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.

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

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

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

Behind the Smile and You’re an Idiot

A Tale of Two Books
READ IT by Bruce Mason

Judi Tyabji’s Christy Clark: Behind the Smile and James Hoggan’s, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up

• I just finished reading a couple of current, timely, best-selling BC books back to back – make that back and forth – that speak volumes about our worrisome future. They also cry out for comparison. The first book focuses on the life and times of our premier, the second, on the result of a five-year global mission to answer a question from David Suzuki, “Why aren’t people demanding action on environmental issues like climate change, despite the overwhelming evidence?”

They are respectively: Judi Tyabji’s Christy Clark: Behind the Smile and James Hoggan’s, I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up.

“Political insider” Tyabji’s “unauthorized, arms-length” biography is complete with dozens of pages of Clark family photos. It promises “an astute political portrait and a biting critique of the brutal partisan dialogue that often distorts our views of our leaders and their accomplishments.” Proves you can’t judge a book by its cover; the reviews have been, well, biting and brutal. One critic best sums it up in one word: “sad.”

The author, a friend of Clark since “1984 or 1985,” first noticed “her laugh, her curviness and her hair. She reminded me of a sexy version of Peppermint Patty from the Charlie Brown cartoons because she was at home with the boys, had a husky voice and a wry sense of humour.” Make that, Peanuts cartoons.

The interviews – and Tyabji claims to have conducted 30 or 40 – include Clark’s best friend from elementary school, who informs us that Christy had a Holly Hobbie lunch kit, a fierce competitive streak and “bubbly personality.” In “grade three, or four,” the future premier was “Leader of the Pack,” in a dance routine of the Shangri-Las’ hit record. The book reads like the Sister Sledge hit We are Family.

For personal history, there’s Clark’s older brother Bruce. Tyabji’s husband, Gordon Wilson, fills in some blanks. Glossed over is the fact the couple was facing foreclosure until Clark gave Gordon a fat contract as an “LNG-Buy BC” advocate. On Christy’s obsessive, fracked methane gas fantasies, there is, of course, LNG mouthpiece, Jas Johal. The all-important environmental file is virtually unopened. Ongoing scandals? Sssh.

Just as the reader begins to think this “in-depth biography” strays no further than numbers on the author’s cell, one discovers a bizarre, nine-page diatribe entitled Barbie Goes to Victoria in the chapter The XX Factor. The writer, one Pamela Cramond-Malkinon, describes the piece as a “largely academic analysis of why women in politics, particularly attractive ones, often get terribly and viciously excoriated by men and women alike.” Post-publication, she has taken to categorizing devastating criticism as the work of “trolls demented with anger against anything that is not their political belief system.”

Tyabji has reacted to all the thumbs-down with, “If me coming out with a book… if that makes me a target, that’s not about me. That’s about the people targeting me.” However, she does provide one insight in her 370 pages of fluff in a chapter entitled Young Liberals and True Believers. Christy is, above all, a “true, true believer.” In what? “Targeted government spending… tax policy that encourages economic growth or business investment, scientific work tied to economic development… and fiscal responsibility, including balanced budgets.” In short, neo-liberalism, now universally regarded as the main source of humanity’s do-or-die crises.

As for “balanced budgets” – for which Clark is applauded by one-handed right wingers – former CKNW talk show host and elected official, Rafe Mair, recently observed and proved, “The fact is we are in terrible financial shape and the government is lying through its teeth.” He points out the province’s financial obligations increased $72 billion in the past six years, more than the provincial debt in BC’s first 135.

James Hoggan is, among other things, chair of the David Suzuki Foundation and co-founder of the influential, ground and truth breaking website DeSmogBlog. He is also the author of Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming and Do the Right Thing. In addition, he led the Green Energy Advisory Task Force on Community Relations and First Nations Partnerships.

Common Ground asked him about our most divisive, polarizing premier and her oft-quoted phrases, such as “Forces of No,” “problematic,” and “a bit troubling and disturbing.”

Hoggan, who chooses his words carefully, replied, “I’m perplexed and frustrated by the spin doctoring swirling around the global warming issue, making it easy for people to refute the reality of what’s going on and ignore this critical collective problem. But I’ve became even more concerned and alarmed by the crazy state of debate today in general – the toxic rhetoric that permeates virtually all important issues we face, whether it’s vaccinations, refugee immigration, gun control or environmental degradation.

“I decided to take a deep look at our resistance to change, the human relations and ingrained psychology causing it and the gridlock, inaction and despair that result. Sometimes, it’s intentional, sometimes it’s inadvertent, but the troublesome fact is this toxic mix is coming from all sides and stifling discussion and critical debate.

“I began to explore how these tendencies arise, what spurs us to become close-minded, aggressively vitriolic and most importantly, what we can do about it. I also began to analyze how we can become highly effective communicators, deflect over-the-top advocacy and make our arguments more convincing.”

He describes his research and writing the book as a “fascinating journey,” especially the discovery of keenness for this discussion, which enabled him to share collective wisdom. In 60+ interviews with everyone from a NASA scientist to a deep-sea oceanographer, from cognitive researchers to authorities on systems thinking, he sat down with an expert in the House of Lords lunchroom, spent a week with Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, and travelled to the Himalayas to speak with the Dalai Lama. Insights from political pundits, philosophers, moral psychologists, brain scientists, scholars, media gurus and corporate analysts are all included.

I urge you to read this book and study the 10-page Epilogue: Lessons Learned. The phrase that echoes throughout is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Speak the truth, but not to punish.”

I asked Hoggan if he found any hope. He said, “Some people think I’m saying activists should do less. On the contrary, I believe we have a responsibility to do more. People can face reality, change, and there is hope in the fact that we can, and are, getting better at it.”

Common Ground has sent a copy of I’m Right and You’re an Idiot: The Toxic State of Public Discourse and How to Clean It Up to the premier’s office.

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

It’s the Year of Pulses

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina MS, RD

portrait of Vesanto Melina

• The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has named 2016 the International Year of Pulses. Pulses are edible seeds that grow in pods – peas, beans, lentils. They are also known as legumes.

Pulses are packed with nutrients, especially B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B6, and folate) and minerals (iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc). Their high iron content is especially beneficial for women and children who might be at risk of anemia. They are a fantastic source of protein without the accompanying fat of animal products.

For people trying to control their weight, they can be a great way to keep blood sugar level while boosting protein intake. They have a low glycemic index due to excellent fibre content. Pulses are gluten-free and contain phytochemicals that are protective against cancer, diabetes and heart disease. One dietary feature of the longest-lived population groups in the world – Okinawa Japan, Sardinia, Italy and the Seventh-day Adventist vegetarians in Loma Linda California – is their regular consumption of pulses.

Pulses are important agriculturally as they are closely associated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, and thus play a key role in crop rotation and soil enhancement. In Canada, they are a very important crop as we are the largest exporter of lentils in the world.

Cooked lentils, beans and peas can easily be pureed and stirred into soups, stews and even sauces. It’s fine to use canned ones; nutrient content is retained. They not only add depth and flavour, but they also help thicken soups and stews to make them heartier and more nutrient-rich. If you are unaccustomed to eating pulses, start with smaller ones such as lentils – red, green, grey, French – in small amounts. Here are some very quick ways to boost your protein for the day:

Heat up a bowl of green peas (fresh or frozen).
Snack on fresh peas in the pod.
Add a pea-based protein powder to your smoothie.
Spread toast with peanut butter (peanuts are pulses).
Grab a handful of peanuts.
Serve tacos (see recipe).
Check out recipes at www.lentils.ca/recipes-cooking, www.pulsecanada.com/food-health/recipes and get gold medallist Ron Pickarski’s The Classical Vegetarian Cookbook, www.eco-cuisine.com

Vesanto Melina is a Vancouver dietitian. www.becomingvegan.ca, www.nutrispeak.com, 778-379-5377.


Timesaving tacos

Makes 10 tacos; serves 3 to 5 people

This nutritious meal is almost instant. Just warm the shells and beans, chop the veggies and set out the colourful fillings in pretty bowls. If you prefer burritos, replace taco shells with soft tortillas. For mixed dietary choices, a meal of tacos is welcome as you can include non-vegan options such as grated cheddar. (Recipe from Becoming Vegetarian and from Cooking Vegetarian, Harper Collins)

10 taco shells
1 can vegetarian
refried beans
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomato
1 carrot, grated
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1 cup salsa
1 cup grated non-dairy cheese (such as Daiya pepperjack)

Put the refried beans in a small pan and warm through (or heat in bowl in microwave). If the beans are too thick, mix in a tablespoon of water. Warm taco shells in a 250o F oven for 1-2 minutes, or in a microwave. Put the shells and beans, along with lettuce, tomato, carrot, avocado, salsa and cheese in serving bowls. Leftover fillings can be refrigerated in covered dishes and used at another meal.

The unaffordable subway

Metro Vancouver scheme has the hallmarks of a pro-development and deeply flawed transit strategy

by Elizabeth Murphy


 

For the price of this
Proposed 12km extension of the SkyTrain Millenium line to UBC
We can have this

Possible revitalized heritage streetcar route

Equivalent electric streetcar network deliverable for same cost of proposed Broadway Corridor subway (Prof. Patrick Condon, et al, 2008, “The case for the tram; learning from Portland, Sustainability by Design: An examination of alternatives to an underground extension of the Millennium Line to UBC.” Foundational Research Bulletin, No. 6.)

Using electric trolley buses or a mix with streetcars would even allow much broader coverage across the region for the same funds as one subway on Broadway.


Providing an expanded and improved transit system is vital to Metro Vancouver and the provincial economy. However, the subway is a poor choice for the Broadway east-west thoroughfare. The current plans and funding models are promoted for corporate interests, but they are not in the public interest.

Last year, the public voted down, by a large margin, the plebiscite for a sales tax increase to cover the Metro Vancouver transportation plan. This plan is actually a real estate and tower development scheme led by a subway. Now the same plan is being put forward again – this time with much more problematic funding options that would put the public in unnecessary massive debt, without any pretence of public support.

The provincial government is failing to provide adequate funding for much needed transit while, at the same time, looking to benefit financially from development along an unaffordable Broadway corridor subway. So the civic level that receives only seven percent of the tax base is being required to take on this provincial funding responsibility (referred to as downloading) without the resources to fulfill it.

The province refuses to consider using the obvious and appropriate funding source: the carbon tax. Funding options being considered are property taxes and development that would be downloading onto cities. Transit fare increases add to the cost of living for those who can least afford it and further discourage transit use.

Property taxes are the main source of funding for civic governments that have correctly resisted provincial moves to try to take them for provincial purposes to fund transit. That resistance is now softening.

Although the property tax mill rate per thousand dollars of property value is considered low in Vancouver, actual property taxes are based on sky-high assessments that affect the cost of homeownership and are passed on to renters. Property taxes are already tapped out for civic purposes.

The proposed property tax increase for funding transit is a wedge in the door to future increases. Current budgets for the subway and the plan are likely way out of date and based on a previously stronger Canadian dollar. The estimates will go up significantly during each phase over the projected 10 years.

Using development to fund transit is another problematic proposal. This contribution is generally put towards paying for part of the civic amenities needed to service increased populations, such as parks, recreation, daycare and community centres. If the province uses development fees for transit, there will be large increases in tower development with fewer amenity resources left for the city to service the increased population.

Then there is the issue of the plan itself. There was little public input or demonstrated support for the options proposed. Although upgrades to the current transportation system include a few more buses that are urgently needed, the major projects in the plan are expensive. A large amount of the funding is slated for a short, stubby subway from the Millennium Line at VCC along Broadway to Arbutus rather than to serve the broader city or regional transit needs.

This has been raised by UBC professor Patrick Condon – as shown in the maps here – from his study comparing a subway with streetcars. For a fraction of the cost of a subway on Broadway, we could have streetcars and an expansion of electric trolley buses that would electrify the transit system across the city and region.

When looking at the capital costs, the best options are obvious. The subway is $350 million per km; streetcars are $20 – $40 million per km and electric trolley buses (both rapid lines and local services) are only $1 million per km plus $1 million per articulated double trolley bus. Making the best use of the most affordable options should be the priority to complete a broad and integrated plan servicing the entire city, not just select property developer nodes.

Electric trolley buses could carry the bulk of the network since they are the most affordable. Streetcars could be used in areas where they are most suited, such as the Arbutus right-of-way that has just been purchased by the city from CP Rail, and which could be expanded along the original inter-urban route to the Fraser Valley.

The City of Vancouver is particularly suited to this option since Vancouver was developed before the broad use of the automobile. It was designed around the streetcar system with the main arterials accessible within a five to 10 minute walk from any location, thus Vancouver inherently has a transit oriented land use pattern. All it needs is adequate, improved trolley bus or streetcar transit service throughout the grid.

The Coalition of Vancouver Neighbourhoods (CVN), an umbrella group of 26 resident associations and communities across Vancouver, has made the call for options like this to be considered with a better consultation process to establish the appropriate best value plan to serve the public interest.

Unfortunately, rather than serving the city with affordable, sustainable transit for the people, the city and province are promoting a subway in order to direct and shape land use for the major developers. This would transform the affected communities into a development corridor from 16th Avenue to the waterfront and from Commercial Drive to UBC, including nodal land use patterns with Metrotown-scale tower development at stations.

Using development to fund this plan will give further density bonuses to large developers, which may include Public Private Partnerships (P3s). The transit manufacturers, builders and developers would benefit the most from this scheme. They also contribute to financing election campaigns at all levels of government and then lobby to get a return on their investment.

We need to change direction and:

  • Provide more affordable electric rapid and local transit options using trolley buses and streetcars.
  • Fund the plan with carbon taxes, gas taxes and mileage-based vehicle fees.
  • Use neighbourhood-based planning to ensure development suits the local context for liveability rather than imposing a concrete jungle of towers designed for laundering foreign capital onto established communities.
  • Build more affordable housing for students, staff and faculty at UBC to reduce the need to commute rather than build more high-end condos.
  • Ensure every stage of planning has a transparent, democratic process.

Transit should be about transporting people and serving communities; not used as a tool to impose development that undermines established community planning. It is high time for a democratic, affordable and sustainable transit plan.

Elizabeth Murphy is a private sector project manager and a former Property Development Officer for the City of Vancouver’s Housing & Properties Department and for BC Housing. info@elizabethmurphy.ca

Gardening – Plant ’n’ rake without the ache

planting red flower
image © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

Gardening is a great way to stay active, grow food, and have fun in the sun. But many Canadians sustain injuries that can be easily prevented with a little know-how.

Warm up

Before you begin any physical activity, warming up is a key factor in preventing injury. Take a walk, even on the spot. Ten to 15 minutes should do it. Don’t forget to lift your knees and gently swing your arms.

Stretch before you start

To plant and rake without the ache, do each of these stretches five times. Don’t bounce, jerk or strain. Stretches should be gentle and should not cause pain.

Your wrists

  • Hold one arm out in front of you, palm down.
  • Bend your wrist until the fingers point to the ground.
  • Use your opposite hand to hold this position.
  • Place your hands in “prayer” position and press palms together.
  • Keep your arm straight and place your palm in the “stop” position.
  • Use your opposite hand to hold this position.

Your sides

  • Extend your right arm over your head.
  • Bend to the left from the waist.
  • Hold for 15 seconds; repeat on other side.

Your arms and shoulders

  • Hug yourself snugly.
  • Slowly rotate at the waist as far as is comfortable to the left, then to the right.

Your shoulders

  • Let your arms hang loose.
  • Rotate your shoulders forward. Then rotate back.

Your back

  • In a seated position, bend forward from the hips, keeping your head down.
  • Reach for the ground.

Your thighs

  • Face a wall or tree and support yourself against it with one arm.
  • Bend your right knee and grasp your ankle or pant leg with your left hand.
  • Hold for 15 seconds; repeat on other side.

Your hamstrings

  • Stand and reach your hands to the sky.
  • Then bend at the waist and reach toward your toes.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.

The right moves

Kneel to lighten the load on your back; don’t bend to plant. Use kneepads or a kneeling mat to reduce the strain while you plant and weed. Keep your back straight and take breaks frequently. Change body position often. Alternate between light and heavy chores. Drink lots of water. Most importantly, loosen up before you start out.

Alternate

Heavy. Light. Heavy. Light. That’s the right way to handle those chores.

Change hands

Take the strain off by changing the position of your hands.

Check your position

And change it often. Kneel, then stand. Or simply sit and relax for a while.

Rake right

Ease the strain on your back by putting one leg in front, the other behind. Switch legs and hands from time to time.

Lift right

Keep your back straight and always bend your knees. To lift something heavy, position yourself close to the object. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, head up, with your feet and body pointing in the same direction. Carry the load close to your body. Do not lift heavy objects above your waist and avoid heavy lifting immediately after prolonged bending or kneeling.

Source: www.chiropractic.on.ca


Dig deeper…

Gardening tips by Joseph E. Fasciani

  • Weeds can get on any gardener’s last nerve, but they are easily dealt with. To make your own weed killing spray, combine the following: a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of table salt and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Shake until all the ingredients are mixed, pour into a spray bottle and use as needed.
  • Use old coffee grounds and crushed egg shells; not only do they provide nutrients for your plants, but they also help keep unwanted pests away. Slugs, squirrels and rabbits don’t like coffee or crushed eggshells, which means your plants will be able to grow more easily.
  • Bore 1/4” holes into a plastic 2L bottle to create an efficient and cheap way to irrigate your plants. When the bottle is buried so that the holes are in the roots zone, it provides trickle irrigation on demand and you can place the water by hose directly into the bottle. If aiming the hose stream even under low pressure is difficult, use a cheap plastic funnel in the bottle’s neck.
  • When you’re tending to plants in your garden, the last things you want to deal with are mosquitoes and aphids, but preventing them is pretty easy. Take sliced peels of any citrus fruit and scatter them around your garden. In time, they will also become nutrients for the same plants.
  • Use plastic forks to keep unwanted visitors away. To deter rabbits, rats and squirrels from your brand-new blooms, stick plastic forks, fork-side up, into the ground between all of your plants. This will protect your plants and let them grow in peace.
  • Use clear plastic egg cartons as a miniature greenhouse when starting seeds.

www.fivespotgreenliving.com

Virtual reality and the real thing

Portrait of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki

• The digital revolution is breaking new ground every day. Technology has a way of doing that. I remember when Hewlett-Packard introduced its first “laptop” computer, which stored a page and a half of writing. It revolutionized my life as a newspaper columnist. I never imagined the steady advances that would lead to today’s powerful laptops, tablets and handheld computers.

Once, while filming in a remote BC forest, I wanted to pan from the roots of a cedar tree along the trunk to the top in a single shot. After spending hours rigging wires and pulleys and struggling to keep the heavy camera from swaying as it rose, our crew gave up in frustration. Recently, we used a light GoPro camera mounted under a drone to get a spectacular high-definition shot in a few minutes!

The first time I opened YouTube, I was looking for a video of the astounding phenomenon of mucous secretion by a hagfish, a primitive marine animal. To my surprise, I found several postings and as I chose one, a list of several others that might be of interest popped up. Two hours later, I realized I’d been sucked in by an incredible range of films.

When I first heard about virtual reality, I was invited to put on the goggles and experience it. Crude as those first images were compared to what’s available now, I was immersed in the scenes. It was impressive and exciting, but I suggested that people should be wary of unintended consequences because virtual reality could eventually appear better than reality.

During a recent visit to Montreal, I had the opportunity to watch the latest iteration of the digital revolution: images in 3D, HD and 360-degree-wrap-around. It was mindboggling. I swam with whales and zoomed through a forest, listening to actual sounds, along with music and narration. As I watched a spectacular mountain forest, a train suddenly appeared, splashing across a lake and then coming straight at me. As my body responded to the all too realistic locomotive, it reached me and exploded into a thousand birds that took off in a glorious cloud. Computer graphics melded seamlessly with actual footage that generated scenes far exceeding reality.

I have no doubt virtual reality is going to have a huge impact. We’re just beginning to recognize its potential. But as with all new technology, there will be unintended repercussions, the greatest of which will be further estrangement from nature. Studies show that because people evolved out of nature, we need that connection with the natural world for mental and physical well-being.

Author Richard Louv categorizes a suite of childhood problems – including bullying, attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity – as “nature deficit disorder,” induced or worsened by too little physical exposure to nature. The average Canadian kid today spends more than six hours a day glued to a screen – mobile phones, computers, televisions – and less than eight minutes a day outside!

Some proponents claim virtual reality will stimulate children to spend more time outside. But why bother when the virtual world seems better than the real one? I’m sure innovation and creativity will continue to drive the technology to new frontiers. I’m just as sure there will be enormous unexpected and damaging consequences if we aren’t careful.

Excerpted from the original article. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Personal growth – out of the maze into amazing

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

 

Portrait of Gwen Randall-Young•  So many of my clients are keen on personal growth. They want to change old patterns and evolve to a new level. They have read the books and understand the principles. They try to recognize and avoid ego reactions, think positively and visualize what they want. The problem is that some of them have been doing this for a very long time and still struggle with the old ways. They say they have been asking and asking for a sign or some guidance.

What I see are patterns that may have existed throughout their entire lives and perhaps are even held over from past lives. It is often subconscious. It is like they are in a maze; they know there is an outside, but they keep going down the same pathways and hitting dead ends. They often explore writings, attend workshops and hold on to what some leader said is the way, yet change remains elusive.

That is because the answers are not ‘out there.’ There is no ‘out there.’ Only the mind perceives it that way. Quantum physicists tell us we are all connected and that we are mainly energy and we influence the quantum field as it does us. We are like neutrinos in a quantum field, not separate from it.

Unaware of that, we bumble around in our little thought world thinking the old Newtonian way and wonder why things stay the same. It is like having a computer that is not connected to the internet. All we can do is work with what is already on that computer.

When we connect with the larger system, we can do almost anything. However, if we want to install a new and better program on our computer, we have to disable the old one. That means we have to let go of all the negative hurting or hurtful thoughts we have been carrying.

If we keep thinking the old thoughts, viewing the world from a polarized position, being judgmental of others and being influenced by our ego, we cannot expect to draw upon the resources of the larger field. We must connect to it.

We do this by quieting the mind chatter. Even if it is chattering about growth, it is still chattering. When we create inner silence – as when meditating – that is when we connect with the bigger field. It is like plugging into a power source to recharge.

As you do that regularly, carry that stillness with you throughout the day and imagine that all you wish to be is already there. Like changing a costume, you can toss away the old version of you and start running the new one right now. It doesn’t depend on what others do or how they react.

Stop the negative thoughts, limiting beliefs, self-doubt and criticism. This can be the hardest part because that program has been around a long while. When the thoughts come, practise thought-stopping. Replace the negative thought with a positive one. Be gentle and in integrity with those who annoy you. Step out of the power struggle and try to see what they really need.

Do not try to micromanage others. By keeping more silence, you will become more aware of how ego sabotages your best intentions. You have the power to change that.

As you step out of that old familiar maze with its frustrations, dead ends and the tendency to end up back where you started, you will step out of the maze – and into amazing!

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca

Scars – a mother’s fierce love

A mother raises her baby fondly into the air.
photo © Inara Prusakova

by Sallie Tisdale

Daily, we leave jobs, friends, lovers… but the child always comes along

The first section of this essay is one of the first essays I wrote, at the age of 22. I added to it – and subtracted – over many years, and finally found a way to put the pieces of my son’s life into an order that made sense to me. Into an image that made sense to me – because even now, when he is in his late 30s, I can run my hand over the scar and feel its shape and texture. That skin is not the same as it was before he was born. – Sallie Tisdale

Four years ago he was born and everything changed. Daily, we leave jobs, friends, lovers, but the child always comes along. When the going gets rough, my son and I can’t call it quits and cut our losses. I can’t pack a bag, make a break for it, find a more compatible child. The contract cannot be broken.

We are strangely entangled. When I wake from a bad dream without a sound, he wakes in the next room and cries for me. Between us, there is no shame, no holding back. I take risks with him I wouldn’t dare take with anyone else. I treat him with rough impatience, with all the bile I hide from friends and lovers for fear of losing them. I am less tolerant of deviation, more injured by separation. We fight and then make up with a tentative, weary kiss. I demand so much: loyalty, obedience, faith. And he gives me all I demand, and more – he thinks me beautiful; he wants to grow up to be just like me. And I am bound to fail him, and bound to lose him.

Strangers’ hands will stroke where I stroke now, and already I’m jealous of this secret future apart from me. I quail at the mistakes I’m bound to make, what I’ll saddle him with, what the price for each of us will finally be. For nothing is free.

Daily, the gap between us grows, in tiny steps. He is not mindful of it – but I am. Oh, I am. I’ll give the world a son, heavy with the grief of giving him at all. Then and after, he’ll drift in and out of my view, keeping secrets, neglecting me, while I watch from a distance, unrequited.

My mother shows up, startling me. When I speak to my son, I repeat what she told me, the phrases and platitudes, in the same tone of voice and inflection I heard as a child. She is my forebearer; I am his inheritance, and will prevail despite his efforts. Years from now I’ll show up, a sudden surprise.

Could my own mother have felt this fierce love for me? I treat her so casually. If she ever felt this way, it seems she should be grieved – bereft by my distance. Can it be that she misses me? We don’t speak of such things: our closest contacts are narrowly averted, sudden swerves from danger. Will it be the same for my son and me, the boy who now crawls like a spoiled child-prince across my lap?

He’s tall now, and lean: when he comes running toward me, breathless from some grand injustice or new idea, I see his ribs pressing against the skin, light and shadow. He takes deep, thoughtless breaths, free of blemish, taut and promising. He has my brother’s face, a handsome face, and he wears his lucky muscles with negligence and not a whit of gratitude. He is eight years old.

Sudden sufficiency. What binds us is less visible, as though we’d been cloven in two. I would not have thought it possible to feel so halved. I can wonder now what it is like to be him – wonder and know I’ll never know. What does he think in a privacy I can hardly bear, a privacy that seems entirely unfair? I am still the dictator of this tiny country; he is still my subject, but he dreams of revolution.

I may not kiss him in front of others anymore. He holds the car door for me, calls me “Ma’am,” with a giggle. He has great white teeth, dark circles below his eyes, a scratch on his cheek, dirt in the lines of his neck. He wants his hair cut “like Elvis Presley,” he wants it cut “like Michael Jackson,” he wants a Mohawk. He sings commercial jingles for hamburgers and jeans and toothpaste while he builds elaborate block constructions; he strews his room with Viewmasters and action figures (“They’re not dolls, Mom,” he says in irritation) and books and dirty socks and sheets. He is, above all, busy; I am tired.

“You are,” he tells me, “more beautiful than the women in Playboy,” and he’s out the door before I can ask where he saw Playboy.

How does he know the exact inflection? He has the same disgust and injured dignity I felt all those years ago, dying a thousand deaths in the face of my mother’s twittering concerns. He comes into his own and it is my turn to be out-of-date, to be shocked, to drone on long after he ceases to hear me.

I am, he tells me, so old.

The neighbor boys tease him and he runs home in a paroxysm of despair: “No one likes me,” he sobs, and lends to his crying a thorough attention. What courage children have. I lead him to the dentist and he climbs shakily in the great chair, looks at me and asks me to spare him this. I won’t; seeing my refusal, he turns away. He wants me to keep him a baby, he doesn’t know that I would if I could. Already I am separate. He looks at me and sees – only me.

He is an infant again, arms around my thighs, moaning with love, whining for cereal, a story, my lap. But he’s too lanky, too long, for my lap; his elbows get in the way of the book. Then he looks for the mysterious pleasures of adulthood: freedom, mobility, explanations. But his brow furrows when he calculates the cost.

At night, he is drenched in protest. He licks his teeth clean, stumbles out of the bathroom in a dirty t-shirt and yesterday’s underwear; crawls over the mess on the floor of his room, and hides his stuffed bunny shamefully under the covers. I wait. And when he falls into the humid sleep of children, that greenhouse dark, I slip stealthily in beside him and stroke his honey hair. He sprawls out, clutching the bunny; I balance on the edge, listening to the ruffled quiver of his breaths. I stroke the fear; my fear, of his life, his death. When I contemplate the space he takes up, how vast its emptiness would be, my heart shakes like a rabbit in the jaws of the wolf. I watch his face turned soft with sleep, the smile that skips across his face as he turns smug and safe, and I can see that he’s dreaming. He dreams without me now; we dream different dreams.

The balance is shifting. I withdraw sometimes; I want to read my book or be alone when he craves my attention. He will always live with me, he says, or perhaps next door. A transparent gift of beauty is evolving in his bones and skin, beauty made of equal parts grace and pain; I see that he will have a face of triumphant perfection if he wants. And I see the bruises rising under his skin from life’s blows. I know he won’t live next door, and I’m glad. I don’t think I can bear to watch. Right now, I can’t remember life without him – I can’t remember myself without him, but the time will come.

I put my book aside and wander to his room to watch him play. I find him reading a book, curled in a corner. “Would you mind leaving, Mom?” he says, hardly glancing up. “I feel like being alone.”

I wait in the car in the grocery store parking lot, watching the bright automatic doors in my rearview mirror. It is almost ten o’clock at night, much later than usual for me to be out shopping. For 15 years, I’ve been confined to childish hours. But everything changes.

I see him walk out the middle set of doors, which slide silently apart and then close behind him. He is tall, several inches taller than me, slender, graceful, arrogant. He wears his thick hair in a high tuft, dyed boot-black, and his black leather silver-studded jacket swings open with each long step.

I used to have crushes on boys like him.

We all have blows – we learn to expect a few, to roll in the force of life’s first. That awful job, that last paycheck, the broken heart, the broken nose. All the broken promises no one has even made yet – wounds that can’t be helped. I don’t have to fear failing him anymore – I already have. What’s done is done.

But I hadn’t expected this. I hadn’t expected to be knocked to my knees in grief when he marches out after I tell him to stay, when he slams the door and disappears, and I drive through dark streets seeking him, and find him smoking in the park with the silent, leggy girlfriend who won’t speak to me at all. I draw myself up, demand decency, respect; they stare, and whisper to each other.

And I hadn’t expected the sorry business of petty crime. He’s been arrested for shoplifting – for stealing candy bars, for stealing cigarettes, for stealing condoms. I drive to juvenile hall again and face the disapproving eyes behind bulletproof glass, and sign the papers, and wait outside until I’m joined by a raggedy, rude, foul-mouthed boy I hardly know. We drive home in silence and as we walk in the door I tell him to wash the dishes and he says, “No,” and I say it again and he refuses again and then adds, mockingly, “And I don’t want to have to say it again.” And suddenly I’m soaked with white rage, a face-slapping high-dive, and I’m inches from his face brandishing the nearest object, yelling, ‘Don’t you dare, don’t you dare, don’t you dare speak to me that way.’

When we’re calm, I can see he thinks I miss the point, the urgent momentum of growing up. I seem to have no ground, nothing to rely upon. He calls me a “disagreeable old hag” at the dinner table and suddenly it makes me laugh. It’s so absurd. I saw my parents’ anguish in my own small crimes from a cool distance; I remember their stupefaction. I drew up painful words for them deliberately like poison into a syringe. Children grow into strangers who disappoint and perplex us, having long wakened to disillusionment with us. They seem oblivious to our loss – after all, they’ve lost nothing.

We are their parents. And now it’s my turn and I am so sorry now for what I did then.

He disappears for three days and I cannot find him. The fear is horrible, sickening; the remorse and guilt meaningless, confused. Then his girlfriend’s mother calls me to tell me he’s staying there because we “kicked him out,” and I try to tell her it’s not true, to send him home so he will work it out with me, and she refuses. She believes him, his tales. I ask her not to shelter him from this.

“I’m going to take care of him,” she tells me. “I like him.” When he finally returns, we fight round after round, and there’s no bell. Every victory is a Pyrrhic victory. ‘Baby,’ I want to say, ‘baby love, I don’t know what to do. Show me what to do.’ Harsh words again, the stomp of heavy boots up the stairs. From two floors above me, he lets loose a deep-throated cry, an animal cry, and then the noise of something heavy thrown with what seems an irrevocable, rending crash.

Like all the other scars, this one is slowly filling in, closing off. Scars may be tender, or numb, but they are always there. Scars change the shape of things – they wrinkle, tighten, shorten things. I brought this person into the world and everything turned upside-down and all that’s happened since has been in some way connected to that event, his birth. The parent-child bond, I know, is truly bondage, and its end is in many ways a liberation, an enormous relief. Here he comes, hat in hand, to claim himself and go.

He is 19, towering above me, his voice booming on the telephone. He is gorgeous. He is not a virgin; he admits that he is in love. He is kind to his little sister, worries about his carefree brother. Every day, changes: he drops out of high school, grabs a quick diploma at the community college, makes plans, finds a job, is shockingly responsible. He gets a checking account and an 800 number and big ideas: conspiracy theories and politics, tales of hidden alien artifacts and government cabals. His union goes on strike and he walks the picket line with all the other working men. He is righteous, indignant, a defender of the weak, and I bite my lip not to laugh and cry at once; oh god, it’s the way I was at 19, it’s exactly the way I was.

He absents himself delicately from my life.

One day he stops me in the hall, without warning, dragging his foot and looking at the floor, and mumbles, “I’m sorry,” and I ask him for what and he says, “Because I was so hard,” and without meeting my eyes, he reaches down from his height to hug me awkwardly and adds, “I love you, Mom,” and dashes down the stairs and is gone, again.

Sally TisdaleSallie Tisdale’s essay Scars won the CASE National Gold Medal for feature writing in the United States. Reprinted from Violation: Collected essays by Sallie Tisdale (Hawthorne Books). Originally published in Portland Magazine, winter 2003.

STAR WISE: April 2016

by Mac McLaughlin

portrait of Mac McLaughlin

Wouldn’t you know it? Donald Trump has a most phenomenal birth chart – right off the roadmap powerful. As one astrological writer exclaimed when describing a powerful planetary position, “But powerful for what?” The man, for better or worse, has captured the attention of the whole world. Everybody’s watching this one with rapt attention.

Donald Trump was born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York at 10:54 AM. For starters, he was born on the day of a lunar eclipse and at a time that places his Sun and Moon in angular houses of the birth chart. The houses are the fields of activity for the planets and the angular houses have the most power by far. In astrological parlance, he has the Sun in Gemini and Leo rising. The lord of Leo is the Sun and it is placed in his tenth house, which is the most powerful house in the birth chart, especially considering name, fame and career activities. In order to be born on a lunar eclipse, the Sun and Moon must be close to the lunar nodes, aka the dragon’s head and tail.

In vedic astrology, the nodes are called Rahu and Ketu and when Rahu and Ketu are associated with the lights (Sun and Moon), it brings immense power and magnetism. Rahu carries a very hefty reputation among the planetary deities. He is known to be mean, aggressive, haughty, egotistical and insatiable. He can never get enough no matter what he has; he will always seek more power and wealth. Rahu is known to be devious. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Mars rises in Leo at Trump’s birth giving him a fiery and brash disposition. Never a quitter and always on the go, non-stop, all day long.

From an astrological perspective, it is highly likely he will attain the presidency of the US. He has literally knocked the stuffing out of the competition and he breaks all the rules while doing so. No doubt, the Donald has, and is creating, many powerful enemies that would love to stop him dead in his tracks. According to the astrology on board, he is in great danger and if elected he enters into a time that is even more precarious and very dangerous – especially from January to September 2017. We are witnessing history in action and from a spiritual perspective I wish him and all others peace and love. From what the stars are indicating, the USA is in the midst of a revolution in consciousness and Mr. Trump seems to be the lightning rod for it all.

Mac McLaughlin has been a practising, professional astrologer for more than four decades. His popular Straight Stars column ran in Vancouver’s largest weekly newspaper for 11 years. Email mac@macsstars.com or call 604-731-1109.

 

Aries ZodiacARIES Mar 21 – Apr 19

It’s your time to shine. Fate and destiny run the game of life and now much is being formulated regarding your future. Aries are instinctive and intuitive and now more than ever you need to rely on your instincts. It’s a green light go time and don’t waste time. Love is around; move towards your destiny.

Taurus ZodiacTAURUS Apr 20 – May 21

For the first three weeks of April, most of your work and efforts are done behind the scenes. You may be conflicted about all kinds of issues and concerns. The Sun enters Taurus on April 19, giving you a big boost, confidence wise. The full Moon on April 21 brings revelations, epiphanies and other possibilities.

Gemini ZodiacGEMINI May 22 – Jun 20

Gemini is known as the chameleon of the zodiac and can blend in easily with whichever environment it finds itself in. This ability may come in handy in the next couple of months, as sparks are sure to fly. It may be wise to remain neutral – or fight really hard if you have to.

CancerCANCER Jun 21 – Jul 22

The answers you are looking for will probably pop into your psyche within a couple of days either side of the full Moon date on April 21. Cancer is affected by every full Moon and as it lights up the night sky, it lights up your inner sky bringing illumination and understanding in clear detail.

Leo ZodiacLEO Jul 23 – Aug 22

April 14 and 15 are feel-good days, with April 15 probably the best day of the month. Travel and career sectors are heating up with all kinds of potential opportunities manifesting. Play the long game, as things are in a state of flux and will remain that way through to the end of May.

Virgo ZodiacVIRGO Aug 23 – Sep 22

It’s time to dig in deep and get to the bottom of any particular thing. You’re known to be analytical, critical and very hard working and now is the time to put those gifts to good use. Home, family and real estate seem to be the focus now. It’s spring cleaning time, spiritually and materially.

Libra ZodiacLIBRA Sep 23 – Oct 22

Libra is all about harmony, equanimity and fairness in all things. The new Moon on April 7 is directly opposite to your Libra planets. A series of surprises, changes and challenges throughout the month is highly likely. It’s a whirlwind time, with not much time to rest and you may not mind.

Scorpio ZodiacSCORPIO Oct 23 – Nov 21

The Scorpio full Moon on April 7 will help you see what needs to be done in order to bring peace into your life. The next couple of months may seem problematic, confusing and a bit challenging. One remedy is that if you don’t know what you truly want, keep eliminating what is no longer useful or worthy.

Sagittaurus ZodiacSAGITTARIUS Nov 22 – Dec 21

Concentration, effort and a keen eye on the target are needed now. It is definitely not the time to be careless. Stay off your electronic device while driving. Every successful person puts in hard hours and devotion in order to perfect their skills. It’s your time to do so.

Capricorn ZodiacCAPRICORN Dec 22 – Jan 19

You may sense some rumbling beneath the Earth as changes start to formulate and take place. Fortunately, you are of the cloven foot clan and can make life-saving leaps when necessary. Dramatic as it sounds, it’s just a clarion call that things are in the midst of change and you must accommodate them.

Aquarius ZodiacAQUARIUS Jan 20 – Feb 19

The Aquarius keywords are “I know.” But is what you know the truth? Is it real and will it bring you freedom and peace of mind? There’s a battle going on deep within your psyche regarding all kinds of topics regarding the law, humanity and the present condition of the world. Your contribution is needed.

Pisces ZodiacPISCES Feb 20 – Mar 20

Co-rulers Jupiter and Neptune are casting glances from across the sky. And, of course, Neptune is in Pisces enlivening your sign dynamically. In my effort to describe its influence, lets say it can open you up to the cosmos. Jupiter and Neptune are spiritual planets and can bring visions and enlightenment.