Earth Hour

Last Saturday, March 28, the world turned off the lights in recognition of the environment and global climate change. Somehow I couldn’t convince my roommate that it mattered and so he spent earth hour in the glow of his room amidst a dark house on a dark street. I wondered if he would regret missing the opportunity later—as I did last year. I like to think the Earth Hour is as much about missed opportunities as taking part. Think about it.

I have to admit turning off the lights for an hour won’t do much to save the environment. It does, however, stimulate a spirit of unity and puts the problem into the forefront of our minds.

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has posted an inspiring collection of before and after shots from Earth Hour with the lights on and off at famous locations around the world. Don’t forget to click to see the images with the lights off.

Boston Globe’s Earth Hour 2009 Photos.

Exxon Valdez 20 Years Later

dead whale from Exxon Valdez oil spill

Last Tuesday marked the twenty-year anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil disaster that polluted 2000km (1200 miles) of Alaskan coastline.

Most people assume that Exxon followed through with the many promises to clean it up and pay out proper restitution to those who were damaged by the accident. Investigative reporter Greg Palast says those assumptions are wrong.

Twenty years later, the oil is still lingering in the environment, Exxon has whittled down its court ordered fees by billions, it’s rigged the system to actually collect some of that money back, and to top it all off, many rightful claimants are dead.

Two years after the spill, Otto Harrison, General Manager of Exxon USA, told Evanoff and me to forget about a fishing boat for Uncle Paul. Exxon was immortal and Natives were not. The company would litigate for 20 years.

They did. Only now, two decades on, Exxon has finally begun its payout of the court award — but only ten cents on the dollar. And Uncle Paul’s boat? No matter. Paul’s dead. So are a third of the fishermen owed the money.

Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss

Update: The video is down.

In honour of Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, who would have been 105 today, I’ve posted part one of the environmental fable, The Lorax.

The Lorax, published in 1971, is a short story that speaks out against the destruction of the environment through the Lorax, a sage figure who speaks for the trees, only to watch his habitat destroyed by a series of unsustainable businesses. After the plants are killed and the animals leave the barren wasteland behind, the polluting Once-ler realizes the terrible mistake he’s made and urges a young boy to plant the last-ever Truffula seed to restore the beauty of the land.

Hit play or watch The Lorax on YouTube. See also, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, and part 6. Alternatively, here’s all the videos in The Lorax playlist.

Negative Space in Taiwan’s Recycling Logo

The following logos are the Universal Recycling Symbol and Taiwan’s recycling symbol.

Recycle Logos

The familiar Universal Recycling Symbol contains three chasing arrows that form a Mobius strip or one sided loop, which is kind of cool, but notice the brilliant use of negative space in Taiwan’s recycling symbol that generates a great “aha” moment when you realize it’s there.

(via)

Previously: negative space in Fed Ex logo.

Oil Sands Tourism

Greenpeace has launched a tongue-in-cheek website touting the tourism potential of the Alberta oil sands. The Greenpeace-produced site, travellingalberta.com, has an address similar to Alberta’s official tourism page, travelalberta.com, and is the conservation group’s response to the province’s $25-million campaign to improve the environmental image of Alberta’s energy industry.


[Explore Alberta – YouTube]

Minister of Tourism, Parks and Recreation Cindy Ady was not impressed with the website.

“I’m a bit disappointed mostly on behalf of those who work so hard in this industry, but I also would say it’s not an accurate representation of this province.”

Navigable Waters Protection Act

I received an email this morning outlining the Canadian Governments efforts to overturn the protection of free flowing rivers in Canada. As it stands now, the law in Canada protects the public right of navigation in Canadian waters and has done so since 1882—the right to navigate waterways in Canada is a tradition that pre-dates the beginning of our country.

In particular, Merv Tweeds of Brandon-Souris has headed up the cause for selling out on Canada’s natural resources. From his website:

Tweed leads the way to change waterway act

BRANDON — March 13, 2008 – Merv Tweed, Member of Parliament for Brandon-Souris, is leading the review to make critical and long-overdue changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act.

“This act controls every waterway in Canada, no matter how small, and has caused significant delay in the approval of new infrastructure,” said Tweed.

The Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities Committee, which Tweed chairs, will review the act and will be tabling a report on the findings and recommendations for change in June.

“I believe that refocusing the act will provide a more timely and predictable process for the review and approval of critical infrastructure projects,” said Tweed.

The Navigable Waters Protection Act was written in 1882 to protect the public right of navigation in Canadian waters. Unfortunately, this act does not allow for the ability to exclude anything “constructed or placed on, under, over, through or across” a navigable water, as everything may interfere with navigation to some degree.

Industry and provincial, territorial and municipal governments have, for years, been requesting changes to the NWPA to reflect current needs and respond to the increased volume and variety of uses of Canada’s waterways.

The existing backlog of approvals is impeding economic growth and the timely development and refurbishment of critical transportation infrastructure that, in turn, has the potential of creating a backlog for the implementation of projects under “Building Canada Plan”.

My favourite paragraph deserves some dissection: “Unfortunately, this act does not allow for the ability to exclude anything ‘constructed or placed on, under, over, through or across’ a navigable water, as everything may interfere with navigation to some degree.” So what he’s trying to say is, it’s unfortunate that the law protects the public right of navigation because we want to imped that right.
Continue reading “Navigable Waters Protection Act”

Gladwell on Geothermal

Malcolm Gladwell’s father recently installed a geothermal heating and cooling system in his backyard. After reading his father’s explanation on the benefits of geothermal temperature control, I will definitely consider this option when it comes time to build my dream home.

“[N]ot only was the house warm but the difference in the quality of the air inside the marked. Oil heat works through combustion: it uses up oxygen. Geothermal systems heat the house with ambient air, which makes you feel like you are outside when you are inside. This summer, southern Ontario—where my parents live—has had the same heatwave as the rest of us in the Northeast, and now my parent’s house has been as wonderfully cool as it was warm in the winter.”