Sunday, February 27, 2011

Water is a Human Right

Hello every one!

I've been busy with a lot of things. One of them has been a revisit to an environment issue that we hoped had been dealt with in London.

A few weeks ago, John Challinor - who works for the Canadian, bottled-water sales branch of mega-corp Nestle, which has a 2010 annual revenue of $116 Billion! - wrote a chummy letter to the new mayor of London. 'Dear Joe' it began ... departing from the formality one expects from anyone approaching the City through proper channels.

It was the opening pitch in trying to get London council to rescind its policy of not selling bottled water in City buildings. The request made it past the standing committee level and hits Council tomorrow night.

In August 2008 London council voted to bring in a policy that phased out the sales of bottled water in City owned buildings. This was to be done as infrastructure was put in place to ensure that the City's own safe tap water was available to those who wanted it. Part of the policy was that anyone who wanted to bring bottled water into the facilities was able to do so, so that there would be no burden on Londoners. I'm very careful to not use the word 'ban' which is so handily used by media and others.

I'm hoping we have 8 sensible men and women on council who will not let the policy be rescinded, or even 'sent back to staff' for review. I'm pretty sure we do.

If anything, I am more concerned about a broad range of issues that have to do with water than I was in 2008: the effects of water-extraction on regional aquifers, fossil-fuel used in all aspects of production and transportation of bottled water, recycling inadequacies, international water rights, the 'manufactured need' of bottled water being immediately available and its advertising that denigrates cities' tap water, and the contrast of our privileges in even having bottled water while over one billion people in the world do not have access to safe drinking water (indeed, their water makes them sick).

I agree with the words of Tony Clarke of the Polaris Institute (1):

Nestle's oft-repeated claim that bottled water does not compete with tap water and only with other bottled beverages is nonsense. Why then would Nestle fly around the country trying to convince even the smallest city council to rescind actions to curb bottle water sales?

Just this week, Nestle executive John Challinor was in British Columbia fighting to stop a single high school from removing bottled water from its buildings.(2)

Given that the growth in overall bottle water sales in North America has retracted recently in part due to greater awareness about the negative impacts of these products, it's clear that Nestle sees public tap water as the real competition.

Access to safe water is something that should be a human right, something that should be in the commons. I've put a link below to the Council of Canadians' water campaign material.

To me, there's clearly a 'follow the money' aspect to Nestle Waters assault on London. Nestle, like other water companies and the beverage bottlers (who pretty well all sell water too) are trying to take over water all around the world. There's a big word - commodify - and it always seems to refer to making people pay a lot of money for something that should be one of the basics of life and freely available.

London City Council, Monday, Feb. 28/11 - 5:00 p.m. We're looking to fill the gallery.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

(1) Bottled water’s 15 minutes near an end

VOX POP By TONY CLARKE, Polaris Institute in London Free Press, February 26, 2011

(2) Bottled water stays - No changes to system until new schools built

The Richmond, B.C. Record February 26, 2011

(3) Council of Canadians, water campaign

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Lazy Man of Europe - encouraging organics

Hi everyone,

I've just been sent a really neat report by the Soil Association, the UK's organics association. Titled The Lazy Man of Europe, it's a 16 page document of European government and organics organizations' achievements in increasing hectarage in organic agriculture, educating people about organics, and developing markets for organics. The Soil Association also has suggestions that the UK can make to increase its organic production and sales. The subtitle of the report is Wake up to what Europe can teach the UK about backing organic food and farming.

Living here in Canada, where there seems to be basically nothing for organic farmers and producers in regards to transition from conventional agriculture, no funding for research, and no encouragement towards buying, this report is like reading fantasy fiction. I have to state quickly that I love fantasy fiction!

The report can be found at:

I hope you'll take a look and find projects and policies that intrigue and excite you. I couldn't resist noting a few highlights below.

Very kind regards,

Why's Woman

In France, there is an a public interest group called Agence Bio, which formed in November 2001 for the development and promotion of organic farming. Its member agencies include the French Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fishery; the National Federation of Organic Farming; and the Ministry of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Sea. I find it wondrous that a federal level of government has a ministry with the term 'ecology' in it. Wondrous too is that federal ministries and an organic NGO are working together.

In Italy, there's a national law that requires each school to appoint a 'Canteen Commission' to involve families in the monitoring and evaluation of the quality of school meals. Are there elementary schools in Ontario that still have cafeterias, let alone cafeterias that are preparing food on site and that encourage the parents of students to participate in their management?

In Denmark, the government works with a Danish NGO, Organic Denmark, on market development and policy development in regards to organic products. Danish farming policy sets a goal of doubling the organic farming area and increasing financing for organic market development and conversion to organic agriculture.

In Holland, 20% of the government budget that goes to agricultural research goes to organic agricultural research! In a planning report from 2010 was the statement: "The Dutch government wants to take concrete steps towards a sustainable society, and to set a good example. (such straightforward words!) Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality wrote in 2007: "The central government aim to do this by achieving 100% sustainable procurement in government catering" and that the Ministry aims to use a minimum of 75% organic products in its facilities.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Community Gardens London is on line!

Good morning,

Here in London Ontario there are many people who love to garden. I've got a particular interest in vegetables, with everything else a close second vying for first. Pick me! Pick me!

There's been a need to have a way for people and organizations to keep in touch with each other and - with humility and the knowledge that we have to keep the website up to date and listen to people and do work - Community Gardens London is stepping up to help with this.

I hope you'll take a look at:

I'm not sure why the link isn't live, but will figure this out and fix it later.

Shared and community gardens can be as simple as two neighbours growing veggies in a contiguous front yard sunny spot. They might be a 40 plot garden within a city park. They might be 10 small raised beds at a seniors' centre. Every one of them contributes to the bigger pictures of 'food security' and 'urban agriculture' ... and simply gives people healthy, local food and an 'I did this' satisfaction.

And organic. You do know I'm talking about no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, right?

I love a term used by the people at Terra Edibles seeds: SANER = Sustainable, All Natural and Environmentally Responsible.

Before I go on and on and on ... gotta leave for work! Hope every one of you has a fine day, with your own Valentine or being your own Valentine.

Big hug from me!

Why's Woman

Terra Edibles:
Community Gardens London:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A joyous path, and its unexpected stories – will get us there quicker in the end

"It was a funny little path, winding here and there, dashing off in different directions and sometimes even tying a knot in itself from sheer joy. ( You don't get tired of a path like that, and I'm not sure if it doesn't get you home quicker in the end.)"

Tove Janssen, Comet in Moominland, 1946 (English translation 1968)

During the last year, I've been involved with the Transition London Ontario initiative. We've hosted several events, talked with lots of people about how we'll go forward into the next twenty and next fifty years. Transition ideas are explorations of how we'll handle a time when there's far less fossil fuel available than now (for the myriad consumer goods, the transportation, the wastefulness we take for granted) and when we - locally and worldwide - are feeling the effects of climate change.

The most important aspect of meeting with people on a 'set' topic has been sharing stories and visions ... sometimes getting far from the set topic ... having ideas bounce from one to another person as we've reminisced from the year 2030 about events that occurred on the way to that time of cleaner energy, local food production and less toxic air.

Recently, I listened to a talk given by Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement ( At the end of it, he used the Janssen quotation (above) as the best analogy he'd found to Transition. There are many groups doing different things, we don't know what the results will be, and we try to remember to enjoy ourselves as we make and remake the path.

"...dashing off in different directions and sometimes even tying a knot in itself from sheer joy." My heart just ached hearing that line.

I actually emailed Rob Hopkins to get the title of the book, waited for the book to get to the library. I read the book with absolute delight. Thanks Rob and thanks to your son for helping me know about Janssen's books!

In Comet in Moominland, Moomintroll and friends have to figure out how to save the world from a comet that is coming too close. Some adult readers might say the style of it is a bit old fashioned. I say that Comet in Moominland is a great book for all of us. Pen and ink drawings create Moomintroll, Sniff, Snuffkin and the Snork maiden in the simplest lines ... just a few strokes of the pen reveal complicated characters, emotions and situations. The drawings are the sort of things that young children craft a whole world from, and if we grownups are lucky we'll see it too.

Each adventure takes the friends into danger and they come through it by their bravery or quick thinking. Having one adventure per chapter - through dark woods or a desert or across a drained ocean - makes for the best bedtime story reading.

Moomintroll is a thoughtful character. He loves his home and his family, he loves the natural world.

“Moomintroll thought how frightened the earth must be feeling with that great ball of fire coming nearer and nearer to her. Then he thought about how much he loved everything; the forest and the sea, the rain and the wind, the sunshine, the grass and the moss, and how impossible it would be to live without them all, and this made him feel very, very sad. But after a while he stopped worrying. 'Mamma will know what to do,' he said to himself."

Of course, Mamma does know what to do. But her part in saving the world comes because Moomintroll and friends have done their part. Love and good and friendship and family and story are triumphant.

Setting cynicism and the weight of my own 55 years aside, I want to have some wonder and some story, and some community as I do my part on the journey.

It may well be '"a funny little path, winding here and there, dashing off in different directions, and sometimes even tying a knot in itself from sheer joy" but "You don’t get tired of a path like that, and I’m not sure that it doesn’t get you home quicker in the end."

Best regards to all of you,

Why's woman

The world will rise to meet us

Happy Saturday everyone,

I’ve mentioned that I follow Jenna Woginrich’s blog, Cold Antler Farm, at

Jenna’s post of February 11 will take you to a wonderful talk by Joel Salatin, on the nature of chickenness and vocation and growing good food. These are all things that Jenna is exploring on her own farm. I want to give her credit for bringing Joel’s talk to me, but I’m also posting a direct link to it in case you don’t have the time for extra browsing on her site just now:

Salatin’s farm is PolyFace Farm: . It is a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley.

Salatin loves farming, he loves animals, he loves taking care of the earth. Anything he says himself will be better and more passionately and convincingly said than I can rephrase.

If you take a look at the Chelsea Green Publishing site – - and put Joel Salatin into its search spot, you’ll not only find Salatin’s books, but a list of videos/talks he’s given. Chelsea Green website is brilliant for this sort of above and beyond information about its authors

The London Public Library has two of Salatin’s books: 1 copy of Everything I Want to do Is Illegal (263.8 Sal) and 3 copies of You Can Farm (630.68 Sal)

As always, your local independent book retailer can order his books for you. In London, Ontario try Oxford Book shop at 740 Richmond Street, 519-438-8336 or its website

I sort of hope you've not gotten this far in the post ... that you've been listening to Joel's talk!

Best wishes and I hope you had a sunny Saturday too,

Why's Woman

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One good thing leads to another – The Living Centre and Peak Moments

Hello ... I hope you are all well.

I received an e-mail from the Lorenna and Shantree Kacera, outlining upcoming programs at their amazing place, The Living Centre. They are certified permaculture teachers – although they’d been living it long before the creds! - and it looks like they are going to teach their 72 hour permaculture design course in segments over this coming year, instead of just as a two-week intensive. This will open it up to people whose job commitments do not allow for a two-week course. This is terrific, and I hope that this course and all their others fill up fast.

Being easily lured, I took their e-mail as an excuse to browse the various parts of their website, and that led me further into the web and a wonderful interview about community gardening.

Janaie Donaldson of Peak Moments Television interviews Patrick Marcus of the Ashland Oregon Community Garden; it’s a 2008 interview available on YouTube at It's really worth listening to. Marcus is a wonderful spokesperson for community gardens generally, noting the many ways gardening is good for people and communities. One of his most important points has to do with the importance of a city plan having ‘infrastructure’ or policies in its overall development plan that allow for and commit to having community gardening spaces. He also makes the case for community gardens on city land being cost-effective for a city, in terms of it costing less for a city to give some financial support to a shared garden than to mow and spray and anything else it might do. The people in the Ashland community garden have done their political work and changes are being made to the city’s plan. He mentions that a survey of city-owned property was being done, to find locales that would be suitable for further community gardens. Great stuff.

Best regards to you,

Why’s Woman


The Living Centre:

Course info:

Peak Moments Television:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Coming Home ... to a local economy

Pretty well all my adult life I’ve heard about a book titled Small is Beautiful, by A. F. Schumacher. But I’ve never read it. I love the title, and think I know what it means, but I’ve never read the book.

Well, I’m going to read it as soon as possible. I’ve just put it on hold at the library.

I want to read it because I just watched a ‘vimeo’ (whatever that is) at

Coming Home: E.F. Schumacher and the Reinvention of the Local Economy, by Christopher Bedford, is a bit of history of the E.F. Schumacher Institute in Great Barrington, Massachusettes. Mostly it’s about how community is made; how small, innovative loans help people, how community supported agriculture was started, what a land trust is, how local scrip keeps the local economy vibrant. Oh, and there's organic gardening and agriculture.

I felt good watching this. I felt hope. I felt that the ideas in it are right for now and the future.

I hope you do too.

Best regards,

Why’s Woman