Thursday, September 11, 2014

24 Hours for Hope on how we can address climate

Things are heating up on the global warming front. In New York City on September 21st, hundreds of thousands of people from across the US and around the world will gather together to make an un-ignorable demand that world leaders at the following UN Climate Summit act faster and more decisively to reverse the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, I have a friend walking across America as part of the Great March for Climate Action, and I’ve been invited to give more Climate Reality presentations in my local community.
Of course, there are entrenched interests who want to expand our self-defeating fossil-driven economy for their own selfish gain, so naturally they are beating the drum of climate denial. Last week Lorne Gunter trumpeted a study by an economist in a pay-to-publish Chinese journal which supposedly refutes global warming, showing the past couple of decades have had a relatively stable temperature. Now, stable is hardly the word I would use to describe the weather weirdness we’ve seen over the past decade, but I guess economists see things differently.
But it’s a weak argument. There is no denying our climate has warmed significantly over the past century, as our growing population’s land and energy use have altered the chemistry of our atmosphere. The past 354 months, without exception, have all been warmer than the 20th century average. That means that anyone born since February 1985 has never, in their whole entire life, ever experienced a month that was at or below global average temperatures.
Pick two points at the same height and call it a "pause".
Who cares about the bigger trend?
This supposed “pause” only appears when you cherry-pick your end points and focus solely on surface temperatures that under-sample arctic regions, and totally ignore the actions of the world’s oceans, a major heat sink. It’s expected for climate change to come in fits and starts, rather than as a steady one-way trend, just as a road ascending a mountain has level or even short downward stretches.
The key is to look at the wide range of indicators – temperatures at the surface, in the high atmosphere, and in the oceans are a start, but shifts in weather patterns (like floods and drought) are also important, as are the responses of natural species. When you put those together, the picture is quite clear – we are rapidly changing our climate in unpredictable ways by adding more heat-trapping gases to our atmosphere.
It’s ironic that even climate deniers must admit the climate is warming to give the term “pause” any meaning.
This whole politicization of climate change is unique to English-speaking nations; in the rest of the world, the debate between left and right isn’t whether our pollution is changing the climate, but how best to address it. Even here, at the municipal level and among building and infrastructure professions, climate change is a given.
Now is the time for the conversation on climate to shift from debate and despair to determination and solutions. Accept no more fuddle-duddle from our national leaders! This Tuesday, September 16th, you can tune in to “24 Hours of Reality: 24 Reasons for Hope” at and learn what is happening to our climate, and the many existing tools we can activate, either individually, as communities, or as a nation. We have the technology, let’s build the will and the movement to use it!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Reversing the growth in greenhouse gas emissions"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a certified member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps

Friday, September 5, 2014

We must Act to make polluters pay

What if you went to a public beach, were careful to pick up and take away any trash you created, but the people next to you left a pile of garbage? And what if their excuse was “well, we pay parking fees and taxes that go toward cleaning the beach, so it’s our right to litter”. Would you accept that, or should they get fined?
I know how I feel, and I hope you feel the same: people must be responsible for the cost of cleaning up their own mess. It’s not fair to make us pay, through taxes or other burdens, for the garbage of others. That includes the trash from making and packaging the consumer products we buy.
Yet right now, much of the cost of taking your garbage away from the curb is paid out of general property tax, regardless of how much actual trash you do, or don’t, toss. The same goes for recycling. That means those who make the most waste are subsidized by the taxes of those who make the least. Yet this can easily be fixed, and if Ontario’s Waste Reduction Act is re-introduced and passed, we’ll be well on the way to having waste pay for itself.
Franke James was Banned on the Hill for saying this!
This legislation would replace the much-maligned and ineffective industry-managed “eco fees” we’ve had to pay for several years. It makes good sense for consumers to pre-pay the cost of disposal of the products they buy, and the related packaging. But under the current system, a standard fee applies, with no regard to how much or little waste the particular manufacturer creates, which means no incentive to choose greener producers. So if ACME is wasteful but Zenith is green, you pay the same eco-fee for a TV from either.
Under the new system, ACME will pay for their own wasteful ways while Zenith will save, passing that on to you in the price. Affordable Zenith TVs will fly off the shelves while overpriced ACME ones get dusty. All producers who reduce waste or packaging will have more sales and profit while wasteful ones will dwindle.
Sadly, this Act didn’t pass before the recent provincial election. But on our behalf and at the suggestion of Canadians for Clean Prosperity, last week Barrie’s City Council passed a resolution for the government to re-introduce it. Contact your MPP and add your personal voice to this request.
When polluters get out of paying for their harms, the costs fall on the rest of us, in the form of higher taxes and other financial burdens. Changing the rules to harness the power of competition to make our economy greener will lower our taxes, reduce waste, and spur innovation leading to high-quality jobs right here at home. No more subsidizing pollution and job stagnation! Make polluters pay, so they compete to pollute less!
Oh, and a special nod goes out to Pizzaville Barrie South, who took up my challenge last week and will now be donating pizza for blood donors on Tuesday & Thursday afternoons, joining Toppers who donates Thursday lunch. Hurray for our bloody generous local Barrie businesses!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pizza a bloody good way to thank donors

UPDATE: Pizzaville Barrie South is going to donate free pizzas for donors every Tuesday &  Thursday afternoon! Yahoo, the power of the pen!
I’ve written before about the precious substance that’s within you to recycle: your blood. The need remains great; just turn the pages of this newspaper or turn on the TV to see examples of people in bad accidents, or needing special surgery, who must have blood transfusions to survive.
The greatest barrier to maintaining sufficient blood supplies isn’t really supply, of course – if each eligible person gave every 2 months, they’d have to start turning people away! But that’s sadly not the case. The last time I was at the Barrie clinic at Bayview & Little, there wasn’t even a line-up and I was processed through right away. Clearly there is capacity for more donors, and every pint donated means one less that must be purchased from some other jurisdiction, at cost to our already overburdened health care system.
Of course, the thought of giving blood gives many people pause, any who have issues with needles or the sight of blood, or folks in white coats. This is a learned fear, though, one many can overcome with a bit of willpower. For others, starting early is a key. That’s why I try to bring my young daughters with me whenever I donate. They get to see the process from start to finish and learn firsthand that it’s not really painful or icky, and of course the staff and volunteers are very friendly and helpful. When my eldest turns 17 and becomes eligible to donate, she plans to celebrate her birthday by visiting the blood clinic, daring all her friends to join her in becoming donors. (I’m pretty sure vampire romances will still be popular with teen girls, I sense a theme party coming…)
That's-a one bloody good-a pizza pie!
But that brings me to another donation needed at Canadian Blood Services’ Barrie Clinic – pizza! Part of what made it easy to bring my daughters to the clinic was the slice of fresh pizza offered after a donation. Sadly, though, the clinic has had to cut their pizza budget, and will have to rely on donations to keep donors fed with something hot & fresh. Barrie-headquartered Topper’s Pizza donates pizza at lunch time each Thursday, which is greatly appreciated, and aligns well with their year-round support for SickKids Foundation. But that leaves a pizza gap for the Tuesday & Thursday afternoon/evening hours, for people who can’t donate in the mid-day.
Do you think another Barrie pizza outlet might step up to fill in the gap, delivering some fresh pizza each Tuesday or Thursday afternoon around 4:30? I bet they will, if you help! Find the Facebook or Twitter account of your favourite local pizza outlet and post a link to this article, or clip it out and bring it in to the counter, and let them know that you’d be thrilled if their bloody delicious pies were available to replenish the spirits – and nutrients – of Barrie’s blood donors. I’m sure if you do, then they’ll listen to you and step up to do their part for those in need.
Any pizza place willing to help the community this way can contact Julie Rose at Canadian Blood Services at (705) 792-2566 or Give blood, give pizza, either way – give!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A forest of free food for all

Have you ever heard of a “food forest”? Is that something like Big Rock Candy Mountain? No, rather than a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. It’s food-producing trees and plants on public land – kind of like an orchard or garden, but free for citizens to access. And Barrie is starting on the path to having food forests right here, in partnership with FruitShare!
When the City of Barrie had plans to plant trees on public land as part of its reforestation efforts, FruitShare saw it as an opportunity to feed the hungry. Rather than only plant typical native tree species, the City agreed to include some fruit-bearing trees. A dozen now make up Barrie’s first urban fruit forest. Residents will soon be able to enjoy picking fresh apples, peaches, pears and cherries free of charge. In the unlikely event that fruit goes unpicked, FruitShare will harvest and split it between FruitShare volunteers and the Barrie Food Bank.
A vision of an integrated food forest - by Molly Danielsson
The City wisely recognizes that urban forest cover provides many benefits, including water retention, improved air quality, mitigating climate change and habitat for wildlife. Now there’s the added benefit of providing free food for Barrie residents for years to come.
Barrie’s urban fruit forest is the first step in the partnership between the City of Barrie and FruitShare. Next is the development of an Urban Forest Management Plan for Barrie, including a food component, with possible expansion to other public lands or right-of-ways.
While the idea is in the earliest stages here in Barrie, further progress has been made in cities like Seattle, Washington, where the Beacon Food Forest is shaping up to be a 7-acre integrated project including an edible arboretum, a berry patch, a nut grove, a community garden, plus gathering and play areas. Certainly we’ll monitor their success for ideas on how to better manage our own public food resources.
This all hearkens back to the idea of “the Commons” – land belonging to the community, free for all to use and share without having to pay rent. Sadly, over the years, most commons were enclosed and appropriated for private use and profit. Nowadays the commons mainly just exists for recreational uses – parks, trails, and beaches. But in prior times, the commons was a vital part of the food production system, providing fruit and other wild crops, herbs, and medicines, as well as grazing space for livestock and fuel for fires. It recognized the ancient principle that the earth was given to all to share, including land and the fruits of nature, but the things people planted, harvested, built or improved became their own, as long as they left enough for others to also provide for themselves. Perhaps initiatives like food forests can help bring back that earth-sharing ethic.
FruitShare is a local not-for-profit bringing volunteers to harvest otherwise wasted fruit from residential trees. This rescued fruit is then divided between home owner, volunteer pickers and the Barrie Food Bank. There are many ways to get involved, such as volunteering to pick, sharing your fruit tree, or providing donations to FruitShare. Please call us at 705-715-2255, email or visit

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Barrie paving the path to food forests". Thank you to FruitShare coordinator Jenna Zardo for her contributions to this article.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Friday, August 15, 2014

Share the land, keep the fruits of labour

We all depend on this earth for our basic needs: food, water, and a place to live, work, and play. Luckily, our world has locations and resources enough to provide for all, if we share well and conserve rather than waste. But what is the fairest way to share?
I’ve been reading the new Mason Gaffney Reader: Essays on Solving the “Unsolvable”. This economics professor’s work comes highly recommended by intellects such as former World Bank Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, and shows how land tax reform is the key to addressing unemployment and poverty and revitalizing our cities and economy. But how?
Imagine you’re in a shipwreck, you find a piece of wreckage and float, adrift, for weeks on end. Finally, almost dead from sunburn, starvation and thirst, you wash up near a tropical island. A person pulls you in and nurses you back to health, and you learn she survived the same shipwreck, but landed on the island right away, learning to live (and live well) off nature.
Back on your feet, your rescuer asks only that you help rebuild the roof she neglected while caring for you, replace the paddle she lost rescuing you, and gather some extra food to make up for what you ate. It takes a few weeks to manage all that, but it’s only fair, and from then on, you often exchange products of each other’s labour. You share evenly the bounty of the island, which is more than enough for both, but pay each other for anything you make using your own skills or efforts. While she fishes, you gather roots, and exchange some of your bounty for some of hers; you trade beams you craft from fallen trees for roofing she weaves from leaves so you can each have shelter from the sun, rain and wind.
The RENT is TOO DAMN HIGH, Wilson!
But what if the first castaway had told you she had claimed the island, and you would have to pay to live there? She demanded tribute when you gathered roots or coconuts, or to made a boat from fallen wood and vines so you could fish. And if you didn’t pay, she’d drive you off the island with the wild dog she’d found and trained. So while you toiled to gather enough food to feed yourself and pay her rent, she could relax and live off your hard work.
That hardly seems fair, yet it’s our economic system now. There are more people involved, a wider variety of lands and resources, but the principle remains that some demand a price for monopolizing things they don’t create, the products of nature or community, which others must pay out of their own labours.
But we can do better. In his book Progress and Poverty, Henry George described how we could fairly share the rent of land, keeping the products of our own labour, and advance together as we are rewarded for our work, not penalized in a cycle of landless poverty. These concepts are similar to many indigenous ideas about property, but can also be adapted to complex, money-based economies like ours. We just must realize that we deserve to keep our earned income, while unearned income must be equitably shared. Separated by 135 years but joined by common values, George’s and Gaffney’s books point the way.

Publishes as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Thursday, August 7, 2014

NHL leads the way in going green

Pond hockey + global warming = no fun!
Given my background in Green politics and the environmental movement, it’s not unusual for media to seek my comments on a topical “green” issue. But when CTV tapped me two weeks ago to comment on a new NHL report, I thought they had the wrong person. I have never claimed to be any kind of authority on professional sports, and no-one would mistake me for a hockey superfan!
But this particular report did have relevance for me, and I hope many people pay it heed. Created in line with the Global Reporting Initiative, it features a comprehensive look at the footprint of operations right across the League, including a full carbon inventory.
Many times we see glowing corporate reports highlighting some specific reduction of waste or pollution, but if presented without context, it may simply be a greenwash. Sure, they might have reduced how much waste there is per unit of a particular product, but if overall production is up, then footprint has increased! The media were very curious as to whether I would see this initiative as genuine, or just another corporate greenwash.
The way to know a report is not a greenwash is if they follow these steps. First, they have to undertake a full, enterprise-wide evaluation. Second, they have to commit to specific reduction goals. Finally, they have to periodically re-measure their footprint, report on their progress, and make new commitments going forward. This NHL report does those things, so I am confident that it is a solid and sincere reduction initiative.
The report stems partly from a growing awareness of the negative impact of climate change on the sport of hockey, feeding a desire to be part of the solution instead of the problem. It notes the waning of free outdoor skating for young players, as shorter, milder winters cut deeply into use of frozen ponds and backyard rinks, a problem noticeable here in Barrie. Clean water supplies are also vital for amateur and professional hockey, yet various forms of pollution, as well as climate-related conditions like drought, threaten water sources worldwide.
Surprisingly, flying teams to games isn’t the biggest part of the NHL footprint, although many players address it with carbon offsets. Instead, 80% of emissions come from facilities – stadiums, rinks, and offices. The report lists a number of ways facility managers have used new technology or better practices to reduce garbage, water or energy use, or emissions.
Fan emissions aren’t counted, but you can do your part by carpooling or taking transit to games, or even biking or walking where practical.
I know our Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a big hockey fan – he even wrote the book on it – so I really hope he reads this report and learns two key facts. First, climate change is real, and is already having a negative impact on his beloved sport. Second, many examples in the report prove that rather than harming the bottom line, reducing emissions or using cleaner energy more efficiently cuts costs and increases profitability. It’s past time to roll out these lessons throughout the economy instead of being paralyzed by a fear of spending a few bucks to save many.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner under the title "NHL report might score one for climate change awareness" and "NHL report nets one for climate"

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A year of Climate Leadership

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of the supporters of my Climate Reality Leadership Corps training which took place one year ago.

Thanks to your gifts, I was able to give the time to attend the intensive 3-day training in Chicago given by Vice President Al Gore, and to give the time to share his Climate Reality presentation in our community.

I am happy to announce that, between online crowdfunding of $870 (minus fees) from 12 donors and a $1000 bursary from Barrie environmental charity Living Green, I was able to cover the full cost of travel, accommodations, and meals with some funds left over to cover costs of making presentations. (For example, I had to purchase a newer laptop to be able to properly display the videos in the presentation).

As part of the training package, I committed to ten "Acts of Leadership" over the following year, which include Climate Reality presentations to members of the public, writing articles for the newspaper, or doing other activities to raise awareness of the Reality of Climate Change.

I am registered as a presenter at the Climate Reality Canada website. I have also been writing about Climate Reality in my weekly "Root Issues" newspaper column in the Barrie Examiner.

I am proud to report that I have met and surpassed my ten-Act commitment, by giving four live presentations, sitting on a film panel for Alliston, and publishing ten columns about climate change in the Barrie Examiner.

However, I am still interested in helping spread the word about Climate Reality, just as you helped me, so feel free to contact me directly or send people to the website to request a presentation.

I would also like to send a special shout-out to a few fellow Climate Leadership presenters:

    - Dr. Brad Dibble, author of Comprehending the Climate Crisis, who co-wrote one of my articles with me

    - Anita Payne, who in addition to her Climate Reality training, has also been walking across North America as part of the Great March for Climate Action

    - Franke James, who in addition to attending the training herself, donated a copy of her book Banned on the Hill as a perk for my supporters (awarded to Living Green)

Once again, thank you to all of you for your support. It's so much easier to accomplish great things when we work together as a team!