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Archive for July, 2011

BOTTLED WATER GOODBYE

Posted by strattof on July 21, 2011

Earlier this year, the grade 7 and 8 students of Sacred Heart elementary school in Estevan decided they wanted to ban bottled water from their school. When Nestlé Waters Canada got wind of the students’ decision, they sent a letter of rebuttal to the Estevan Mercury and also offered to fly in a company representative from Toronto to debate the issue with the students.  

On June 6, the students and their teachers hosted Nestlé Waters Canada’s Director of Corporate Affairs, John Challinor II. His main arguments were that banning bottled water did not reduce the number of plastic bottles in landfills and that bottled water is a necessary right. Presenting the case against bottled water were local members of Development and Peace and KAIROS. (See inside this leaflet for their arguments.)

Although the debate had no declared winner or loser, the students seem to have stuck to their original decision: The Coca Cola machine that dispensed bottled water at the school has been removed.  

8 REASONS TO BAN BOTTLED WATER

1. Bottled water is not safer or healthier.

●Bottled water companies advertise their product as a safer and healthier alternative to tap water. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bottled water is regulated as a food product under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As such, water bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years. Regulation of tap water, on the other hand, is far more stringent. In general, municipal tap water is tested continuously during and after treatment. ●25% of bottled water is taken directly from the tap.

2. Bottled water costs 200 3000 times more than tap water.

In most places in Canada, bottled water is a wasteful luxury. Canada has one of the best drinking water systems in the world, but the bottled water industry has worked hard to undermine our faith in public water. The industry sells water – what should be a shared public resource – for huge profits.

3. Bottled water contributes to climate change.

Water bottle plastic is a petroleum product. It requires large amounts of energy to make that plastic, not to mention the fuel needed to run bottling operations and to transport the bottles.

4. Bottled water containers contaminate the air.

Bottled water containers release highly toxic chemicals and contaminants into the air when they are manufactured and again when they are burned or buried.

5. Plastic water bottles end up by the millions in local landfills.

Canadian municipalities cannot support the amount of garbage generated by the bottled water industry. Although the plastic bottles are recyclable, at least 200 million of them end up in Canadian landfills every year. In some communities the percentage of water bottles ending up in landfills is 80%.

6. Bottled water leads to water shortages.

20% of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages in recent years. Canada is a net exporter of bottled water, selling its ancient glacier waters all over the world mostly for the profit of the foreign-owned, big four water companies. Water shortages have also been reported in the Great Lakes region near water bottling plants. Twice as much water is used to produce bottled water than the amount in the bottle.

7.  Drinking water is a public resource, not a commodity.

Do you remember when drinking water fountains were much more numerous in Regina? That was before bottled water turned a public resource into a commodity, something that is not accessible to all people. Now, public water fountains aren’t being maintained or installed in new buildings. By marketing its water as safer and healthier, the bottled water industry undermines confidence in public water systems, paving the way for private water companies to take over under-funded local utilities.  

8. Water is a human right.

In the Global South, bottled water companies are buying up springs and wells and fencing them off so that local people can no longer use them. The companies then target the new middle class market. Some governments use the existence of bottled water as an excuse to avoid having to provide clean water to their citizens. As a result, those who cannot afford to buy bottled water, the majority of the population, end up consuming unhealthy water.

  • Congratulations to Estevan’s Sacred Heart School. 

  • We encourage the City of Regina to follow the Sacred Heart School example and ban bottled water from city facilities. In 2009, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities resolved to “phase out the sale and purchase of bottled water” on municipal property. 85 other municipalities have made good on that pledge.

BY THE NUMBERS

 30%  Proportion of Canadians who say bottled water is their primary source of water

 2.2 billion  Litres of bottled water Canadians consumed in 2008

 $1.6 billion  Amount Canadians spent on bottled water in 2008

 $8.5 million  Amount spent on bottled water by federal government departments in facilities where safe drinking water was easily accessible from 2004-2008

 $766,865  Amount spent by Environment Canada

 3,384  The number of water fountains that could be installed for $8.5 million

TO DO LIST

  • Contact Mayor Pat Fiacco and tell him you want the city to phase out the sale of bottled water on municipal property: Service.Regina@regina.ca or 777-7339.
  • Send the same message to your City Councillor.
  • Contact the Wascana Centre Authority and ask for the drinking water fountain that is situated in the north side of the Park on the path between Darke Hall and Albert Street to be repaired: wca@wascana.sk.ca or 522-3661.
  • Lobby to get a water fountain repaired or installed in a facility you frequent.
  • Promote tap water in your home and place of work.

 SOURCES AND RESOURCES

Bottled water is simply water in a bottle.

Tap into public drinking water.

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FOSSIL FUEL: THE MOST DANGEROUS ADDICTION

Posted by strattof on July 18, 2011

Addiction, noun: Self-destructive behaviour that one is in denial aboutthe most apt of words to describe our relationship with fossil fuels.

For over a quarter of a century, the vast majority of independent scientists have been warning about the catastrophic consequences of burning fossil fuels. Still, we continue to burn them in ever increasing amounts, spewing ever greater quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.  

Now we are finding that the damage caused by this fossil fuel use is even worse than was expected. 

A MAJOR PLANETARY CATASTROPHE”

In a report released earlier this month, the United Nations warned that “humanity is on the verge of breaching planetary sustainability” and that a comprehensive global energy transition is urgently needed in order to avert a major planetary catastrophe.”

Titled The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, the report lets us know us that “business as usual is not an option”:

Even if we stop global engines of growth now, the depletion and pollution of our natural environment would still continue because of existing consumption patterns and production methods. Hence there is an urgent need to find new development pathways which would ensure environmental sustainability and reverse ecological destruction, while managing to provide, now and in the future, a decent livelihood for all humankind.

SOME FACTS AND FIGURES

According to the UN report:

  • 90% of today’s energy is generated through brown (as opposed to green) technologies that utilize fossil fuels.
  • This type of energy production is responsible for about 60% of CO2 emissions.
  • The frequency of natural disasters has quintupled over the past 40 years. Most of this increase is related to climate change, itself a result of increasing quantities of CO2 in the atmosphere.
  • To avert a total catastrophe, the use of fossil fuels will need to drop by 80% within the next 40 years and a transition made to green technologies.   
  • The transition will cost about $1.9 trillion a year for investments in green technologies. At least $1.1 trillion of that will need to be made in developing countries to meet increasing food and energy demands.  

IS SUCH AN ENERGY TRANSFORMATION POSSIBLE?  

$1.9 TRILLION! THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY!! To put the figure in perspective, we might recall that the US alone has spent over $3 trillion making wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while Canada has spent $22+ million in Afghanistan. Both Canada and the US are among the top 10 CO2 emitters in the world. We would do better to spend our money on environmental sustainability than on death and destruction.

“A COMPREHENSIVE GLOBAL ENERGY TRANSITION”

Here are some of the report’s recommendations on what countries can do to achieve a transition to green technologies:

  • Fulfill their Kyoto commitments.
  • Invest in energy efficiency.
  • Invest in renewable energy technologies, such as bio mass, wind, and solar power.
  • Promote sustainable agriculture both at home and abroad.

A BETTER FUTURE TO DO LIST FOR SASKATCHEWAN

  • Develop a sustainable economy by investing in renewable forms of energy, such as bio mass, wind, and solar.
  • Replace the boom and bust cycle of the fossil fuel industry by creating green economy jobs.
  • Start conserving energy and living for our needs, instead of the created wants of the consumer culture.
  • Lobby the federal government to get rid of its annual subsidy of approximately $1 billion to the tar sands industry. Tar sands oil extraction emits 3-5 times more CO2 than regular oil. The Alberta tar sands are the single biggest contributor to the growth of Canada’s CO2 emissions. Tar sands extraction also contaminates huge amounts of another finite resource, water.
  • Let Premier Brad Wall know you don’t want tar sands development in Saskatchewan.
  • Buy local, eat fresh. Transporting food thousands of miles is insane! We get less energy out of the food than the amount used to produce and transport it. In the summer, shop at the Farmers Market: Wednesday and Saturday 9:30 am–1:30 pm, at City Hall.
  • Learn lessons in sustainability from First Nations traditions. We need to live in balance with nature.
  • Create an economy based on local needs and cooperation. Governed by corporate greed, our current economy distributes wealth unequally and creates a violent culture where women and children and the poor bear the brunt the violence.

Rather than viewing growth and sustainability as competing goals on a collision course, we must see them as complementary and mutually supportive imperatives. This becomes possible when we embrace a low-carbon, resource-efficient, pro-poor economic model.” —UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

RESOURCES TO HELP US CHANGE OUR VALUES

  • The World Economic and Social Survey 2011: The Great Green Technological Transformation, a UN report on global energy transformation: To find it online, google “world economic and social survey 2011.”
  • Blind Spot, a documentary film about the current oil and energy crisis, available in DVD at the Regina Public Library.
  • To the Last Drop, Part 1, a You Tube video about a small Canadian town facing the consequences of being the first to witness the impact of the tar sands project: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDDb1iTw6pQ
  • To the Last Drop, Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQrWZzBOCoc
  • Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, a book by Andrew Nikiforuk, available at the Regina Public Library.

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GO GREEN! LIVE HEALTHY WITHOUT PESTICIDES

Posted by strattof on July 7, 2011

Mary, Mary, quite contrary

How does your garden grow?

With pesticides and herbicides?

Then it’s illness and death you sow!

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF PESTICIDES

  • Children and unborn babies are at high risk for health problems related to pesticides. These include developmental problems, lower intelligence scores, birth defects, endocrine disruption, allergies, asthma, and leukemia, as well as several other types of cancer. Pesticides drift far on the wind and can be breathed in or land on toys, garden food, and clothes. They can also be tracked into the house. Children are particularly vulnerable as their bodies and brains are still developing and their immune system is immature. Older children doing active sports breathe in more air with its burden of toxins.
  •  Seniors are also at high risk. Immune systems and organ functions weaken with age. These systems which help the body deal with toxins are often already overworked by daily medications. So exposure to pesticides has a more damaging effect.
  •  Pesticide exposure damages the same brain areas as those linked to multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). It is also becoming clear that pesticides are hormone disrupters. Thus long exposure to chemical pesticides can cause cancers such as prostate cancer and other degenerative diseases.
  •  The birds and the bees are gravely threatened by pesticides. Bees depend on dandelions, their first spring source of nectar. We depend on pollination by bees for about one-third of our food.      Birds not only give us joy, they devour mosquitoes. Pets are also threatened by lawn pesticides, as are many beneficial insects.  

“Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides. Children eat and drink more per kilogram of body weight than adults. Their skin is more permeable and their livers do not excrete as efficiently as adults’. Their hand-to-mouth behaviour increases the chance of ingestion and their dermal contact is increased because of a proportionally larger skin surface, and because they play on the ground outdoors and on the floor indoors.” —Ontario College of Family Physicians 2004

  • Five Canadian provinces have banned pesticides: Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick. But not Saskatchewan.  In our province it is still legal to use dangerous pesticides on lawns and gardens.
  • Over 150 Canadian municipalities have also banned pesticides. But not Regina.  In 2002, a citizen campaign to introduce a ban ended with City Council voting against it.
  • However, in May 2010, City Council did institute a one-year pilot pesticide reduction project, designating three parks–Gordon Park in southwest Regina, Al Pickard Park in north Regina, and Queen Elizabeth II Court in front of City Hall–as pesticide-free.
  • In both economic and aesthetic terms, this one-year experiment has been a success. But rather than expanding the project to all city parks, City Council has merely extended the “pesticide-free” designation of the original three parks through 2011.
  • Why wait another year to make all of our parks pesticide-free and thus safe? This is the question raised by the Canadian Cancer Society which is advocating for all parks in Regina, indeed all lawns in Saskatchewan, to become pesticide-free. 
  • Two years ago, the Saskatoon Health Region cut out the use of herbicides (pesticides that kill plants) on the grounds of hospitals, to prevent unnecessary toxic exposure to employees, patients, and visitors. This move is also supported by the Lung Association of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association. Why hasn’t the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region adopted the same policy?

“Research linking pesticides to serious health issues is significant and growing. Leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, breast, brain, prostate, lung, pancreatic, stomach, kidney and other forms of cancer have all been linked to pesticides. Learning disorders, reproductive issues and acute health effects are also associated to pesticides. By eliminating the non-essential use of pesticides, exposure to these harmful chemicals will drastically decrease, contributing to better overall public and environmental health.” —Canadian Cancer Society

WHAT YOU AND I CAN DO

  • Banish toxic pesticides from our property, making it safe for people, birds, bees, and pets.
  • Cherish Diversity: Enjoy an interesting lawn of various plants.
  • Dig the dandelions and EAT them. Call Catherine at 569-7699 for suggestions.
  • Have a healthy lawn: mow high, dig out weeds, aerate (poke holes), leave grass clippings on for nutrients. (For more information see City of Regina pamphlet All the Dirt on Healthy Lawns.) Alternatively, plant non-grass ground covers.
  • Speak out about our concern about pesticides at work places, health centres, senior homes, daycare centres, and schools.
  • Contact Regina City Councillors, asking them to expand the pesticide-free parks and to add Regina to the growing “pesticide-free cities” movement.
  • Contact the Regina-Qu’Appelle Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Maurice Hennink ( maurice.hennink@rqhealth.ca), urging that Regina-Qu’Appelle Health Region follow Saskatoon Health Region’s lead.
  • Urge the Government of Saskatchewan to follow other provinces and ban chemical cosmetic pesticides. Let the government know that a ban will save on health care expenses!  Premier Brad Wall: 787-9433 or premier@gov.sk.ca; Minister of the Environment, Dustin Duncan: 787-0393 or         dduncan@mla.legassembly.sk.ca
  • Support the Saskatchewan Network for Alternatives to Pesticides– SNAP (www.snapinfo.ca) and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (http://www.environmentalsociety.ca/).

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