DDT-spraying-workers

When the Montreal General Hospital first opened in 1823, three percent of the first 3665 medical cases treated were for malaria. Yep, malaria…in Montreal.

Our lovely grey city used to be surrounded by a lot more swamp and marshland than it is now. Cases of malaria stretched from here all the way out to the prairies. And we can still get malaria in Montreal; the host of the malaria parasite is the Anopheles mosquito, who lives here, too.

The decrease in Montreal malaria cases happened because…

It wasn’t all that long ago that we needed to use an outhouse to do our business. Even my mom remembers using newspaper instead of toilet paper in the 50s because it wasn’t a common household item at the time. Living in rural Ghana during the summer of 2007 brought me back in time to Montreal’s pre-indoor toilet era. My compound had one communal latrine (a tiny closet of a room with a hole in the ground and…

Unbiased reporting is very difficult when it comes to the environment. How can one deliver a balanced report when ultra-rich investment corporation ‘X’ forgoes the environmental impact assessment, and goes ahead with project destroy-precious-habitat-for-profit-again? Unfortunately, this is a tale of that exact old story. The happy ending will come from a simple click to share your voice. It’s easy to feel heroic these days.

We can’t talk about it at the holiday dinner table because one of the kids picked himself up and got himself out of debt by getting a job there. Sure, we’ve touched on it briefly after a couple of mojitos, but when I first learned that my brother-in-law was a mechanic for the larger-than-life trucks that speckle Fort McMurray, Canada’s oil-country, it put a frog in my throat, especially since I used to be heavily associated with Greenpeace, a leading campaigner against the Alberta tar sands. Getting into the pros and cons of the Alberta operation would lead…

It’s wonky out there. It’s warm, it’s frigid, it smells like poo, and tulips are trying to push through semi-frozen dirt. In other words, it’s good ‘ol spring weather. The frequency of elections in Canada is almost as reliable as the changing of the seasons, and the parties we have to vote for are warm, frigid, smell like poo, and try to push up through frozen fodder. So who gets your vote?

The CBC has a vote compass tool to check which party most represents your values…

Who doesn’t like a good gloat? A self-satisfying ‘told ya so!’ to the people who doubted you and a pat on the back from supporters when everyone else swore you were wrong. Sometimes smugness feels great! Well, I’ll tell you about a bunch of people who actually aren’t happy to brag about being right – the folks who have been warning us about the effects climate change will have on the global food supply…

Welcome to the Earthship. No, it isn’t a ship made out of earth, and no, it isn’t a spaceship made to boldly explore where no one has gone before. It’s an innovative type of home, typically built of recycled and reclaimed material, where the household itself functions like an ecosystem. The ecological footprint is minimal to nonexistent, and most of them are completely off the grid, using solar panels and wood stoves for heating, and semi-artistic designs for temperature regulation. Some use composting toilets, or just a plain outhouses in friendly year-round climates.

We humans are part of the environment. Really, all those trees, bugs, birds, sand, walruses, ice floes, endangered orangutans … we’re part of that. Call me out for pointing out the obvious, but this notion was once a big revelation for me. I studied and worked in a few different aspects of the environment; as a technologist, a student, scientist, a field practitioner, an activist, an idealist and now a journalist.

Throughout most of these experiences, I always pictured myself as an observer, but not necessarily part of any type of ecosystem. I guess you could picture it like being a plumber; you fix the pipes, but they’re not your pipes. Well guess what – they are our pipes.

While I was doing my undergrad at McGill, I was part of a group that visited high schools to give guest lectures about different environmental subjects. I had some of the best, and worst experiences with the young ‘uns, but I am, of course, going to talk about THE worst one. My partner and I were standing in front of a West Island high school class that just wasn’t into us. They were the noisy bunch – the more difficult children in the school, grade eight if I remember correctly. We were grasping desperately at anything to get them interested in our presentation on climate change. Polar bears; the poster child of climate change were an obvious pick. Who doesn’t like polar bears?

What a year! We’re still here, so hopefully that means that we’re doing something right…or not at all if we look at the last year in eco news. Without getting all ‘told you so’ on your butt, let’s have a look to see what the Green Bean has brought you throughout 2010 … Earth Day turned 40 this year! Two days before that anniversary, the biggest accidental, and certainly most frustrating ecological disaster we’ve ever seen dominated the media for months. Yup, it’s the BP oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters of all time, but Obama did good by banning offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico until 2017.

It’s the strangest Christmas present I’ve ever helped to give. This week, my mom and I will be putting our beloved cat, Bobo to sleep forever. He’s been suffering with a tumor and can barely lap up food any more. After months of treatment, we have decided to call it quits and give him our own holiday gift: an end to his suffering. Pets bring a lot of comfort and we’ve been lucky to have one of the best cats ever over the last ten years. Like everything on the planet, everything has its final hour. With this bleak holiday message, it brings to mind what will happen with everything else we may be leaving behind. The holidays are a conundrum of giving, taking and waste. At the end, we leave behind our own trail of consumerism. We have the power to diminish our impact on the planet, but what about when we die? What legacy will we be leaving behind when we’re committed to the earth?

This post is a shameless PR stint. Beginning today and every Tuesday until the end of time at 11am, please tune in to CKUT 90.3 FM to hear Mel Lefebvre co-host Montreal’s only English environmental radio show, Ecolibrium.

Ecolibrium has been on air for decades and reports on local and international environmental issues. If you’ve never heard it, then your chance to get a heads-up on what’s going on in your world.

I couldn’t help it when a groan slipped out while reading yet another email about horrible, terrible, very bad plastic. Another outcry against the toxic, non biodegradable stuff, killing the poor innocent creatures of the ocean, blah blah blah. All this while sitting comfortably in my warm home, sipping tea to my heart’s content. I live so far away from the Texas-sized swirling vortex of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean and all the litter lining every shoreline on earth. It’s easy to ignore one little email and go on with my day when I’m not face to face with it.Well, lucky for us that there’s a group of guys who decided to make it their business

This message is directly copied from an urgent email I received last night. Its urgency required me to just get the word out as quickly as possible.

Step 1) read the pasted article below

Step 2) Call Stephen Harper, like I did, at 613 992 4211
Email him: http://pm.gc.ca/eng/contact.asp
Tell him that canceling Canada’s only climate act right before COP16 was an incredibly stupid, undemocratic thing to do.

Step 3) Share this blog posting with everyone you know.

And now, the message:

Some very sad news. Tonight the country’s only federal climate change legislation in Parliament, the Climate Change Accountability Act, was defeated in the Senate 43 to 32.