Thursday, January 27, 2011

Ecofest times two shows Barrie's going Green even faster

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, where a slightly revised version was printed under the title "Ecofest is expanding by leaps and bounds"

Although the Green movement is growing rapidly, especially in Barrie, it is rare for it to double in a single year. Yet that’s the story of Ecofest – founded only last year, it will be more than double in 2011, with extended hours over two days, June 11 & 12, on an expanded space at Heritage Park.

It’s a partnership with the City of Barrie, who is eager to showcase their sustainability programs from transportation and waste reduction to energy and water conservation. Barrie's Strategy & Economic Development Office is weighing in this year with thoughts of building Barrie's reputation as a place to build and grow in the new "green" economy.

Have you something you no longer need, and would like to swap? The City is transitioning “Free Goods Exchange Day” from curbsides city-wide to one central location: Ecofest. Leave an item or take an item, get those goods back into use. There is no charge, and eager traders can get a head start by pre-registering items on the Ecofest website.

Rudy Westerneng of GreenGo Recycling will bring his truck to pick up leftover e-waste, so now is your chance to clean out your attic or garage of old electrical devices.

The marketplace is also expanding. Next to the free exchange will be a special new free-display area exclusively for selling hand-made or repurposed items.

Ecofest is adopting a new focus on food, anchored around a fully-licensed outdoor patio-style café hosted by Ryan Traversy and At-the-Five Resto-lounge, featuring live cooking demos. You will find organic wines and foods, locally-grown produce, and fresh baked goods. There are still opportunities for food vendors to join in, and for sponsors to get their message of support to attendees.

Michelle Finnamore of Advantage Home Staging is going to bring a modular home and assemble it onsite, then stage it in the greenest fashion. You’ll be able to see eco-friendly options for décor, paint, insulation, water conservation, and green roofs and attend workshops inside the home itself.

As exemplified by Ecofest, today’s Green movement is characterized by positive over negative, being a celebration of everything sustainable, healthy, or “green”. Arts & culture are the best messengers for environmental change, so we invite all arts and culture organizations, artists, musicians, performers to get in contact via the website.

But the festival is inclusive of the whole community and open to all, and there is still time for vendors to get the early bird rate, but only until January 30th. Act now and get 40% off, which means two longer days for less than the price of one day last year.

For more information or to sign up as an artist, vendor, or trader, please visit

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

E3 Sustainability Summit - plan to attend

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, where it was printed under the title "Sustainability event will be a unique first"

Next Saturday, (Jan. 29) a new, unique event takes place at Georgian Downs in Innisfil from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and I hope to see you there.

Billed as the 'E3 Sustainability Summit', brainchild of the enterprising Brandon White, of Barrie's newest sustainability and preparedness business, Mercury Reliance Inc., it focuses around the nexus of economy, energy, and environment (the titular three E's). E3 brings together expert speakers, vendors, and members of the public to broaden their awareness, understanding, and most of all actions towards a more secure, sustainable and self-reliant future.

What are the threats to our security? Luckily, we don't live in a war-torn, crime-ridden, or terrorist- plagued nation. Yet things on the horizon demand our preparedness.

Economy, of course, is a major concern. Having weathered one of the worst global downturns in history, we hope the worst is behind us. Yet the root causes of the recession still exist, and we may see a repeat performance. There remain colossal amounts of bad debt, and governments seem to prefer papering it over by printing more money, to undertaking true structural reforms.

Energy ties in closely with economy. The big crash directly followed highest-ever oil prices, more than $140 per barrel. Although prices dropped when demand collapsed, as many economies now return to growth, oil has already breached $100 and threatens to go even higher. And where oil prices go, gas and electricity prices eventually follow. Soaring energy costs will hurt both businesses and families, unless they find a way out of the high-energy rut.

Environment is often the last thing considered, yet more and more, we must bring it to the forefront. International insurance companies report ever-increasing size, frequency, and impact of weather-related disasters. Barrie has luckily been spared such pain since the tornadoes of 1985, but we shouldn't be complacent. Are you ready if vital services are cut off due to flood or ice-storm? Can your family deal with sustained power failure, transportation collapse, or rising food prices? How would a prolonged major drought affect your diet? These are all a lot less scary to consider if you've done your homework and prepared with the right information, skills, and supplies.

A special feature of the E3 Summit will be two screenings of the new documentary Zeitgeist III. This professionally crafted film engagingly describes systemic problems we face and presents some novel suggestions on an alternative socio-economic model.

If you're eager to break the paralysis and move past the status quo growth paradigm, you should definitely find your way to this event.

For more information and updates, visit and click "coming events." There is still room for vendors to book booths and access a growing, forward-looking market. Sustainability is the evolution of green.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Century of Challenges Ahead

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner with guest author Ruth Blaicher, where it was published under the title "Preparing for the move to self-reliance".

“Peak Oil” is an idea that has been drifting around on the edge of the mainstream media for a while, but landed with a thud this summer when the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that indeed the world had definitively reached what they designated as “Peak Oil” in 2006. Conventional oil supplies are now officially in decline. This may take a while to sink in due to the background noise of our hectic lives, but is shaping up to be a real game-changer.

Born and raised as fossil fuel consumers, our entire lifestyle, indeed, our culture is built around it. But the more pressing issue, now pulling ahead of the peak oil dilemma, is financial. “Finance is rewriting how the energy debate plays out,” says Nicole Foss, energy analyst and former editor of The Oil Drum Canada. Some readers will be more familiar with her as the co-editor of the website “The Automatic Earth” where she writes under the pen-name “Stoneleigh”. Foss has been travelling extensively throughout Europe and the U.S. with the message that due to ongoing credit market collapse, we are on the threshold of a long deflationary period. An energy crisis will follow, as the financial morass will stifle energy investment, exploration and maintenance. This means less affordable energy available to power an economic rally, a kind of chicken-and-egg scenario.

At her presentation, Foss will describe how our current financial system is an unsustainable credit bubble grounded in Ponzi dynamics, the logic of the pyramid scheme. She warns that most people are woefully unprepared for the consequences of devastating deflation.

Societies have gone through boom and bust cycles before — for example, Tulip Mania, the South Sea Bubble and the “Real” Great Depression of the 1870s — but most people in the Western world will face this crisis without the knowledge or means to provide the basics of their own survival. Our industrial system has nearly destroyed individual capacity for self-reliance.

A bright spot in the move to self-reliance is the constructive work of groups such as Transition Town initiatives around the world, designing what they call an “Energy Descent Action Plan” for their communities. Foss sees this as a good fit for her attempt to “put resources in the hands of ordinary people at the local level”.

Nicole Foss will be presenting her ideas in a talk called “A Century of Challenges Ahead” at Georgian College’s Rowntree Theatre at 6:30 pm, Saturday January 22nd. Hosted by student environmental group GEAR and Transition Barrie, a movement dedicated to building local resilience in the face of Peak Oil, climate change and ecomomic dislocation, it’s free but a $5 donation is appreciated. Please join us in learning and crafting solutions.

Ruth Blaicher and Karen Fox are local realtors and founding members of Transition Barrie with a passion for green issues and are directors of Living Green.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Night Shift Needs You!

Written for my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner, printed under the title "Warm up to Out of the Cold by volunteering"

This year marks my eleventh year volunteering with the Out of the Cold overnight shift, and as ever, our shift needs more volunteers. Perhaps you?

Out of the Cold is an overflow program helping those who find themselves without a safe place to sleep on a winter’s night, when the formal shelters are full. Churches open their basements and citizens volunteer to serve them dinner, keep them company, watch over them as they sleep and provide breakfast when they wake. Running 7 nights a week on a 4-week rotation with 50 volunteers per night, the program depends on 1400 citizens stepping forward each winter to give up a few hours helping our most needy.

While there is always a demand for dinner, evening, and breakfast volunteers, the greatest need is for those who can spend the night. My own hours are flexible, so I’ve always had an overnight position. If you, too, have flexible time or are a retiree, perhaps you’d consider giving a night, too.

My shift starts at 11 pm when the guests are already asleep. Most nights are pretty quiet; main duties are to process late entrants or provide snacks or drinks as needed. In over a decade of serving I’ve only had to call in emergency services thrice; each time they came promptly and dealt with the situation. The overnight shift, at 7 hours, is the longest but has the least happening, if all goes well. Often there is time in the wee hours to catch up on some reading, write some letters, or do your favourite word or number puzzles.

Before my shift ends at 6 am, we’ve put out an urn of fresh coffee for breakfast and woken a few guests who have to get to work on time. Yes, we actually have homeless working people! In today’s economy, many jobs don’t pay enough or aren’t stable enough to allow people to secure affordable housing, and rooms or bachelor apartments are in very short supply. Like the shelters, Out of the Cold also serves people who have suddenly lost their housing due to misfortune, or for some reason can’t safely go home that night.

Out of the Cold always needs donations of food and money, but mostly time. If you can find it in your heart to help the less fortunate, contact (705) 331-1396 or check here for specific vacancies. Any help is appreciated, especially if you can volunteer or be a spare for an overnight shift. Both men and women are needed, as we get both (and sometimes children) needing a warm place to sleep. Your efforts will be gratefully appreciated by those who otherwise would risk freezing to death, or worse.

Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is an educator, father, volunteer, and politician.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Thoughts on Canadian politics & Green economics spread farther & wider

I recently completed an interview about politics in Canada and economic principles in the Green Party with a fellow Georgist, American journalist Scott Baker, whose articles appear on the Huffington Post and other online news sites.

His main article is here at OpEd News, one of the top progressive blogger sites in the world, but it has already spread to here, here, here, and here. (Jan. 3)

Jan. 4 UPDATE: Now also linked here. (Georgist economics isn't inherently "left", I know some strong young Georgist-Libertarians. But it's certainly fairer and more progressive than what we have now, and these days the Right seems uninterested in anything progressive, so it gets lumped in with the Left).

Jan. 5 BIGGER UPDATE: I'm now featured on the Huffington Post!

Jan. 6: Yet another link. And another, another, and one more.  Golly.

Jan. 7: Now it's on a real estate site. And I've crossed the pond!

Jan. 8: Round and round it goes, where it stops, nobody knows. (That second link is actually a themed excerpt with a mini-bio attached).