BC-STV voice for communities

Clockwise from top left: Supporters of BC-STV include Wilf Chelle, Citizens’ Assembly, Buick; Bruce Martindale, Councilor, Terrace; Marilyn Belak, Councilor, Dawson Creek; Peter Ewart, College instructor and founding member of the Active Voice Coalition, Prince George; Lori Ackerman, Councilor, Fort St. John; Gwen Johansson, Councilor, Hudson’s Hope.

 

TIRED OF being ignored if you’re outside the Lower Mainland? Vote yes for BC-STV. Yes, the ridings will be larger. But each region will still have the same number of MLAs and representation will improve. British Columbians are frustrated with MLAs who just report back on what has been decided in Victoria. We want champions for our communities. Our current system doesn’t allow that. BC-STV does.

First Past the Post problems

  • Shuts whole regions out of cabinet: When a region elects only opposition members, it has no voice at the cabinet table.
  • Imposes iron-clad party discipline: MLAs, once elected, represent their parties first and foremost and their constituents second.
  • Creates a large number of “safe” seats: One party often wins the most votes election after election. When MLAs are chosen at nominating meetings, not the ballot box, they owe their loyalty to their party and not their constituents.
  • Serves only the largest community: Since only 40-50 percent of voters elect somebody, MLAs usually reside in, and serve, the largest community.
  • Wastes votes: A majority of voters often do not have an MLA that represents their perspective.
  • Undervalues MLAs from outside urban centres: With the majority of seats in urban areas, MLAs from outside the Lower Mainland are unable to stand up for their communities, even when in government.

Single Transferable Vote solutions

  • Gives regions a voice in cabinet: Most districts would elect at least one member from the governing party. No region left out of cabinet.
  • More Independent-minded MLAs: Knowing that popular independents can get elected allows an MLA to push back against excessive party discipline on critical local issues.
  • All seats are competitive: The voters have the final say on which of a party’s candidates they prefer. Parties can take no district for granted.
  • Promotes MLAs across the district: It takes around 20,000 votes to get elected so MLAs need votes from smaller communities. MLAs can come from across the district, not just the largest centre.
  • Real choice: If an MLA doesn’t serve their community, voters can choose another without having to switch parties. The calibre of MLAs will improve; only a party’s best will be elected.
  • Makes more votes count: In two or three-member ridings, 66-75 percent of voters help elect an MLA. A majority of voters will have representation.

BC-STV: Re-balancing power

BC-STV will make Interior, Northern BC and rural communities more valuable to political parties than they are now. Here’s why: regardless of the district size, virtually every STV district has one swing seat.

Just compare the Lower Mainland to an area with smaller centres: In Vancouver-West Side, the Liberals will likely win three or four seats, the NDP two or three seats and the Greens zero or one seat. The same swing situation will occur in Kootenay-Columbia where the Liberals will likely win one or two seats, the NDP two or three seats, and the Greens zero or one seat.

Northern, Interior and rural districts will be of equal political value to parties as those in the Lower Mainland.In each case, for each party, one seat is effectively up for grabs. When a seat hangs in the balance, that area increases in “value” to political parties. With BC-STV, virtually every district will contain one swing seat. What is at stake for a party in a district outside the Lower Mainland is equivalent to an urban district. Therefore, under BC-STV, smaller communities will become more “valuable” to political parties than they are under First Past the Post.

Local representation a top priority for the Citizens’ Assembly

The Citizens’ Assembly knew that local representation is extremely important for all of BC and critical in the North and Interior. Members were surprised to hear voters from across the province tell them that our current first past the post system fails to deliver effective local representation.

British Columbians told the Citizens’ Assembly that they wanted a fair and proportional system with more responsive local representation and greater voter choice. There are many proportional systems and some have local representation based on our current failed model. Only STV provides voters with greater choice at the local level. Only STV makes local contests more competitive and MLAs more accountable to their constituents. Only STV gives MLAs some leverage to champion important local issues with government.

The Citizens’ Assembly chose BC-STV in large part because it puts the voters in charge at the local level.

Frequently asked questions:

Will the Interior, North and smaller centres lose MLAs?
Each region of BC will have the same number of MLAs as they do with FPTP. BC-STV simply groups the same number of seats into multi-member districts.

Will MLAs all come from the largest town?
MLAs will come from across the district rather than clustering in the largest centre. How come? Since 80-90 percent of all voters elect MLAs, votes from the smaller communities make a difference.

Will the districts be too large? 
Regardless of the electoral system, there will always be large spread-out regions in the north and other parts of BC. In the north, these new districts are significantly smaller than the federal ridings, but they have two or three MLAs and the quality of representation improves.

From British Columbians for BC-STV, 604-484-2979. www.stv.ca

BC-STV is a big step forward for women

Vote yes for BC-STV and help shatter the glass ceiling

 

rebick
may grey

Clockwise from top left: Supporters of BC-STV, Denise Savoie, NDP MP, BC; Judy Rebick, former president, Nat’l. Action Cttee. on the Status of Women; Elizabeth May, Leader, Green Party of Canada; Deborah Grey, former Deputy Leader, Reform Party of Canada

WHEN IT comes to electing women, Canada ranks 52nd in the world. Of the 51 countries ahead of us, 46 use proportional voting systems. British Columbia currently uses a voting system that consistently produces the worst results for women across the democratic world. Our flawed system marginalizes new voices, re-enforces the status quo and generates male-dominated parliaments.

Proportional systems key

Proportional voting systems, used around the world, produce much better results, giving women their deserved place in government. BC-STV is a modern, well-tested proportional model designed specifically to increase diverse representation in government. Members of the Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform, half of whom are women, overwhelmingly chose STV for its accountability and stabilizing effect on BC politics.

Multi-member ridings an advantage

The math is simple. BC-STV uses multi-member districts in which parties can run more than one candidate. That offers parties a greater opportunity to present both women and men to the electorate.

Other facts

The Australian Capital Territories has one of the highest rates of women being elected in the world, using STV.

Ireland, using STV, elected 38 percent women to the European Parliament while the UK, using a regional party list system, elected only 23 percent women.

The negative nature of political campaigning can discourage women from participating in elections. BC-STV encourages more constructive debate, as candidates try to secure the “second choice” support of their opponents’ supporters.

In Australia, suffragette Catherine Helen Spence and women’s organizations such as the Federation of Women Voters campaigned for many decades for the adoption of STV.

We deserve better. It’s time to end politics-as-usual in BC. We are a growing grassroots movement of people from across the province uniting to define a new vision for BC.

Women who support BC-STV

  • Denise Savoie, MP, Victoria BC
  • Deborah Grey, former Reform Party deputy and interim leader
  • Jane Sterk, leader, BC Green Party
  • Jean Crowder, NDP MP, Nanaimo-Cowichan
  • Cara Camcastle, SFU Political Science
  • Adrianne Carr, former leader, BC Green Party
  • Elizabeth May, leader, Green Party of Canada
  • Sylvia Bashevkin, former president, Canadian Political Science Association
  • Judy Rebick, Ryerson University, former president, National Action Committee on the Status of Women
  • Lois Wilson, former president of World Council of Churches, former Senator.
  • Andrea Horwath, Leader, Ontario New Democratic Party
  • Blaize Horner Reich, SFU Segal School of Business

Scholars argue that women are likely to be elected in greater numbers under STV because it will encourage parties to change their nomination practices to put forward gender-balanced slates. That, along with more readily available childcare and other supports, would make it easier for women to serve as MLAs. – Donna Stewart, former southern BC representative on the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (1984-6), former federal NDP candidate for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.

From British Columbians for BC-STV, 604-484-2979. www.stv.ca

Universal Intelligence

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

WHEN I was in Maui recently, I watched a mother whale and her calf cavorting in the ocean. She was teaching her baby how to slap the water with its pectoral fin while some distance away, a male rested lazily near the top of the water, keeping pace with the mom and calf. I was told that a male – not the father – would attach itself to a mother and baby to watch over and protect them.

I marvelled at the perfection of nature. For instance, how do the whales know when it is time to swim to warmer climes? How do they manage to come back to the same place each year?

Then I thought about monarch butterflies. These delicate creatures fly 50 miles per day making their trip from Canada to Mexico. Why do they go all the way to Mexico when California is so much closer? Why don’t they get lost?

I also remember reading about homing pigeons. They could be put in a box and driven 500 hundred miles away by car and upon release effortlessly find their way home.

There was also a study about a dog that would move from his sleeping place to the front door at the exact moment his master, many miles away in his downtown office, decided it was time to go home and reached for his briefcase.

The plant kingdom is equally as amazing. There is a type of tree in the forest, which only releases seeds when there is tremendous heat, such as a forest fire, clearly showing that the forest has a built-in mechanism to regenerate itself.

Whether we are talking about the plant or animal kingdoms, we realize that amazing wisdom and genius are built-in and that it extends far beyond the ability to simply survive.

It is inconceivable that all living things can possess such amazing potential, other than humans. What is our wisdom, our genius? Apparently, we use only 10 percent of our brains. What is the other 90 percent used for? I believe we have incredible, untapped potential, but have forgotten how to access it.

In the animal kingdom, wisdom is intuitive. Animals do not use words or read books and they likely give little thought to what other animals think. Humans have the ability to use language, but that is also our limitation. We speak, think and learn using words. We are limited by our vocabulary. No doubt, you have known people whose first language is one other than English and you have heard them attempt to express a thought that was difficult to translate into English. “I don’t know how you would say it in English,” they typically say, despite having an excellent command of the English language.

It is astounding to me that we humans think of our babies as blank slates to be filled with information. We assume they know nothing other than what we teach them. Children learn that you get smart by listening to adults and by obtaining information from books or computers. It is no wonder our intuitive ways of knowing get shut down early in our lives.

Think of the amazing things early people figured out on their own: from Socrates to Copernicus and from Aristotle to the early Egyptians. How did the Chinese, more than 3,000 years ago, figure out energy patterns in the body, acupuncture points and which plants could heal the body?

I believe there is a universal intelligence and that these humans were accessing it. I believe we all have the power to access the universal intelligence, but we have to learn to use our minds differently.

When we really quiet our minds, completely stopping the mind chatter, and if we do this long enough and regularly enough, we can begin to tune in to that intelligence. If we create that space, inner knowing can enter. In this way, the mind can be used to explore the vast intelligence that surrounds and enfolds us.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist and author of Growing 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 www.gwen.ca

The impossible will take a little while

WRITING ON THE WALL by Paul Rogat Loeb

A few years ago, I heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak at a Los Angeles benefit for a South African project. He’d been fighting prostate cancer, was tired that evening and had taken a nap before his talk. But when Tutu addressed the audience he became animated, expressing amazement that his long-oppressed country had provided the world with an unforgettable lesson in reconciliation and hope. Afterwards, a few other people spoke, then a band from East L.A. took the stage and launched into an irresistibly rhythmic tune. People started dancing. Suddenly I noticed Tutu, boogying away in the middle of the crowd. I’d never seen a Nobel Peace Prize winner, still less one with a potentially fatal illness, move with such joy and abandonment. Tutu, I realized, knows how to have a good time. Indeed, it dawned on me that his ability to recognize and embrace life’s pleasures helps him face its cruelties and disappointments, be they personal or political.

Few of us will match Tutu’s achievements, but we’d do well to learn from someone who spent years challenging apartheid’s brutal system of human degradation, yet has remained light hearted and free of bitterness. Any clear-eyed view of the world recognizes that grave threats exist: war, environmental destruction, the runaway power of corporate greed. To make matters worse, those in power often take advantage of real threats, like terrorism, by exploiting fear and feelings of vulnerability for their own again. The antidote to such fear… is hope: defiant, resilient, persistent hope, of the kind that Tutu embodies. In this vision, we act no matter what the seeming odds, both to be true to ourselves and to open up new possibilities.

Even in a seemingly losing cause, one person may unknowingly inspire another, and that person yet a third who could go on to change the world, or at least a small corner of it. Rosa Parks’ husband Raymond convinced her to attend her first NAACP meeting, the initial step on a 12-year path that brought her to that fateful day on the bus in Montgomery. But who got Raymond Parks involved? And why did that person take the trouble to do so? The links in any chain of influence are too numerous, too complex to trace. But being aware that such chains exist, that we can choose to join them, and that lasting change doesn’t occur in their absence, is one of the primary ways to sustain hope, especially when our actions seem too insignificant to amount to anything.

Even if the struggle outlives us, conviction matters. Actions of conscience confirm the link between our fate and that of everyone and everything else on the planet, respecting and reinforcing the fundamental connections without which life itself is impossible. Whether we flourish or perish depends on how well we can honor the interdependence that Martin Luther King evoked: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.”

We don’t have to tackle every issue, but if we avoid them all, if we remain silent in the face of cruelty, injustice and oppression, we sacrifice part of our soul. In this sense, we keep on acting based on our conscience because by doing so we affirm our humanity – the core of who we are and what we hold in common with others.

Excerpted from The Impossible Will Take a Little While by Paul Rogat Loeb. His other books include Soul of a Citizen. Loeb speaks in Vancouver on April 8. See datebook.

BC-STV more choice for voters

by Nick Loenen

IN BC’S CURRENT electoral system, the political parties – and increasingly only the party leaders – control which names will appear on the ballot. Voters are given a list of candidates from which they may choose one name only. The public is forced to express absolute support for a local candidate, a party leader, a party and a complete set of policies, thereby having to reject all other options.

BC-STV is very different because it de-links this bundle of choices to make voting more meaningful and less frustrating. In everything from business to leisure activities, we have seen an explosion of progress with people having more choice. A 500-channel TV universe is open to us and breakfast cereals come in 30 varieties while our politics remains frozen in time, effectively stifling democracy and citizens’ engagement.

Instead of being forced to select only one candidate, in the proposed BC-STV system, voters may rank any number of candidates. Parties will offer multiple candidates and voters may rank within one party slate or among the slates of different parties. By ranking candidates, voters express a preference among candidates, which is far more realistic as very few people believe that one candidate is absolutely good and the others totally bad.

Nor will voters have to worry about wasting their votes on losing candidates. If a particular candidate is eliminated, votes are not lost. They are transferred to the remaining candidates of the individual’s choosing.

Choice gives voters power; it places them in the driver’s seat. With the BC-STV system, elections will be less about parties and candidates and more about the wishes of voters. Election results will display voters’ true wishes.

The predominant complaint heard by the Citizens’ Assembly concerned voter frustration. Vote splitting forces many people to vote strategically, meaning that they do not vote for their preferred candidate. Over the course of 20 years, in seven elections, Social Credit leader WAC Bennett claimed, “A Conservative or Liberal vote is a vote for the Socialists.” In the 2005 election, potential vote splitting between NDP and Green prevented many voters from casting their vote for the candidates they really believed in. This should not be the case in a democratic system and it can change on May 12.

Party apologists suggest voters don’t want too much choice because it makes voting too complicated. No one wants to do research on 15 or more candidates, we are told. This is nonsense. Voters may rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. Someone may decide to rank only one candidate. That is a perfectly valid ballot and would work exactly as the present voting system. Again, this is choice for voters. The BC-STV ballot can be used very simply or with more options; it is up to each voter.

Those who wish to vote as they have done in the past may do so. The proposed voting system places no obligation on anyone. If you want to keep voting the way you always have, you are not prevented from doing so. No one will be forced to change their ways or habits, but BC-STV presents a new opportunity for a more meaningful ballot box experience than is now possible.

In 2005, a high school class in Smithers, BC, showed the difference between the current electoral system and the proposed BC-STV in choosing pizza toppings. Using the current system, 36 percent ended up with pizzas that were not among their top three choices. When they voted for the toppings using the BC-STV model, only two of the 74 students didn’t get one of their top three choices. It is a telling example that we can do better.

On May 12, the choice is really about who will end up being empowered: the citizens of BC or the political parties. The choice is yours.

Nick Loenen is a former Richmond City Councillor and MLA. Contact: nick.loenen@stv.ca      More BC-STV info:
www.citizensassembly.bc.ca/public or www.stv.ca, 604-637-3551

Perspectives

THIRTY SOMETHING by Ishi Dinim

MY STORY isn’t finished yet. Sometimes, I get so caught up in it that I find it hard to see out of it, to separate myself from watching the ink dry. Today, I crawled up on a ladder and cleaned my windows from the outside for the first time in several years. I had been living with filthy dirt between the world and me and it was obvious that no one else was going to do anything about it.

People are often “in their heads” way too much of the time. I’m one of those people. Regardless of what rattles around my brain about who should do what, just the feeling of having it done is so satisfying that it may be the spark I’ve been looking for. Amazingly, one little proactive step can shift a lot of stagnation into momentum. I’ve been so overwhelmed by all of the stuff I have to do that I wasn’t getting any of it done. Even as it piled up around me, I tried to look past it; it seemed like there was too much to deal with: bills, mess, career, loose ends, relationships…

What makes us shift into new states of mind? Is it a eureka moment like the light switching on or the weight of the world that breaks the camel’s back? Maybe it’s both or just whatever we’re ready for when it happens. Either way, I think I’m done flirting with depression for this year. Another winter has gone by and spring and summer beckon.

A friend recently told me something really insightful: “You know that chocolate bar called Excellence? Well, life is kinda like that. There is no perfect; even that bar is only 85 percent cocoa.”

I’m going to suspend the idea that something is wrong with me and just hope that I’m good enough. I’m ready to flail, stumble and be wrong. The only way I could really fail at this point would be by not trying at all. Who knows where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing in six months? I’ll look back on my funk and thank it for being part of the process towards fulfillment.

Quotes:

Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. 
– Carl Gustav Jung

The dust of many crumbled cities settles over us like a forgetful doze, but we are older than those cities. We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and into the animal state, and then into being human, and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring when we slightly recall being green again. That’s how a young person turns toward a teacher. That’s how a baby leans toward the breast, without knowing the secret of its desire, yet turning instinctively. Humankind is being led along an evolving course, through this migration of intelligences, and though we seem to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness that directs the dream and that will eventually startle us back to the truth of who we are. 
– Rumi

Must-see films and series:

Blindness
Milk
Son of Rambow
Generation Kill
Breaking Bad

Ishi graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2001, with a BFA major in photography. He makes films, collects cacti and ponders many things. Currently, he is doing what he can for himself and the planet.contactishi@yahoo.ca
Waiting to hear echoes back…

Let’s re-imagine journalism

INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson

SINCE MY last column, in which I wrote about the decline of journalism, the bleeding of jobs and the threat of local news outlets going “black” continue. Along with a slew of recent layoffs, Canwest is attempting to sell off parts of its media empire. Journalists have now become active in reporting the slaughtering of the media industry, resulting in what The Tyee describes as a “collective auto-obituary.”

At this critical time, when the new media environment is being molded and traditional journalism is in a state of decline, creative approaches to journalism are urgently needed. If big business-financed journalism is failing, what alternatives do we have?

Public support

The Conservatives appear determined to either commercialize or cut financial support for the CBC and other public broadcasters. As a pillar of our media system, the CBC needs stability, not more cuts and uncertainty. It requires continued, and I would suggest, increased financial support from the public. 

In addition, funds such as the Canadian Magazine Fund and Telefilm could support newsgathering and reporting and add to the range of eligible projects to include online, independent journalism. This could be combined with a new Internet Broadcast Fund, supported by a telcom levy, something I called for in my February column.

In conjunction with other support mechanisms, we could also utilize the Local Programming Improvement Fund (LPIF). Announced last year by the CRTC, the LPIF will be supported by a percentage of cable and satellite revenues and is expected to amount to $60 million in the first year.

Regardless of the sources of financial support, it is essential that all available funds be allocated directly to media makers and media outlets for news production – not handed over to big media with no strings attached.

 

Community supported journalism?

Foundations, labour groups, NGOs and individuals can also play a role in renewing journalism through the financing of journalism public trusts or specific charitable journalism funds that could support innovative news projects. Several journalism experiments are already being supported by these sources.

The independent, non-profit online news organization, Rabble.ca, for example, combines support from individuals and revenues from advertising with funds provided by a group of “sustaining partners,” comprised of NGOs, unions and foundations. The Tyee is funded through a similar mix of sources and both This Magazine and The Walrus are published by charitable foundations. We should be challenging civil society organizations to ramp up their support for independent public service journalism.

One way that civil society organizations can help fill the current void in journalism is to support several current initiatives where journalists themselves are taking over media production. The Dominion newspaper, for example, is attempting to form a media cooperative that would produce a national newspaper. Journalists are also taking more immediate action. When the workers at the profitable Journal de Montréal were locked out this past January, they almost immediately launched their own news website called Rue Frontenac. These ground-up initiatives suggest that journalists can ditch those old big media papers in favour of new worker-run outlets.

At CHCH, the local television station in Hamilton, Ontario, employees are attempting to buy the station and run it similar to a hospital – the station would be owned by the community and governed by a board of directors made up of community leaders. The station’s owner, Canwest, plans to sell or shut down the station due to its poor financial situation. CHCH is one of many local Canwest and CTV television stations the media giants are poised to unload.

The CHCH campaign could ignite similar initiatives in cities and towns across the country. These projects need to have the financial freedom to innovate and the opportunity to thrive. The precarious state of local TV and journalism, as a whole, should be seen as an historic opportunity to re-imagine what journalism in the 21st century should look like.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The TyeeToronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at: 
steve@democraticmedia.ca
www.FacebookSteve.com
www.SteveOnTwitter.com

Nutrition on the go

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

IS YOUR lifestyle such that you often find yourself grabbing something to eat as you rush out the door, eating it on the run or 

when you’ve reached your destination? Does a commute to work replace a leisurely time at the breakfast table? Do you attend school and find that your best time to eat something nourishing is after you arrive, perhaps on a morning break? Are you ravenous during your drive home? If you can relate to any of these scenarios, here are some healthy possibilities to keep you nourished:

• Stock up on fresh fruit: bananas, apples, pears and other handheld fruits are the most convenient choice. Keep a container or small plastic bag handy – in your car or backpack – for peels or cores.

• Slap together a sandwich using whole grain bread and nut butter. If you’d like to venture beyond peanut butter, try the following: almond, hazelnut, cashew, sunflower seed butter or sesame tahini. You can also include a sliced banana.

tomato• Check out the varieties of trail mix in local supermarkets. Better yet, create your own by adding to an existing mix or combining your favourite nuts, seeds and dried fruits. Consider almonds (for calcium), walnuts (for omega-3 fatty acids), cashews (for zinc) and pecans and hazelnuts (for vitamin E). Add pumpkin or sunflower seeds as they provide plenty of trace minerals, vitamins and protein. Dried apricots, currants and raisins add iron. Dried mango contains vitamin C, even after drying.

• Take along a single portion of instant oatmeal to eat when you arrive at work. Look for the kind that is sold in the container that doubles as a bowl. You can also add dried fruit or nuts. Cereals are good with apple juice; keep shelf stable portion packs of apple juice, Rice Dream, or fortified soymilk on-hand.

• Take along fruited soy yogurt. If you prefer, include a little plastic bag of granola for a fibre-rich topping.

• Slice some carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc., and place them in totable food containers or plastic baggies; for protein, buy the small tubs (about 1 cup or 227 g) of hummus, available in numerous flavours.

• For a high protein, low fat item to eat when you reach your destination and you have access to a kettle, stock up on instant (just-add-hot-water) bean, pea or lentil soups in the tub-shaped, single serving cardboard containers. This is a satisfying snack and you’ll discover that there’s quite a variety in the supermarkets.

• Pack leftovers from supper in a small container so they’ll be ready to transport.

Tip: Keep napkins and clean, plastic, reusable plates, cups, forks, spoons and knives in your car, backpack or desk drawer so you can feast on things from the market when you’re on the go or at work. You’ll find space-saving items in outdoor equipment stores. 

You may be surprised how easy it is to find healthful, vegetarian items in ordinary stores and other locations. Here are some possibilities: 

Traditional supermarkets: Bananas and other fruits (if you have access to a sink to wash them), trail mix, pre-packaged baby carrots and hummus, prepared platters of bite sized veggies, whole grain cereals, salad bars, deli items, nuts, seeds and dried fruits. 

Health oriented bakeries, delis, and natural foods stores: If you are close to a good bakery, deli or health food store, check out the whole grain rolls, breads and muffins. Other convenient foods include smoothies, juices, deli items, salads and salad bars, ready-made soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, soy yogurt, fortified soy and rice beverages and fruit-nut bars. 

For those travelling farther afield: At airports you can find bananas, washed fruit, bagels with peanut butter, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, cereal, fruit juice, vegetarian nori rolls and bean tortillas. Our local YVR even has a juice bar among its fast food outlets. You can find a listing and review of veggie items at American airports at http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/Airport_Food_Review_06.html

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics includingBecoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan, the Food Allergy Survival Guide andthe new Raw Food Revolution Diet. www.nutrispeak.com

Precious water

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

RENOWNED FOR its lakes, rivers and streams, Canada has nine percent of the world’s available supply of fresh water so it’s hard to believe that Canadians should be concerned about fresh water shortages. You might think commercial and industrial demands put the most strain on the water supply, but Canadian households actually use 60 percent of all the water (second in per capita use only to Americans).

Residential use, including flushing toilets and watering lawns, is the fastest growing sector of water usage across Canada. On average, BC residents use 440L (96 gal) of water per day, but at least half of this is wasted, in some part, due to leaking faucets, high flush toilets and excessive outdoor water use, especially in summer when our water usage more than doubles. Imagine nine billion bathtubs full of water because that’s the amount of water wasted each year in Canada.

When we over-water lawns, wash down the driveway or leave the hose running, we are wasting a precious resource that one day may be in short supply. Over-watering the lawn is the most wasteful practice, as half the water we pour on our lawns is lost to runoff. It takes only one inch of water per week to ensure that roots grow deep enough for the lawn to stay healthy during periods of hot weather. To measure this, check how long your system takes to fill a tin can to a depth of one inch. That’s how long you should water your lawn once a week.

Most gardeners don’t realize that the most commonly available plants require no more water than Mother Nature supplies and many plants are watered unnecessarily. All plants need regular watering from the time they are planted until they are well rooted, so there is no such thing as a drought tolerant plant until it is well established. Most plants require only one growing season to establish; trees and shrubs can take two or more seasons. Once established, plants can be weaned off watering to the point where natural rainfall will satisfy their needs.

Did you know?

Mulching on steep slopes, windy sites and between exposed plants reduces evaporation, protects plants and smothers weeds. A mulched border can go seven days between watering. Light sandy soils need more watering than heavy clay soils. Water runs off slopes and berms quickly without soaking in. Terracing helps prevent runoff. Lawns are major consumers of water. One good, deep, weekly watering encourages roots to grow deeper and is better than brief, daily watering, which causes surface roots vulnerable to desiccation. If it’s cool at night, water in the morning. Young plants don’t enjoy cold, wet soils, which lead to fungal problems, such as damping off. If a plant is seriously wilted, water it regardless of the time of day. An eco-meadow of yarrow, speedwell, clover or English daisy needs very little water and no fertilization and looks beautiful in bloom. Best yet, it only needs mowing once every four weeks.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows her certified organic “Seeds of Victoria” at The Garden Path Centre where she blogs The New Victory Garden online.


Watering tips

When watering, avoid excessive water loss from evaporation by watering in the early morning, ideally before 9:00 AM. Avoiding windy days prevents wastage due to wind drift. Add organic amendments to the soil to increase its water holding capacity. Mulching garden beds with compost, leaves and manure locks in moisture for drier periods. A brown lawn, which recovers in winter, is a small price to pay to protect such a precious resource. With increasing populations and decreasing supplies, using fresh water sparingly and with greater respect now ensures there will be plenty left for others to enjoy in future.

The way of the cross

THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle

THERE ARE many accounts of people who say they have found God through their deep suffering, and there is the Christian expression “the way of the cross,” which I suppose points to the same thing. We are concerned with nothing else here.

Strictly speaking, they did not find God through their suffering because suffering implies resistance. They found God through surrender, through total acceptance of what is, into which they were forced by their intense suffering. They must have realized, on some level, that their pain was self-created.

How do you equate surrender with finding God? Since resistance is inseparable from the mind, relinquishment of resistance – surrender – is the end of the mind as your master, the impostor pretending to be “you,” the false god. All judgment and all negativity dissolve. The realm of Being, which had been obscured by the mind, then opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace. And within that peace, there is great joy. And within that joy, there is love. And at the innermost core, there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named.

I don’t call it finding God because how can you find that which was never lost, the very life that you are? The word God is limiting, not only because of thousands of years of misperception and misuse, but also because it implies an entity other than you. God is Being, itself – not a being. There can be no subject-object relationship here, no duality, no you and God. God-realization is the most natural thing there is. The amazing and incomprehensible fact is not that you can become conscious of God, but that you are not conscious of God.

The way of the cross is the old way to enlightenment and, until recently, it was the only way. But don’t dismiss it or underestimate its efficacy. It still works.

The way of the cross is a complete reversal. It means that the worst thing in your life, your cross, turns into the best thing that ever happened to you, by forcing you into surrender, into “death,” forcing you to become as nothing, to become as God – because God, too, is no-thing.

At this time, as far as the unconscious majority of humans are concerned, the way of the cross is still the only way. They will only awaken through further suffering, and enlightenment as a collective phenomenon will be predictably preceded by vast upheavals. This process reflects the workings of certain universal laws that govern the growth of consciousness and thus was foreseen by some seers.

It is described, among other places, in the Book of Revelation or Apocalypse, though cloaked in obscure and sometimes impenetrable symbology. This suffering is inflicted not by God, but by humans on themselves and on each other, as well as by certain defensive measures that the Earth, which is a living, intelligent organism, is going to take to protect herself from the onslaught of human madness.

However, there are a growing number of humans alive today whose consciousness is sufficiently evolved not to need any more suffering before the realization of enlightenment. You may be one of them.

Enlightenment through suffering – the way of the cross – means to be forced into the kingdom of heaven kicking and screaming. You finally surrender because you can’t stand the pain anymore, but the pain could go on for a long time until this happens. Enlightenment consciously chosen means to relinquish your attachment to past and future and to make the Now the main focus of your life. It means choosing to dwell in the state of presence rather than in time. It means saying yes to what is.

You then don’t need pain anymore. How much more time do you think you will need before you are able to say, “I will create no more pain, no more suffering”? How much more pain do you need before you can make that choice? If you think that you need more time, you will get more time – and more pain. Time and pain are inseparable.

Adapted from The Power of Now, copyright 1999 by Eckhart Tolle. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA, 800-972-6657 (ext. 52). Visit www.eckharttolle.com.