Author

Kaeleigh Phillips

Browsing

Baby boomers and millenials need to prepare for senior crisis

Baby boomers and millennials are often at odds with one another due to differing values and desires. Baby Boomers are often blamed for the state of the economy and environmental degradation today, and millennials are seen as flippant and spoiled. Both parties enjoy pointing fingers, but the reality is these are the grandparents, parents, and children of society, and everyone must learn to work together.

In coming years, retiring baby boomers will be the largest age group in the twenty-first century to reach old-age and millennials, as a much smaller generation, will be in charge of providing for these seniors. To avoid being crushed economically on a global level, millennials and baby boomers need to put their differences aside and figure out how to support this fundamental change in society. The world is rapidly aging, with the number of people aged 60 or up growing from 11 per cent in 2006 to 22 per cent by 2050, according to the guide on building age-friendly cities by the World Health Organization (WHO). This is a massive population shift and society needs to prepare essential senior’s services in cities all over the world.

In celebration of senior’s month in Ontario, throughout the month of June there will be a lot of focus on providing services for seniors. The City of Toronto is dedicating programming to the safety of older adults with Toronto Fire Services, which includes door-to-door visits to Toronto Community Housing senior’s buildings and fire prevention services will conduct visits to provide safety tips to avoid home fires. Ontario is also supporting 460 new projects through the Senior’s Community Grant program to help seniors stay involved and active in their communities. This includes providing seniors with projects and initiatives in the non-profit sector to stay involved and engaged. Though these projects are positive for seniors, housing and transportation should be the central focus for senior’s month in Toronto.

In order to create an age-friendly city, builders must create stronger transportation. There is a global shortage of affordable housing that focuses on seniors and building infrastructure with old-age-motivated features will help avoid a housing crisis in the next 10 years. Public transportation benefits everyone and is a necessity for seniors because many can’t drive after a certain point. Buses and subways give unlimited access to essential city services such as medical and recreational services and should be a priority to build an age-friendly urban center.

When planning for seniors, providing accessibility in every part of the cityscape is also considerably important. According to the Age-friendly Checklist by Alberta Health, every aspect of a senior’s daily transportation must be easily accessible. Sidewalks need to be even for seniors with mobility issues and provided on all roadways. Public transportation must have elevators and easy access to buses and subways. Public buildings must be accommodated with handicap washrooms and ramps if there are stairs. In colder climates such as Canada, preparing for icy conditions and cold weather is also relevant for seniors.

With the better part of the baby boomer generation retiring in the next 10 years, it is imperative to start orienting infrastructure towards ensuring this large population of seniors will be taken care of. The frivolous arguments between millennials and baby boomers are ridiculous and must be abandoned. Instead, everyone must work together to ensure that seniors will have homes and transportation, and millennials won’t be crushed by the debt of an impending housing or public transit crisis.

For senior’s month, opening a discussion as to how to deal with the larger problems of creating an age-friendly city is ultimately the way to creating a stronger and more resilient city for generations to come.

Toronto launches #KissesforBees at city hall

Toronto is buzzing about bees. A new art installation popped up at city hall Friday — a giant pair of red lips with milkweed plants inside of them. The idea is to attract native bee pollinators and promote education around the importance of protecting these buzzing critters.

The City of Toronto, along with Burt’s Bees, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and Live Green Toronto, were at Nathan Philips Square to reveal the art installation and promote bee pollination in the city. “Some people don’t realize how important bees are, but like we heard today, every three mouthfuls of food is pollinated by bees and without them we aren’t eating,” Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said. “It is important that we plant pollinator gardens and educate people on the importance of bees.”

Sustainable T.O. executed the design of the art installation on behalf of Burt’s Bees and it took a large team to complete the project. “Burt’s Bees created the conceptual image and I worked with a fabricator to produce what we see here,” Environmental Designer at Sustainable T.O. Joel Anderson said. “There is an internal skeleton that supports the design and there are hundreds of hexagonal tubes that formed the shape. Then holes were carved into the installation to put the plants in.”

Pollinators such as bees need native plants to thrive and the entire plant ecosystem depends on bees to grow food and flowers. “There are 15-20 species of bumblebees that are native to Ontario and are currently endangered. There are many species of bees that are crashing and we are trying to stop it. Pollinators are important so that plants can have sex. This is one of the most critical elements of our ecosystem and a lot of plants rely on bees,” Executive Director of Wildlife Preservation Canada Randal Heide said. “Monarch butterflies will also benefit from the milkweed. Unfortunately, farmers hate milkweed and use pesticides to kill it, but disseminate monarch butterflies. In the cities, we have banned these pesticides and we have green spaces. Cities are probably a safer place for bees and butterflies.”

The art installation is a part of a larger campaign that Burt’s Bees is running to promote pollination in Toronto. They have launched the #kissesforbees campaign and for every lipstick sold, their partner Wildlife Preservation Canada will plant 100 wildflowers. The art installation will be featured until the end of June and will then be a part of the pride parade in July.

After that, the perennial milkweed plants will be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation who will distribute them to locations around Toronto to help further promote bee pollination for years to come.

The power of connecting with your vagina

One Word: Vagina.

Do I have your attention yet? Or better yet, how are you reacting to the word? Are you cringing, panicking, or is it arousing?

Discussing the vagina can cause various reactions. Rarely is it a topic of open discussion at the dinner table. In fact, thinking about this vital tool of female sexuality as a powerful source of healing, creativity, and happiness most often causes nervous giggles or averted gazes rather than furious clapping or high-fives. How is it that we regularly listen to men drone on about their penis sizes (and even use it in pick-up lines with expectations of rousing applause), yet any mention of female genitalia must be avoided at all costs? Society is abysmal.

In an effort to reinvent the wheel my fellow women, prepare yourself and get deeply excited about the secrets I am going to divulge in this article. If you want to giggle or roll your god damn eyes, get out of here! Otherwise buckle up and come for a ride.

The first thing you need to understand is that women deserve to have a relationship with their vaginas. I don’t mean the type of partnership that comes from a 20-year marriage where you sleep on opposite sides of the bed. Instead, each and every woman should strive for a thriving and vibrant connection with her vagina because it holds the secrets of our “yoni”, a Sanskrit word meaning source of origin. Ask yourself, how do you feel about your vagina? When you feel aroused by someone or something (or you don’t), do you listen to that intuition? If we pay attention to the signs our bodies are trying to give us, we can learn a lot from our vaginas. Pay attention, listen, feel, and, you will be surprised.

Holistic sex and relationship coach, Kim Anami, has several free videos and immersive courses that explain the importance of how to vitally connect with your vagina. With meditative work and focus, it is possible to harness your creative sexual energy and use it to heal your body and promote creativity and new ideas. Whether through masturbation or sex, allow yourself to come to a point of almost orgasming and, instead of achieving climax, breathe slowly and focus the energy inward. This practice is known as manifesting the microcosmic orbit, and can be a healing practice for the body. When channeling the energy inward, simply visualize a ball of energy moving up the spine to the crown of your head and back down through the front of your body back to your pelvic area. The energy will help promote healing in areas of your body or chakras that need energy or attention, and you will feel an increase in creativity and inspiration from the practice.

Want more? A daily yoga-like practice that will help further create a connection with your vagina and inner-creative power is a 5000-year-old traditional Tibetan practice known as the five Tibetan rights. These five exercises should be done daily while meditating on the power of your pelvic core. Begin by spinning in a ‘dervish whirl’ until you are slightly dizzy and then lie down on the floor. The second exercise includes lying down on the ground and bringing your legs up together to a 90 degree angle as many times as comfortable. The third rite is to kneel with your toes curled up, and place your hands on your outer thighs as you stretch your chest towards the sky, stretching your back. The fourth repetition involves lying on your back and raising your body to a table-top position. Lastly, complete the cycle by doing downward and upward facing dog repeatedly. These practices promote clarity and open up the chakras to receive the sexual energy from the microcosmic orbit.

If you are having trouble focusing or manifesting creative energy, invoking the powers of the vagina will help regain the inner power to create and inspire. Instead of struggling for several hours to focus on a project, simply enact the five Tibetan rights or practice the microcosmic orbit, and you will be surprised how much energy comes out of the experience. Sexuality is empowering and enlightening, if used in a healthy way, and manifesting a personal relationship with the vagina is an inspiring path towards self-love.

Love your vagina, love the power of creation it has, and most of all, don’t be afraid to shout the word from the rooftops. It is about time we open the floor to a conversation about the power of female sexuality and all of its potential.

Canada remains dedicated to Paris Agreement despite U.S. decision

The Paris Agreement has been making headlines worldwide after the Trump administration removed themselves from the Paris Climate Agreement and ignited world-wide criticism. Though the United States seems to be doomed to a coal-filled future, where does Canada stand when it comes to Paris Agreement goals?

As it turns out, Canada has a lot of work to do in order to achieve the objectives set out in the Paris Agreement, but remains dedicated to the accord. When the U.S. dropped out of the Paris Agreement, not one other country followed suit and Prime Minister Trudeau went as far to release a statement criticizing President Trump’s decision: “We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” Trudeau said. “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth. Canadians know we need to take decisive and collective action to tackle the many harsh realities of our changing climate.”

It appears the Canadian government understands climate change is an important issue, but is this country doing enough to combat the devastating effects of carbon emissions? The Columbia Institute, a non-profit dedicated to research and building sustainable communities, released a report card assessing the federal government’s climate change achievements and outlining which areas need improvement. According to the report, entitled Top Asks for Climate Action report,  as of 2015, Canada ranked 58 out of 61 countries for climate protection performance. The government has met certain climate change goals by implementing a national price on carbon, establishing a national transportation strategy, and offering dedicated funding to public transit in its municipalities. Alternatively, things Canada needs to work include setting greenhouse gas targets that would meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel industries, and moving towards renewable energy instead of locking the economy into a high carbon path.

The next step would be for Canada to adopt science-led and legally binding greenhouse reduction targets and follow best practices of countries like Finland, Denmark, the United Kingdom and Mexico. As a part of the Paris Agreement, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) mandates nationally determined commitments by 2020. Canada’s current targets do not meet the Paris Agreement standards, and these new objectives would need to be set at 50 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 from the current standing goal of 30 per cent.

South of the border, the Trump government announced on June 1 the United States wouldn’t remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, citing the accord as ‘unfair’. Ignoring the pleas of many U.S. stakeholders, Trump instead offered to renegotiate the terms. The European Union outright refused to engage in negotiations. Instead, the EU plans to bypass the federal government and work directly with U.S. businesses, governors, and mayors to keep up with the climate change commitments.

Though this decision is devastating from an environmental perspective, it opens up key opportunities for Canada. If the U.S. is solely dedicated to promoting fossil fuels, the clean technology sector is ripe for the taking and Canada has the option to become a leader in renewable energy. Since there are only three countries in the world that haven’t signed the Paris Agreement (Syria, Saudi Arabia, U.S.), there are a lot of stakeholders looking for ways to implement clean technology and the green economy will only grow from here.

Though the U.S. has made a critically bad decision to leave the Paris Agreement, Canada and the rest of the world remains dedicated to slowing climate change and saving planet earth. Trudeau is leading the country towards becoming one of the more sustainable places to live in the world, but a lot of work remains. If Canada does set concrete greenhouse reduction goals that match targets set in the Paris Agreement and then actually implements them, the country will be well on its way to trying to combat the inevitable pollution caused by our climate-change-denying-neighbour down south.

Raw Vegan Mock Tuna Salad from Love Wild Live Free

Eating a fresh and raw salad in the summertime is one of the healthiest and easiest ways to stay cool from the gut-wrenching heat. One of my favourites is a refreshing raw vegan mock tuna salad.

Love Wild Live Free, a vegan food and lifestyle blog by Avra Epstein, offers a yummy raw mock tuna salad recipe that uses affordable, fresh ingredients to make a light (but filling) meal that will leave you vying for more. This raw recipe uses organic ingredients and also includes kosher dill relish with live probiotics, an easy way to get additional bacteria that keep the gut healthy.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw sunflower seeds
  • 5 tablespoons RawFoodz French Onion Dip
  • 2 celery stocks, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp Kosher dill relish (with live probiotics)
  • 2 tsp Dulse Flakes, or Nori Flakes
  • 1 tbsp finely minced onion (red or sweet white)
  • Pink Himalayan Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • (use organic ingredients)

Directions

  1. Rinse sunflower seeds and place in to a medium size bowl. Fill with filtered water, leaving a few inches of space above. Cover with a clean towel, secured with an elastic band. Allow to soak 6-8 hours.
  2. After the soaking time is up, rise sunflower seeds again. Add to food processor and pulse to chop into an even consistency, scraping down with a spatula as necessary. You do not want to over process otherwise you will end up with a creamy consistency. Instead, you’re going for a crumbled consistency that resembles flaked tuna.
  3. In a large mixing bowl add chopped sunflower seeds and the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine.
  4. Serve chilled and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Enjoy this delicious salad and experience the rejuvenating feeling of eating raw and healthy foods.

Woman of the Week: Karen Farbridge

Karen Farbridge is a straight-forward, confident, and extremely successful woman in Ontario’s sustainability community.  As a previous leader in municipal government, she is charismatic and focused on making the world a better place.

When the former Mayor of Guelph is asked about her proudest accomplishments from her 11 years on council, she is quick to bring it back to the importance of community engagement. “Advancing our practice around engagement and rethinking how local government is involved with sustainability is what I feel the most proud of,” Farbridge says. “People are looking for connections to place and community and they find them in different ways in their lives, and I found it in this way in my own life.”

Farbridge has been involved in the environmental and government non-profit and public sectors for over 20 years. Most recently, she established her consulting agency, Karen Farbridge and Associates after her final term as mayor in 2014.  “The key focus is to implement projects that accelerate growth to create low-carbon and resilient communities,” Farbridge says. “That can entail work with the public sector, [for example] with Natural Resources Canada and Municipal Affairs Ontario, and also in the private sector. It also includes work with Research institutions, such as University of Guelph and York University and the Columbia Institute out of B.C.”

Farbridge has several projects on the go and uses her extensive experience in the political realm to help various organizations with sustainability initiatives. She helped the Columbia Institute in B.C. write a report, Top Asks for Climate Change: Ramping up Low-Carbon Communities, that included a report card assessing climate change initiatives, labelling the successes and which areas needed improvements. The report was released on June 1 and focuses on how the federal government is progressing towards goals pertaining to the Paris Agreement.

Farbridge is also contributing to a collaborative project with the Ontario Climate Consortium and the University of Guelph via the Community Energy Knowledge Action Partnership. This project studies net zero and low-carbon developments across five different Ontario municipalities, taking into account testimonies from a number of urban planners, economic development officers, and community management officers.

Long before becoming mayor, Farbridge was involved in municipal politics. She became a city councillor in 1994 while also working for the Ontario Public Interest Research Group Guelph at the same time. She obtained a PhD in biology and spent 10 years in academics at University of Guelph. Farbridge encouraged council to develop a group plan on climate change that focused on the Kyoto protocol. As her career progressed, she served her first term as mayor of Guelph in 2000-2003 and her second and third terms from 2006-2014.

In between her terms as mayor, Farbridge worked with the University of Guelph to develop a community energy plan that was later implemented. “I ran again for Mayor in 2006. That community energy plan was brought forward to the new council and it was adopted,” Farbridge says. “Since that time, I put a lot of time into promoting the community energy plan.”

Farbridge has received several awards including the City Builder Award from the Canadian Urban Institute in 2014 for her leadership in sustainability and community energy. She also received the Clean 50/Clean16 Award from Delta Management Group in 2014, which is awarded annually to 50 individual leaders who are advancing clean and sustainable development in Canada. In 2012, Farbridge was the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal from the Governor General of Canada for her contributions and achievements to Canada. Farbridge was elected Guelph’s first female mayor in 1999.

Farbridge is passionate about mentoring women and plays an integral role in environmental charity Nature Canada’s Women for Nature initiative, which promotes women leaders involved in nature. The organization is currently creating a mentorship program where Farbridge and other notable women in the environmental sector help younger women forward their careers. She is also a part of a mentoring project to help women who have a start-up businesses in Guelph, and has a relationship with a woman in the city to help her build up her start-up.

When Farbridge is taking a break from combatting climate change, she enjoys gardening, hiking, and is looking forward to a canoeing trip in Algonquin Park this summer. She is clearly a nature lover and has made a considerable impact within the sustainable community in Ontario.

Did you enjoy this profile? Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter to have them delivered right to your mailbox!

Speak up parents and stop being passive-aggressive!

One of the more difficult aspects of having school-age children is making friends with other parents. If you are the right age, with the right job and the right haircut, perhaps it is fairly easy, but if you live by the beat of your own drum, it can be difficult to mesh with other ‘more traditional’ and occasionally passive-aggressive parents.

There is nothing like bonding with other parents or watching as your children make friends and attend play dates. The test is what happens when your children’s relationships go sideways. For example, how do parents react when one child gets into a fight with another? What if you have a different parenting style?

As a mom, I’ve noticed that instead of confronting parents directly, they opt to avoid speaking with one another and try to avoid the awkwardness of confrontation. This ultimately leads to a lot of confusion and frustration.

I don’t think that mothers are aggressively protective over their children, and therefore will be prone to violent behaviour if another parent brings an issue to their attention. And yet, what I am seeing first-hand is parents shying away from confrontation all together and opting for a more passive-aggressive approach. Have you ever tried to plan a playdate and the other parent is suddenly ‘too busy’? Or the other child is sick all the time out of the blue? Don’t kid yourself, you and your child are being ditched. It appears we haven’t left high school after all.

As mature adults, it is no longer heart-breaking to learn someone doesn’t want to be your friend. Over the years, we all learn to accept that some people like us and some don’t. The issue with the passive-aggressive approach in dealing with other parents is what it is teaching our kids. In school, children are traditionally taught to confront their issues and solve problems in a fair and respectful manner. When parents don’t treat each other the same way, this causes confusion for children and can even extend to bullying on the playground between the two children whose parents don’t get along.

Canadians are known for being polite almost to a fault. We simply don’t thrive off unnecessary confrontation and will go lengths to avoid it. There are certain times though, when a discussion is absolutely necessary and avoiding confrontation is more disrespectful than dealing with a problem. When it comes to our kids, we need to speak up in a courteous and controlled way and teach kids to manage their issues instead of avoiding them.

Another potential factor for avoiding issues between parents could be the pressure of trying to be a part of a community in a large city. It is difficult to connect with others when living in a large metropolis and thriving in a school community becomes a lifeline for many parents. That’s where they find family friends. Perhaps there is a ‘cool’ factor to not being confrontational, but the reality is avoiding issues altogether will have more long-term damaging effects on kids and parents in tight-knit urban communities.

It is time to SPEAK UP PARENTS! By breaking through the false glass ceiling of fake compliments and passive-aggressive avoidance, perhaps issues will actually be solved and children will really learn how to treat one another. Being polite only goes so far, and telling the truth is almost always better than the alternative. As parents, we need to practice what we preach and treat each other as kids are expected to be with each other.

It is time to be truthful and ditch being ditched. As a mom I’m ready for this change, are you?

B.C Green and NDP come to an environment-focused agreement

The B.C. Greens and NDP parties have reached an agreement that will allow them to create a minority government and remove Premier Christy Clark from her seat as head of the province. Both parties have made it clear the new agreement is not a coalition — the Green Party will still be able to support their own platforms, but will guarantee any support of an NDP budget or confidence motion.

Both parties signed a confidence agreement that set out specific requirements for both parties to work together in B.C. It is a dream come true for Green supporters across the country as the environment and climate change goals are put at the forefront for the first time in Canadian history. An entire section of the agreement focuses on reducing greenhouse emissions and calls for an increase in the carbon tax and a revitalization of the environmental assessment process in the province. The Lieutenant Governor Judith Guichon will most likely cast a vote of no confidence to remove Christy Clark as Premier, though she has confirmed she will remain leader of the opposition.

The agreement takes a hard stance against the pipeline expansion of the Kinder Morgan project and promises to “immediately employ every tool available” to stop the project. The Site C hydro dam, another controversial environmental project, will also be sent to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review of its economic viability. Kinder Morgan’s shares fell on Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange due to the uncertainty of the Kinder Morgan project and the recent coalition government.

The electoral results and vote recount has cast doubt onto the ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system and is bringing up the issue of reform. The first-past-the-post system allows people to elect representatives for their ward, and the political party with the most representative becomes the leader of the province. The agreement between the NDP and the Green includes the discussion of changing to proportional representation, which would cast a popular vote for the premier or prime minister in addition to a vote for the candidate in each riding. The plan is to have a referendum in 2018. The Federal Liberal government pushed for electoral reform in their campaign and once Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was elected, they dropped the issue. The new government in B.C desires to bring that issue to the forefront.

The NDP-Green agreement marks a new relationship between two parties that have traditionally both been in disagreement. If the no confidence vote dethrones Clark and NDP leader John Horgan becomes Premier, it will be interesting to witness the environment become an issue of focus on a level never-before-seen in the province and across Canada.

Are you starting to bike to work this summer?

For most people, the approaching summer weather is meant for patio drinks and walks by the waterfront — but for me, what I love most is being able to dig out my bike and start cycling to work again.

After months of hibernating, eating like a bear, watching Netflix and hoping for better weather, the first ride of a new season always makes me a bit sore. Make sure to take your bike somewhere for a proper tune-up. I am lucky enough to have a friend who is a bike mechanic at Velotique and I got a great deal. It pays to have a friend who understands how to fix bikes, but if none of your friends are bike people, it may be worthwhile to learn yourself. At some places in Toronto, like Bike Pirates, they give you the tools at hand and you can do the work yourself for a cheaper price.

Unfortunately, before I could get my bike tuned for the season I ran into my first hurdle. I made the irresponsible mistake of leaving my bike outside all winter and it sustained some pretty serious salt damage from the road. This caused my U-lock to rust to the point where I couldn’t open it. Always keep your bike indoors during the off-season.

When I was finally able to get on the road, I felt like a bird that was stretching its wings after a long sleep. I travel from the east-end and I soared down Dundas East on a bike path and waved at the cars stuck in traffic. It felt like a dream come true until I heard my panier bag disengage from my bike behind me and spill all over the road. I was forced to stop and clean up all of my belongings while swearing to the gods over my poor luck. I discovered after re-jigging the panier lock that it had been malfunctioning all winter and latched it to my bike with bungee cords for the remainder of the ride (note: always travel with bungee cords if you are a cycling commuter).

I arrived downtown with little time to spare due to my unexpected panier emergency, and found Dundas East blocked off at Parliament St. for construction! I decided to deviate south to Sumach St. which is the equivalent of riding on the surface of a volcanic crater (my bottom was very sore). Lesson learned; always give yourself plenty of room when getting back on the bike at the beginning of the season because navigational mistakes are sure to happen here and there. It is also frustrating when you do find an alternative cycling route (in this case on Gerrard St.) and delivery trucks park in the middle of the cycling route. This should be considered illegal and puts many cyclists in danger.

Delivery truck blocking the cycling path on Gerrard St.

The other challenging thing about cycling earlier in the season in Toronto is trying to account for the bi-polar weather in Southwestern Ontario. On one of my commutes last week, I put on a sweater, a jacket, took off both, changed pants, and arrived at home sweaty, cold, hot, and exhausted. Understanding Toronto weather is confusing to say the least.

All in all though, after a couple of days of adjustment, I am happy to be back on my bike, and collecting my bikos. I got back on my bike just in time for “Bike to Work Day”, a Toronto event where Mayor John Tory hopped on a bike at Bloor St. to ride with commuters in celebration of cycling in the city. The event is a precursor to ‘Bike Month’, an annual event in Ontario that celebrates all aspects of cycling. To ring in bike month, the City of Toronto will be giving away tote bags with cycling goodies at locations all over the city for the month of June and taking pictures of cyclists who love to ride.

Cycling is one of the positive benefits of being urban dweller. But it’s much more than that. There is absolutely nothing more enjoyable than feeling of the wind blowing through your hair as you cycle by vehicles stuck in traffic.

Zooming past morning downtown traffic in Toronto.

Will you be biking to work this month? Let us know if there are any problems with your commute, in the comments below!

What’s the buzz on bee pollination?

When was the last time you saw a bumble bee? These magnificent yellow and black critters are supposed to fly from plant to plant, pollinating them and allowing these flowers to grow into fruitful crops; but, something has happened. The bees are slowly disappearing — and with them the world’s hope of becoming sustainable.

Broccoli, cantaloupes, cucumbers, pumpkins, blueberries, watermelons, almonds, apples, and cherries are few of many fruits and vegetables that rely on bee pollination to grow. When bees drink nectar from a flower, they brush against the stamens (the male reproductive organ of a flower) and pollen sticks to the hairs on the bee’s body. The bee then transfers the pollen to the stigma (female reproductive organ) of the next flower it visits and fertilization occurs, which creates a fruit with seeds.

Unfortunately, bee populations have been decimated due to genetically modified crops and increased amounts of pesticides used on foods. According to Honeylove, an American urban beekeeper’s non-profit, there were over five million bee colonies after WWII. There are less than half that amount today.

There is also a common misconception that the honey industry actually helps the bees, but this is not the case. Instead, large commercial honey brands use corn syrup to feed the bees instead of letting them keep their honey, and it results in sick colonies that have a lower rate of survival. Honey is also an essential food source for bees to survive in the wintertime and replacing this vital resource with a sugar substitute like corn syrup does not provide bees with nutrients and vitamins they need to pollinate properly. Instead, there are rising occurrences of bee colonies dying off entirely from a corn syrup diet because it lacks the enzymes and nutrients found in honey. If society leaves the bees in their current situation, the insect may go extinct and many of our essential foods will die off permanently with them.

So, what can people do about it? First of all, try planting some bee-friendly plants, vegetables, and fruits in your garden. Bee populations vary depending on their region, and the best way to ensure bees flourish is to plant native plants. Bees thrive with open native blooms where they can access the nectar and carry pollen easily from flower to flower.

bees milkweed
Common milkweed is another affordable and local plant in Ontario.

Second of all, build and hang a bee hotel near the garden. Simply nail together a box with one open side, and fill with blocks of wood or logs that have small holes drilled into them. This provides tunnels for the bees to nest in and wind-protection on the other side. Join a local beekeeper’s group to learn more about bees in your particular region.

Bees plants
Bees love Anise Hyssop Flowers and they are local to Ontario!

Ontario’s ecosystem really does depend on the buzzing creatures — with the world claiming a sustainable future, let’s not forget about these small and easily ignored insects. Not many people enjoy having a buzzing sound in their ear, but without it, the world is so much bleaker.

When was the last time you saw a bee? Let us know in the comments below!