Monday, December 23, 2013

Is the Harper Government Guilty of Ecoside?

"A lengthy 2008 guide to “Meeting the Media” instructs DFO employees to “refer to the Department or the Government in your answers and do not use the personal pronoun ‘I’. After all you’re a DFO spokesperson and not an opinionated commentator.” (The guide is included in a report from Democracy Watch.)"   from: Crimes Against Ecology: is the Harper government guilty of ecoside?

Good morning again!

Last week I received the latest issue of Alternatives Magazine.  Always a good read, and covering a wide range of environment and social issues, this issue particularly has my attention.

One of the feature articles is Crimes Against Ecology: is the Harper government guilty of ecoside?

Canada became the only country to withdraw from the UN anti-drought convention in March 2013.   from: Crimes Against Ecology

Author Laura MacDonald has put in a huge amount of research and has linked articles or reports relevant to everything mentioned in the six categories of charges.  

Environment Canada scientists were shadowed and monitored by media-relations handlers at the International Polar Year conference in April 2012.     from: Crimes Against Ecology

The charge categories are:
- Promoting willful ignorance by eliminating advisory bodies and restricting data gathering.
- Preventing knowledge from reaching the public by muzzling government scientists.
- Systematically dismantling decades of environmental protection legislation.
- Limiting scientists’ ability to provide perspective by reducing environmental research funding.
- Undermining conservation and monitoring efforts by cutting funding, staff and programs.
- Obstructing and threatening environmental education and advocacy efforts.

In April 2010, 86 workers were laid off at the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, the country’s national science library and leading publisher of scientific information.    from: Crimes Against Ecology
Most of the situations listed are things I never heard of ... possibly because I don't follow every environment site around ... but just as likely that the Harper government does a good job of keeping these incidents from getting out to media.

In November 2012, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency successfully lobbied to have the research lab at the Atlantic Veterinary College-University of PEI stripped of its international credentials for revealing evidence of infectious salmon anemia in BC salmon, thereby threatening export.                from: Crimes Against Ecology: is the Harper government guilty of ecoside?   [My comment: the government said the revelation would threaten exports.]

And some of them I had heard about.

Canada became the only country to withdraw from the UN anti-drought convention in March 2013.      from: Crimes Against Ecology

I hope I channeled Rick Mercer not too badly in a rant about the situation just above:

MacDonald tells us that the constitutions of 100 countries already recognize that people have a right to a healthy environment. Both Ecojustice  and the DavidSuzuki Foundation  are working to have this right  enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I hope you've got some time to read through the Crimes Against Ecology article and to explore the Alternatives Journal site.  You might find the site is one you want to visit regularly, or even treat yourself and subscribe to the journal.  It's a keeper in its paper format!  And I'm not just saying that because I'm such a paper lover!

As always, thanks for letting me speak and for reading.

As always, very best regards.  I hope you have a Christmas that isn't over busy, some time with friends or family and head into the New Year well.

Why's Woman

From its website:
A\J, or Alternatives Journal, is Canada’s Environmental Voice, delivering in-depth news and bright ideas about national and global environmental issues. Featuring thoughtful analysis by the nation’s foremost environmental thinkers, plus profiles of inspiring leaders and sustainable living ideas to steal, A\J offers a vision of a more sustainable future and the tools needed to take us there.
Published since 1971, A\J is Canada’s oldest environmental magazine, and is the official publication of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada.  

Dried Pears and Global Warning

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well, and if you are living in an area hit by the ice storm, that your trees and home are intact.

My husband and I listened to the news this morning, snug in bed, and when it was over simultaneously said we were really lucky to be living in London, and that the ice missed us and our trees.

Some years ago, a wet, physically heavy, deep early snow came down and tore down major trunks on our mulberry tree, which was still in leaf.  Many trees around the city lost branches and trunks because of this leaf/snow weight. 

This past summer we had harsh lesson on the need to thin bumper crop apples.  We'd been saying to each other that there might be too many for the branches to hold as they ripened ... and overnight there was a really heavy rain - who thinks about rain falling having weight?! - and a major trunk cracked off.  We cut and pruned and picked off great quantities of apples.  Then went after thinning the pears from the pear tree as well.  A lot of work!  And a lot of guilt about not pruning the apple in a timely way.  We know how to delay pears from ripening, and apples keep well, so were able to spread the sauce making and the slicing/dehydrating over a week or so.  Plus we have one of the brilliant and sturdy slicer/peeler/corer gadgets that Lee Valley sells. We got some great lessons in timely fruit tree care, buckling down to work through a problem, and the reward of a winter's worth of dried and freezer fruit.

So, altogether lucky.  We have pears and apples and the trees are o.k. for next year (for now).

We realize this ice storm is the sort of weather anomaly that will happen more often in future.  In our region we may not be flooded out, as will Halifax, New York, and Florida, but weird weather things are going to have bad effects, more often. 

A few years ago I'd put a lot of copied articles about climate change in a binder, and when I looked at the spine tab I realized I'd printed Global Warning.  Every time I look at it, or add another article, I don't change it.

The binder reminds me of why I'm involved in local environment actions.  Sweet dried apples and pears are my reward.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Neonicotinoid pesticides ... why can't we just stop?

Some how, over the last few weeks, I became involved with a couple of people who wanted to present to our municipal advisory committee on agriculture information about the dangers of neonicotinoid peticides for honeybees and other pollinating insects.  These pesticides also have bad effects on other invertebrates (earthworms) and birds, and a report just came out about their bad effects on people. 

Well, I've done a lot of reading, read a bunch of reports, and helped make a presentation to that advisory committee.  Nothing.  The advisory committee did the same as it did in September, when someone else made a presentation.  The people on the committee listened, politely, ... asked a few questions, and thanked us for the report. 

The advisory committee response was exactly what I'd expected it would be.  And it lines up with other agencies in Canada as far as the nothingness of the response. 

Canada's federal level Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency put out an interim report mid-September ... a few recommendations about keeping down the dust that came off the pesticide coating during planting, comments about better labelling, and farmers following them, and suggestions for something that's called "integrated pest management" (which does have its good points, if they were adhered to).  And then it called for comments in the next 90 days.  So, we're just now passed that period of comment.  Apparently, the PMRA had a huge number of comments come in.  Good organizations like the Ontario Beekeepers Association and the National Farmers Union commented, both recommending that the neonicotinoids not be used.  The Ontario Bee Health Working Group - which should be a major voice - is working on its own report (due out probably not before March) and didn't comment on the PMRA interim report.

I'm told that farmers tend to order their 2014 seeds in mid October of the year before.

Do you see the timing problem?  The gap between meetings and reports, and something being done?

Sounds like neonicotinoid pesticides will be used in all their forms during the 2014 planting season, at the same rate as they've been used.  Oh, and about that use ... for example, 100 percent of not organic corn planted is of neonicotinoid coated seed; altho' perhaps only 20% at most of fields might have insect pests, 100% of the seeds have a poison coating.  That's serious insanity, in my opinion.

Meetings and tracking down reports, and finding how to counter people's excuses for not applying something called "the precautionary principle" takes a lot of time.  I wish I could just use the old-style parental "because I said so" and have people stop using bad pesticides, and stop doing a lot of other bad things.  I wish people who end up on committees could/would in their collectivity just decide that they don't need to have 15 definitive studies to take an action ... that they'd look at the information available, the questions it causes, and say "know what? ... we don't know everything yet, but what we do know sounds an alarm ... we've got a problem that's going to be bigger than we ever suspected. Let's stop doing the thing that seems to be causing the problem, now."

I've got several simultaneous beliefs ... which is why I have to give my over-full brain a shake sometimes.

I believe someone has to go in to the agriculture advisory committee and "witness" what they are doing and saying.  I use "witness" in the sense I learned it in a peace group ... that evil has to be seen, even if there's no chance of it being reported to an authority that can stop the evil.  My cynical self phrases this as "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

I also think there is a time when a person has to step away from the table - from the endless conversation - and just go do something.  My cynical self whispers to be cautious on this, however, ... figuring that the "they" one turns away from will go and do something worse the moment one's gone.

The one thing I am certain about: it takes more bravery and determination to step outside the system and the rules of engagement that have been written by the system. Written in invisible ink, and the page is locked in a bottom drawer in the basement of City Hall, in a room designated Janitorial - Keep out.

All for now.

Best regards, as always,

Why's Woman

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Kirk Douglas' Birthday Wishes - let's all wish the same

Good morning everyone.

I hope this note finds you well.

I just happened upon this blog post from Kirk Douglas, actor.  Depending on how young you are, you might not know who he is.  Look him up. He's done a lot of films you've heard of and might enjoy.

Douglas just celebrated a big birthday.  And he had some big wishes to make in the following post, which I happened upon on the Huffington Post.

Very best regards to you ... and I hope all his wishes come true for you and those you care about.

Sincerely and with best regards, as always,

Why's Woman

From Kirk Douglas

 Today is my 97th birthday. I am a lucky man. I've been married to my wife, Anne, for 60 years and she continues to captivate me. 

When you get to be 97, you can reflect on the lessons you've learned in almost a century of life. Mark Twain said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

I won't pretend that getting older is easy. But I find that it's given me a perspective that I lacked when I was younger. I was always running everywhere -- from meetings to movie sets, from shooting films all around the world to serving as a goodwill ambassador for the State Department in over forty countries. Staying still was something I did not do well. 

Now, I treasure the quiet times: reading books that make me think about new ideas; watching my roses bloom; gazing at the palm trees shimmering against the afternoon sky; seeing the simple path of a cloud across the sky; and especially sitting with Anne in front of the fire at sunset -- the Golden Hour. 

So I asked myself, what do I want for my birthday? There's nothing I need, other than good health for my wife and my family. 

Suddenly it occurred to me that I knew exactly what I wanted -- a better world for my grandchildren.
But have you ever tried to put 97 candles on a cake? You can't. So I put 10 candles to represent the 10 decades of my life. Here are my birthday wishes:

  • A world where weapons, big and small, are symbols of weakness, not strength
  • A world where religion informs values, not governments
  • A world where the air is breathable, the water drinkable and the food is healthy and plentiful
  • A world where poor people are the smallest percentage of the population
  • A world where education and health care are available to everyone
  • A world where prejudice based on race, religion and nationality is non-existent
  • A world where smoking tobacco is considered a ridiculous practice from a bygone era
  • A world where all diseases are curable and physical pain is no longer a part of life
  • A world where we control technology, not the other way around
  • A world where greed is never considered good
Excuse me -- I have a lot of candles to blow out.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our right to a healthy environment ... doesn't exist ... yet

Good morning everyone,

I hope this day finds you well.  

My email this morning had its usual: 30 items, 20 of which I could dispose of immediately.

And amongst those to read, one particularly important one that I'm just going to copy below. It comes from the David Suzuki Foundation, with two links to information reminding us that we do not have a right to a safe environment and why we should.

With Canada continuing to be one of the fossils at climate talks (COP19), making your name known as someone who cares about the future gets ever more important.  The future is based in the present. For many of us that means doing things now that will make the present and future better. For those with the patience and tolerance for frustration, making a healthy future means getting involved in making legislation and policy that affects our health now, so we can go forward. I have limited patience and a low frustration level ... my own forays into policy involvement are a battle with myself to sit through meetings or read papers.

 So when a simple thing to do comes my way, I'm grateful ... in this case, grateful to the David Suzuki Foundation for the information and the chance to add my name to others' and to know that others are out there.

Well, after reading all that ... thanks ... and here's the info.

 Best regards,

 Why's Woman

From the David Suzuki Foundation

Fifty-three percent of Canadians think we have the right to breathe clean air, drink clean water and eat clean food.  But they're wrong.

Unlike more than 100 countries around the world that guarantee their citizens the right to a healthy environment, Canada has no such law. We think it’s time to finally make the image of Canada and the reality of Canada one and the same. That’s why we’re building a movement to see the right to a healthy environment become a fundamental Canadian right. Watch the video now.
Right to a Healthy Environment video
That’s what this is all about: creating something bigger than all of us so we can protect the one thing that matters most, the health of our communities and our children.
Watch the video now and then join thousands of Canadians who want to finally guarantee our right to a healthy environment.

Let’s get started. 

P.S. Last Friday on CBC’s The Current, renowned environmental lawyer David Boyd introduced the idea of amending our Constitution to guarantee the right to a healthy environment for all Canadians. During his interview he described what this would mean and why we need to act now. Listen to it here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013



How's the weather your way?  We had a dump of snow Friday through Saturday:  30-45 cm (12-18")!

On the Saturday morning I made the good decision to not take my bicycle out when I went to the St. Peter's Christmas Bazaar, so I didn't have to push it home through the increasing mush. 

It was beautiful.  The crabapples hanging on the tree had oversize, white elf caps.  So did the golden apples left hanging on the one apple tree.  Two makeshift tents over the last rows of Chinese cabbage sagged under the weight of snow.  I still haven't plowed my way to the garden to see if there's anything left of the cabbages.  I should have brought them in and steamed them for the freezer.  My error.

Overnight the busy area where we live was quiet.  That's the most amazing part of heavy snow.  That the noise of a four lane major traffic "artery" can be clamped off.  We actually woke in the middle of the night thinking there was something wrong. It was just the lack of sound.

On Monday morning, life got busy again, of course.

And I was reminded of some of the hazards of snowcover for pedestrians.

Road slush thrown up by cars is a given ... it's almost a game to yell and swear after a driver who boots it around the busy corner nearest us. 

The real estate office near us doesn't get its parking lot snow clearing guy to also clear the sidewalks around its building.  The two sidewalks are on major city streets, accessways from two major bus routes.  The real estate agency wants us to see it as family and people friendly ... I see it as absolutely unconcerned with the people who pass its building to get to a nearby medical building. (the owner of the medical building isn't that great on sidewalk clearing either).  Both businesses probably have most of their clients drive in.

The real hazard, two blocks away, is the bridge over the river.  With every snow dump we have the giant road plows shove piles of snow onto the sidewalks along the bridge.  This snow dump, the piles were less than 30 cm from the top rail.  The snow is lumpy and uneven, a foot can go through suddenly so the daring crosser is up to a thigh.  And a slip could easily crash a person into 60 km/hour traffic or plunge one into black, freezing, fast moving water 20 metres down.

I turned back from the bridge, struggled back along the two blocks of road snow piled on the sidewalks and took a bus from my corner about 6 blocks to the grocery store. 

But there were a lot of footprints along the high bridge snow.  People without fear of heights and water, or people braver than I, or people with no money to buy bus tickets had crossed the bridge. 

And these days, with another bridge closed, this bridge is the nearest alternate river crossing. 

Year after year the City knows that snow clearing crews gets busy when there is a big snowfall.  Year after year, the sidewalks of this bridge are not cleared simultaneously to the road being cleared.  The problem shouldn't be a surprise.

I think that the City just doesn't care about pedestrians or bicyclists.  This same Oxford Street was completely rebuilt 4 years ago with no bike lanes.

Beautiful snow to road hazard.


Best regards to all,

Why's Woman


Monday, November 18, 2013

CropLife Canada appoints Conservative Federal Minister as CEO ... huh?

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

Lately, I've been doing more reading on the topic of honeybees and neonicotinoid pesticides.  Regular readers know I'm organic all the way, and terribly worried about bee deaths and declines in other pollinators.  Get out there and garden, is my way to go. 

I'm waiting for a report to come out from the Ontario Bee Health Working Group; I've reread the interim report of the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency, that confirmed (easily) that neonicotinoid pesticides are killing bees.  Public comment on this report is open until December 12. The PMRA interim report  - near the end of the text section - has a link to where to comment.

Amidst all this, into my e-mailbox dropped a media release from Sierra Club of Canada, dated Nov. 15 -

In November, the agriculture industry trade association, CropLife,  named Federal Conservative member of parliament Ted Menzies as its new President and CEO.  CropLife has been front and centre fighting against organizations which would like to see a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides.

As the Sierra Club press release says, in the italicized following:

Because of dangerously weak federal ethics and lobbying rules, Mr. Menzies is allowed to become President and CEO of a federally regulated company that lobbies the federal government regularly.  Mr. Menzies should be very aware that there are two ethics rules that apply to him in his new job.  Under section 33 of the Conflict of Interest Act, he is prohibited form acting in any way that takes 'improper advantage' of his time as a Cabinet minister, and subsection 34 (2) prohibits him from giving 'advice to his or her client, business associate or employer using infromation that was obtained in his or her capaciity as a public office holder and is not available to the public.

Whether or not Mr. Menzies 'technically' does any lobbying, his position as President and CEO of CropLife clearly opens government doors and provides valuable insight on the internal working of the Harper government.

"Are we supposed to believe Mr. Menzies will lock himself in his new office and not take calls or check his email," said Mr. [John] Bennett [National Campaign Director, Sierra Club of Canada].

This is allowed?  Huh?  How? 

Is this Federal Conservative MP getting paid for a second job?  How does he have time to do a second job? 

Can you say "conflict of interest" boys and girls?

You can write John Bennett of Sierra Club at or check out its website at ... or, like I did, write the politician of our choice and ask her or him to check into this and ask why it's allowed.  

As I've said before, biased all the way, that's me.  And this blog post may even get me a troll.

Bring it.

Best regards, as always!

Why's Woman

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wearing of the Poppy

Hello everyone,

I hope this blustery, rainy day finds you well.  I hope this Remembrance Day finds you well.

Today I had errands at City Hall, and so stopped by Victoria Park (London, Ontario) to hear at least some of the Remembrance Day service.  The entire intersection and four corners were filled with people.

I'm of two minds about Remembrance Day.  I'm in agreement with a day of remembrance for people who have died in or fought in wars and that there is a need to remember their efforts.  My late father was a member of the British Army for 14 years, stationed in Egypt, Malta and Palestine/Isreal.  More particularly, I think we more often need to remember that violence is a resourcelessness (as Ursula Franklin has said). I don't mind if you think me hopelessly naive in my political/power analysis when I ask, about any conflict: why can't they just figure out how to get along, or share?

As I observed the crowd at London's cenotaph, I had the cynical thought in my head that over the last ten years there's been a lot of positive spin put to Canada's military.  They've done well in the publicity department.  It's all praise and no one's criticizing.  Steve (Canada's prime minster Harper) will be pleased.

I've felt uneasy about all the hype about brave military families left at home, service, sacrifice ... servility.  

And then, a couple of days ago, I heard former Prime Minister Joe Clark commenting on Canada's military having gone from a respected peacekeeping role to a combatant role.

And today, I ran across a piece on the Guardian Newspaper's on-line website.  Written by a 91 year old poverty activist and Royal Air Force veteran, Harry Leslie Smith's piece dovetails with my own concerns.  

I leave you with my best regards, and the words of Mr. Smith.


Why's Woman

This year, I will wear a poppy for the last time
The Guardian Newspaper on-line edition -,

I will remember friends and comrades in private next year, as the solemnity of remembrance has been twisted into a justification for conflict

Over the last 10 years the sepia tone of November has become blood-soaked with paper poppies festooning the lapels of our politicians, newsreaders and business leaders. The most fortunate in our society have turned the solemnity of remembrance for fallen soldiers in ancient wars into a justification for our most recent armed conflicts. The American civil war's General Sherman once said that "war is hell", but unfortunately today's politicians in Britain use past wars to bolster our flagging belief in national austerity or to compel us to surrender our rights as citizens, in the name of the public good.

Still, this year I shall wear the poppy as I have done for many years. I wear it because I am from that last generation who remember a war that encompassed the entire world. I wear the poppy because I can recall when Britain was actually threatened with a real invasion and how its citizens stood at the ready to defend her shores. But most importantly, I wear the poppy to commemorate those of my childhood friends and comrades who did not survive the second world war and those who came home physically and emotionally wounded from horrific battles that no poet or journalist could describe.

However, I am afraid it will be the last time that I will bear witness to those soldiers, airmen and sailors who are no more, at my local cenotaph. From now on, I will lament their passing in private because my despair is for those who live in this present world. I will no longer allow my obligation as a veteran to remember those who died in the great wars to be co-opted by current or former politicians to justify our folly in Iraq, our morally dubious war on terror and our elimination of one's right to privacy.

Come 2014 when the government marks the beginning of the first world war with quotes from Rupert Brooke, Rudyard Kipling and other great jingoists from our past empire, I will declare myself a conscientious objector. We must remember that the historical past of this country is not like an episode of Downton Abbey where the rich are portrayed as thoughtful, benevolent masters to poor folk who need the guiding hand of the ruling classes to live a proper life.

I can tell you it didn't happen that way because I was born nine years after the first world war began. I can attest that life for most people was spent in abject poverty where one laboured under brutal working conditions for little pay and lived in houses not fit to kennel a dog today. We must remember that the war was fought by the working classes who comprised 80% of Britain's population in 1913.

This is why I find that the government's intention to spend £50m to dress the slaughter of close to a million British soldiers in the 1914-18 conflict as a fight for freedom and democracy profane. Too many of the dead, from that horrendous war, didn't know real freedom because they were poor and were never truly represented by their members of parliament.

My uncle and many of my relatives died in that war and they weren't officers or NCOs; they were simple Tommies. They were like the hundreds of thousands of other boys who were sent to their slaughter by a government that didn't care to represent their citizens if they were working poor and under-educated. My family members took the king's shilling because they had little choice, whereas many others from similar economic backgrounds were strong-armed into enlisting by war propaganda or press-ganged into military service by their employers.

For many of you 1914 probably seems like a long time ago but I'll be 91 next year, so it feels recent. Today, we have allowed monolithic corporate institutions to set our national agenda. We have allowed vitriol to replace earnest debate and we have somehow deluded ourselves into thinking that wealth is wisdom. But by far the worst error we have made as a people is to think ourselves as taxpayers first and citizens second.

Next year, I won't wear the poppy but I will until my last breath remember the past and the struggles my generation made to build this country into a civilised state for the working and middle classes. If we are to survive as a progressive nation we have to start tending to our living because the wounded: our poor, our underemployed youth, our hard-pressed middle class and our struggling seniors shouldn't be left to die on the battleground of modern life.

Harry Leslie Smith is a survivor of the Great Depression, a second world war RAF veteran and at 90 an activist for the poor and for the preservation of social democracy. He has authored numerous books about Britain during the Great Depression, the second world war and postwar austerity
click for other articles

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Which came first: bean soup or the bean?

Hello everyone,

I hope you're well, and snug when you need to be.  There's been some chilly weather the last few days ... but incredibly beautiful clouds with contrast of light and dark, streaming light, blue highlights.

Was looking again through some old recipe books.  Husband Chris wondered whether farmers/gardeners in an area adapted their growing and seed saving to the cooking that was going on in the household.

Wow!  A different take on the chicken and egg who came first question!

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Celebrate Hope - Simply in Season cookbook and food sovereignty resource

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  We've had a change in weather here, with rain and cooler temperatures setting in ... a reminder that autumn really is going to happen.

Lately, I've done a lot of reading about climate change and the serious changes to water tables, agriculture and people that will result.  It is a burden to realize the truth of the reports from IPCC and the United Nations, and crazy-making to read some of the climate change denial propaganda that's around.

This evening, however, instead of my too-often down feeling, I found myself bopping around the kitchen to the music on CBC radio.  I was stirring a pot, cooking tapioca pudding of all things, and browsing the Simply in Season cookbook to give myself something to do while stirring. (2005 from Mennonite Central Committee).

The full title of the book is Simply in Season: recipes that celebrate fresh, local foods in the spirit of More with Less (an earlier cookbook which I treasure).   I'd never gone through a full chapter all at once and read all the anecdotes and ideas tucked in alongside the excellent international, seasonal recipes.

Simply in Season is a radical book.  It is a food, agriculture and food sovereignty course, written in short anecdotes, recollections and factual comments. It is family, community, and good-heartedness addressing serious issues of hunger and economic inequality.  And you take in ideas one at a time as you cook or browse.  Mandala books probably carries this recipe book or could order it for you (190 Central Ave, London / 519-432-9488 / )

Cathleen Hockman-Wert, one of Simply in Season's authors says:

Browse any supermarket aisle and it'll appear that you have no lack of choices: the number of different brands may even seem overwhelming.  What you don't see is that most of these brands are owned by just a few transnational corporations, such as Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, ConAgra, General Mills and Philip Morris.

You can picture our agricultural economy as an hourglass.  At the top are farmers and at the bottom are consumers; food flows from one to the other through a few corporations in the middle.  Those businesses hold enormous power.  The farmers have limited options in terms of selling their products, so the corporations set the prices the farmers receive.  The corporations also set the prices paid by consumers, and research indicates that market concentration results in higher prices.

Here's a simple side step around this conundrum. Buy food - whole, unprocessed food - directly from farmers.

A quotation from Melanie Boldt of Pine View Farms all-natural poultry farm speaks to the squeeze a typical American or Canadian farmer faces:

When people choose to buy the cheapest food they can find ... that choice has an impact right back to the farmer.  People say they don't want genetically modified food or pesticides, but the farmer has to use those tools when forced to survive on razor thin margins.

Nettie Wiebe, Via Campesina representative, Delisle, Saskatchewan, said:

I have worked with rural leaders from many parts of the world.  When we compare experiences, it is clear that agriculture everywhere is being reordered through trade agreements and financial instruments.  Peasants in poorer countries are under pressure to use their best land for raising specialty crops for export.  Others are simply displaced as their local markets for staple foods are taken over by cheaper imports from industrialized countries.  This destroys traditional food cultures and undermines the autonomy and food security of peoples.

Genuine food security requires food sovereignty.  The Via Campesina is leading the global struggle for food sovereignty because we recognize that food security can only be achieved if food production is broadly based, environmentally sustainable, and locally controlled.  This means that peasants must have access to land, seed and water and that the rights of people to produce their own food must be protected.

Food sovereignty treats food as the basis of life and culture, not just another commodity.

Jennifer Shrock says:

If I had to put what I believe about food and the environment into two words of advice, I would say this: Celebrate hope. 

If you can find a farm, a market, a store where you can see that love for the earth and for future generations is a priority, sell all that you have and buy their food.  If you can find friendly faces in your local food system who are willing to go beyond public relations and discuss tough questions, hug them!  If you can smell the Spirit of God on their sweet potatoes, buy 20 pounds! Eat these potatoes with gusto, thanking God that someone, somewhere has a vision.

Celebrate hope everyone! Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Sunday, October 13, 2013

GMO Protest participants ... good work ... and let's up our game

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.  Are you somewhere having the warm, sunny weather we're having this October week in London, Canada? 

I've just been listening to CBC news, a bit of coverage about the anti-GMO marches held yesterday, across Canada and the U.S., to protest genetic modification of crops and the corporations that developed and promote the technology (chemical companies out for profit and control).

I don't joke when I describe myself an an "uncompromising organic gardener".  I've stated here and elsewhere that the companies that develop and push GMOs worldwide are evil people.

I'm happy that many people come out to protest.

I want more.

I want the people at the protests to all have a fact-filled flyer in their hands.  At its smallest this would be an 8 1/2" x 14" double-side folded flyer, ie packed.  Protesters  need to have information about such things as:
- just what the patenting issues are and how they affect farmers in all countries and us
- agricultural comparative studies that show that organic agriculture has equal or better yields than GMO/pesticide agriculture
- to talk about Canada and the U.S., exact information about just what crops are grown GMO and their path in our food chain ... showing, for example, just how far the high-fructose-from-corn food amendment goes
- a summary of some of the feeding/animal health/death studies, with references, researcher names and universities
- documented examples of situations where Monsanto has sued farmers for having GMO plants - that the farmers didn't plant! -  found on their property, and the Monsanto money spent on prosecuting/persecuting farmers
- the situation for farmers in other countries ... how they are drawn in to what is equivalent to a first "hit" of special seed and then put in debt buying the pesticides necessary to grow them to maximum yield

I'm sure I'll think of other things. If I find a bit of time each day for a while to locate pieces of the above info ... maybe start with and ... what'll I come up with?

My husband was just writing about the crises of environment affecting our honeybees and Monarchs ... referring to the need to have all roadways lined with flowers to create nectar/shelter paths, he wrote "we need to line our roadways with jewels of welcome".

Very best regards to all of you,

Why's Woman

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Natural Dyeing at Goodlines Decor

Good morning!

I hope this note finds you all well.

Yes, I'm still around.

Been over-busy helping get a friend ready for her hip-replacement surgery and in its follow-up.  It went well and she's in physio ... 85 and rarin' to go at her usual pace! .. plus, she'll be staying at our home for some weeks. I am so grateful to the health care people involved.  And so astounded at seeing my friend without pain and developing an even, strong gait.

I know there are all sorts of on-line items about dyeing fabrics, however, I just wanted to point out a short, positive, eco-friendly item on the Goodlines Decor website (which you should look at anyway because there are nice things, locally made there!)

I really appreciate the care for the environment that goes into the work done by Lois, of Goodlines.  She has even figured out natural dyes and those where the water/dye bath used can be disposed of in soil (in the fall) so that they biodegrade in the best way.  That is so neat, and I'd never made the connection between natural dyes and being able to send the water outside!  So thanks!

I'm starting to try to maybe catch up with the emails and things to do I've been setting aside in the last 6 weeks.

Thanks for you understanding and very best regards!

Why's Woman

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On weather, again, and on paying for not planting food

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well.

I've been thinking about weather again and "retirement living".

Morning radio hosts have for a few weeks been discussing the "cool" summer we've been having.  Me, I love the temperatures that are below 25 celcius.  And everything in my garden is growing well, so that's fine too.  The radio host and weather reporter conversation has turned to "finally getting summer weather" because temperatures are going to rise with 30C predicted for next week. What there's no conversation about is that there's been only about 2cm (less than one inch) of rain in August so far, and none predicted on the next week's forecast.  So, we're headed into hotter weather and basically no rain.  This is stressful for the late growing vegetable crops that I and others put in: Chinese cabbages and pak choi, daikon radishes, beets, kale, swiss chard.

As for "retirement living" there's a posh retirement residence on a route I often take.  It's housed in a re-worked building on top of a high hill (surely one of London's largest, no-buildings places).  The grassy hill has for years been cut meticulously by a riding lawn mower.  The person who runs the machine is skilled: the grass cut leaves visible light and dark diagonal lines up and down the height and breadth of the slopes and it is tidily done with no wobbles or crossovers.  I've looked at this hill for years and never thought anything of it, until Wednesday when, as I approached, a dream must have taken over me and I saw the entire hill as a terraced vegetable and fruit gardens similar to those that grow in other countries.  There were gently sloping paths down so even residents who have to use wheel chairs could safely traverse up and down.  There were two rest spots with benches and a table.  There were people working in the various gardens, tending and harvesting.  It was a food forest on a piece of land that faces west and gets wonderful sun for growing. 

I had to stop my bike suddenly on the sidewalk, nearly tumbled off as my foot hit the sidewalk too hard.  It was that disorienting.

By coincidence, there was a woman groundskeeper stacking branches being trimmed trees near the sidewalk.  I called out to her "Have you ever thought that this whole area could be turned into terraced gardens?"  I saw her gaze shift from left to right and back to me.  Her face had a bewildered look, and she said "That would be a wonderful idea, that would work."

She might have been bewildered because a stranger asked her an odd and unexpected question.  She might have seemed bewildered because - suddenly - she had her own garden vision.  I hope the latter.

My mind has kept turning over the vision of terraced gardens in this space.  Of food production.  Of older, retired people who live in one of the most expensive places where all they need is "taken care of" and retirement "lifestyle" is easy.

Surely part of the high fees they pay is the cost of land that does nothing.  No tree cover, no flowers, no colours, no food, no paths, no shelter.

Still disoriented, but sending best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What Guerilla Gardening should really be about - TED Talk by Ron Finley of South Central LA

Good morning everyone,

I hope this note finds you well. 

Again, the summer's been getting away with me.  I think of things to say when I'm nowhere near my computer!  This morning I spotted Ron Finley's inspiring and important TED talk posted on Jenna's Cold Antler Farm site - thanks Jenna! 

Guerilla gardening isn't about tossing flower seed bombs over a fence and running away, never to maintain whatever manages to grow; that idea of "guerilla" gardening is from 20 years ago. To my thinking such action missed the idea that in order to make a garden grow you had to come back regularly and take care of it.

Ron Finley of South Central LA comes back to the gardens he starts.  He works.  He inspires others to work.  He says that to make something like a garden sustainable you have to sustain it. (I've got to add that 20 years ago the word "sustainable" wasn't even in regular use)

In his TED talk, Ron Finley shows us that guerilla gardening gets people actually gardening and learning about plants and about food. It feeds people. It transforms people and neighbourhoods through food. And you get strawberries! To paraphrase him: make a shovel your weapon of choice and 'get out and plant some shit'. 

Hope you are inspired too!

Best regards!!

Why's Woman

Friday, July 19, 2013

Feed the pollinating insects! No blooms cut before their time!

Hello everyone,

I hope you are well, and the 33 degree celcius temperatures (London, Ont. and Ontario) haven't taken too bad a toll on you.

I was out in the garden this morning, looking around at the varied plants in bloom.  Catnip grown to the size of small shrubs have taken up residence between the burgundy day lilies in what is - or was - an almost formal perennial flower bed several years ago.  This same bed also has a plant called Elecampane.  It should be called Elephancampane, from the size of its lower, largest leaves: 70cm long and 30 cm wide.  At almost 2m tall it's beginning to flower.  For all the leaves it produces the flowers are maybe 10cm across, multi-petal yellow. They are in bloom and they stay.

The herb garden has an established hedgerow of agrimony, which sends out long stems and blooms with yellow flowers all along. I'm discovering it would be a weed in another location.

So alkanet might be described as a weed in a farm field locale.  Bugloss, it's called too.  It has the most astounding blue flowers on long stems. 

Avens spreads and blooms.  Another weed by another name.

There are also daylilies in yellow, burgundy, and organge standard blooms, blue balloon flowers, parsley about to come into flower, catmint getting to a second flowering, red burgundy, what I call sun drops (not sure if they are a form of evening primrose).  Two rescued butterfly weed are recovering and taking on size.  I'm hoping for bloom.

Everything is about bloom right now. Everything is about food for pollinating insects.

Without getting into reference articles - a first for me! - if a plant is blooming or about to, it stays.  Never mind that usually I'd prune back things for show-off space, or wider paths, or just because it's invading (like the Jerusalem artichokes!).  If there's pollen and nectar for the pollinating insects, the plant stays. 

A week or so ago the Ontario Beekeepers Association actually called for a halt to the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides.  This adds their voice to many others in Canada who want to get rid of a bee-killing herbicide.  Colony collapse disorder continues.  European countries are several years ahead of us in banning these pesticides.

The important thing I can do in my own yard these days is to let the plant life happen, and wonder at the  dozens of fat bees that feed in my purple burgamot and the insects feeding throughout the various other blooms.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Ecological Gardening, Marjorie Harris and James Hansen

Hello everyone,

Here in London, Ontario, we had a pleasant day.  Temperature in the low 20's celcius.   No heat wave of the sort in British Columbia and in the U.S. where some areas are having temperatures in the 40's celcius ... which is beyond ridiculous into scary.

And I happened to take off my bookshelf a copy of Marjorie Harris' book Ecological Gardening: Your Path to a Healthy Garden (revised and updated 1996 from its 1991 first edition).

Seventeen, or perhaps even 22 years ago, Harris put a section about xeriscaping in her book - gardening for drought.  And included this quotation by James Hansen, (then) Director of NASA's Goddard space center:

"As the greenhouse effect increases we will see hydrological extremes. Some areas, especially mid-continental regions, will have more frequent and extreme drought."

Harris is a garden designer and writer, and a proponent of organic gardening.  She's Canadian!  She's just started posting some new garden videos (done for the Globe and Mail newspaper) on her website 

Harris is always ahead of the trend, or, more accurately, she knows when a trend isn't a good idea and tells us something useful instead.  She obviously knew who James Hansen was well before many environmentally savvy people (me included!) had any inkling who he was, and before his name began to really be associated with climate change - global warming.

Hansen's recent book, Storms of My Grandchildren, is in the London Public Library.  I've mentioned him before too:

Thanks Marjorie Harris and James Hansen.  Even if you are talking about things that scare me.

Sincerely, and with best regards,

Why's Woman

Monday, July 1, 2013

Go read Stephanie's blog for Canada Day

Hello everyone,

I hope this note finds you all well and that you had some down time this Canada Day. 

I seem to have taken a month off.  Not that I didn't have anything to say.  It's more that I've had so much in my head that I haven't been able to find where to start ... or how to continue in a succinct way when I did start writing.

And I'm taking an easy way back in to blogging, by referring you over to Stephanie Pearl McPhee's blog Yarn Harlet.  She's talking about the positives of Canada's health care system, which - despite problems and some slowness - does give us all health care we don't have to pay for.  For me and my family, that means a lot too.

She says it way better than I will tho' so check her out ...

Very best regards,

Why's Woman

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Paul Hawken on optimism


I hope you are well.  Did you get any of the wonderful rain we had over the last few days?  Here in London, Ont. we had over 6 cm over 2 days ... quite a lot ... altho' we'd had almost no rain for the earlier part of the month.

I've just run across a great quotation by Paul Hawken, and wanted to jot it down for you and for myself:

"When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse. What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world.”

Which makes a short post, but a good thought to sleep on.

Very best regards,

Why's Woman 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Transition movement ... moves because of the people

Good morning,
(early, early morning!)

I hope you are well and happy, with something interesting ahead for today.

If you live somewhere that needed rain, I hope you've gotten some.  Here in London, Ont. we finally had a bit of rain on Wednesday, and some more today.  I haven't yet checked what was gathered in any buckets 'round the garden, but I got gloriously wet while out on my bicycle and it was a lovely thing after the hot weather of the last couple of days.

Last evening I attended a gathering out at The Living Centre, an eco-spiritual centre not far out of London.  Sally and Christine of Transition Guelph were down for a visit, talking about their experiences setting up a Transition group.  We who came from London and Middlesex County had a good visit and heard the kind of stories that will keep us going.

In its shortest description, the Transition Movement is about the resilience of communities, about the ability to adapt to stresses that might come from changing fossil fuel resources, climate change and economic stress.  Beyond this, it is about people who have visions of a future that is kinder to the environment and to people, where resources are not throw-away in the way they are now ... where we have learned again to do more things for ourselves and each other, using fewer resources, and using more local resources.

Everyone at the gathering agreed that more and more people we know have a sense that our contemporary pace of constant rush is too much.  People are hurried and stressed, expected to get more stuff all the time ...
...where do people get the money for cell phone set ups and the non-cable t.v. options that let you tape many shows at the same time and record 100 movies (or something)?  If one person records 4 shows every evening, when is that person going to find the time to watch the shows?  It could become some sort of electronic hoarding ... altho' I suppose it would take up less room to have dvds or memory sticks scattered around ... distracted there about the tv and movies ... I've seen too many of the dumb cable versus internet commercials lately.

Back to Transition ... change. 

How will we come up with visions for 2030? 

Are you able to dream of future?  Have a vision?

I'd better get myself to bed ... do some dreaming in a more literal sense.  I can't seem to tpe two words without a typing mistake.

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Transition London Ontario:
The Living Centre:  www.thelivingcentre

Monday, May 13, 2013

Photographer's daughter posed as five strong, real women

Hello again,

The world heard my plea for something positive and strong. I was just browsing a news site and found ...

Photographer Jamie Moore's daughter Emma just turned 5.  Ms. Moore took photos of Emma dressed and posed as 5 different strong, influential, real women.  This is a wonderful contrast to the story in the news about Disney changing one of its characters so the princess doll will be older looking and sexy.

One of the real women Emma chose to be is Jane Goodall (certainly one of my heroines), with Goodall's quotation:  "My family has very strong women. My mother never laughed at my dream of Africa, even though everyone else did because we didn't have any money, because Africa was the "dark continent", and because I was a girl.   ... what you do makes a difference and you have to decide what kind of a difference you want to make."

Moore's photos don't copy ... so please check out to see the wonderful photos.

Thanks Jamie Moore and thank you Emma, for ending my day more positively. 

Best regards,

Why's Woman

Gardens and bees


I hope this note finds you well.

Over the last few weeks I've been doing a lot of gardening, at my own place and for other people.  I'm continually amazed at how every bare space fills in with something growing and green.  This is what Nature wants to do: grow, expand, cover territory, be green. 

I've still got swaths of dead nettle in some vegetable beds, letting the blooms feed whatever insects happen by.  The lilacs are coming into bloom, and holding up under the drop in temperature we've had.  The pear tree bloomed, was pollinated we hope.  The apple tree is blooming , absolutely covered in bloom which has not dropped in the overnight hover-on-zero C temperature.  The crabapple tree is blooming with a much darker pink blossom. 

Suddenly we cannot see across the yard and across the street beyond any more.

Nature wants to create beauty, life.

And this evening's news on London's CTV channel just carried an item about a beekeeper living near Melbourne whose bees started to die within hours of the farm next door spraying its corn with a neonicotinoid pesticide. 

I wonder how long it'll take for the test results to come back, and if the news will carry a confirmation that that pesticide is what killed the bees.

The European Union has just put a moratorium on some of the neonicotinoids.(altho' I've got a feeling it won't take effect immediately, so there'll be a use season ... need to check)

What will it take here in Canada?

Who are the people who develop the chemicals and the business systems that are bent on destruction of a world which only wants to grow and be green?

Over the last few weeks of not posting I've been reading a lot of different things, thinking about a lot of topics ... a lot of sad, depressing news on many fronts. And I've not had the energy to post or write or think. 

Gardening is good to maintain a hold on the green and growing goodness that's out there ... helps me bide my time until the energy (the anger? the determination?) comes back.

... and did I say how much I love compost?  Layers of green and brown, a bit of water, and billions and billions of micro-critters transform vegetation in such a way that billions of other micro-critters living at the interface of soil and roots can transfer life to plants.

It is all flow, one living organism.

We're such a small part of it, with too much power to harm.

I'd better just keep gardening.

Best regards.

Why's Woman

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Gardening is calmer than politics or activism

Hello everyone,

I hope you are fine and dandy.  

I've been watching garlic growing up through the straw-covered vegetable beds, and there's a lot of dead nettle blooming to feed the early pollinating insects.  It will go to compost or be dug in later when I need the space.  I hope your own gardens and lives are interesting too!

Gardening is a sensible, easy, calming thing to do.  All I have to do is watch things happen, and make a few choices about what to put where and when.  To a great extent, the plants give me hints.  The conversations with the plants are easy.

Political stuff ... that's hard.  

When I'm involved in an organization or activist undertaking, I usually try to use teacher training basics: acknowledge the good points everyone has made and go on from there. 

That's easy to do with individuals and small groups. These days, however, I am not satisfied with any of the three levels of government, and find it hard to start with good points anywhere.

I've got several thoughts that seem at odds, but have to have a way to be reconciled.

1.  As small groups in a community get together for change, we need to more purposefully communicate with and learn the procedures of the "higher ups." We need to learn the most effective advertising manipulation techniques, and all the rules of corporate war. (yes, functionally, this is a "keep your friends close and your enemies closer" strategy)

2.  We small groups need to be kinder to each other, acknowledge our peopleness, have some fun, plan for the victory (as Elizabeth May says in How to Save the World in Your Spare Time).  We'll also have to find ways to acknowledge the peopleness of and to be kind to the political electees.

3. People I talk to in community, environment and special interest groups are all energy-sapped from having to fight the "higher ups" on policy and for funds ...  we aren't taking the time to do the small kindnesses. 

4. I'm leaning - practically parallel to the floor! - toward saying that everything needs to come from people and small organizations first ... do-able project by do-able project ... then challenge the higher ups (government levels) to participate in what's right.

The question is: how to step completely aside from the systems that put all the barriers on progress, while keeping an eye on them to know how they're plotting to stop what you do outside the system?

It's even difficult to phrase.  

I think I'll go and weed grass out of the front gardens for a while.

Very best regards!

Why's Woman