Sunday, January 30, 2011

Hydro One herbicide update

Hello everybody,

I had two short e-mails from Peter Tabuns, NDP MPP. He handles the environment portfolio for the Ontario NDP.

This is the second of his e-mails:


I met with them along [Hydro One people] with some of my constituents. They committed to better posting and review of options the next time they clear brush in
my riding. They would not commit to ending the use of herbicides.


The way to interpret the e-mail is that Minister Tabuns took time to speak with people in his riding, and they all took time to visit Hydro One officials. To me, this is incredible work on his part and I think it's terrific.

On the part of Hydro One ... it means that there will be an application of herbicide during February. My letter didn't change that at all. But I really didn't expect there would be no spraying. Sometimes all a person can do is nip at heels. Hydro One staff have had to do some work from this. They know they've been noticed.

Just so you know what happened.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It's hard to dismiss an entire 'Master Plan', but ...

Here I am for the second time in one day! It's an odd thing to have waded through 2 inches of paper, then make the decision to not comment on any of it. But here goes ... :-) Why's Woman

January 26, 2011

Transportation and Planning Divison
London City Hall

Dear Mr. Elmadhoon,

I did attend the Smart Moves Transportation Master Plan meeting on Wednesday, January 19. I left with the workbook, because I wanted to think. Previous to the meeting I did look over several background reports and the survey about transportation; I actually made quite a few notes back in late November.

This is the letter I would like to have included as my input. My comments are not based on the workbook or the reports.

The current Smart Moves Transportation Master Plan is nowhere near the radical path we need to get ready for 2030. We don't have until 2030 to get to that radical planning place.

I believe that 20 years from now we will be living through a situation that is not at all covered by or anticipated by any of the scenarios offered in the reports which you, your colleagues, and thoughtful Londoners have prepared.

The level 3 goal of 20% of trips being by other than personal vehicles (cars) is a figure that will soon cause much debate at council. But it is woefully low and does not reflect the 2030 I foresee.

I expect that in 20 years individuals will not have the financial resources to pay for fossil-fuel-using, personal cars, the type of vehicle which underlies transportation planning at municipal and other government levels.

I anticipate that in 2030 we in Canada and in most other countries will be involved in resource struggles, and that these struggles will cause huge stress on neighbourhoods, cities and rural communities, provincial relationships and international relationships.

I do not anticipate that, within the next ten years anyway, senior levels of government will make the big decisions necessary to deter individuals and corporations from the current production/consumption cycle. I do not anticipate that senior levels of governments will make commitments to development of 'green' technologies on the scale we will require. I do not anticipate intergovernmental or international commitment to the big issues of climate change and environmental problems that we face. And those big issues underlie transportation planning.

As things are now, a status quo complacency is reflected in the filtered-down text of most reports at all government levels; this is a fault of the process-heavy government system.

To speak on a positive side, I know that right now there are amazing green technologies. As they become used more and as they are innovated further, good changes will occur.

and technologies are not the only things we need to develop, however. We need to spend more time making things for ourselves - our individual and community selves - and move away from the corporate production/consumption model. Our way of thinking about everything - our worldview - needs to change. And that new worldview needs to bring us back to the connection we have with the natural world. That change is going to have to come from individuals, move on to communities and go up the levels of government to international. It may even have to dismiss some of the higher levels of governance.

As an individual I'm trying to find my place with others and with community organizations to bring about changes so that we will be ready for the challenges that are going to be in 2030.

Municipalities are a mid-level between individuals and higher levels of government. I hope sincerely that municipalities will be incredibly important places for change. The efforts of the Smart Moves Transportation Master Plan so far are important, and it is only the very first toddler step.

Thank you for the opportunity to submit this.

Why would herbicide be applied in February?

good morning everyone

I'll post the Hydro One notice when we reconfigure it into a form this blog will accept. But here's letter sent - always copy such to all the opposition parties for maximum fuss! Best regards to you, Why's Woman


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chris Bentley

Constituency Office 8-11 Base Line Road East
London, ON N6C 5Z8 Tel: 519-657-3120 Fax: 519-657-0368


Dear Minister Bentley,

I request that you, as my member of provincial parliament, contact the Ministry of the Environment which oversees Hydro One to inquire why herbicide is being applied in February.

Notice in the paper – what prompted the question

The January 25/11 issue of the London Free Press had, on page B2, a Notice of Herbicide Application, stating that “Hydro One Networks Inc. – Foresty Services” would be “commencing Forestry line clearing operations” in the Transmission corridor from Hamilton to London (City of Hamilton, Brant, Oxford, Thames Centre and the City of London). The work is to “include selective treatment of undesirable vegetation that would, if left alone, grow into the conductors.” This work, set to occur February 1 through February 28, 2011, is the application of herbicide to remove “undesirable Vegatation (brush and sucker growth from stumps).

Pollutant or waste of money?

My first thought on reading the notice – my thought as a gardener - was that herbicide application in the middle of winter is strange: there’s no vegetation around. This is too early for application directly to a pruning cut on a shrub or tree. To use some terminology of the pesticide industry, the vast amount of herbicide will not reach any sort of “target vegetation” because there will be snow cover and minimal plant growth activity.

The ground is frozen in our area during a usual February. Growth is not occurring. (see * later in letter) I foresee herbicide travelling far from its target with any thaw, reaching watercourses where it becomes a pollutant and a health hazard.

Also, given the above, surely an application of herbicide by Hydro One during February is a waste of money and staff time?

Questions that arise about the herbicide Garlon RTU

I am not learned in the chemistry of synthetic pesticides. I’ve simply done some on-line research.

The herbicide being applied is Garlon RTU. Made by Dow AgroSciences, its Material and Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) is found at:

From simply scanning the information on the MSDS, I note that the Emergency Overview information states: “ May cause skin and eye irritation. Toxic to aquatic organisms and birds.” Further, referring to degradation and persistance: “Material is expected to biodegrade only very slowly (in the environment). Fails to pass OECD/EEC tests for ready biodegradability.”

The important ingredient in Garlon RTU is something called Triclopyr acid. An FAQ text from DowAgroScience concerning Garlon RTU ( says that “Triclopyr acid has a very low toxicity to aquatic organisms. When formulated as Garlon RTU, it has a higher toxicity, but in water it rapidly degrades from Triclopyr BE ester to Triclopyr acid, which is virtually non-toxic to aquatic organisms.”

MSDS sheets are referred to by people in health and safety as credible guidelines about materials/products. The MSDS sheet for Garlon RTU presents the herbicide in a much more serious light than the Dow FAQ sheet. I am concerned when an industry presentation lessens effects of a product.

The Dow FAQ sheet also says that “Garlon RTU contains 144 g/L of the active ingredient Triclopyr BE ester (Triclopyr)” and that Triclopyr “is a plant growth regulator that mimics growth hormones found exclusively in plants. When applied to the bark or the cut surfaces, Garlon RTU is able to penetrate the bark and cambium region easily and enters the plant’s transportation system to move into the stems and roots. It then initiates rapid mature cell growth, which causes cell walls to rupture.

This information raises the question of why this herbicide is going to applied during a time when the plants it will be used on are not growing. *The Dow FAQ sheet itself has a cartoon on it: the sun shines down on a cut branch on a trunk and the grass is around the little tree – the implication of the cartoon is that the Garlon RTU is not something to apply in the winter.

Action to take

In this letter I am not commenting on the merits – or lack of merit – of synthetic herbicides generally. The point here is that attention should be paid to spraying herbicide at any time, and especially if it is being sprayed at the wrong time and will result in pollution of watercourses and bad financial management. Who gives the orders and monitors things?

I request that you, as my member of provincial parliament, contact the Ministry of the Environment which oversees Hydro One to inquire into the matter of this herbicide application. I also request that someone let me know what you find out.


Deb Matthews, MPP Health, Ontario Liberal

Minister of the Environment for
Ontario, John Wilkinson
Hydro One, Laura Formusa, CEO

Toby Barrett, Ontario Progressive Conservative Environment critic
Mike Schreiner , Green Party of Ontario
Peter Tabuns, New Democratic Party of Ontario, Environment critic

Sunday, January 23, 2011

How to Organise a Regional Gathering, by Transition Scotland

Hello everyone,

I just ran across a wonderful resource on the Transition Culture website. Some wonderful people with Transition Scotland have put together a 'How to Organise a Regional Gathering' handbook, with recipes. I just want this post to be my public thank you ... and I'm going to get on with letting people know about this handy start to organising.

best regards, Why's Woman

Dear Transition Scotland Volunteers,

Please pass along my thanks to the people who took the time - oh! the amount of time it must have taken! - to write and edit and lay out and put on the web the document 'How to Organise a Regional Gathering'. I've often participated in small ways in organising events and none of us has ever had the good sense to leave a set of notes behind for the next people to come along. ... This is a wonderful, generous gift you've given many people. And did I mention the wonderful recipes!? Thanks for those too. What a brilliant idea to have included them.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Getting Past the Trolls

Hello Everyone ...

How's your weather? We had some very pretty snow earlier today. It covered up the frozen chicken on the neighbour students' lawn ... the chicken was from a failed New Year's eve barbecue. Oops, that wasn't what I was writing about!

My quick summary of what I read about trolls in a recent blog by Elizabeth May,* and in follow-up comments to it, is written below this post. This evening, I'm getting past the trolls.

What it comes down to is that, people like us – who are trying to save the world in our spare time – need to find ways to put across good ideas and good examples of saving the world. We must not get drawn into arguments that end up with us defending our good ideas by saying why someone’s criticism shouldn’t be listened to. We just need to repeat the good idea, and add another good idea to reinforce it … and even find several other places to tell that good idea.

Also, if you are as hooked in to the internet as I am, keep in mind that most people don’t even read the comments after an article because they take too much time. So you don’t need to argue with the criticizers and trolls. Just get out and do the good thing.

All the best,

Why's Woman


There are a lot of people who do like to write criticism for their own joy in ‘hearing’ themselves. They are one level of troll. Other trolls are hired by governments and companies to monitor the internet for key words and topics to do with their employers’ interests, especially interests that have to do with money, political power and environment issues. They respond as quickly and antagonistically as possible to tie up the original writer’s and commenters’ time as they defend their ideas or try to disprove the trolls. Trolls also monitor websites where people are supposed to say they like a person or event or movie or opinion, basically ‘voting’ many times to enhance the troll’s employer’s side. Trolls are trained to put together comments that use up-to-date terms, images and phrases – the sort of dumbed down media sound bites that surround us.

*Green Party – blog:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Proud to have a troll

Happy Saturday evening everyone!

On the internet, trolls are people who say something on a website in order to get others involved in discussion, or rather, interminable argument.

I'm proud to have caught my second ever troll, by posting an item about why GMOs are not compatible with organic agriculture.

If I understand my husband's explanation, trolls troll. They have computer software applications set to do a daily sweep of the internet to look for key words. If key words pop up a troll checks the article and then posts something in opposition, often according to parameters set down by whichever large corporation is paying the bills for the particular troll.

Well, here I am - Ms loves-to-get-her-research-correct-and-always-adds-footnotes - and I'm not going to follow up the one comment I got on the article.

For once in my life I'm going to say "don't confuse me - with your facts - my mind is made up".

And it is. Flat out. Genetic engineering of seed does not belong in organic agriculture. No organic agriculture group agrees with it. I've read for years on many aspects of the topic and I choose to spend my time - without arguing or defending - on methods of gardening and agriculture that I know will not harm the soil, critters, me, my community, or the Earth.

I'm choosing to spend my time on the good side. And wow, there are some wonderful people on this side!

And while I'm at it, Yes, Monsanto is EVIL. All capital letters, all the time.

Love and best wishes,

Why's Woman

Thursday, January 6, 2011

GMOs are not compatible with organic agriculture

OpEd: Ten good reasons why GMOs are not compatible with organic agriculture

By Jim Riddle

Despite fundamental differences in what they represent, there are occasional calls to allow the use of genetic engineering (which produces genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs) within the USDA National Organic Program. GMO varieties are currently most widespread in corn, soybean, canola and cotton crops, in dairy production, and in minor ingredients, such as dairy cultures, used in food processing, but new products are being introduced and commercialized.

Here are 10 essential points that I believe show why GMOs are incompatible with organic production:

1. Basic science. Humans have a complex digestive system, populated with flora, fauna, and enzymes that have evolved over millennia to recognize and break down foods found in nature to make nutrients available to feed the human body. GMO crops and foods are comprised of novel genetic constructs which have never before been part of the human diet and may not be recognized by the intestinal system as digestible food, leading to the possible relationship between genetic engineering and a dramatic increase in food allergies, obesity, diabetes, and other food-related diseases, which have all dramatically increased correlated to the introduction of GMO crops and foods.

2. Ecological impact. Organic agriculture is based on the fundamental principle of building and maintaining healthy soil, aquatic, and terrestrial ecosystems. Since the introduction of GMOs, there has been a dramatic decline in the populations of Monarch butterflies, black swallowtails, lacewings, and caddisflies, and there may be a relationship between genetic engineering and colony collapse in honeybees. GMO crops, including toxic Bt corn residues, have been shown to persist in soils and negatively impact soil ecosystems. Genetically modified rBST (recombinant bovine somatrotropin, injected to enhance a cow’s milk output) has documented negative impacts on the health and well being of dairy cattle, which is a direct contradiction to organic livestock requirements.

3. Control vs harmony. Organic agriculture is based on the establishment of a harmonious relationship with the agricultural ecosystem by farming in harmony with nature. Genetic engineering is based on the exact opposite -- an attempt to control nature at its most intimate level - the genetic code, creating organisms that have never previously existed in nature.

4. Unpredictable consequences. Organic ag is based on a precautionary approach - know the ecological and human health consequences, as best possible, before allowing the use of a practice or input in organic production. Since introduction, genetic modification of agricultural crops has been shown to have numerous unpredicted consequences, at the macro level, and at the genetic level. Altered genetic sequences have now been shown to be unstable, producing unpredicted and unknown outcomes.

5. Transparency. Organic is based on full disclosure, traceability, information sharing, seed saving and public engagement. Commercial genetic engineering is based on secrecy, absence of labeling, and proprietary genetic patents for corporate profits. The "substantial equivalence" regulatory framework has allowed the GMO industry to move forward without the benefit of rigorous, transparent scientific inquiry. The absence of labels has allowed genetically modified products into the U.S. food supply without the public's knowledge or engagement., and without the ability to track public health benefits.

6. Accountability. Organic farmers must comply with NOP requirements and establish buffer zones to protect organic crops from contamination and from contact with prohibited substances, including genetically engineered seeds and pollen. Genetically engineered crops do not respect property lines and cause harm to organic and non-GMO producers through “genetic trespass,” with no required containment or accountability.

7. Unnecessary. It is well established that healthy soils produce healthy crops, healthy animals, and healthy people. Research and development should focus on agricultural methods, including organic, which recycle nutrients to build soil health, producing abundant yields of nutrient dense foods, while protecting environmental resources. To date, recombinant genetic modification has contributed to the development of herbicide-resistant weeds and an increase in the application of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, with associated increases in soil erosion and water contamination, while producing foods with lower nutritional content. Technologies, such as genetic engineering, which foster moncropping are not compatible with organic systems, where soil-building crop rotations are required.

8. Genetic diversity. Organic farmers are required to maintain or improve the biological and genetic diversity of their operations. Genetic modification has the exact opposite effect by narrowing the gene pool and is focused on mono-cropping GMO varieties.

9. Not profitable. According to the 2008 Organic Production Survey conducted by the USDA National Ag Statistics Service, organic farmers netted more than $20,000 per farm over expenses, compared to conventional farmers. Use of GMO varieties has lowered the net profit per acre for conventional producers, forcing them to farm more land in order to stay in business.

10. No consumer demand. Consumers are not calling for organic foods to be genetically engineered. In fact, over 275,000 people said “no GMOs in organic,” in response to the first proposed organic rule in 1997. “Organic” is the only federally regulated food label, which prohibits the use of genetic engineering. By genetically engineering organic foods, consumer choice would be eliminated, in the absence of mandatory labeling of all GMO foods.

Jim Riddle is an organic farmer who was an organic inspector for 20 years. He was founding chair of the International Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA), served on the National Organic Standards Board from 2001-2006 (chair in 2005-06). He currently works as Organic Outreach Coordinator for the University of Minnesota and has written authoritatively on organic issues many times on this website. The views expressed are those of the author.

The Rodale Institute

Article found at:

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year with music from Totnes

Happy New Year!

My husband and I just watched the video you can reach via urls below. We both cried. Whether it’s because I cried that he did, or because we both realize we’re missing song in some way, or because of the sheer joy and community and surprise and fun in this video … I’m not sure … probably all three.

Filmed at a pre-Christmas market in Totnes, UK [home of the Transition Network], this Glorious Chorus flash mob sings the Pogues’ Fairytale in New York. The film was made by Emma Goude, director of Green Lane Films. Emma is obviously brilliant. She made the wonderful film In Transition 1.0, which I’ve mentioned before.


or Emma's website


We hope you enjoy the music, and wish you good health, love and interesting things for 2011.

Why's Woman