All-in-one update from a sicko

I’ve been trying to get my house in order after burning myself out on Power to Choose, but I’m pretty worn out and prone to feeling ill instead. There is also still a lot of follow-up work with Power to Choose, including fora in other locations and editing and compiling the information gathered. And soon we’re about to announce another nomination meeting.

But I wanted to let everyone know the highlights from last week. I’m going to do a special entry about the Pride Parade, which I wish I would have written about a long time ago. I also want a special entry about the Portlands Energy Centre CLC walkout. Here’s the rest of the news:

The Toronto Power to Choose forum on June 23 should have a questionnaire online and upcoming fora are planned for London and UofT. Our local MPP Peter Tabuns presented a great comment on why investment in nuclear kills investment in conservation. All of the invited Liberal and Tory guests either declined beforehand or failed to respond in any way, though we made sure that Premier McGuinty put in an appearance nonetheless. Some of the organizers are holding a special follow-up meeting for those who want to act on the current provincial electricity plan. It will be right here in our riding at Riverdale Library, 6 pm Wednesday July 11, 2007.

On Sunday, June 24, after the Pride festivities, I had the pleasure of seeing Elizabeth May at a party. She was her unflappably cheerful self, waiting for a hip replacement she will likely get only next year. She’s planning on spending the summer in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, getting around “her” riding, where she just bought a house. She would appreciate Green supporters going out to help her either by campaigning or just by demonstrating that Greens are good for tourism. If you’re a Green supporter who has been in the habit of flying to Hawaii or Florida in the summers, a train to Nova Scotia would be a big improvement in your personal carbon emissions, so you might want to think about it.

On Tuesday, June 26, I spent a couple of hours at City Hall waiting for the deputation time for the SmartCentres (read WalMart) proposal for Eastern Avenue. After much postponing, I gave up and came home to pick up my children after school. I did, however, shoot out an email message offering my opinion, which is that the idea is a bad one in general, but in particular the 2000 parking lots are especially bad planning for a low-carbon future. Later on Tuesday, we had the Portlands Energy Centre CLC meeting, which I’ll talk about separately.

On Wednesday, June 27, I spoke with Lynn Kavanagh about an upcoming article in THIS magazine about vegetarianism and global warming. After preparing for this interview, it turned out all Lynn really wanted was an opinion on why there hasn’t been much pick-up on the connection between diet and global-warming, even among environmentalists. But having done a bit of research, I wanted to share it with you. I’ve known for a long time that a vegetarian diet is gentler on the planet. It stands to reason that if you have to grow grains or cereals to feed animals, rather than eating them yourself, a lot of energy is going to be wasted. But the numbers are truly startling:

  • It takes 8 times the fossil fuels to produce a kilogram of animal protein as it does to produce the same amount of vegetable protein.
  • The world’s cattle alone consume more food than is necessary to feed the entire human population.
  • Meat production is responsible for 20% of methane emissions (Methane is a particularly potent greenhouse gas, with 23 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide).
  • 80% of all agricultural land in the US is used for food animals.
  • Every minute, an area of rainforest the size of 7 football fields is cleared for meat production.
  • During the second half of the 20th century, meat production increased 5-fold and per-capita consumption more than doubled.

I could go on. The environmental effects of meat production go well beyond global warming, causing soil erosion, contamination of air, water and soil, and desertification. Nor is eating fish a good alternative. We’ve managed to kill off 90% of our large fish populations over the last 50 years.

A large part of the energy associated with meat production is in transportation, and here we need to be careful of the sources of all our food. Just today, I stepped into Sun Valley Foods, where 1 pound of California strawberries sold for 99 cents. Organic strawberries were $3.49 for the pound. If you wanted fresh Ontario strawberries, now in season, you had to pay $3.99 for just a pint. So imagine thousands upon thousands of crates of strawberries bouncing along transcontinentally in refrigerated trucks, delivering a product that is still cheaper than the local alternative. Boy, do we ever need to put a price tag on those emissions. There was an interesting article about this in the Star recently. The truth is that all our meals generate kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions to get to our plates. If you want to eat locally (which is a real challenge in our multinational world), there’s a book out there called the 100-Mile Diet which I have yet to read, but which I’ve heard nothing but good things about.

So on Wednesday evening, I attended Post-Carbon Toronto‘s meetup with a representative of Enbridge Gas, giving the industry’s rosy predictions of our future. The first surprise is that their predictions aren’t so very rosy. They are, however, hopelessly optimistic nonetheless. Enbridge recognizes depletion and deliverability issues, but imagines that non-conventional reserves will resolve them. It even envisions meeting higher demand without significant cost increases. The company is actively seeking new markets, even as it takes government money to encourage conservation among their current consumers, to make sure that demand keeps going up. In the midst of this madness, there was one comment that just broke through all the posturing in its clarity. After the Enbridge rep gushed about how we are blessed in North America with unparalleled storage facilities for natural gas, which facilitates distribution, someone asked why that unique characteristic occurred here. The response? Well, apparently we have a lot of depleted gas wells.

On Thursday night, I saw the premiere of “Escape from Suburbia” (sequel to “End of Suburbia”), which featured a bit with Elizabeth May as well as cameos of a local Post Carbon meetup I did not attend. A running theme through the movie was former Green Kate Holloway, conducting interviews and trying to envision how to make our existing built environment more liveable in a low-carbon future. Charlie speculated that he might have been in that series of shots right up until his face came looming up. It’s a good movie. I encourage you to go see it.

On Friday, after meeting with a potential candidate, I was very sick. I assure you the potential candidate had nothing to do with this. He was perfectly genial. By Canada Day, I was getting better, but apparently not well enough to wish you all a Happy Canada Day.

And now, I have laundry to collect and a Power to Choose meeting to plan and chair.

2 responses to “All-in-one update from a sicko”

  1. Sharon Howarth writes:

    Thank you so much for this update to the group. GREAT reporting Adriana.

    Climate Change’s causes are my issue so the info concerning vegetarianism / diet is ‘really’ of interest to me. I was unaware of the ‘extent’ of damage exacerbated by the meat production industry. We all reach our turning point and this is mine.

    I’m thinking my next door knocking will include the personal habits of energy use that affect climate change. I would like to have them in order of worst to least damaging and wondering if anyone can comment or add to this order and a source if possible ……

    air line travel (Suzuki?)
    air conditioning
    water (electricity use of pump and purify)
    meat production and all food transportation

    Thank you again,

  2. ralph adams writes:

    thanks for this good website .my first visit here.regarding vegetarian foods ,i have some info i learned very recently after eating a perfectly good tasting veggie burger at licks,toronto.i later discovered this same burger at a frozen food section at was called a natureburger(nice name )but after reading the ingredients on the package,discovered that it had hydrodgenated vegetable oil as the second main ingredient(and/or palm oil ).both of these oils are bad for the heart,and is currently banned in new york…go figure …its still vegetarian,but a meat alternative ,i think not….also FYI .. . .a very good website for everything about soy bean,cultivation,rainforests etc..go to ……

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