A triumphant soundtrack for our times

the Leonard Cohen soundtrack

For the greater part of 82 years, Leonard Cohen wrote, recorded and performed a sometimes bleak, sometimes joyful, soundtrack of our times. Even from his deathbed.

Leonard Cohen (1934-2016)

by Bruce Mason

Just before the profoundly sad news of his death went viral in November, many were listening to Leonard Cohen’s latest recording, You Want It Darker (released October, 2016), eerily prophetic and highly acclaimed as among the best of his 14 albums. As the world became darker and more inexplicable and absurd, the numbers grew into the millions, as others reached out and briefly retreated into his beloved canon of musical meditations on ‘big questions.’

My own initiation began with a few dollars left over from purchasing first-year university textbooks, spent on Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956), published when Cohen himself was an undergraduate. Its intellectual and spiritual hunger, melancholy and black humour were the most easily understood and accessible in the campus bookstore. Through dog-eared and thumb-worn poetry collections – The Spice-Box of Earth, Flowers for Hitler, Parasites of Heaven – and novels – The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers – I followed along on his quest for what he called a “state of grace, a kind of balance in the chaos of existence.”

In an engrossing New Yorker profile in October, “confined to barracks” from a modest second floor in L.A., Cohen confessed in his final interview, “I’ve got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable. That’s about it for me.”

For the greater part of 82 years, Leonard Cohen wrote, recorded and performed a sometimes bleak, sometimes joyful, soundtrack of our times. Even from his deathbed. A handful of informal guitar lessons in his twenties served him well: “Six chords and a guitar pattern, that has been the basis of all my songs and all my music,” he said. And he eventually tamed his performance anxiety after pursuing Zen as a discipline and a practice of investigation.

Five decades ago, Cohen was as big and celebrated as it got in Can-Lit and culture. He befriended fellow poet Irving Layton, later recalling, “I taught him how to dress; he taught me how to live forever.” In 1960, restless and relentless, he retreated to the Greek island of Hydra where cars were banned and mules carried water up steep paths to houses. With a small inheritance, he purchased a simple, whitewashed space for $1,500 and shared it with one of his many muses, Marianne Ihlen, and her young son.

“I met him in the mid-’60s,” Judy Collins told me (Both Sides Now, Common Ground, April, 2013). “He’d been in Greece and was unaware of the folk boom, heading to Nashville from Montreal, with a notion of pursuing country music to supplement his income. In my living room, he apologized for his singing and guitar playing, even doubting that what he was writing were songs. I was mesmerized, wanted more.

“After he finished writing “Suzanne,” he sang it over the phone and I invited him to an anti-Vietnam War town hall. I dragged him onstage, but he stopped partway, pleading, ‘I can’t go on.’ “I pushed him back to the mic and the crowd went wild.”

Cohen was 33 when his recording debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen (1967), was released. He was an original voice, haunting, hypnotic, a whisper-like rasp, unconventional, unprecedented and more economical. Critics’ labels included “godfather of gloom,” “poet laureate of pessimism,” and “music to slit your wrists to.” “Sometimes, I stumble out of bed, look at myself in the mirror and say, ‘Lighten up, Cohen,’” he told audiences, which grew to as many as 600,000 at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. Speaking of concerts, he said they made him feel like “some parrot chained to his stand.”

His Hallelujah – ­years in the making and released in 1984 – is possibly the most-sung-all-occasions-song of this century, played at weddings and funerals, repeatedly on VH1 after 9/11, at the state ceremony for NDP leader Jack Layton, and at the opening of the Vancouver Winter Olympics. It has been recorded so often that Cohen jokingly called for a moratorium. Two weeks after his death, Hallelujah made its first appearance on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and garnered four million US streams in the week ending November 17, 2016.

Nobel laureate Bob Dylan has compared Cohen’s songs to “prayers… great songs, deep and truthful, multidimensional, surprisingly melodic, they make you think and feel.” Hallelujah is “beautifully constructed and the point-blank I-know-you-better-than-you-know-yourself aspect has plenty of resonance for me.”

In 1992, Cohen released The Future. Included on the album is Anthem, which took 10 years to complete – “Ring the bells that still can ring. Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in” – and Closing Time, in which he shifted out of the darkness in single stanzas: “All the women tear their blouses off. And the men they dance on the polka dots.” Or, “I said to Hank Williams, how lonely does it get? Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet. But I hear him coughing all night long, floors above me in the Tower of Song.”

For five years, he retreated from the public eye, spending it in deep meditation and silence – three years near L.A. and two in Bombay. Meanwhile, his manager and former lover, Kelley Lynch, embezzled his life savings. He would be awarded a symbolic $9 million while she received 18 months’ jail time and five years probation for harassment. Broke, he went back to the studio and toured from 2008 to 2014, his spiritual strength evident in four-hour performances and an unmatched late-life renaissance.

Last summer, when he learned she was dying, Cohen scribbled, “Well, Marianne, it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. Now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye, old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”

After burying his father in an unadorned pine box in a family plot in home-town Montreal, his son Adam, a musician who co-produced Cohen’s last album, posted, “As I write this, I’m thinking of my father’s unique blend of self-deprecation and dignity, his approachable elegance, his charisma without audacity, his old-world gentlemanliness and the hand-forged tower of his work.”

Now, one for the ages, Leonard Cohen is gone, leaving behind a lifetime of inspired offerings, a rich, polished, timeless legacy for those who seek inner peace, especially in troubled times.

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

Last words from Leonard

Twenty-five years ago, his song, The Future, prophesied, “And now the wheels of heaven stop. You feel the devil’s riding crop. Get ready for the future: it is murder.” Weeks before his death, he shared some insights:

“I know there’s a spiritual aspect to everybody’s life, whether they want to cop to it or not. It’s there, you can feel it in people – there’s some recognition that there is a reality that they cannot penetrate but which influences their mood and activity. So that’s operating. That activity at certain points of your day or night insists on a certain kind of response. Sometimes it’s just like, ‘You are losing too much weight, Leonard. You’re dying, but you don’t have to cooperate enthusiastically with the process. Force yourself to have a sandwich.’

“What I mean to say is that you hear the Bat Kol. The divine voice. You hear this other deep reality singing to you all the time, and much of the time you can’t decipher it. Even when I was healthy, I was sensitive to the process. At this stage of the game, I hear it saying, ‘Leonard, just get on with the things you have to do.’ It’s very compassionate at this stage. More than at any time of my life, I no longer have that voice that says, ‘You’re fucking up.’ That’s a tremendous blessing, really.”

photo of Leonard Cohen by Takahiro Kyono Creative Commons

Toad People World Premiere

image toad people

Presented by
the Wilderness Committee

» Wednesday, November 30, 6:30-9PM
At SFU Woodward’s, 149 W. Hastings St., Vancouver
Tickets $10 – order at toadpeople.brownpapertickets.com

What does it take to save a species? A film about hope, community and the struggle to save species at risk in BC. We are thrilled to announce the world premiere of our hotly anticipated documentary film Toad People. We hope you will save the date in your calendars and join us there.

Toad People is an inspiring documentary about communities across BC fighting to protect species at risk, such as the western toad and barn owl. This film isn’t just about people standing up for toads. People living in BC know we have remarkable wildlife no other province boasts: killer whales, grizzly bears, barn owls and badgers.

Many people don’t realize that BC has no standalone endangered species legislation. With the provincial election around the corner, now is the time to change that.

After Vancouver, we’re hitting the road to screen Toad People in interior BC, Vancouver Island and northern BC.


More at VIFF

From Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s documentary Human. Photo courtesy of viff.org Showing October 10 (VIFF at the Centre) and October 12 (Vancouver Playhouse).

mesmerizing and unconventional

by Robert Alstead

• Koneline: Our Land Beautiful, by local filmmaker Nettie Wild, takes a fresh, even-handed approach to a heated subject: resource development in BC’s Northwest wilderness. The hereditary land of the Tahltan First Nation has been dubbed the “Serengeti of the North.” Now, the land is being opened up to mining companies for its rich gold and copper resources. Wild’s approach allows many individuals to share their different knowledge and experience of the area – whether it be the geologist’s expertise on rock formations or the aboriginal student sharing his disappearing dialect – and builds a mosaic of impressions.

Read more…

Docs at the Vancouver International Film Festival

by Robert Alstead

Titan Missile from Command and Control, Courtesy of American Experience Films
Titan Missile from Command and Control, Courtesy of American Experience Films

• If the events of Cold War documentary Command and Control hadn’t actually happened, you might think it was made up. On September 18, 1980, a PTS (Propellant Transfer System) team working on a nuclear missile in Damascus, Arkansas, accidentally dropped a metal socket in the silo. It punctured the fuel tank and set off a potentially catastrophic chain of events: the 9Mt thermonuclear warhead on the Titan II missile was capable of annihilating 10 million people.

Robert Kenner, who previously directed Food, Inc., uses artful reconstructions, together with candid interviews with those involved, from up and down the chain of command, to create a riveting and scary-as-hell account of the incident. Chillingly, the film also illustrates how this “broken arrow” – to borrow Air Force lingo – is just the tip of a pile of hundreds of nuclear weapon accidents that have occurred out of sight and mind.

In Freightened: The Real Price of Shipping, director Denis Delestrac posits that society suffers collective “seablindness” to practices in the global shipping industry. From the jacket in a shop made from materials that have travelled 48,000km for the price of a transit ticket, to the oil spills, shipwrecks and huge carbon footprint, the industry is flying under the radar. We cannot fathom the volume of illicit goods – potentially dirty bombs – circulating in container traffic.

Delestrac seems most riled by the coterie of secretive shipping magnates, who cut corners and costs by sailing their fleets under a “flag of convenience.” Under this topsy-turvy system, Mongolia and Bolivia, which have no coastline, have some of the world’s biggest fleets, while Panama, Liberia and the Marshall Islands are top funders for the UN agency responsible for shipping regulation.

In spite of a tendency to press its point too forcefully, this is a welcome look at the social and ecological impact of shipping; it is especially relevant in Vancouver and BC, given the huge increases in oil, LNG and coal shipping being planned.

Carl-A. Fechner’s Power to Change: The Energy Rebellion also calls shipping offside for its carbon footprint (equivalent to Germany’s), but its main focus is on solutions. Stars of the show are the engineers and entrepreneurs of the Energiewende(Germany’s “energy transition”), who are trailblazing renewables development with teutonic zeal and determination. Not afraid to get technical, it covers a variety of projects from straw pellets to replace fossil fuels, to giant battery power plants that are being created from de-commissioned nuclear power plants, to show how the big obstacle to climate action is not lack of technical know-how but political will.

Strangers on the Earth is another documentary that follows an ensemble of characters, this time walking the medieval pilgrim trail across the North of Spain. I met my wife on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela so I’m always curious to see filmmakers’ treatment of it. Accomplished cellist Dane Johansen, following in the footsteps of Canadian violinist Oliver Schroer, sets off with cello on back to record Bach’s Cello Suites along the way. While his uplifting, mellifluous soundtrack combines well with evocative imagery of pilgrims doing the time-honoured trail during its summer peak, the film struggles to connect at a deeper level. Some editing decisions distract and Johansen’s own self-revelations are lost in the mix of pilgrim voices, from the poetic to banal.

When Two Worlds Collide will resonate with British Columbia audiences. The documentary looks at a bloody period of conflict between indigenous Amazonians and government over land rights and resource exploitation in the Peruvian Amazon. The doc closely follows charismatic native leader Alberto Pizango, who conveys a sadly familiar story of ecological loss and government duplicity. It provides good coverage of the government side through excellent use of archival footage and recent interviews to show how a tense standoff quickly escalated.

On my list to see is the latest from BC’s Nettie Wild, KONELINE: our land beautiful, a poetic take on the conflict between resource development and the traditional way of life of the Tahltan Nation in Northern BC. It won Best Documentary Feature at Hot Docs so it’s bound to be popular.

Vancouver International Film Festival (viff.org) runs September 29-October 14.

Robert Alstead made the climate justice documentary Running On Climate, runningonclimate.com

Green technology pioneers pave but seldom save

by Gary Magwood

Roger Walsh
Roger Walsh and the Clear Flow hose

• Environmentalist, inventor, thinker, visionary, and part-time hustler, Roger Walsh has dabbled in various forms of green technology for over 40 years.

Small-scale solar and wind power electrical generation, high efficient lighting ballasts, multi-fuel wood stoves and furnaces, and his own water pumping systems, are only a few of his designs and successes. In 1976, a solar log home built in Scarborough, Ontario, was nominated for an architectural design award. And as expected, there were setbacks. For instance, the design prototype for his cyclonic wind turbine, a cone-shaped air sock that could generate electricity in even the lightest of breezes, “disappeared” while being evaluated by a community college in Ontario.

Among his interests and passions, one topic kept reappearing: a no-freeze water pipe and hose system that would ensure uninterrupted water service even when the temperature dropped below zero – without electricity.

In the early nineties, Walsh formed Frost Free Water Systems Inc., and the company began to manufacture and install his patented, high-efficiency, closed loop, hybrid air-powered water pumps. The pumps and related technologies could operate on12-volt DC power, solar energy or straight from the grid.

Now, after almost 40 years, his forays have included organic gardening, a free-range beef farm and the manufacture and installation of his patented Enviroficient multi-fuel stove and boiler furnace. However, his Clear-Flow Water Hose has become the sole focus of his attention – his passion flowing back to the subject of moving water.

The Clear-Flow Water Hose flows in temperatures as cold as -10°C, without windchill. In addition to being ultra light, durable, flexible (to-40°C) and kink resistant with crush-proof nylon fittings, the hose actually self drains when ends are open.

In addition to the movement of water, electricity charges Walsh’s inventive juices. A few years ago, he established Less Energy Inc., another of his numerous enterprises. He was searching for a way to develop more energy efficient electronic ballasts for high efficiency fluorescent and metal (MH) lighting systems. Then along came newer lighting technology that eliminated the need for much of what Walsh had been developing. The world of electricity and electronics moves at an insane pace. Without massive resources, inventors and visionaries find it more difficult to keep up. But water still flows downstream and freezes in winter temperatures.

Hose BrochureWith 25+ patents to his name, many of which are for environmentally friendly initiatives, Walsh continues to roll around ideas – some of them radical ­– about green, sustainable and energy efficient ways to reduce our collective carbon footprint.

“We all have to contribute to the betterment of humanity, but we need to do it without consuming more energy,” he says in his typically enthusiastic style of conversation. And then riffing on JFK’s famous quote, Walsh adds, “Do not ask what more can I take from and do to our planet, but what can I do to help preserve and repair planet Earth, our only home (so far) that sustains us and life?” Words are very powerful and Walsh’s sentiments reflect much of what is being done by many of us concerned about Earth’s ability to sustain an ever-increasing population and our ever-increasing degradation of the environment.

The original, Canadian-invented Clear-Flow Hose is made to exacting standards, both in Canada and the US. Walsh has never compromised on the quality of his inventions and products. His Clear-Flow hose is made of the highest quality, NSF-selected, non-polluting, recyclable materials. The hose is easy to store and made to last with a 10-year warranty. Unlike PVC and rubber hoses, Clear-Flow hoses don’t support the growth of bacteria or produce toxic odours. It’s drinking water safe, and due to its self-draining behaviour, stays cool without the need to flush sun-heated water, thereby saving water.

Clear-Flow hoses are manufactured in two sizes: 5/8” for day-to-day garden applications and the contractor version is produced in a 3/4” diameter. In Canada, the 5/8” and 3/4” hoses are sold at Home Hardware Stores. In the US, the 5/8” garden hose is available from Amazon.com; a 3/4” version will be available soon.

I’m sure that Walsh’s restless, creative mind seldom takes a break, always looking beyond today for green, sustainable and environmental ideas and products appropriate for society’s future needs. As Walsh likes to emphasize, awareness of what we personally, and as a civilization, are doing to our environment is paramount to us caring for it.

Gary Magwood is a committed environmentalist and social activist who lives in the tiny community of Latta Mills in Ontario. He serves as a citizen member of Belleville’s Green Task Force and is an active member in both Canadian and Ontario Green Parties. Contact Roger Walsh and learn more at www.ClearFlowHose.com

Playing for Change

One world, one voice, one day

MUSIC RISING by Bruce Mason


Playing for Change Day


• Without fail, the Playing For Change website makes me feel good. Most often it gives me goose bumps, but it’s always (in all ways) a joyful, uplifting experience. There’s no better time to feel this yourself than on September 24 when a global community gathers and unites – through the power of music to affect positive change – on stages, street corners, in schools, yoga studios, cafes and living rooms. More than 300 events in 50 countries are listed at www.playingforchange.com

I’m not alone in praising Playing for Change (PFC). After taping a segment of his Words of Wonder, combined with Bob Marley’s Get Up Stand Up, Keith Richards said, “That’s the way music was meant to be.” Jackson Browne produced a PFC arrangement of Guantanamera, featuring more than 75 Cuban musicians in Havana, Barcelona and Tokyo, describing it as “one of the most rewarding and inspiring musical experiences of my life.” And Sara Bareilles reports that singing with the PFC Band “elevates the world with music and inspires me to be a better human.”

Warning! The videos at www.playingforchange.com can be addictive. It’s some of the best feel-good music ever with unprecedented collaborations between previously anonymous street musicians, the classically trained and big names such as Bono, Keb’ Mo’, Jimmy Buffett, David Crosby, members of Los Lobos and the Grateful Dead and even John Lennon on tape, with Yoko Ono’s blessing, launching a Power to the People campaign. Music IS the power.

Mark Johnson is the creator of the global PFC phenomena and the driving force behind what is now a worldwide, multimedia, online music project and foundation. He says, “It is easy to connect to the world through music. Religion, politics, a lot of those things, they seem to divide everybody.” When Bill Moyers asked if he was being naïve, Johnson responded, “To me, naive is thinking that there’s any other choice. The only choice we have is to come together. And to inspire each other because that’s the way we’ll create a better world now and for kids tomorrow.”

His own inspiration for a big idea – to connect the world through unfiltered music – was birthed on a New York subway platform when the Grammy-winning producer/engineer/filmmaker watched two monks singing in a language he didn’t understand. “There were about 200 people who didn’t get on the train… people with tears in their eyes and jaws dropping, people who would normally run by each other.”

Some time later, on his way to work at a Santa Monica studio, an “epiphany” inspired Johnson to record street blues musician Roger Ridley singing Stand by Me. He played the result through headphones for Grandpa Elliott, who has “been putting love out there for 60 years” from the streets of New Orleans. Subsequently, utilizing innovative mobile technology and travelling the world, Johnson videotaped more than 100 musicians – mostly outdoors in parks, plazas, promenades, in doorways, on cobblestone streets and hillside pueblos. Each captured performance of the same song created a new mix in which the artists performed together – although hundreds or thousands of miles apart – in a seamless, mesmerizing collaboration and viral global jam.

Johnson has since produced two award-winning documentaries, A Cinematic Discovery of Street Musicians (2004) and Peace Through Music (2008), and much more music. He notes that PFC videos now have more than 300 million views from 195 countries.

Among myriad locations, Johnson shares that the South African township of Gugeletu was “the saddest place, with so much despair, until women and children joined in singing Celebration.” It was, he says, “one of the most powerful things I had ever seen, from sad to happy, when all that had changed was music.” That barren backyard became the site for a first PFC school. A Playing for Change band was formed to tour the world and help raise funds for what is now 12 school programs – in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, Thailand, and growing exponentially.

Each project also helps meet essential needs, including food, clean water, medicine, clothes, books, school supplies, solar energy, computers, and other technology. Johnson says, “It’s never ending, more songs to record, more musicians to connect, always more schools to build.”

As you explore the videos on the PFC site, you may notice two with a regional connection. Music Is My Ammunition opens on a Vancouver beach with three musicians – two from the Congo, one from Italy – before moving on to Jamaica, Hollywood, Cuba, Tokyo and Italy. Don’t Worry was recorded live at the Commodore Ballroom.

Playing for Change Day is held on the Saturday closest to International Peace Day. Everything you need to know to stage an event is also on the PFC website. Email brucemason@shaw.ca with any plans and projects. And tune into Common Ground. Happy Playing for Change Day!

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola Island-based banjo player, gardener, writer and author of Our Clinic.

Playing for Change Day in Vancouver

September 24:
Project Blue Hands Society & Friends (www.projectbluehands.org) invites you to celebrate Playing For Change Day in Vancouver. Music, art & outreach for the people, Victory Square Park, 200 W. Hastings St., 11AM-4PM. To get involved, email info@projectbluehands.org or call (778) 233-5874.


MP Don Davies goes to bat for the animals

In the fall session of Parliament, Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies will file a petition on behalf of the ADAV (Animal Defense & Anti-Vivisection Society of BC), calling for an end to the two most invasive categories of experimentation, which can include severe pain to unanaesthetized, conscious animals.

Please sign the petition below and share it widely so we can show the government how strongly the public feels about this issue. More than 3.7 million animals suffer unendurable pain at the hands of Canadian researchers every year – and this is just in taxpayer-funded work; private labs have no obligation to report their numbers.


Source: www.adavsociety.org

13-year-old invents a Tesla-inspired free energy device

by Terence Newton

Inspired by geniuses Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein, teenager Max Loughan loves to invent things. In fact, he says he has known his entire short life that his purpose was to change the world with his inventions. And he may just do it.

“As cheesy as this sounds, from day one on this planet I knew I was put here for a reason,” says Max. “And that reason is to invent, to bring the future.”

Wearing a lab coat while speaking in a televised interview with KTVN Channel 2 in Reno and Tahoe, Nevada, Max explained the free energy device he made in his parents’ boiler room turned laboratory.

His invention looks somewhat reminiscent of Tesla coil and operates on some of the same principles described by the electric visionary. The device is rather simple, harvesting electromagnetic energy from the atmosphere, then converting it to direct current, which can be used to power electrical devices.

What’s even more incredible is that Max built his free energy device out of materials he purchased for less than $15. That’s right; for the price of an average lunch, it appears that anyone can have access to free energy. He created an electro magnetic harvester out of a coffee can, some wire, two coils and a spoon.

In a demonstration with KTVN, Max used current created by the machine to power a strip of LED lights he had wrapped around his twin brother, astonishing both his own family and the visiting news crew.

Max’s achievement is impressive, to say the least, and the fact that works of Nikola Tesla are now inspiring the next generation of inventors is quite inspiring, although one has to wonder why Tesla’s ideas have taken some 75 years to reach the mainstream.

This article (This 13-Year-Old Invented a Tesla-Inspired Free Energy Device for $14) was originally created and published by Waking Times and is published here under a Creative Commons license with attribution to Terence Newton and WakingTimes.com

Organic agriculture combats the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria

Choosing organic is the best choice consumers can make to combat antibiotic resistance and protect themselves from antibiotic-resistant bacteria, a review paper from The Organic Center concludes.

Overuse of antibiotics in conventional livestock production has been implicated as an important contributor to antibiotic resistance. Research demonstrates that livestock produced without the use of antibiotics – as in organic agriculture – is an important part of the solution.

Of particular concern in conventional agriculture is the routine use of antibiotics, not only to treat infections but to increase the growth and feed efficiency of animals and as a prophylactic agent. Organic livestock, in contrast to conventional, are raised without the use of antibiotics, which are prohibited by federal organic regulations unless medically necessary. Animal health is one of the tenets of organic. If necessary, a sick animal on an organic farm must be treated, but then removed from the herd, and its products – such as meat or milk – may not be sold as organic.

In conventional agriculture, livestock manure disposal is one of the biggest ways antibiotic residues and resistant bacteria enter the environment.

“Organic livestock production, which prohibits the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or prophylactic purposes, provides a compelling example of successful, profitable operations and demonstrates the ability of livestock farms to operate without substantial antibiotic use. Organic provides a model for how agriculture can contribute to a solution,” says Dr. Jessica Shade, director of Science Programs for The Organic Center, who is a co-author of the review with her colleague Dr. Tracy Misiewicz.

The paper looks closely at the role of antibiotic use in conventional agricultural livestock production. It covers the mechanisms by which resistance develops in bacteria, the role that modern-day agricultural practices play in exacerbating the problem, and how organic agriculture provides a simple and effective means to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and to protect the health of consumers.

“Because organic production methods are available to all farmers, they can be incorporated into any livestock operation to combat resistant bacteria,” Dr. Shade says.

The full report is available for download at www.organic-center.org

Source: Organic Trade Association, www.ota.com

Finding Common Ground

A journey of 300 editions

by Bruce Mason

Words and pictures of a shared past, present and future, from founders, friends and fellow travellers

Common Ground Magazine 300 issue

To page through the first few issues of Common Ground magazine (beginning in winter, 1982) is to pry open a time capsule and be astonished and awakened by the contents. And to hold – first in your hands, then in your mind, followed by your heart and soul – proof of not only how far we have come, but also a reminder of how far we still have to go. They are the first few footprints in an ongoing journey of a hopeful, engaged community – our community.

The first impressions from initial glances leap from the sepia-toned black and white copies. And we are awed by how much technological change has taken place, how much graphics have evolved and elbowed into the forefront of our consciousness and daily lives, and how sophisticated we and our tools and toys have become in just over 30 years.

Kolin Lymworth, founder of Banyen Books & Sound, recalls the early days when publisher Joseph Roberts was one of the first people to actually work in his store, in the early 70s – “Then a skinny, blonde long-hair with a compelling gleam in his eye – and considerable chops on the piano, by the way. At that time, many communities were growing resource-listing-connection publications, serving awakening humanity in whatever ways they could, kind of like a local Whole Earth Catalog.”

Many of the problems and solutions are there in the first few editions, along with some of the same people, including therapists, psychologists and counsellors, spiritual practitioners, rape crisis centres, small businesses and services, the Kirpal Ashram School, UBC’s Centre for Continuing Education, Greenpeace, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation, Western Wilderness Committee and the West Coast Environmental Law Association, the Canadian Centre for Nuclear Responsibility. Oxfam, alternative health centres, Coop Radio, Black Swan Records, the Bicycling Association of BC, astrologists, naturopaths, food co-ops, the Canadian Health Food Association and Naam Restaurant.

Arran Stephens, co-founder of Nature’s Path, says, “Common Ground has been my home-grown, BC go-to resource magazine for all things good: preservation of nature and the environment, organic agriculture, social conscience and activism, pro-vegetarian, plant-based articles, questioning of the status quo, natural healing, herbalism, art, defence of endangered species, spirituality, yoga and religion.”

Ask publisher, Joseph Roberts, for his all-time favourite issue and he will answer, “The next publication, the one we’re working on. I’m a very active member of the community we serve and each month is a process that emerges from it, literally, organically. Every four-week period has been a unique, separate adventure in a 33-year journey. The magazine is free, completely independent and 100 percent Canadian, our gift to our community.”

Back in 1982, Roberts and two others (Alana Mascali and Michael Bertrand) sensed a need for a quarterly, Vancouver-based, healing-arts-body-mind resource listing, based on a similar Common Ground in San Francisco. But Roberts had a vision for this Common Ground, a publication that was more than a clearinghouse of information on the burgeoning alternatives to the status quo. “I felt strongly that we needed to take on tough issues, be someone in left field, making a noise, pointing out to people in the bleachers that something was happening and we needed to get to first base, a place for ideas to get out. And I decided to go it alone.”

Alongside information on health and wellness and personal growth were early articles on uranium mining, nukes, fish-farming, GMOs, pesticides, LNG and pipelines. The first issue featured the Vancouver skyline on the cover. The second, a gardener. And the third, a jaw-dropping shot of some of the 65,000 people congregated at Sunset Beach in support of Peace. It also included articles such as famed liberal journalist I.F. Stone’s eerily prophetic, Send in the Machines, an excerpt from Jonathan Schell’s The Fate of the Earth, the seminal description of the consequences of nuclear war, a key document in the disarmament movement, a piece signalling The Information Economy is Here and a letter and eyewitness account by Bruce Cockburn from Central American refugee camps.

There is a wise adage in journalism: “Freedom of the press can only be guaranteed if you buy an ad, once in a while.” And advertiser Chris Shirley has done just that, many times in fact, with a listing for his Pacific Institute of Reflexology in all 300 editions of Common Ground. “I feel good about the magazine and support what it is doing. It’s unique and important, unlike other publications that have a seedy side, that I’m just not comfortable aligning with. Common Ground continues to raise our profile in the community we want to reach, through a local production that is widely distributed and read.”

Advertisers also read each edition. “It’s amazing and relevant, presenting a valid point of view you don’t find at newsstands, or in commercial, mainstream media,” says Michael Pratt, owner of Celtic Traditions.

Vocal coach and teacher Lynn McGown – another long-time supporter – needs no prompting to sing praises of Common Ground. “It’s inclusive, a look at society through a prism of health, politics and justice that includes spirituality and touches much more, rooted in community and melded together in a global vision that raises consciousness and hope for human beings. Joseph is a local boy, actually a local treasure, and I admire him for continuing to tell it like it is.”

Long-time advertiser Lorraine Bennington (creativetransformations.ca) shares her story: “Common Ground has been around for almost as long as I have been in Vancouver, a newly minted Vancouverite fresh from Montreal in 1979. I first met Joseph Roberts long before Common Ground emerged, as he chose one after the other meaningful causes to support. CG became the forum for them all to coalesce into a larger voice, the voice of the alternative thought community.

We didn’t all see the world in the exact same way, but we all shared a “common ground” of wanting organic food and clothes, practising yoga, choosing to respect the earth, and holding a vision of a planet that would endure for our children and their children’s children. We needed a magazine to support a world without corporate greed takeovers of our lifestyle, our medicine and our choices.

I consciously continue to advertise in this magazine, not only because the people who read it share some of my core values, but also because I believe a magazine like this serves a vital part in the keeping and nurturing of sentient community.Common Ground, the Naam, Banyen Books, Amethyst Creations, Lifestream, Folk Fest – and all the original or slightly later arrivals of merchants, yogis, health oriented and creative merchants and other beings ­– birthed and expressed their consciousness on W. 4th Avenue. Then, as real estate prices became more and more unmanageable, some headed east, first to Main and then to the Drive and beyond.

A community needs a voice, and Common Ground has served and continues to serve that significant purpose, and I am glad to be part of that community/family.”

Elizabeth Murphy, a private sector project manager, formerly a property development officer for the Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department and BC Housing, says, “Common Ground has been the consistent voice of integrity for truth, justice and real democracy. Every month, I have always looked forward to reading it for the issues that matter, with confidence in their open content. And over the last few years, it has been an honour to contribute.”

She adds, “The 300th edition of Joseph Roberts’ Common Ground magazine is a milestone to celebrate. I say thank you for working to make the world a better place and best wishes for another 300 editions.”

Lymworth writes, “Having carried every issue of Common Ground over the decades, we at Banyen are proud to honour and appreciate Joseph and his magazine’s dedication to helping people connect; to fostering healthy ways of living; to highlighting important social and environmental issues. He truly cares about a kinder, gentler, wiser world and continues to offer resources and connections that help that to happen more fully and more enduringly. Long may the good light shine. Congratulations!”

Stephens concludes, “I have great admiration for Joseph, my old friend, who has faithfully churned out 300 (!!!) Common Ground issues over the decades. Bravo! Looking forward to continuing the good so that we can all find Common Ground for peace, unity and love.”

To view sample pages from our early issues from 1982-3, click here.

Common Ground writers join the conversation

Common Ground Magazine first cover
Common Ground Issue #1


Common Ground magazine and I have been friends for 34 years! I was present at its 1982 birth and launch party in a Vancouver back yard. I like long-term friendships and this has been a good one. The articles throughout the magazine are lively and thought provoking. Common Ground has long been a leader regarding environmental concerns and health and human rights issues. I have appreciated the opportunity to write on a vast range of topics related to plant-based nutrition and have welcomed the tremendous interest in this topic on the part of readers.

Vesanto Melina, registered dietitian and author of CG’s Nutrispeak column. www.nutrispeak.com and www.becomingvegan.ca

Congratulations on the 300th edition! People often say to me, “The pharma world you write about is so important so why do you write for Common Ground?” And my answer is always the same: “Because I can say things here that are too uncomfortable for other media outlets.” Common Ground for me is richer turf; it’s an alternative voice to the droning prattle of the mainstream media that often supports and celebrates some of the worst aspects of medicine. I use my column to dredge up some important, but unreported, nuggets about the pharmaceutical-industrial complex – a topic that I think touches us all. To me, this is a milestone worth celebrating – Common Ground’s 300th edition – and a timely reminder that the public conversations on a whole range of topics that deeply affect our lives are richer – and more diverse – because of this fine magazine. Keep up the good work, Joseph!

Alan Cassels, author of CG’s Drug Bust column and a drug policy researcher in Victoria. His new book is called The Cochrane Collaboration: Medicine’s Best Kept Secret.

I grew up in the same neighbourhood as Joseph Roberts – suburban Harbour Chines in Coquitlam. Later, we lived next to each other across from Kits Beach, sharing news from our back porches about small victories, mine in media, his atCommon Ground. I, too, had attended SFU in the early, heady days, naively thinking that humanity would make real progress in fits and starts, if more people lived and worked for peace and justice. “Things will get better, they have to,” I thought. They haven’t and very well may not. Humanity is at a crossroads. Like you, I hope and work for a better world than we have right here, right now. Contributing to Common Ground is my way of trying to be of some use. Blessings on your unfinished business.

Bruce Mason, CG features writer and columnist (ReadIt!, Music Rising) and author of Our Clinic.

‘Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.’ For the past 300 issues, Common Ground magazine has served as a potent fertilizer to feed those seeds to become flowers. When I arrived on Vancouver Island, my eyes were opened by publications such as Common Ground so it was a pleasure to return this service to others as a contributing writer many years later. Thank you for enlightenment on so many timely issues and subjects that enhance our well being, as we grope our way to a more sustainable future in all aspects of our lives.

Carolyn Herriot, former CG columnist (On the Garden Path). www.incredibles.vision

Probably the biggest reason I write for Common Ground is that from cover to cover, in every article, in every issue, the direction is towards the betterment and upliftment of mankind. There’s no smut or filth, no racism and no misogynistic or gender bias. Publisher Joseph Roberts has worked and toiled tirelessly. He has never faltered or wavered in his steps to bring the truth and shed light on every concern that has come to his awareness regarding the treatment of our Mother Earth and her inhabitants. Joseph, his staff and contributors should be lauded and awarded for their herculean effort to make our planet a peaceful and wholesome environment.

Mac McLaughlin, author of CG’s Star Wise column. www.macsstars.com

Vancouver has an amazing city culture, which, for the most part, is thoughtful, kind, considerate, sensitive and intelligent. A culture like this does not arise out of thin air. For the past 33 years, the soil of Vancouver’s culture has been enriched by the writers and artists who have shared their thoughts, visions and inspirations in Common Ground magazine, supported by the magazine’s editors. I was proud to be one such writer. Vancouver needs more Common Ground if we are to win the rapidly developing global struggle between neo-liberal plutocracy and social democracy, and between those who see nature as a resource to exploit and those who see it as a being to respect. May your pages continue to inspire us for many years to come! Best wishes.

Guy Dauncey, former CG Earthfuture columnist and author of Journey to the Future: A Better World is Possible. www.journeytothefuture.ca

To me, Common Ground magazine is about intelligence, integrity, truth, humanism and humanitarianism. My mission is to support and encourage evolving consciousness. It is an honour to be a part of this publication and connect with readers who share that desire to grow in consciousness. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Joseph Roberts for starting this magazine and keeping it going through good times and bad. He is a true visionary who has created a space for enlightened ideas that have impacted the lives of so many readers over decades. I congratulate Joseph, his staff and all of you who have picked up a copy of Common Ground and then became faithful readers. It is you who inspire all of us to keep doing what we do.

Gwen Randall Young, registered psychologist and author of CG’s Universe Within column. www.gwen.ca

Common Ground is celebrating its 300th edition. Impressive! That a relatively small, independent monthly can still be kicking while everywhere print media is shrinking is a testament to the tenacity of its publisher and small, committed team. After initially doing editing work for Common Ground and building the magazine’s former website, I was fortunate enough to write a monthly movie column. I ended up doing it for over a decade. The column evolved over the years, but I really enjoyed having the freedom to explore a range of documentaries and films that shed new light on the world around us, often challenging accepted norms – whether it be about ecology, the arts or justice. Common Ground has covered so many issues over the years that it was an easy place to find a home for such a column.

Robert Alstead, former CG Films Worth Watching columnist and producer and director of the documentaries, Running on Climate and You Never Bike Alone. www.icycle.ca

Renowned Cor Meibion Colwyn visits Canada

by Alan Sanderson


male Welsh choir outdoor performance
Côr Meibion Colwyn pictured at a concert at Conwy Castle on the north coast of Wales.

• Over the Labour Day weekend (September 1-4) the multi-award-winning male choir, Côr Meibion Colwyn from North Wales, will be the featured choir at the North American Festival of Wales, held in Calgary this year.

Music director Tudur Eames conducts Colwyn in the Saturday Concert and also the Cymanfa Ganu (congregational hymn singing). Both events will have audiences of around 700. Eames will also take the much smaller Ysgol Gân (singing school).

The choir has consistently placed first, second, or third in many international competitions and has toured extensively in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. They are four-time winners at the Welsh National Eisteddfod, and in 2015 won third place in the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, one of the largest festivals in the world. It attracts competitors from 70-100 different countries every year. They have also raised over £150,000 for different charities.

Last October, Orpheus had the privilege of performing with Colwyn in Llandudno as part of their seven-concert tour of Wales. Naturally, they are delighted to be able to return the favour.

If you are in Vancouver or Salmon Arm at the end of August, be sure to take in the concert there. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Hear the choir in Vancouver, Salmon Arm and Calgary

Vancouver – Ryerson United Church
Sunday, Aug. 28, 7pm: the choir performs a joint concert with Vancouver Orpheus Male Choir.

Salmon Arm – First United Church
Monday August 29, 7:30pm: The choir performs on their way to Calgary. This concert is organized by Arwyn Gittens and Lawrence Williams, the Shuswap Welsh Club and a number of other local charities and business organizations. Colwyn completed a new CD in June 2016, which they will be selling on their tour in Canada.

September 1-4: The choir performs in at the North American Festival of Wales.

Concert details & tickets
www.vancouverorpheus.org 604-515-5686

Salmon Arm
250-832-4415 or 250-832-8547