Thursday, August 29, 2013

Free fruit for everyone! Come and get it!

You look sadly at the apple tree in your yard. All summer you’ve watched fruit blossom, grow, and ripen. This week it’s ready, but you haven’t time to pick it all and it’s more than you could possibly eat, anyway. Yet you hate to think of it going to waste, falling just to rot and attract pests. You’re even thinking of cutting the nuisance down.
But wait! Like magic, a crew of local volunteers arrives, deploys ladders, and fills bags & baskets with ripe apples! They leave enough for you, they take some for themselves, and deliver the rest to a local food bank. Like them, you’ve become a vital link in community food security, providing healthy local organic fruit to hungry people. Instead of cutting the tree down, you’ll prune it to boost next year’s bounty. Your tree lives on to filter air and water, provide shade and shelter, and support bees and other vital species in our urban ecology.
Sound too good to be true? It’s happening now! FruitShare Barrie, partnering Living Green, Transition Barrie, the Resilience Collaborative and the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, is in the thick of our pilot season and we’re overwhelmed by just how much fruit is out there and how eager the community is to make these connections. We need YOU to make the magic happen; more helpers lighten the load and redirect more fruit from waste to good use.
If you love hands-on, we need pickers and supervisors (“ShareBosses”) to grab that fruit. Beyond picking, we need administration, IT, and web design. Harvesting local fruit is fun for all ages: teenagers get community hour credits, seniors stay socially engaged, families learn first-hand where food comes from. And everybody gets a taste and a take-home basket!
Of course, if you have a fruit tree to be picked, let us know. This is just our pilot year so we won’t get to every tree, and can’t get outside Barrie, but please let us know what you have so we can build our database and plan for next year’s full season.
We also need equipment; your donations help because we’ve already exceeded this year’s budget of zero. Bushel baskets, ladders, scales, tarps, and picking sticks will be happily accepted; valuable equipment or cash donations get charitable receipts. We’re confident that citizens, businesses, and service clubs will all be eager to support this worthy effort to enhance community well-being and improve food access.
Food insecurity is a serious problem in our community; 52% of residents don’t get at least 5 servings of fruit or vegetables each day, and the number of people accessing food banks is increasing every year. With fresh produce so important to a basic healthy diet yet so costly, the ability to harvest and deliver it for free is a win-win-win for everyone.
FruitShare Barrie is run by community volunteers, so the best way to reach us is by emailing No email? Try reaching us by phone at 705-436-1093.

Update: CTV did a great story at one of our picks yesterday! (Skip ahead to about 9:25 of this clip).

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

Friday, August 23, 2013

More bad logic from fossil foolers

Last week I highlighted the bad logic of new oil and gas pipeline supporters. The same folks say pipelines will increase the sale price of tar sands bitumen, thus boosting oil company profits, while magically staying cheaper than market for Maritime customers. Any time bad math like this comes near public policy debate, be very skeptical. They argue we must spend billions on fossil energy because it would be expensive to build renewable energy, ignoring that billions are to be spent either way.
But other circular arguments are being spun out, aimed to keep us too dizzy to demand real action on greenhouse gas reductions to protect our atmosphere and climate. See if any of these seem familiar.
One is that what we do in Canada doesn’t matter, because China is building so many new coal plants. Although I still hear this one in conversations, I don’t see it quite as much in the pro-fossil media echo chamber anymore, and with good reason. China, once a rapidly-growing coal monster, has actually made serious steps to turn things around. Their rate of building new coal plants has dropped dramatically, even though they still want to expand their energy supply. This is due to a combination of tougher pollution regulations, local opposition, and rapidly increasing production of installed wind, solar and hydro. The United States has also shown significant cutbacks in coal plant starts, for similar reasons. Meanwhile, Canada’s coal regulations have been late and, when they arrive, disappointing. Every time we point a finger at China or the US, the three other fingers pointing back at us say we are losing the initiative in the lucrative clean energy market of the future.
Then they say tar sands have less global warming potential than coal, so we should give them a pass. That’s like someone on a reduced-salt diet arguing that pretzels have less salt than chips, so there’s no reason not to eat even more pretzels. Real climate action means reductions on all fronts, not another round of finger-pointing.
The most pernicious, though, is the “it will happen anyway” argument. The same interests who, one day, argue that we must build new pipelines connecting the tar sands to the Pacific, Maritimes, Gulf Coast or even Arctic in order to free up the “stranded oil” will, on another day, argue just as strongly that it won’t matter if we prevent a particular pipeline, because the oil will get out some other way. Well, it’s either one or the other, and in the real world, pipeline construction and tar sands expansion go hand-in-hand; neither makes sense without the other. Blocking both is necessary to shift our capital investment into a renewable future.
Declaring the inevitability of tar sands expansion, pipelines or burning carbon robs us of our right to build the future we want to have. We aren’t locked into that dead-end if we don’t want to be. In fact, many are already ignoring these fossil fools and choosing to build a different, cleaner future; more on that next week.
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Pipelines, tar sands expansion go hand in hand"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a certified member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Fossil Fools' ignorant malicious attacks fuelled by panic

“The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” - Winston Churchill
Churchill’s statement applies perfectly to our role in climate change. Ignorant columns on this topic seen on a weekly basis in our newspapers, with their malicious attacks on those pointing out climate reality, indicate a rising panic and resentment among those who insist on remaining fossil fools.
As a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, it is my duty to point out the lies and the truth, and it looks like this will be a full-time responsibility! Just this past week, several columns have put forward false or misleading ideas.
One commonly-heard refrain is that tar sands oil is sold at a discount due to difficulty getting it to market, so eastern provinces will benefit from a new pipeline bringing it to the Atlantic coast, allowing them to buy cheap Canadian oil instead of expensive foreign imports. Um, isn’t the whole idea of the pipeline to get oil to market so that they can charge full price? According to the tar sands proponents, it is, so that means there will be no “Canadian discount” for easterners, unless someone is proposing another National Energy Program like Pierre Trudeau’s. (So far as I know, no-one is.) That means Easterners at the end of a tar sands pipeline will have to pay the same world market price as foreign customers. Even energy analysts have been pointing out this economic reality, but biased, math-challenged columnists seem deaf to it.
Another panic-fueled, malice-driven, ignorance-spreading tactic is to treat the challenge of ending fossil fuel dependence as an insurmountable obstacle, with stupid throwaway lines like “we won’t eliminate our dependency towards petroleum overnight” or “maybe they’d prefer we just build a few windmills to make up for the energy gap” to be addressed by a $12 billion pipeline. This is coupled with the constant assertion that “the left” is against energy and jobs.
The fact that we can’t end our addiction to fossil fuels instantly doesn’t mean we should ramp up production, any more than not being able to quit smoking cold turkey means you should smoke more! The reality is we must shift investment away from new fossil infrastructure into renewable energy, not with “a few windmills” but with $12 billion of new renewable infrastructure instead of pipelines, something which would incidentally create more jobs than pipeline construction or tar sands expansion.
But until the inevitable fair price on carbon arrives, the market will tilt toward dirty extraction and burning of fossil fuels over clean renewables. And in the meantime, there is more bafflegab to correct than can fit in one column, so I’ll return to this topic next week.

Printed as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Tar sands debate filled with misinformation"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a certified member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Food Not Bombs building community from surplus food

As someone who regularly volunteers with the homeless and helps out at Rosie’s turkey dinners, I was shocked to learn last year of people being arrested in Florida just for feeding the hungry. Could this be some kind of joke? Sadly, it was not. The organization Food Not Bombs, which for decades has been putting together healthy meals for the hungry using discarded food, is apparently too radical for American authorities to tolerate.
Luckily, Canadian governments aren’t so repressive – at least, not yet. And Barrie has its own chapter of Food Not Bombs, who regularly put together a free tasty vegetarian/vegan meal that anyone can enjoy.
The philosophy of Food Not Bombs is solidarity, not charity. Rather than act as an agency where staff feed poor clients, they create a space where everyone can work together to make and enjoy a healthy meal and atmosphere. All are welcome, and you don’t have to attend a sermon or prove lack of income to take part. Many join in preparing or serving the meal (or cleaning up after) and all eat together; there is no “us and them” divide, either physical or conceptual.
However, the event always includes a literature table, so you can learn about ideas outside the corporate consumer culture. In their own words, “meals without a message is just charity and supports the current system of exploitation; it isn’t a Food Not Bombs meal if you don’t have literature and a banner.” But it’s not a political rally, either; no-one makes speeches and it’s up to you whether to take some literature to read, and whether or not to talk politics over dinner. Families are welcome, and you can enjoy live musical entertainment with your meal.
You might wonder how so many can be fed with discarded food. Surprisingly, studies show that billions of dollars worth of food is thrown away or left to spoil every year. There is more than enough that can be diverted to provide for the hungry among us, if we make the effort. This wish to avoid wasting food is also a driver behind the new FruitShare Barrie initiative – more on that next week.
Barrie’s chapter of Food Not Bombs holds their dinners at the D.I.Y. Arts Collective at 67 Toronto Street on the second Thursday of each month, including next week (August 8th). To find out more about upcoming dinners, or to join the consensus-based group, visit They are also always looking for more connections to stores or restaurants willing to donate surplus food so it can be cooked and served, rather than thrown away, or to help with kitchen space or cooking supplies. And always happy to see new faces for dinner!
Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner.
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.