can be a healthy way to pack lots of veggies into family menus. If children aren’t fond of homemade soups or cooked vegetables, they may become more ‘vegetable friendly’ when they assist with preparation and perhaps help choose the recipe or ingredients. To start, they can wash the carrots. When they are older and can handle knives safely, they may assist with chopping. We’ll likely find that half the carrot coins are eaten long before the soup starts cooking.

It is well known that most people live on six to 10 favourite meals, repeated over and over. It can help to introduce your kids to a few recipes that are health supportive that they will also love. And it can help reduce mom or dad’s stress of feeling like a short order cook. Tacos, falafels and spaghetti are favourites that work for families, including non-vegetarian, vegetarian and vegan eaters.

To introduce your kids to cooking, try out Kids Can Cook classes (Fraser Valley) for youngsters aged nine to 14 with teacher and personal chef Marianne Honeywell and registered dietitian Vesanto Melina. Classes include a morning snack and lunch. To register, email or call 604-888-8713.

August 6 recipes: Smoothies, hummus, raw veggies, soup, fruit crumble, 10AM-2PM, $75,

August 20 recipes: Yogurt and fruit parfaits, healthy pizza, salad & dressing, chocolate lava cakes. 10AM-2PM, $75. Location: North Langley near 200th Street exit. Highway #1 is 45 minutes east of downtown Vancouver. For classes at other times and locations, check out

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

On becoming a vegetarian

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

I did not want the energy of suffering and inhumanity that pervades concentrated animal feedlot (CAFO) operations to become a part of me.

I became a vegetarian in 1975 when I landed in Vancouver from London, UK and found myself sharing a cooperative house with five other people who were all vegetarians. The deal was we each took turns making dinner and because I loved cooking, instead of being daunted, I dashed out to buy a vegetarian cookbook that would teach me to cook something other than egg and cheese dishes.

I happen to believe ‘You are what you eat’ so after swallowing John Robbins’Diet for a New America, I was clear I did not want the energy of suffering and inhumanity that pervades concentrated animal feedlot (CAFO) operations to become a part of me. It was at 23 Dunbar Street in Vancouver that I understood why I needed to become a vegetarian. I shed 30 pounds, felt my energy lighten and I had a much greater sense of well-being. There was no going back and I have been a healthy vegetarian ever since.


It seemed to me from conversations at dinner parties that people were anxious about getting enough protein in a vegetarian diet, but I assured them this was not a problem. Our bodies are composed of 20 percent protein by weight and adequate protein is important for tissue growth and repair, metabolic functioning and the formation of disease-fighting antibodies. Protein molecules are composed of building blocks called amino acids. There are 22 known amino acids, most of which are synthesized in the body. However, there are eight that cannot be synthesized and they are referred to as essential amino acids.

All eight essential amino acids must be present at the same time and in the right proportions for protein synthesis to occur. Grains, beans, nuts, seeds and dairy are valuable sources of these essential amino acids and when combined ensure an adequate intake of amino acids for complete protein synthesis. One of the three combinations below – along with fresh vegetables from the garden – means you can quit worrying about getting enough protein in your diet.

  1. Grains combined with beans.
  2. Grains combined with dairy products.
  3. Beans combined with seeds.

If everyone in the US went vegetarian just for one day, the nation would save:

  • 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months.
  • 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year.
  • 70 million gallons of gas, enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare.
  • 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware.
  • 33 tons of antibiotics.

(Source: Kathy Freston, Huffington Post,

Then there’s the global politics of making meat the centre of the meal. I find it hard to stomach that we grow corn and grains to feed to animals when so many of us are going hungry. Imagine how easily we could feed the world if members of the meat-eating society cut back to eating meat once a week. And imagine how much suffering to animals we could alleviate if we banned concentrated animal feedlot operations.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path, a 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide and The Zero Mile Diet: A Year-round Guide to Growing Organic Food (Harbour Publishing). She grows ‘Seeds of Victory’ at the Garden Path Centre in Victoria, BC. The Garden Path Centre is open to visitors every Friday, 10AM-6PM until September 25, 2011.

cattle photo © Amanda Geyer

Create your own reality

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

If we are not happy with our lives, we tend to attribute our current state to bad luck, other people or to simply not having been blessed as much as others. We might feel bitter, disappointed, angry or depressed and it is easy to keep our focus on what is missing rather than on what is present.

If happiness were a result of what we have, others who are lacking what our ego perceives we lack should be unhappy too. But clearly this is not the case. Those in Third World countries who live in comparative poverty often have indomitable spirits. They love, laugh, dance and are thankful for the smallest things.

If happiness were a result of financial abundance, all millionaires would be happy and those with lesser means would be unhappy. Yet one of the happiest couples I have met had two small children and could barely make ends meet. When they described their upcoming vacation – where all they could afford was to take their little tent to a nearby lake for a few days – they were so happy and excited about their upcoming adventure.

If happiness were a result of good health, how would we explain the courageous way in which some people with terminal illnesses spread love and joy to all those around them.

We could go on and on with examples, but it seems clear it is not the current state of our lives that determines how we feel, but rather it is our perspective that makes all the difference. This means we have a choice about how we feel in any situation.

The ego part of our being does not realize this. Ego has a mind of its own and reacts automatically, based on past experience or beliefs we hold. When ego is in control, we cannot even imagine feeling any different about what is happening in our lives. If we think someone has hurt us, it’s pretty black and white as far as ego is concerned. It is not interested in looking at the situation from any other perspective.

The problem with this is that ego keeps us stuck. Ego is like a puppet on a string controlled by all things in the external world. Up/down/happy/sad/agitated/calm: it all depends on what happens out there. Since ego does nothing to change its perspective, things just seem to keep piling up, reinforcing all the old limiting beliefs. We can begin to stagnate and life seems like a series of endless struggles.

The truth is life is full of challenges. Things will not always go well; sometimes they may go very badly. However, we can control our emotional climate in the same way we control the temperature in our homes with a thermostat. We can set our internal ‘thermostat’ by deciding to be a problem solver, action taker and a mindful, peaceful, wise being. Of course we must transcend the judgments, reactions and the “Chicken Little” tendencies of ego.

Admittedly, this is the big challenge for those who choose conscious growth and evolution. It is a process requiring mindful attention to our inner world, self-honesty and a commitment to make the most of our time in this Earth school. It is also rewarding, even as we take those first tentative baby steps.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, See display ad this issue.

Chevron sponsorship leaves bad aftertaste



We all like something for free, don’t we? So what’s not to like about Fresh Air Cinema, a free, outdoor series of movie screenings offered around the Lower Mainland this summer? This mobile cinema company has been setting up its giant, inflatable movie screens, sound systems and generators in parks and outdoor locations, showing Hollywood classics like Jaws, E.T., Pretty Woman, Stand by Me and Back to the Future, films audiences don’t tire of watching again, especially when you can bring the kids and a picnic and it’s en plein air. The dusk screenings are free, thanks to some corporate partnership. And there’s the rub. Chevron has been sponsoring the big Summer Cinema Series of screenings in a prime Stanley Park location at Ceperley Meadow/Second Beach.

The oil giant, whose logo is emblazoned on the online trailer and microsite on Fresh Air Cinema’s web pages, must reckon that free movies with prize giveaways can buy goodwill. Maybe it will also divert eyes away from its involvement in the “Amazon Chernobyl” that was so excellently documented in Joe Berlinger’s Crude(reviewed in CG in October 2009). Chevron is currently fighting tooth and nail against an $18-billion fine handed down by an Ecuador court in February for poisoning the Ecuadorian Amazon and its people. There are four copies of Berlinger’s multi award-winning Crude at the Vancouver Central Library. And they’re free too.

Higher Ground (due out 26th) follows a born-again Christian woman from her childhood inculcation into religion to her later years where she begins to question her faith. The drama has earned impressive reviews, particularly for actor-director Vera Farmiga in the lead role and for the even-handed and respectful portrait of Christian fundamentalism. Farmiga’s portrayal includes both critical and supportive views of faith and a particular brand of evangelicalism. Importantly, in an industry – well, at least in Hollywood – that doesn’t really do faith, the film tries to take an in-depth look at the challenges faced by the believer, exploring the relationship between spirituality and feminism, sexual desire and cultural aspects of evangelical Christianity.

Miranda July (Me and You and Everyone We Know), another woman who wrote, directed and stars in her second film, The Future, is also concerned with finding the deeper essence of life, although perhaps in a more light-hearted manner. Her quirky drama follows a thirty-something LA couple comprised of dance instructor Sophie (July) and her boyfriend Jason (Hamish Linklater), an online support technician. The couple experiences a joint mid-life crisis after agreeing to take a cat from the pound until its injured paw heals. A month before their newfound responsibility is set to begin, the idiosyncratic hipster couple quit their jobs and resolve to use what they see as their precious last days of freedom to find something that gives their lives more meaning. That’s a task that proves harder than expected and events take an unusual course.

July, who is also a performance artist, offers whimsical and surrealist touches as the film plays with aspects of the couple’s existentialist angst: the cat narrates, a T-shirt crawls. The weirdness won’t appeal to everyone, but her bittersweet romance has earned praise for its unique exploration of the themes of love, intimacy and relationships between both lovers and strangers. (opens Aug. 5th).

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

Biased research revealed


In their desperation to find even a tiny shred of peer-reviewed science to challenge the volumes of research from around the world about human-caused climate change, deniers have often held up Willie Soon’s work.

Dr. Soon, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, is known for studies that purportedly show that the Sun, and not CO2 emissions from human activity, is the main factor in climate change and that climate change in the 20th century wasn’t that unusual to begin with. He has also argued that mercury emissions from burning coal are no big deal.

Now, in response to a Greenpeace investigation, Dr. Soon has admitted US oil and coal companies, including ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute, Koch Industries and the world’s largest coal-burning utility, Southern Company, have contributed more than $1 million over the past decade to his research. According to Greenpeace, every grant Dr. Soon has received since 2002 has been from oil or coal interests. This despite the fact he once told a US Senate hearing he had not been hired by, employed by, or received grants from any organization “that had taken advocacy positions with respect to the Kyoto protocol or the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.”

Dr. Soon has also been affiliated with a number of industry front groups, including the coal-funded Greening Earth Society and the Koch-Exxon-Scaife-funded George C. Marshall Institute, the Science and Public Policy Institute, the Center for Science and Public Policy, the Heartland Institute and Canada’s Fraser Institute.

Correspondence uncovered by Greenpeace also found Dr. Soon led a plan in 2003 to undermine the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment Report years before it was even released in 2007.

It’s not news the fossil fuel industry has funded an ongoing campaign of doubt and misinformation about the effects of its products and about the dangers of climate change – people and organizations including science historian Naomi Oreskes (author of Merchants of Doubt) and Greenpeace have been exposing these efforts for years. From hiring trolls and front groups to posting comments on websites, submitting letters to editors, writing opinion columns and sponsoring “scientific” research and holding conferences, it’s all been well documented. (The same tactics have also been used by the tobacco industry.)

The latest revelation is a bit of an embarrassment for oil giant Exxon, though. The world’s largest oil company had admitted it funded these efforts but promised in 2008 it would stop giving money to groups that lobbied against the need to find clean energy sources.

It’s also an embarrassment for those who, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, deny the existence of climate change – or admit that it’s happening but say we can’t and shouldn’t do anything about it.

After all their digging, deniers have only been able to find a few minor errors in the volumes of peer-reviewed science about climate change and have had to rely on manufactured scandals and conspiracy theories to bolster their arguments. It only takes a bit of investigating to poke holes in the scant bits of research that have attempted to discredit real climate science. Let’s stop wasting our time on deniers. It would be better spent trying to resolve the serious problems we have created.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation editorial and communications specialist Ian Hanington. Learn more at

5 Biggest Stressors – and Solutions

by Drs. Eldred and Ava Bell Taylor


Emotion: The stressful thoughts that swirl around our heads all day.

Environment: Could be the city you’re in, extreme heat, a stressful office.

Dietary: Not just eating the wrong foods, but worrying about your diet.

Health: Chronic illness, chronic pain, chronic inflammation.

Lack of Sleep: Causes weight gain, irritability, job issues, health issues.

The solutions:

Emotion: You can always change how you respond to a stressor. You can change the way you respond to a spouse or a boss. It is the one thing you can absolutely change.

Environment: Take control of your environment. Intentionally find places that relax you. Spend time in your backyard, put an air purifier in your home or office and stay well hydrated; it helps with the heat stress.

Dietary: Get in control of your emotions. Eat things that are real food. Eat it before man messes it up. Don’t be a slave to any one food.

Heath: Chronic problems? There are solutions. It could be fish oils (anti-inflammatory). You must be diligent in staying on the cause and not the symptom.

Lack of sleep: Many times people can’t sleep because they’re stressed. Their daily sleep rate cycles are disrupted. Melatonin and other “adaptogens” will help to reset the sleep cycle.

Dr. Eldred Taylor and Ava Bell Taylor co-authored The Stress Connection and Are Your Hormones Making You Sick? A Woman’s Guide to Better Health Through Hormonal Balance.

Towards Eden

A feat of natural and sustainable energies
by Adam Siddhartha Sealey


On the weekend of July 22-24, at the foot of the mountain just outside of Boston Bar, BC, on the traditional lands of the Nahatlatch peoples, a group of about 250 people came together for Towards Eden, a music festival that was, according to festival visionaries and organizers Ash Bigdeli and Erin Sage Sharp, the first time a full-power modern music stage has been 100 percent powered by Earth energies – solar, wind and pedal power. It was a remarkable accomplishment and the genesis of how future music festivals and off-the-grid conscious communities can flourish without consuming grid energy or burning fossil fuels.

In the July issue of Common Ground, the cover story by Geoff Olson featured Bolivia and Ecuador’s new Law of Mother Earth, an initiative that represents visionary thinking from the leaders of those two countries and heralds a critical leap in how we, as societies, place value on and respect our source of life and sustenance – our Mother Earth – and how we make collective decisions as to how we will meet our basic needs of food, shelter, warmth, love and community.

The Towards Eden festival was generously sponsored by Common Ground magazine and its visionary publisher Joseph Roberts who organized the Walk for Peace in 1982 and worked tirelessly to keep nuclear power out of our region, an act for which we are truly grateful, especially today.

The Festival brought together incredible local musicians and Djs who played music that supported the ideals of the festival, namely, finding a new way to live in harmony with nature where we honour our own needs and the needs of the Earth at the same time. Performers included Buckman Coe whose brand new album “By the Mountain’s Feet” features the hit song The Apocalypse Is Not Guaranteed, challenging us to live in harmony with our lands and oceans.

“I wrote this song a month after the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill. I wanted to create a song of hope in the face of one of the worst environmental disasters we’ve ever seen. I do have very real fears for life on this planet but we can make a choice to reside in hope and live in inspired action,” Buckman notes.

The festival saw hundreds of people come together to create a living template of sustainable community, artistic expression, fun and loving support. The main music stage was powered by a bank of 16 deep cycle batteries, constantly recharging through a combination of solar energy, small wind turbines and six bicycles man-powered by community members more than willing to pedal hard and long with a smile on their face.

Music system designer Ash Bigdeli, a passionate man whose first child was born this year, designed the system so that, rather than sucking more juice from the batteries when the need for bass increased, the bass would fall off such that we would all hear it and be compelled to jump on the bikes and transform our energy from the air, sunshine, love and great food into music, into soul-bouncing, deep bass that our friends could enjoy. It was the essence of true community and a real “village” was created.

The weekend also included dozens of workshops on such themes as bee keeping, permaculture, local plant identification and foraging, raw and vegan food classes, yoga, contact dancing, communicating with nature, drumming, massage, healing, medicinal body painting and many more.

Imagine if all future festivals were powered by solar, wind and pedal-power. I hope we can all continue to walk confidently Towards Eden, together. This is only the beginning. Look for the Towards Eden fundraiser coming soon to build on our success and grow this truly sustainable movement of community and music.


One less Tiger

by Bruce Cox

In early July, a Sumatran tiger, one of fewer than 400 left on Earth, died after being trapped in a steel snare. The tiger was found on an acacia plantation owned by Sinar Mas, a notorious rainforest destroyer. In 1930, there were three subspecies of unique, majestic tigers found in Indonesia. Today, two of them are extinct and the last one is in real trouble.

The Sumatran tiger is classified as “critically endangered” – on the brink of extinction and barely hanging on. They’ve lost 93 percent of their habitat because companies like Sinar Mas and its subsidiary Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) are destroying their forest homes. Tigers, like the one killed, have no choice but to roam out of their natural territory where they are easily slaughtered by poachers or trapped in snares by the people who move in.

To stop this, Greenpeace needs your help to expose the massacre, pressure corporations to cut ties with APP and fight on the ground to save these last remaining Sumatran tigers. ( Greenpeace takes absolutely no money from corporations or governments. Without you, the tigers don’t stand a chance. Without your action, APP will continue lining its pockets with profits, more tigers will be shot or snared as they lose their habitat and the last Sumatran tigers will just be collateral damage.

With the financial help of supporters, Greenpeace has put the squeeze on APP through its customers, convincing major companies like Nestle, Kraft, Unilever, and now Lego, to stop buying products linked to rainforest destruction in Indonesia. By now, you’ve probably seen the latest campaign targeting Mattel for packaging its world-famous Barbie dolls with trees from the Sumatran tiger’s last remaining habitat.

Greenpeace is ready to put the nail in APP’s profit coffin by exposing their destructive operations and the companies that do business with them and to continue campaigning on the ground to protect Sumatran tigers. Please give the last Sumatran tigers a future – before it’s too late.

Bruce Cox is the executive director of Greeenpeace Canada,

Vancouver Tibet Festival

A benefit for the Canadian Tibetan Resettlement Project
by Paulette Marchetti


In 2007, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked Prime Minister Stephen Harper if Canada would offer Tibetans living in Arunachal Pradesh the opportunity to immigrate to Canada. His Holiness had a very specific reason for requesting that all the potential immigrants under this program be chosen from the four Tibetan refugee camps in the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. The remoteness and inaccessibility of the region is matched only by the very dire conditions that most of the Tibetan refugees endure.

In December 2010, the request of His Holiness was granted. The Hon. Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, announced a government initiative that would see Canada welcome 1,000 displaced Tibetans from Arunachal Pradesh. The Tibetans living there lead a very simple life consisting mainly of subsistence farming. They struggle to feed their families due to the intensity of monsoons in the region, which affects the success of their harvest and lacking a clean water system, they drink water from the rivers, which often leads to disease. Many children die of common childhood illnesses as the families have difficulty accessing medical care. And many do not go to school, as they are needed to work on the family farm. Those who are able to complete grade eight are unable to further their education due to lack of funds. Local job opportunities for youth are few: farming, going into the army (for males) or becoming a beautician (for females).

The Canada Tibet Committee has incorporated the Project Tibet Society to oversee all aspects of the resettlement project. Unfortunately, no government funds are attached to the project and its success depends on fundraising initiatives and individual generosity. Much help is needed. For more information or to volunteer please contact or join the project at

An upcoming fundraiser for the Tibetan Resettlement Project, the second annual Vancouver Tibet Festival is being organized by the Tibetan Cultural Society of BC and the Tsengdok Monastery Association. The resettlement project will be the primary recipient of the proceeds, however, in keeping with the compassionate wishes of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a small percentage will be donated to the Japanese Tsunami relief work.

The Tibet festival celebrates the richness of the Tibetan culture. It will open with prayers by Chief Leonard George and Tibetan Buddhist monks. It includes Tibetan food, music, dance, artists’ demonstrations, sale tables and a silent auction. The highly acclaimed musician Jamyang Yeshi will perform. See the full program at, call 604-248-4930 (ext. 2031) or email

Vancouver Tibet Festival

August 27, 11AM-7PM
VanDusen Garden Floral Hall
5251 Oak Street (at 37th ).