I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"It's not easy being green"

In the words of Kermit the Frog: "It's not easy being green".  My gradual change to "green" living has probably been snail paced compared to some people and I still have several habits that I know I need to change.  Some days I feel that my efforts are having an impact while other days I feel like there is no point and I should just give up.  It is not hard to stumble upon articles featuring environmental topics as they are quite plentiful these days. While most articles are informative, the emotions evoked can range from inspiration to utter discouragement.  Personally I like the inspirational ones as they encourage me to keep changing despite the articles that say it is too late.  But those discouraging articles are hard to ignore.

Many articles allude to, if not graphically describe, the multiple potential and occurring disasters that face our world today.  To name a few: melting of the polar ice caps, water pollution, air pollution, oil spills, nuclear incidents like that in Japan, increasing damage from extreme weather... Really it would be so much easier to pretend that it all did not exist, because if I take the time to acknowledge all the possibilities I start to wonder about the point of living on this earth at all.  Are my two beautiful children going to see a world that is decimated by our irresponsible actions? Will I see it in my lifetime?  Will this planet just give up and become unable to support any life?

I think most humans consider ourselves as highly intelligent beings.  If you simply take into account all of the things we can do that other living creatures cannot it sure looks that way.  However, I am starting to think that we are like a computer user that knows enough to get him or herself into trouble, but not enough to get out of it.  When it comes to making decisions that would decrease consumption, decrease use of energy at home, decrease waste, or decrease car usage the standard complaints I hear are that it costs money, or that it is not convenient.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Why isn't cohousing more popular?

I can already hear people I know comparing a cohousing project to a commune so I would just like to deal with that right up front.  In the Student's Oxford Canadian Dictionary a commune is defined as follows: "a group of people who live together and share responsibilities, possessions, etc."  That on its own sounds smart to me, but then, of course, the example given in the dictionary perpetuates the first thing that comes to my mind which is "a 1970s hippie commune".  A google search turns up a Wikipedia link, which gives a more detailed definition and has a quote from Andrew Jacobs of The New York Times which states "most communes of the '90s are not free-love refuges for flower children, but well-ordered, financially solvent cooperatives where pragmatics, not psychedelics, rule the day."  It seems to me that modern cohousing projects incorporate many elements of a commune, but take into account people's desire for some form of privacy and do not go so far as sharing income.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Save Mary Lake: Plan B, I attended a lecture by Chris ScottHanson regarding cohousing.  A quick google search for cohousing led me to the Canadian Cohousing Network website.  Listed on this site are 11 cohousing projects in British Columbia in various stages of completion.  Some are awaiting rezoning while others have been completed for some time.  Chris ScottHanson is the cohousing consultant listed on the Windsong project in Langley, which was completed in 1996.  He has also coauthored a book with Kelly ScottHanson entitled The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community.  What follows is some of what I learned during his lecture.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Save Mary Lake: Plan B

February 28, the extended deadline for coming up with approximately $1,000,000 to save Mary Lake, has come and gone.  Unfortunately the campaign was not successful and the property is now on the market.  At first glance it would appear that the fight is over, but the organizers of this campaign are not through yet.  The website is still taking donations, and in the meantime there is an effort underway to create a cohousing project on 10 acres of the 107 acre site. For a little background these links are to my previous posts about the Save Mary Lake campaign: Mary Lake and Odds & Sods

I will go into more of the details I learned about cohousing in a different post, but for the purpose of this one I would like to talk about how it applies to Mary Lake.  I attended a presentation about cohousing at St. Ann's Auditorium on March 12, which featured a lecture by Chris ScottHanson, author of The Cohousing Handbook: Building a Place for Community.  After his lecture one of the organizers of the event spoke about the general plans for a cohousing project on the Mary Lake property.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Esquimalt Lagoon Restoration Walk

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to check out Esquimalt Lagoon and Bee Creek during another Restoration Walk like the one at Viaduct Flats.  I have lived in Victoria for almost 14 years and only driven over Ocean Boulevard once - and did not stop.  It is not hard to appreciate the beauty of this place.  There were many photographers on the shore and I saw one hurrying down the beach with a large camera.  Given that it is a Migratory Bird Sanctuary there is no shortage of bird activity.  I saw many types of birds that I was not familiar with.

Esquimalt Lagoon

As you can see we lucked out with beautiful weather that morning.  Our group was guided by a woman named Kitty from the Esquimalt Lagoon Stewardship Initiative (ELSI).  She started us off with a brief history lesson of how the lagoon was formed.  Over 13,000 years ago when an ice sheet retreated a large piece was left behind.  As this piece melted, the gravel that washed out settled around the ice and created the boundaries of the lagoon. 

The lagoon is a very dynamic environment and as such is a challenge to restore and maintain.  Erosion of the barrier spit, the Coburg Peninsula, is a primary concern.  I found an article written in April of 2008 entitled Coburg Peninsula Eroding outlining concerns and possible solutions after a particularly nasty storm caused significant erosion resulting in the bridge and other infrastructure being "exposed to more aggressive waves and debris".  In July 2010 an article appeared in the Times Colonist about the repair of the Esquimalt Lagoon Bridge after the bridge was closed to traffic for some time in early 2010.  Beyond concerns for the bridge there are concerns for the lagoon as a whole.

ELSI is a group that was founded in 2001 to help protect the lagoon, by preventing further loss of habitat, reducing contaminants, restoring degraded areas, and educating the public, among other things.  Due to the large number of groups with an interest in the lagoon there are many partners at the table.  Just to name a few: Department of National Defense, Songhees Nation, Royal Roads University, Canadian Wildlife Service...check out the ELSI website for a complete list.  Two of the projects Kitty spoke to our group about were the restoration work taking place on the spit (dune restoration), and that taking place on the banks of a couple of the creeks leading into the lagoon.