Archive for July, 2011

Interview with Earthday Canada Hometown Hero Jonathan Glencross

Click the audio player to hear my interview with Jonathan Glencross, a recent graduate of McGill University who has been named the National winner of the Earth Day Canada Hometown Hero Award for 2011 for his remarkable contributions to sustainability initiatives on the McGill campus.

His achievements over the past four years include the creation of a new fund for community-based sustainability projects. The fund has already approved 35 projects from the $800,000 that it receives annually – more than double what is collected by similar green funds from all other Quebec universities combined. Projects funded to date include a volunteer-run urban gardening project, a program that distributes produce by bike, an industrial composter, a student-run bike collective, an on-campus farmersmarket and more.

Glencross also played a leading role in the creation of a new Office of Sustainability at the university, which now employs three full-time staff and 11 student interns. He coauthored McGill’s first Greening Events Guide; helped coordinate a Rethink Your Curriculum Challenge for students; and co-founded the McGill Food Systems Project. “Before we existed,” he says, “no one knew where our food was coming from, let alone if it was being grown sustainably.”

If this wasn’t enough, last year, Glencross wrote a proposal that led to the creation of an annual interdisciplinary field-study semester focused on applied sustainability, all while being a full-time student and trying to maintain some semblance of a social life.

Click here to read more about Jonathan or here to watch his presentation on sustainability on Tedx.


Alternatives Journal podcasts – Music issue

My first full podcast for Alternatives Journal, called ‘Rocking the Environment‘ is available on iTunes, Rabble podcasts or from the Alternatives website. I will be producing an audio podcast version of every published issue of Alternatives (10 times per year). This first podcast was on the theme of music and the environment and features an interview with singer-songwriter-activist Sarah Harmer, folk musician Greg Brown and John Timmins of Greenpeace. Here is the the line-up blow by blow. Click the audio player above to stream the podcast or download by right clicking here and selecting Save as or Save target as.

Host Intro (00:00-3:05)

Editorial Overview with Nicola Ross (3:05-10:45)

Sarah Harmer on Mount Nemo, aggregate extraction and her advocacy work with PERL, interview by Nicola Ross (10:45-22:16)

Wisdom and rhythm of the elders pulse through Greg Brown’s veins, interview by Marcia Ruby (22:17-32:48)

“Your Town Now” song by Greg Brown (32:48-36:37)

John Timmins of Greenpeace tells the story of the 1970 Amchitka concert, and the newly released remastered recording, available on CD (36:37-53:13)

“Big Yellow Taxi” Live from the Amchitka concert, song by Joni Mitchell (53:14-56:26)

iWaste: the real cost of music and how you can trim the bill

Love your iPhone, iPod or some other MP3 player? Great. But what are you going to do when it comes time to get rid of it? Did you know many electronic gadgets such as MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals that are not safe to simply throw out in the trash?

The latest issue of Alternatives journal, on the theme of Music and the Environment, includes my article on digital waste in the music industry. There are some solutions emerging to help reduce the production of electronic waste and for the safe disposal of MP3 players. The problems is that many people simply don’t know about the options that exist. We still have a long way to go. I’ve posted the full article below and here is an excerpt:

The explosion of portable MP3 players over the last few years has created a host of new problems. Yes, CDs contain metals and petroleum-derived plastics, but MP3 players contain heavy metals and other toxic chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, which have been linked to health ailments including kidney damage and neurological impairment. When MP3 players are discarded in landfills, these chemicals can leach into groundwater. Adding to the problem is the short life span of most MP3 players. With 300 million iPods sold since 2002 and a virtual stranglehold on worldwide digital music sales thanks to iTunes, Apple has been singled out by green groups that have accused the company of encouraging the “planned obsolescence” of its ubiquitous gadgets.

The real cost of music, and how you can trim the bill.

I download almost all of my music these days from iTunes, and rarely visit a music retailer. It seems that I’m not alone. Compact disc sales in North America have dropped 52 per cent since 2000. Digital downloads, on the other hand, increased 13 per cent in 2010, and digital sales now represent more than a quarter of the music industry’s global income. The transition to digital music means less aluminum goes into CD production, paper liner notes disappear, and fewer environmentally damaging plastics are used to make discs, jewel cases, vinyl records and cassette tapes. What’s more, digital music has the potential to reduce the energy used to produce and deliver music to consumers, all of which must surely be good for the environment, right?

Read more…

Earthgauge news bits and pieces

China’s newest high speed train – Reuters
Top speed of 350 km/hr. Let’s see – that would get you from Toronto to Montreal in less than 2 hours instead of the 5 hours it currently takes. So where are Canada’s plans for a high speed rail network? Imagine what we could accomplish with some political vision. Instead, we’re simply ramping up production in the tar sands.

10 things you can do to help the sorry state of our oceans – Huffington Post. In case you missed my recent post on the shocking decline of our oceans, here are a few ways you can help to heal our ocean life support systems.

Bill McKibben asks this week why Brazil has to protect its rainforest while Canada gets to continue burning tar sands. “You could argue that the world would be better off if the government in Ottawa was replaced by, say, the one in Brasilia, which has made a far better show of attending to the planet’s welfare. It’s a tale of physics, chemistry, and most of all economics, and it all starts in the western province of Alberta.”

Is this really a surprise to anyone? A new study links mountaintop removal for coal mining to adverse local health effects. 

 I’m going Huff Post crazy this week. Finally, at a time when the global community is trying to reign in carbon emissions, production in the Alberta tar sands (one of the dirtiest forms of crude mining) is ramping up. And now China has its eyes on the tar sands as a means to help fuel its voracious economy. Again, this comes as little surprise but just how will we reconcile the increasing global demand for (dirty) fossil fuels with the near-existential need to reduce planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions?

And the answer is…I’m afraid we won’t. We will choose one path or the other: fossil fuels as our primary source of energy in the coming decades or a planet with climatic conditions to which human civilization has adapted over the millenia. So far, our choice seems clear.

Categories: News

Amchitka: The 1970 concert that launched Greenpeace

OK I swear I am not being paid by Greenpeace to peddle their wares but I really feel the CD they launched last year to commemorate the organization’s 40th anniversary is a fine piece of work and worth a mention.

I recently spoke with John Timmins of Greenpeace who is the producer of the new CD ‘Amchitka: the1970 concert that launched Greenpeace.’ This is a double CD production with live performances by James Taylor, Phil Ochs and a young Joni Mitchell who was previewing songs from her soon to be released classic album, Blue. The sound quality is surprisingly good given the source tape material and highlights include Mitchell singing ‘Woodstock’ barely a year after the actual event, the Mitchell/Taylor duet on Bob Dylan’s ‘Mr Tambourine Man’, Taylor performing his brand new tune ‘Sweet Baby James’, and Phil Ochs’ stirring plea for peace in ‘I ain’t fighting anymore.’

The CD was released late last year and comes with a 48-page booklet with rare photos and information on the concert, the Amchitka protests and the history of Greenpeace. The concert came about as an audacious idea to help fund the fledgling organization’s first ever expedition: to send a ship to Amchitka, Alaska to protest U.S. government nuclear testing there.

Greenpeace co-founder Irving Stowe decided that the only way that his Vancouver-based Don’t Make a Wave Committee could raise enough money to send a ship to Amchitka was to hold a rock concert. Stowe was a lawyer, a music lover, a visionary and a father…but he had never organized a rock concert.

The rest is history. Greenpeace was born and the test series was canceled as a direct result of Greenpeace bearing witness and alerting the world.

The double CD package can be purchased online for $21 here and you can sample tracks here. You can also purchase single song MP3s for $.99. The music on the CD has been donated with all proceeds from sales going to Greenpeace in support of their work.

If you love music and want to support Greenpeace, this is a great way to do it. Would make a fine gift too.

Click the audio player above to hear my interview with John Timmins. We discuss how the event came about, details of the concert itself and what its significance was to the nascent environmental movement of the time. You can download the interview by right clicking here and selecting ‘Save as’ or ‘Save target as’.


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