Archive for July, 2009

Ontario Energy Audit

If you or anyone you know lives in an old house, check out the ecoENERGY retrofit program. They just increased their grants by 25% (and if you’re in Ontario, the provincial government will double your grant payments), so even if you’re renting, i’m sure your landlord will be interested.  The grants totally covered the cost to insulate our walls and attic, and helped us replace our obsolete furnace with a high-efficiency one, so we’ll be laughing when we get our gas bill this winter. Plus, they’re letting us apply for an extension (but still sending the cheque for the work completed did so far), so hopefully we’ll be able to do more.

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July 31, 2009 at 10:26 pm Leave a comment

Food Standards, eh?

The Food Standards Agency wants to help you make an “informed choice” about your food. They’ve put together a study, comparing the nutritional value of organic versus non-organic food. Of course, calling it a study is a little misleading. They’ve read other people’s studies, and have parsed out the answer: there’s little nutritional benefit to organic food. Of course, “The review rejected almost all of the existing studies of comparisons between organic and non-organic nutritional differences,” so it’s easy to see how they came to that conclusion.

Oh, and they didn’t think it was important to consider the effects of eating pesticides, many of which are carcinogenic. Thanks, Food Standards Agency; I could have made a terrible environmentally conscious decision if you hadn’t opened my eyes (again)! Eat on

Via BBC

July 31, 2009 at 8:13 pm Leave a comment

Water water everywhere, and not a drop to…eat

My garden is swimming. Every day I look up at the sky and think, “oh, come on, can’t we have just one day without rain?” I’m fighting a war against fungal diseases on my tomatoes (spoiled milk is an amazing weapon!) because it’s been so cool and wet… and Alberta is becoming a desert.

This year we’re really getting to see what slaves we are to water. We still don’t have corn in Ontario because of the wet cold, while Alberta’s crops are about 2 weeks behind normal because of their drought. For Alberta cattle farmers, that means that rising feed prices are forcing them to sell huge percentages of their livestock because there’s no grass for grazing.

“We’ve had about an inch and 2/10ths (three centimetres) total since the snow left, and we didn’t have any snow,” one farm worker is quoted as saying in a Calgary Harold Article.

Mexico’s water shortage is now an emergency so bad that they’ve announced a 10 month water rationing plan, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

“If we don’t act now, both the government and the citizens, we won’t have enough water in the city during the dry season – February, March, April, May, primarily,” Ebrard said, adding that 13 of the metropolis’ 16 boroughs could be completely without water.

Does this sound familiar?

Imagine having to cut your water use by 10% Sunday’s through Thursdays, 25% on Fridays, and 50% on Saturdays (I’m not sure how the math works to get through 4 months even with these reductions). Imagine trying to supply North America with tomatoes etc with those kinds of restrictions.

It’s not just oil prices that are causing food costs to rise. You can’t grow food without water.

Did you know that it takes the same amount of water to produce 2 pounds of beef as to shower every day for a year? Two Pounds.

But we don’t think about the cost of water until things get bad, because the planet is covered in it. Sure, most of it is saltwater, and more and more of it is being contaminated every day, but it’s everywhere. Take Australia, for instance. They’re surrounded. Of course, they learned pretty quickly, as Treehugger points out, that you can’t grow food without fresh water:

Water shortages drop Australia's rice production to almost zero

Water shortages drop Australia's rice production to almost zero

And we can only expect the water crisis to get worse as the earth warms.

More on clear gold this week.

July 29, 2009 at 12:31 pm 1 comment

Canadian Food Import facts

If you’re looking for motivation to eat local, here’s a good start:

EDIT:
Youtube’s taken it down (I can’t imagine it was Hellmanns that asked them to do it); watch it on Vimeo:

Hellmann’s – It’s Time for Real

July 24, 2009 at 8:39 pm 1 comment

Broccoli!

First Broccoli of the season… and it’s huge!

IMG_0085

July 22, 2009 at 9:48 pm 2 comments

The Literary Type

Hello all,

The New Quarterly has just launched a blog called “The Literary Type” where I have posted a rant about CanLit, if you’re interested.

July 21, 2009 at 4:08 pm Leave a comment

Business School Grad on Urban Farming

I have to admit, sometimes I feel a little crazy about my urban homestead obsession, and though I try very hard to encourage the people around me to grow food (it’s so easy!), I know that sometimes the scale that I’ve taken it to can be a little intimidating.  That’s why I get excited when my web developer friends grow heirloom tomatoes on their apartment balcony (Gavin: “When the tomatoes started growing, I though it was a diseased growth.  It didn’t occur to me that tomatoes start out as these little green things”).

My friend Alec, a business school grad, has been courting my garden for some time now.  Last summer, we took him home to show him what we were growing.  He was excited about it because, as he says, he spends a lot of time thinking and reading about peak oil/climate change/sustainability issues, but he felt kind of powerless to really do anything about it.  But again this year, he was still talking about gardening, because he hadn’t felt prepared to start his own.  (Trust me, it’s not as hard as you think!) So this Canada Day, I invited him to join us for a day of gardening.  He gave me 9 hours of labour on a holiday, and sent me an eloquent thank-you note, as if his slave labour hadn’t been a tremendous help:

I realized it’s been almost two weeks since we spent the day gardening, and I never really followed up to say thanks. So…..thanks. It really was kind of you to take the time to share with me some of your knowledge about a very important skill for the future. I must admit, whether I was thinning radishes or planting tomatoes, there was a voice inside my head quietly asking “what the f@*! are you doing dude?!?” Mind you, that same voice was basically saying the same thing when I was being force-fed business school propaganda. (As I’m sure you can tell, I have a tough time hiding my bitterness with the mainstream economic/business establishment – another reason I’m seeking a positive alternative.) In any case, I’m glad I took the time to learn something new, and that you were willing to help me along my way. No doubt I have much still to learn, but the planting of that metaphorical seed was definitely a step in the right direction. I’d love to help out again sometime if you guys would be down. Anyhow, I just wanted to say thanks again. I know it probably wasn’t a big deal for you guys, but it was definitely a small, but meaningful step in the right direction for me.

Cheers ,

– Alec

July 18, 2009 at 10:22 am Leave a comment

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