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.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Beginnings of Change

It is easy to get discouraged, and rather depressed, when faced with article after article of negative reports on any subject that matters to you.  A friend recently forwarded me a link to an article about factory farming that gives some hope that our choices do, and will, make a difference.  I thought I would share it here since I have written several posts about Factory Farming and they seem to be among the most popular of my posts.

The article is: Factory Farming's Days May be Numbered

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Leader's Checklist for Expediting Controversial Projects

I am not 100% certain about where I sit on the proposed pipeline projects but, given the overall tone of my blog, you can easily guess that I am nowhere near a strong supporter.  I was feeling a bit cheeky a couple of weeks ago after hearing limited details about the China/Canada investment agreement; so I came up with a checklist that may be useful to leaders in other democratic countries grappling with controversial projects.  I will not claim to be an expert on all of the facts, but the exercise amused me.

A Leader's Checklist for Expediting Controversial Projects

1.  As early as possible discredit opponents of the project by labelling them radicals.  Here is one example for your reference: CBC News: Radicals working against oilsands.

2.  Immediately after completion of point one, or simultaneously as in the previously mentioned article, attack funding sources for the aforementioned radicals.  Bring attention to the use of foreign funding, criticize supporters, explore options for revoking charitable status.  Remember to downplay the amount of foreign investment utilized by the industry promoting the project.

3.  Convene environmental hearings to persuade the electorate that due process is being followed.  Ensure that they feel included in the hearings by offering them chances to speak, however painful this may be. Criticize the length of the process so that, in the end, citizens will feel that the project review was more thorough than deserved.

4.  While citizens are distracted by ongoing hearings begin dismantling barriers to the project.  This may include reducing environmental standards, if necessary.  The industry partner can do their part by offering funding to dissident groups in exchange for their support.  Since bribes are not socially acceptable be sure to use terms such as employment opportunities and long term economic benefit.

5.  As a fail safe, negotiate and ratify an investment protection agreement.  In this way, when the project is approved, levels of government that choose to continue their opposition face the prospect of legal action for hampering the profitability of the foreign investor.

If you have not read about the Canada-China Investment Treaty please do.  I was surprised at some of the terms of the agreement mentioned in the media.  I am well aware that I have not heard all angles but, even if it is a wonderful agreement, why lock us into it for 30 years?  Here are a couple of articles that scratch the surface, one in favour, two opposed.  If you like it that is great, if not, take the time to send a letter to your MP, or the Prime Minister's Office.




Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Why I finally switched to organic milk

Months after writing my Factory Farming: Dairy post our family has finally made the switch to organic milk.  I held off until recently mostly due to price and the feeling that, overall, Island Farms dairy cows were not horribly mistreated.  While we dramatically reduced our consumption of milk in the interim, I did it because of the issues mentioned in my post and did not place much focus on the diet of the cow whose milk we were drinking.

My viewpoint was changed about a month ago after I watched a documentary called Genetic Roulette.  It goes into detail about some of the genetically modified foods that we are eating and that the animals in our food chain are eating.  I will be up front now and say that, as far as I am concerned, chemicals have no place in our food system.  Having said that I am not a chemist, or biologist, or any other kind of scientist, and I cannot backup my opinion with any concrete proof I have discovered independently.  For me, some things do not need to be proven beyond a doubt when the reasoning is within what I consider logical.  If you are predisposed to believe that chemicals in our food system are safe then the documentary may not change your mind.  But it should give you some things to consider.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Eight Spotted Skimmer

The kids and I took our 6 month old puppy, Ryder, for a walk near Beaver Lake today and had the fortune of meeting the lovely dragonfly pictured above.  Our fortune was almost its misfortune as the path was narrow and its prone body was lying near the middle.  Initially we thought it was dead but, upon closer inspection, noticed that there was some slight movement.  My daughter, being a tad more adventurous in the insect department, immediately wanted to pick it up and hold it.  I was able to get a couple of great pictures while it was in her hand.

Despite the fact that I have a much better camera now, I often forget to take it with me on our walks.  Alas, the camera on my phone (yes the trusty, old blackberry) had to stand in again.  Given the stationary nature of this dragonfly I was able to get a much clearer picture than of the red dragonfly last year.  This evening after the kids went to bed I was able to easily find the name of the dragonfly on a photo website by Terry Thormin.  Once I had the name I went to the E-Fauna BC Atlas page to learn a little more about it.

From what I can gather we were looking at a male, Eight-Spotted Skimmer.  The Eight-Spotted Skimmer is native to British Columbia and is typically seen between early May and late October.  E-Fauna has a map showing its range in BC, which is limited to a few areas in southern BC.  According to the conservation information its population is abundant and not considered at risk.  Since I have forgotten most of everything I ever learned about dragonflies I was curious to know how long they live.  I found what I was looking for at The Dragonfly Site.  I was specifically interested in the life cycle of a dragonfly but this site has a ton of information.  If you like dragonflies and have a bit of that childlike curiosity I would highly recommend checking it out.  The short answer to my question is that dragonflies can live anywhere from 6 months to 4 years, but spend only a short amount of that time as an adult dragonfly.

After much inspecting, and an attempt on my son's part to hold the dragonfly, we decided we would leave it behind but at least get it off the ground.  This proved to be more difficult than I anticipated for two reasons. First, the reluctance of the dragonfly to leave my daughter's hand/sleeve and second, or maybe it should be first, the reluctance of my daughter to let it go.  My son and I distracted the dog so he would not decide to have a dragonfly snack (our dog has eaten sunscreen, cat poo, and other disgusting things, so I was not taking any chances) while my daughter was supposed to detach it from her sleeve and set it down.  Apparently she was unable to accomplish this on her own so back we went to "help".

As you can see from the pictures the dragonfly was in good shape so, given we are almost half way through October, my guess is that it had reached the end of its life cycle.  It turns out that I was not helpful in detaching the dragonfly either so we were pleasantly surprised when it started fluttering its wings and, in the end, under its own power, flew up and clung to a branch.  Perhaps the warmth from my daughter's hands helped give it a little boost in the short term.  Regardless it was a great find on our little walk and I was happy to learn about another dragonfly species and add a couple of pictures to our collection.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Check out the Story of Stuff

A friend of mine recommended the Story of Stuff to me some time ago.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, I do not spend much time sitting down watching TV or movies/documentaries on my computer.  She recently reminded me that it was only 20 minutes long so I sat down with my kids the other night and watched it.  It was great.

In my post Not Loving Cell Phone Companies I complain about how people change their cell phones like underwear.  Sometimes I know that something is not right but I cannot articulate what it is that bothers me about it.  The Story of Stuff articulates what I dislike about our materialistic society and explains in detail the process that is so wrong.

My husband recently said to me that he is getting a new cell phone at work - the contract is up and so they are upgrading.  A perfect example of both planned and perceived obsolescence.  Planned because my husband says the apps do not work well on the old phone, perceived because I am sure that he could do without some of those apps.  Both of my kids said, "Dad needs to watch The Story of Stuff".  This made me laugh because I was not sure how much they understood.  We did talk about it, and I paused it a couple times to explain words they were not familiar with, but I think the message was pretty clear to them anyway.

There are also other movies on their website.  I watched their new one, The Story of Change, which is quite short and seems more like a way to build up their contacts.  I also watched The Story of Cap & Trade.  I found this one quite interesting as I hear about Cap and Trade quite often in the media and have not read much about how it works.  This movie provides a viewpoint that I have not heard before.

As I have mentioned before I do not like to tell people what to think, or believe.  I do like to provide links to information that I find interesting, or that gives information you may not find in your standard news media.  If you get a chance I think the The Story of Stuff is a good, short movie to check out.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

NOT Loving Cell Phone Companies...

This may seem like an odd topic for a supposed environmentally conscious blog, but bear with me as I will find a way, perhaps weakly, to link it up.  In the meantime I am frustrated and so will proceed to rant, possibly exaggerate, and make some ridiculous statements.  Perhaps you will find this amusing, perhaps not, but I know that I will feel better when I am finished.

My cell phone is a Blackberry Bold.  I am sure many would say that it is out of date, not "hip" enough, or whatever.  It is not relevant at this point.  I purchased it from Rogers a few years ago after I ran over my little, pink cell phone with my truck.  Multiple times.  It was an accident - honest.  Pink is not even remotely my favourite colour so I was not super upset about it and in the end I got a better, black phone although I had to pay for it. 

I have been part of a family plan with my parents and my brother since the beginning of my cell phone adventure.  Not because I am totally irresponsible, nor because I am too young, but because I never wanted a cell phone and it was given to me, as a surprise (thus the pink colour), to be used in emergencies.  In July a magical time came where I was freed from my contract with Rogers.  I decided it was time to shop around a little to see if I had a good monthly plan.

Lo and behold I found a better plan.  Since I am (or was) naive in the ways of cell phone companies I figured switching plans would be no problem.  I called Rogers to give them a chance to match the plan I found and was told that I did not have the authority to negotiate the terms of my own phone.  I assumed my brother had authority since he handles most everything to do with the phones so I called him and asked him to call Rogers and get them to give me authority.  My brother called Rogers and was told that he also did not have the authority to give me authority.  Apparently my Dad was the only one who could do that job. 

This is laughable as my Dad barely tolerates the cell phone and only uses it because it is a necessity right now, does not use a computer, and intensely dislikes bureaucracy of any kind.  So I called my Dad (on my parent's cellphone) who thought this was just fantastic as he actually had authority over something.  This does not happen every day as my brother and I are well into adulthood.  He laughed and said that I had just made his day.  Then proceeded to explain that my mom was at work and he was not going to call the cell phone company.  As I suspected my mom would have to sit through the prompts and deal with the people so my Dad could give the final word.

So now I have authority to deal with my own phone.  Yipee!  I call Rogers and tell them of the plan I found and ask if they can match it.  I say that if they cannot I will be moving my phone over to a new carrier.  The girl that spoke with me was friendly, polite and as helpful as she could be.  She came close to matching the offer, but not close enough.  She did not have the authority to do any better but the "retention" department is able to sweeten the pot to keep customers.  She advised that I would need to speak with them.  Except that I cannot speak with them since while I have the authority to negotiate my terms I do not have the authority to cancel my phone.  Aaaaaargh!  So back to Mom and Dad.

Since my Dad wants nothing to do with speaking to Rogers (other than a yes or no) my Mom, armed with the information for the plan I wanted them to match, calls Rogers.  It is now three days since my first phone call and happens to be a holiday Monday.  There is no one in the "retention" department.  So she phones back the next morning and spends nearly an hour on the phone with someone who completely confuses her, but comes up with a price that is close.  My Mom calls me very frustrated and says that she is now tempted to cancel her phone with Rogers.  I write down a phone number, and a reference number because she did not understand all of the terms that the person on the phone threw at her.  I am now supposed to phone back, get someone to explain to me the terms, and decide whether I want it or not.  But I have to call back during regular business hours.  I have not called Rogers back.  Partly because I have not been able to take the time to sit on hold during my work day and most recently because I lost the piece of paper with the phone number and reference number on it.  Today I decided "Screw it" I am going in to see the company with the plan I want and I am signing up.  Easy, right?  Of course not.

I went to the store closest to my house.  I explained that I have a phone with a Rogers plan.  It is not good enough and I want to switch.  I know what plan I want.  What do I have to do?  She says she does not know how to do a new plan without me getting a new phone.  I say that I do not need a new phone, it works fine, I just want a new plan.  She cannot help me as she has not been trained in how to do that.  I thank her and head over to the store second closest to my house.  I explain that I have a phone with a Rogers plan...you can guess the rest.  Friendly, polite girl in second store asks me if my phone is unlocked.  Unlocked?  This is a new cell phone term that I have not heard before.  The conversation proceeds something like this:

Me: "My contract is up.  Is that what you mean?  I haven't heard the term unlocked before"
Friendly, polite girl: "No.  I mean is your phone locked."
Me: Blank look. "What does that mean?"
Friendly, polite girl: "If you purchase your phone from a carrier they will often lock it so that you can't take it to a new carrier"
Me: "I don't know if it's locked.  How can I tell if it's locked?  How do I get it unlocked?"
Friendly, polite girl: "Usually you have to get a new phone when you switch plans".
Me: "I don't need a new phone.  This phone is fine.  I just want a new plan."

Apparently there is a store downtown that will unlock your phone.  For a fee of course.  Somewhere between $0 and $50.00.  WTF?  I just want a new plan.  How can this be so difficult?  I come home and my husband asks, "So do you have a new plan yet?".  I have to reply that no, I do not.  I explain the problem and he says well you can just get a new phone.  I DON'T WANT A NEW PHONE!  MY PHONE IS FINE.  I JUST WANT A NEW PLAN.  Yes, my phone is several years old and yet I don't care.  I am not a cell phone person.  I use it for the odd phone call, would like to use it more for texting (if I could get a new f#*%$ing plan), and use it to check my email.  As a side bonus it takes reasonable pictures in a pinch.  Here is my beef with the new cell phone thing and here is where this post will take on a mildy environmentally friendly twist.

It takes resources and energy to make a cell phone.  Yes, these cell phones can be recycled, but it takes resources and energy to facilitate that process as well.  Then someone has to make the new cell phone using more resources and energy.  Wouldn't it be more environmentally conscious to choose to use one cell phone for a longer period of time instead of changing your phone as often as you change your underwear??  Perhaps we can all take solace in the fact that at the end of the world when we all die a grisly death and the rigor mortis sets in we will have the latest technology tightly grasped in our hands.  "At least I got to experience the IPhone 20" <Insert last dying breath here>.  Or maybe there are phone company execs that sit in a room opposite other large company execs (you pick your favourite industry) and play games with models of trees, rivers, lakes and oceans.  I can see them using their high end credit cards as catapults, launching missiles of destruction across the board.  Ok, this last part was the ridiculous part.  But I think you get my drift.

If there is anyone out there reading this who can educate me in the ways of switching cell phone plans I would be much obliged.  Just as long as I can keep my old, reliable Blackberry Bold.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Documentary: Thrive

Several months ago a friend of mine suggested that I check out a documentary called Thrive.  I had fabulous intentions to watch it shortly thereafter but that didn't happen.  Recently she forwarded the link to me and I finally took the time to watch it last night.  My husband got sucked in about a third of the way through.

I felt that it started out slowly with a bit too much of a science fiction tone to it.  The podium on which the narrator, Foster Gamble, stood spent a bit too much time floating through space for my liking.  However, the subject matter was intriguing and before long I was hooked.  The general idea behind the documentary is that our purpose in this life is to thrive, so why are millions of us not thriving?  This question could have a plethora of answers, but the film delves into the why a little more deeply than you might expect.  Throughout the two hours there were excerpts from interviews with many different people including former military personnel, scientists, inventors, and authors on a wide range of subjects.  I think that the information in the documentary is well presented without a lot of drama, which I appreciate.  At first glance it may seem like an odd film for me to blog about, but there are some ideas in there that do fit with the types of changes I am making in my every day life.

I realized a few weeks ago that one of my goals with this blog, now that there are people reading it other than just me, is to provoke some thought.  I certainly do not want to tell people what to think, but I like to offer up some ideas for consideration.  I think that Thrive is a very thought provoking documentary and if you want to have some of your preconceived notions turned upside down this is a good place to start.  The more cynical among us would probably argue that the information in this documentary is nothing new.  At the other end of the spectrum I am sure there are many that would call this one hell of a conspiracy theory and promptly dismiss it as such.  Wherever you land on the spectrum I think Thrive is a lot more interesting than most of what you can watch on TV these days so why not check it out?  At this point in time you can watch it for free on their website, www.thrivemovement.com.  I would be interested to hear what you think of it.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I found my halibut on This Fish...

I noticed that there was a special on Halibut at Thrifty Foods so today I went down and bought some for our dinner.  As the person behind the seafood counter was wrapping the fish I noticed that she put an extra sticker on it.  It was a tracking number for a site called This Fish.  I had a general idea of the purpose of the site and was keen to check out what kind of details I would get about my fish.  I wrote the number down and after the kids went to bed I visited the site and entered my tracking number.  The amount of information I was able to learn about the fish was incredible.

I found out that my piece of fish came from a halibut caught off Northern Vancouver Island by fisherman Peter DeGreef, who is the skipper of Optimist #1.  When he is not fishing he lives in Sidney, BC.  The halibut was delivered fresh to Port Hardy on March 21, 2012 and processed by Pasco Seafood Enterprises Inc.  I also learned that the halibut was caught using a bottom longline with hooks.  In addition to this specific information I was able to expand several categories and  learn more about the life cycle of halibut, what bottom longline with hook fishing is, and more information about the processing company.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Urchin Bags: upcycling

I am fascinated by all of the cool ideas people have to take materials otherwise destined for the landfill and turn them into useful products.  It turns out that a growing number of people are upcycling, a term that I only heard for the first time a couple of weeks ago.  Rather than taking old items and breaking them down into materials of lesser value (downcycling) they are used to make products with a higher value.  Today I got a chance to purchase an upcycled product.

Almost a year has gone by since I first saw a friend's wallet that was made from recycled seat belts.  I had two thoughts at the time.  "Nice wallet!" and "What a great idea!".  It was only a few months after I had started writing this blog and I made a note, Urchin, in my phone to remind myself that it was something I would like to know more about.  As I was scrolling through my ideas a few weeks ago I came across my notation and decided that it was well past time to get on it.

I found the Urchin Bags website and was surprised to see the variety of products available for purchase.  I continued to the Etsy site and found many great styles of wallets, change purses, bags and more.  A couple of them even had the seat belt buckle for a closure.  I easily found a couple of items on the site that appealed to me, finally decided on one, and was looking at my shipping options when I realized that the maker of these unique products lives reasonably close to me.  I sent an email to Clare, the creator of Urchin Bags, and happily she agreed that I could pick up my bag in person and chat with her.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Factory Farming: Dairy

This post is long overdue and I started it with the intention of writing about both dairy cows and those raised for slaughter, but it took me longer than I thought it would to gather the information, and I was concerned about the length.  This is my third post with regards to Factory Farming, the other two being Factory Farming: Chickens and  Factory Farming: Environmental Impact.

As I mentioned in a previous post my interest in factory farming came about because of a book entitled Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food (The image on the right is a link to Amazon if you are interested in checking it out).  It was an eye-opening read and while I cannot claim to have become a vegan, or even a vegetarian, I will say that I am much more conscious of my choices.  My family has cut back the amount of meat we eat per week, we are more pro-active in trying new vegetarian recipes, and we also make a much greater effort to purchase organic.  I see this as a way to reduce our impact on the planet, improve our general health and, hopefully, to put my food dollars towards more responsible farming practices.

As in the chickens post I will start by outlining some of the examples of poor treatment as mentioned by Farm Sanctuary, a United States based organization advocating for better treatment of farm animals, and chooseveg.ca, a Canadian website that encourages vegetarian and vegan living.  According to these sources here are some of the negatives of milk produced in a factory farm setting:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Waves on Dallas Road

Looking out at the ocean near Ogden Point

Parts of British Columbia had quite the windstorm today.  This afternoon we headed down to Dallas Road in Victoria, which is one of our favourite places to go and check out the waves when the wind picks up.  The kids were a bit reluctant, but that quickly changed once we parked the car and got out.  In a previous post about the Ogden Point Breakwater I have some pictures taken on a much nicer day.  In this one below you can see the breakwater in the distance although parts of it are obscured by the waves crashing up against the side. 

There are actually people walking out there but, although my kids were up for an adventure, we did not partake.  I would not have enjoyed one minute while my mother-brain conjured up images of my children being either blown off the breakwater by the wind, or knocked off by a wave.  Instead we waited near the railing on Dallas Road for large waves to hit the wall with enough force to spray straight up.  There were some impressive bursts of water.  By the time we left my kids' coats were soaked on the front. 

Obviously I enjoyed the show put on by Mother Nature today, but other than the waves I think the next best part was seeing all of the people down there.  There were plenty of cameras and smiles today as we all lined the railing exclaiming, "Whoa!", and laughing as the spray shot up landing on the sidewalk and any uprepared spectator.  There were lots of delighted shrieks from my kids who decided to taunt the ocean if it took too long for the next impressive spray.  Who knew that a windstorm would provide some of the best, free entertainment.  I have a feeling they will not be so reluctant to head down next time.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wildlife Photography at the Royal BC Museum

Today my husband, mother-in-law, and I took the kids to the Wildlife Photography Exhibit at the Royal BC Museum.  Wow!  The pictures were amazing.  They even have several categories for kids including an under 10, an 11-14, and a 15-17.  It was inspiring to see these beautiful photographs.  Most, if not all of them, would have taken incredible patience to capture.  I can only imagine what it would be like waiting for the perfect light, or perfect weather conditions, or that amazing moment when the object of your gaze favours you with the perfect action.

Each photograph was displayed alongside a caption that gave some background about the picture, the name of the photographer, and what type of camera and lens was used.  According to the Royal BC Museum website there are approximately 100 photographs displayed which were chosen from over 41,000 international entries.  According to wikipedia the first Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition took place in 1964 with only 600 entries.  While the competition is owned by The Natural History Museum, which is located in London, England, and BBC Wildlife Magazine the main sponsor has changed over time.

I would highly recommend this exhibit.  It is at the Royal BC Museum until April 9, 2012, which appears to be the only exhibit scheduled in Canada.  For a list of international locations and dates you can go The Natural History Museum website and use their search tool.  If you are unable to see it in person you can look at a slideshow of the images here or here.  You can also browse, and purchase, prints on-line via  The Natural History Museum website.  Not only will you find photographs from the 2011 competition, but also from previous years.  Enjoy!