Tag Archives: environment

Canada’s Reputation in the World

Damage Control

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Sometimes I wonder what the bloody point is? I mean, c’mon, it seems like I’ve been in damage control for over a year now. The latest freakin’ shocker was caused by a burst water main at Powell and Main on the night of November 1st.

Like a mini tsunami, the water rushed down Powell and Main streets heading for the low ground, as water always will. The water coming down Powell took a hard right on Columbia, and rushed down to Alexander St. The water coming down Main hung a left on Alexander and rushed down the street and railway tracks.

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Predictably, the two rivers met at Columbia and Alexander, and settled in the dip in the street in front of my place. Yes, it appears I have the distinction of living in the lowest point in Gastown…

So there I was, chilling out after an extra long day of meetings and work deadlines. I had finally kicked back at about 8pm with a brewskie, but no sooner had I taken a sip, I heard voices, oohs and aaahs, and the unmistakable trill of my neighbour repeating over and over, “Oh my fucking god.”

Of course, I ignored it at first. There always seems to be some commotion on Alexander Street these days, and I just wasn’t up for grabbing a hockey stick and venturing out to face yet another irate gangbanger or crackpot who has swan-dived off a nearby rooftop (which happened in September, btw). But after about 10 minutes the street noise had only grown in volume, so I poked my head out the window to see what all the fuss was about.

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For a second, I thought I was back in Venice, it looked so beautiful. Of course, when I looked down and saw the water lapping at the side of our building, my thoughts took a turn for the worse. I went downstairs, only to be greeted by water pouring under my front door, making a beeline for my basement. I heard rushing water below, so I headed down, only to find that the air vent was acting like a sewage pipe, and the water on the railway tracks, maybe 4 feet deep, was pouring in. FUCK!!!

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I managed to stuff some towels into the pipe to stop the water, then went upstairs and tried to block the water coming through the front door. It was no use though, the water was too high. It being fall, the storm drains were all blocked with leaves thanks to the lack of City maintenance. The water wasn’t draining, but rising.

So I went out and watched the scene, resigned to yet another water-related disaster, the 3rd time in 7 years Alexander Street has been flooded, and all the local basements ripped apart and rebuilt. Needless to say, our insurance has tripled over this time.

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Well, we all gathered in the suite with the most alcohol in stock, and drank wine late into the night, cursing the City, which will, once again, hide behind the Charter and claim no responsibility whatsoever. While the police were suggesting we pack up and prepare to spend the night in a hotel, the City’s Risk Management guy finally showed up about an hour and half into the flood. He was all pissy, having to leave the Canucks game early, and told us he wanted to go because his friend was waiting for him in the car. What the Fuck? He refused to approve hotel rooms for us, and was pretty much the most useless person imaginable to have around in a crisis. No doubt he makes a ton of money, though. My guess is he knows all about “sustainability”, which is the only reason he got hired. Needless to say, at one point, one of my more surly neighbours was ready to take his head off after his whining and “oh, poor me, this ruined my night out” winge-fest.

In contrast, the police were top notch, and one of the female officers took charge of the scene, making our Risk Management boy-toy look like a wilted flower under the pressure. The Waterworks guys were also awesome, and had no problem using their truck to pump water out of our basement once the storm drain was cleared. At 4am, they announced that their truck was full, and that they had pumped 63,000 litres of water from our building’s basement. Yes, that’s right, 63 THOUSAND litres! Did I mention that the City takes absolutely no responsibility whatsoever for this type of thing?! Total fuckers.

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Today it’s November 10th, and the drywall and stuff from my basement has finally all been ripped out. I can see through to my neighbour’s suites on both sides now — not exactly private. I am, admittedly, near the end of my rope, and thinking once again of bailing out of Gastown. Citizens are supposed to have the right to privacy, comfort and peaceful living conditions, but this neighbourhood is a non-stop gong-show, and the stress, worry, and financial drain has pretty much left me without the wherewithal to stick it out here any longer.

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I used to think that I was the only ghost left in this part of town, but now I’m starting to think old RH Alexander, who the street out front is named after, has been secretly messing with things all these years. Must be still holding a grudge that he never got to be Mayor. If I see him, I’ll be sure to give him a good dose of gassy….

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“Going Green”: VANOC Releases Staff/Volunteer Training Video

In an apparent attempt to counter The Suzuki Foundation’s criticism of the “Carbon-Free Games”, today VANOC released to the media their “Going Green” training video for the thousands of volunteers and staff working during the Games. Training and orientation sessions have been ongoing since January for those working at the many Olympic venues, and VANOC is hoping to counter criticism that they aren’t doing enough to educate about the environment.

The volunteers that I overheard after seeing the training video had mixed reviews, including, “Interesting…” “Ew, that was just weird.” “Totally Predictable.” “Whatever.” And, “OMG, that was fugly.”

One volunteer even claimed that he had seen the video on Youtube. “It was over a year ago, dude. Like, it’s super news. VANOC is so lame!”

VANOC spokesman, Yesman Ina Soot, confirmed the allegation and explained the reasoning behind copying a cartoon video from Youtube and using it for training purposes, stating that, “Our intentions were to produce this training video at the least cost to both the taxpayer and the environment, and I think we delivered in spades on both counts.” He added, “Internet piracy is a carbon neutral video production option: it didn’t cost the environment or taxpayers a penny to produce. How could any responsible Government be expected to say “No” to such an option, if it so readily exists?”

When questioned about the message VANOC was sending by using a satirical cartoon video as a means to educating staff and volunteers about climate change solutions, Yesman looked quizzical, and said, “There is nothing satirical about this training video.”

He continued, “Hopefully, the deep lessons learned – especially after the death of the polar bear trapped in the Hummer at the end — will resonate with all our workforce, and they will take that message forth and spread it to everyone they greet during the Games: the Western lifestyle doesn’t have to change for us to Go Green. All the people who are always so negative and talk so much that they eventually “kill the polar bears” will not stand in the way of our govenment’s determination to take action and Go Green.”

See for yourself, watch “Going Green“, the VANOC staff/volunteer training video. It just might inspire you, too!

2010 Games: As Carbon Neutral as a Cow’s Fat Ass

Today the David Suzuki Foundation released its report reviewing VANOC’s oft-stated claim that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics will be the first ever carbon neutral Olympics ever staged. While the Suzuki found many things to praise in VANOC’s efforts, including measuring GHC emissions for seven years (from bid to Games), the LEED Gold standard design of venues and the Athletes Village, and other efficiency efforts, Suzuki concludes that the 2010 efforts only amount to a “Bronze” performance.

Perhaps the most controversial part of VANOC’s performance is the shifting offset target, which was originally estimated at about 300,000 tonnes. VANOC reduced the total target somewhat arbitrarily in 2009 to 270,000 tonnes. Even more controversially, VANOC then stated that, rather than offsetting all emissions, they would only offset what they determined were “direct” operational emissions, which only amount to 118,000 tonnes, less than half of the total emissions generated by the Games.

The majority of what VANOC calls “indirect” emissions, nearly 150,000 tonnes, come from spectator air travel to the Games, and are not being offset. Obviously, an Olympic Games without spectators would be an unqualified failure, so one wonders how this key and significant component of emissions to a world event can be arbitrarily ignored?

Furthermore, other large events like the World Cup of Soccer 2006 and the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 offset ALL travel emissions, setting a standard that VANOC chose, in the end, to totally ignore. As the Suzuki report makes clear, “without offsetting spectator air travel – which accounts for about half of the climate impact of the Vancouver Olympics (as confirmed by VANOC’s own measurement of the climate impact of the Games) – the Vancouver Olympics cannot make an unqualified claim to be carbon neutral.”

Other significant discrepancies in VANOC’s claims for carbon neutrality are also highlighted in the report:

–       Carbon Neutrality: “VANOC has so far committed to offset 118,000 tonnes of its emissions, which is substantial, but still represents under half of Games-related emissions.”

–       Quality of Offsets: “Gold Standard offsets are recognized around the world for their high quality… (but) are only part of the voluntary offset program for the Vancouver Olympics, and will likely make up a small percentage of the total offsets used.” Note: most of the offsets are being purchased through a little-known and unaccredited BC firm started in 2006 called, Offsetters.

–       Environmental Education: A huge opportunity missed: with an estimated 3 billion people watching, it is an unprecedented opportunity to educate and raise awareness of climate change solutions, yet “The Vancouver Olympics failed to create a high profile for climate solutions around the Games in its public communications.”

–       Transportation: The Games “will not leave the region with a significant legacy in sustainable transportation.” The Canada Line was built at the expense of the Evergreen Line, a much higher transportation priority for the region that would have had a much more significant impact on emissions. And, while rail travel expansion should have been a priority, “Instead, the Sea to Sky highway was widened at a cost of $600 million, and diesel buses will be brought in temporarily from across North America to shuttle spectators to and from Whistler. The new highway will encourage more vehicle traffic after the Games, exacerbate urban sprawl, and result in increased greenhouse gas emissions from transportation for the region.”

–       Lack of Transparency: VANOC claims to have reduced emissions by about 15% through efficiencies over “business as usual” practices, however “VANOC’s assumptions about what constitutes “business as usual” have not been made public, so it is not clear how they arrived at 15 per cent.”

See the press release and full report at:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org

Obama Calls Harper’s Bluff

(image from Greenpeace campaign against Harper)

There are both high hopes and tensions as the climate talks got under way in Copenhagen this week. Leading up to the summit, the stolen email saga provided fodder for climate science skeptics, and Canada’s Prime Minister – a staunch defender of his home province’s right to develop its massive tar sands – has become the Darth Vader of the G8.

The Harper government’s insistence that Canada’s actions will be determined by the U.S. policy appeared, at first, to be a fail safe abdication of responsibility, especially given the United States’ poor environmental record under President Bush and President Obama’s reluctance to even appear in Copenhagen. But Obama’s eventual decision to attend the conference, and then the recent news that he would make more than a cursorary appearance, may give concerned Canadians some hope that Harper could now be forced to make a bigger commitment to act. If Obama decides to put some serious chips on the table, Harper’s “follow the U.S.” bluff will be blown.

In Canada, Greenpeace protest banners were unfurled on the parliament buildings in Ottawa to mark the start of the conference, and a new poll showed that most Canadians disagree with Stephen Harper’s environmental policies and want Canada to take a leading role. Nevertheless, skepticism still occupied the minds of many, including Environmental Law Professor Michael M’Gonigle, who feels the root of the problem — excess consumption — is still not being addressed. The Canadian Government’s role since the 1970s, and the great potential for Canada to be a global leader in the development of a green economy, is also candidly discussed by David Suzuki.

For more information and daily updates from Copenhagen, see Denmark’s official conference website. The N.Y. Times also has in depth daily conference news and background information, including a breakdown of who’s who (and their competing interests) at the conference, and a timeline of the evolution of climate science over the past two centuries and the historical attempts to reach global agreements.

Canada’s Shame: Harper at the Copenhagen Summit

Here are a few video primers for the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, where we already know that no binding agreement will be reached, thanks, in large part, to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s unrelenting undermining of the process. He’s from Calgary, right?

A quick recipe for a successful Copenhagen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Htzw2b472Ws

Listening to David Suzuki, as candid man on the street, turns out to be a whole lot more interesting than listening to David Suzuki, the slick media pundit. Wow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-ZwxieJ9Ag

Does saving the environment really mean massive job losses? This umbrella thinks so.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZmyg_xDg1k

Greenpeace still likes Canada, even if our recent environmental record is abysmal. (The link to the CBC video report is at the bottom of the page).

http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/blog/climate/canadas-lacklustre-environmental-record-causes-stir-20091130

So maybe it’s time to call Prime Minister Harper on his bullshit.  His phone number is posted in this video. So go ahead, make that call.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5yVICgOQvqs

Remember this old song? Kofi Annan does! The music industry tries to inspire change.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJZ1CaINH0o&NR=1&feature=fvwp

Australian who wrote the above song, sings a new one for his prime minister leading up to Copenhagen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2ro-qX7Ja8

And finally, a tragically funny one about how not to go green. Premier Campbell, is that you?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hPcPEeB_Ok