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Legal cannabis in Canada has wild reactions

On Wednesday, Canada did what it said it would and became the largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace, joining Uruguay to become the second country in the world to nationally legalise cannabis.

To the surprise of no one, sales began early Wednesday in Newfoundland with hundreds of customers lined up around the block at St. John’s by the time the clock struck midnight.

The atmosphere could only be described as ‘festive’  with some of the customers too excited to wait until they returned home, lighting up on the sidewalk and motorists honking their horns in support and they drove by the happy crowd.

Ian Power will go down in history as one of the first in line in the private store on Water Street to buy the newly legal national marijuana in Canada however, he told reporters that he has no plans on smoking it, instead he will frame it and hang it on his wall to be saved forever.

“Prohibition has ended right now. We just made history,” said the 46-year-old Power, who bought a gram. “I can’t believe we did it. All the years of activism paid off. Cannabis is legal in Canada and everyone should come to Canada and enjoy our cannabis.”

There was even more good news for cannabis aficionados, as hours before any retail outlets were opened, it was revealed that Canada would be pardoning all those with convictions for possessing small amounts of the drug up to 30 grams.

News of Canada’s firm decision to begin a national experiment that will alter their cultural, economic and social fabric in was met with calls for other countries to follow suit, expression of envy over Twitter and some backlash from other countries who are not willing to decriminalize the drug.

“Canada shows the way. When will the UK end the catastrophic prohibition of cannabis?” tweeted British MP Norman Lamb.

“Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country,” said  Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon in a statement, urging the U.S Government to follow Canada’s lead.

However just as there were thousands of excited tweets coming in, there were those who expressed their distaste with the legislation.

One such instance came from the citizen group the Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which said Canada had declared a winner in the war on drugs, tweeting,  “Congratulations Drugs. Better luck next time public health and saftey [sic]”.

The U.S has set up its own wall against the legalisaiton of the plant based drug by revealing that those who use marijuana legally in Canada could be banned from entering the country for smoking a single joint.

On the eve of Canada’s big day, U.S. Customs and Border Protection executive assistant commissioner Todd Owen told journalists, “Admission of illegal drug use are grounds to be found inadmissible into the United States.”

“It’s now legal in Canada, so a lot of it comes down to … whether the officer believes they may engage in the same activity while in the United States,” he said. “If somebody admits to smoking marijuana frequently in Canada, then that will play into the officer’s admissibility decision on whether they think on this specific trip they are also likely to engage in smoking marijuana in the United States as well.”

There are still many things that have to be resolved around the national legalization of the drug, including health and public safety as well as the threat of addiction and the effects it will all have on young people, including social pressure similar to what many already experienced with alcohol use.

 

Barbados making moves to bolster infrastructure

The Government of Barbados is determined to boost the island’s natural disaster readiness as well as its ‘woeful’ infrastructure.

In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Kirk, which dumped heavy waters over the island from Thursday evening well into Friday, leaving many parts of the island inaccessible due to heavy flooding, Prime Minister Mia Mottley, is set to implement strategies aimed towards national preparation.

The Prime Minster, who cut her attendance at the United Nations General Assembly in New York short, and arrived in the country early Sunday morning, took to the streets with several of her Cabinet Ministers to assess firsthand, the damage Kirk had inflicted to several flood-affected communities around the island, including Bayland and Chapman Lane, St Michael; Wotton, Christ Church; and Ruby Tenantry, St Philip.

During the tour, she revealed that Barbados would soon be engaged in a national preparation exercise, once the current hurricane season was over in November and that a simulation exercise would be launched in early 2019 for affected communities.

“We are not waiting until next June because these things are affecting too many people and in ways that are substantive,” she said.

Barbadians she noted, needed to be better prepared and educated on how to cope and respond after being impacted, as well as how protecting the environment also enhanced their safety.

Suggesting that the  recently launched national clean-up Many Hands be conducted every quarter to improve the situation of garbage negatively affecting the island’s drainage she called for Barbadians to join in the clean-up efforts to further protect the environment thereby enhancing their own safety.

Water, sewage, drainage and roads were the biggest claims to the country’s infrastructure and the Prime Minster explains that while Government did not have the finances available to deal with all the issues following the passage of Kirk, they would be prioritizing critical needs.

“Our country’s infrastructure is in a woeful state and we need to be able to deal with it. We don’t have the money to deal with all at once but we have to prioritize what we need to and between the various ministries we are going to go after it systematically” she said.

She further added, “When we say sometimes to people that we are focusing on needs, and not wants, it’s because we understand that the needs of the country in terms of public spaces is able to avert drainage problems . . . able to avert flooding . . . able to avert problems with the roads . . . . All of these things are as a result of a lack of attention to detail and not prioritizing how we spend public money,” Mottley added.

Mottley noted that the problems facing the country in terms of its infrastructure were not ‘insurmountable’ and in some cases, there were fixes that could be immediately resolved by the Ministry of Public Works and the Drainage Division; however other challenges she noted would need to have more ‘medium to long term solutions’.

“If we don’t take care of each other in preparing for this, then what happened in other jurisdictions will cause too many people regrettably to die. Most people don’t die from the water itself, they die from the consequences of it,” Mottley said.

The Prime Minster also revealed that she would like to meet with Cabinet to discuss how to have a better ‘decentralised system’ where all residents worked to keep Barbados clean and safe.

Vegan meat is the future to a greener Earth

There was a time in my life when I tried to go vegan.  I gave up meat and turned to tofu and a lot of soybean based products in the hope to replace the meats with a more plant based and healthier option.

I failed.

The tofu taste was disgusting to my sensitive palate and even now, the thought of its scent makes me very, very sad.

So imagine my amazement when I found out about Beyond Meat, the 2009 founded company that just won the 2018 Champions of the Earth Award, which is the UN’s highest accolade for the environment along with, Impossible Foods. Both are producers of revolutionary plant-based meats which are alternatives to beef.

What is even more interesting is that these plant-based meat alternatives are outperforming grass fed beef in the fast food arena around the world, including the USA and Canada.

This is great news for anyone who understands the need to preserve and nurture the Earth as livestock cultivation is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

This is a distressing fact in and of itself as greenhouse gases are basically responsible for and the hole in the ozone layer and thus climate change.

With the advent of these plant based meat alternatives having proven to be sustainable choices, it means that being ecologically conscious no longer translates into  giving up on taste and enjoyment.

“This proves that positive climate action can taste even better!” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment said. “Saving the planet requires something of a gastronomical rethink in some parts of the world, and Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods prove that this doesn’t mean our taste buds are making the sacrifice.”

Founder  and Chief Executive Officer of Impossible Foods Dr. Patrick O. Brown, explains that he knows that the big global problems are not the responsibility of someone else and agreed that in order to save the planet, it would be important to pleasantly appeal to the world’s tastebuds.

“This problem wasn’t going to be solved by pleading with consumers to eat beans and tofu instead of meat and fish. And it wouldn’t be enough just to find a better way to make meat; to succeed we would need to make the best meat in the world.”

The vegan meats by these companies have already outperformed grass-fed beef burgers by at least 40% at Luna Grill, and were sold out at Taco Bell in the USA, as well as at  A&W locations in Canada and was recently added to a burger chain in Italy, called ‘WellDone’.

So how can a vegan meat switch really make any difference? Is it just because it tastes better?

Well not only has many reported that the vegan burgers actually still taste like burgers, but this seemingly simple food choice equates to a greener world.

Here’s how.

Americans switching from beef to plant-based patties would be the equivalent of taking 12 million cars off the road for an entire year–or saving enough electricity to power 2.3 million homes.

A study coming out of the Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan, which conducted a ‘cradle- to- distribution’ life cycle assessment of the popular vegan burger, discovered that the Beyond Burger generates 90% less greenhouse gas emissions, requires 46% less energy, has 99% less impact on water scarcity and 93% less impact on land use than a quarter pound of U.S. beef. That means a 41-square-foot plot of land can produce just one beef burger for every 15 Beyond Burgers.

 

 

 

EllisDon unveils Ontario’s first net zero structure

Infrastructure companies are seeking new and innovative ways to develop while keeping the environment in mind. EllisDon is one internationally-known construction company that is set on reducing its carbon footprint.

 Most recently, the company took on the impressive project to build the Mohawk College Net Zero Energy Joyce Centre for Partnership & Innovation. It is Ontario’s first institutional building of its kind while also the first project under EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative.

McCullum Sather and B + H Architects joined forces with EllisDon to complete the project  The “ Net Zero” facility essentially  produces as much renewable energy as it consumes, which is fascinating seeing as infrastructure, and development usually result in energy consumption.

 Linda Franklin, President and CEO of Colleges Ontario, spoke about the completion of the structure and its importance for future generations:

“EllisDon’s expertise is helping colleges implement significant measures to contribute to a green energy future for Ontario – everything from net zero buildings to improving energy efficiency in existing buildings to training the next generation of green energy workers. This will make a real and measurable difference in reducing carbon emission throughout Ontario.”

The design of the college is remarkable. The exterior looks like sleek and futuristic artwork, and the building utilizes many green energy elements. These include geothermal wells, a storm water harvesting system and  an LED lighting system throughout. The structure also has a green and high-efficiency plumbing system,  is 5 storeys high and can accommodate 4,500 students. Outfitted with a mechanical system installed to enhance ventilation, heating and cooling it also has an electrical system that optimizes lighting.

Terri Wills, CEO of the World Green Building Council, also shared in the excitement about this pilot project:

“We’re excited to witness one of the first pilot projects using CaGBC’s newly developed Zero Carbon Building Standard. Mohawk College incorporates energy harvesting and conservation technologies and is a giant leap in future proofing new buildings that are fit for purpose, offer climate resilience as well as an enhanced user experience. As the Paris Agreement has set the international challenge to reduce global emissions, green buildings, such as the Mohawk College, demonstrate that innovation and energy efficiency can work together without compromising design.”

EllisDon’s Carbon Impact Initiative not only targets net zero energy emissions, but also vows to track carbon emitted over the course of various projects and aims to introduce new clean technologies that can still result in effective structures for clientele

 They are a leader in green building design and innovative ideas. Women’s Post salutes their initiative!

GTA Electric buses set for 2019 launch

Everyday I see the signs of global warming and climate change. The extended cold weather this season, and the record breaking hurricanes last fall  have me wanting to do my part to try to reverse these effects. In the day-to -day hustle it’s easy to ignore the environment and forget to conserve water and electricity. It’s easy to leave the car idling in frigid weather or forget to recycle a coffee cup- believe me, I am guilty of all of the above.

The Ontario government is planning to do more to reduce greenhouse emissions produced by municipal transit systems in the GTA.  A new pilot program will be launched to test electric battery-powered buses in Brampton and the York Region.

The program is part of the Ontario Climate Change Action Plan, and is funded by proceeds from the cap on pollution and carbon market.

Steven Del Duca, minister of Economic Development and Growth, was in Newmarket earlier this week, to make the announcement:

“Our investment in York Region and Brampton demonstrates how we are helping our municipal transit systems reduce their carbon footprint. Reducing greenhouse gas pollution from vehicles is one of the most important actions we can take to fight climate change.”

The province is investing $13 million and purchasing 14 electric buses and four charging stations for the York and Brampton transit systems. The projects will be coordinated by the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortum – a green transportation group.

Chris Ballard, Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, spoke about the benefits of the new initiative:

“Investing in municipal electric buses will help us significantly reduce greenhouse gas pollution from transportation, a sector that contributes more than one-third of the province’s emissions. Buses are an energy efficient way to move a large number of people. Making them an even cleaner option is a great example of how our carbon market and Climate Change Action Plan are investing in innovative actions to move us towards a healthier, low-carbon future.”

Service of the new electric buses will begin in 2019. It’s wonderful that the Liberals are determined to cut greenhouse gas pollution by 37% as of 2030 and 80% before 2050. The commitment to improving  quality of life and the health of the planet must be made by everyone.

UPS cargo bikes begin pilot run in Toronto streets

Are cargo bikes the answer to Toronto’s traffic nightmares? Mayor John Tory thinks so. In a statement to reporters on Monday outside City Hall, the Mayor announced the official launch of a UPS pilot program for cargo delivery bikes in the City of Toronto.

UPS is a recognized international shipping brand that is trying to ensure your deliveries get to you on time. There have been other testings of the cargo bike program in countries around the world, and Toronto is their latest stop. The president of UPS Canada, Christoph Atz. said this is a move towards a more sustainable city.

Just last week, a Pembina Institute report that focuses on climate change and Canada’s transition to clean energy, said that 16.4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from the use of vans, trucks and SUV’s in the city streets. The report suggested the implementation of transporting more goods by bicycle, as seen in other cities.

As the cycle flow in the city of Toronto increases, more companies have adopted pedal-friendly deliveries, like as Foodora or even Uber Eats. However, the UPS cargo bikes will be the first set of large scale and high-capacity bicycles to potentially replace delivery trucks.

The testing area for the bicycles will be around the York University campus and the program will run until changes in the weather begin to jeopardize the delivery rate, or safety of the driver.

“It’s time we take a look at something like this,because its being done in Frankfurt, in Vienna, in Hamburg, in Rome. and it has made a difference in those cities; they know that,” Tory said at the press conference.

The cargo bikes will improve congestion due to their smaller size and should help improve air quality in the city. A major pilot by such an internationally-recognized brand may make the idea more mainstream.

But, the question remains: can these cargo bikes do an equal or even better job than someone operating a delivery truck? It will obviously need man power to cycle boxes along city streets. These bikes will also not be allowed to operate in the bike lanes, meaning they have to keep up with the movement of traffic.

The cargo bikes weigh 217.kg when empty and can hold a cargo load of 408.kg, including the driver. Solar panels are used to power the hazard lights, headlights, tail lights, and turn signals featured on the bikes.

 

What do you think of this pilot program ? Comment below

Gordon Downie of The Tragically Hip dies

Wednesday morning, Canadians woke up to heartbreaking news. Gordon Downie, lead singer of rock band The Tragically Hip, had passed away.

The band confirmed his death in a statement, saying “Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips.”

Downie’s music was quintessentially Canadian. His lyrics connected all parts of this great nation, from the prairies to the maritimes. While most bands wrote songs about relationships, The Tragically Hip wrote about issues that really mattered to them. Wheat Kings, for example, was about a wrongfully convicted murder from Winnipeg called David Milgaard. The group put a small Ontario town on the map in the song  Bobcaygeon and often sang about uniting the many cultures and regions of Canada. It didn’t matter where you came from or where you were at that moment, Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip made you feel like you were home.

But Downie wasn’t just a musician. He was also a strong advocate for Indigenous reconciliation and the protection of water rights. He sat on the board of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and was part of the Swim Drink Fish Club, which brought musicians together to help protect the environment. Downie and his brother helped found The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund to support reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. He often spoke publicly about the hardships and challenges Indigenous youth must overcome. 

In 2016, Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and decided to tour the country one final time. Tickets sold out in minutes. The band’s final concert in Kingston was broadcast live on CBC, with over 11 million people tuned in.

While Canadians knew this day would come eventually, news of Downie’s death is still having an impact. Many grew up with his music, and many others were introduced to it over the last two years. Downie made us proud to be Canadian — and for that we will forever be grateful.

Rest In Peace.

 

Featured Image: The Tragically Hip play during a stop at the Orpheum in Vancouver, June 22nd, 2009, on their tour supporting their new album “We are the same.” (Scott Alexander/Pressphotointl.com)

Minister Murray resigns as Minister of Environment

On July 31, the Honourable Glen Murray, Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, has announced his resignation. Chris Ballard, former Minister of Housing and Minister Responsible for the Poverty Reduction Strategy, will replace him in the cabinet.

Peter Milczyn, MPP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore, will be given the position of Minister of Housing.

Murray has dedicated most of his life to public service. His extensive political career began in Winnipeg, where he acted as city councillor before becoming Mayor in 1998. After moving to Toronto in 2010, he was elected into the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. Since then, he has held the position of Minister of Research and Innovation, Minister of Training, Colleges, and Universities, Minister of Transportation, Minister of Infrastructure, and finally Minister of the Environment and Climate Change.

Unlike some politicians, Murray is genuinely passionate about the environment, working tirelessly to ensure the policies enacted by the provincial government followed sustainable practices. He is most known for his instrumental role in the creation and adoption of the cap-and-trade regulations that passed through the legislature in mid-May as well as Ontario’s Climate Chance Action Plan.

Murray announced his resignation Monday morning, saying that he will step down from cabinet immediately, but will remain an MPP until Sept 1.

“As part of the Ontario Liberal Government, I have had the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter. “I have always tried to bring a fresh and creative approach to public policy and government, making decisions that keep those that matter the most in mind.”

“I ultimately have made the difficult decision, with the support of my partner Rick, to transition from this chapter on to the next chapter of tirelessly working to mobilize to fight climate change at the national level.”

On Sept. 5, Murray will join the Pembina Institute as Executive Director. The Pembina Institute is a 30-year-old Canadian think tank that advocates for clean energy solutions and the overall reduction of fossil fuels.

“Glen is a renowned thought leader on social and environmental issues, with an impressive track record of policy leadership throughout his tenure in elected office,” said David Runnalls, president of the Pembina Institute. “On behalf of the board of directors, I am thrilled that Glen is joining our talented team and know he will propel the Pembina Institute to new heights as we work to solve today’s greatest energy challenges.”

It is unclear at this moment if this change will result in new priorities for the Liberal government, and if Ontario’s climate change plan will still be considered among them.

Council unanimously approves TransformTO to reduce emissions

Toronto city council has unanimously approved a plan that would see the city reduce green house gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. If adopted, this would affectively transform Toronto into a low-carbon city.

The motion itself was for city staff to go forward and create a business-case analysis of the various recommendations presented that day. The idea is to determine a carbon reduction per dollar ratio, decide which projects would be funded municipality or cost-shared with other levels of government, and to examine whether the recommendations would align with federal plans to reduce greenhouse has emissions.

“TransformTO provides a path forward that will allow our city to make decisions that lead to a low-carbon city that is healthy, prosperous, strong, and equitable,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement. “Together, we are going to build more transit including the Relief Line, make sure our social housing is viable for the long-term and that our buildings are energy efficient.”

This ambitious plan, entitled TranformTO: 2050 Pathway to a Low-Carbon Toronto, includes 23 different strategies and acceleration campaigns that will help reduce carbon emissions drastically over the next 30 years.

Some of TransformTO’s highlights include:

  • Having all new buildings produce near zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
  • Having 100 per cent existing buildings retrofitted to achieve on average 40 per cent energy use
  • Having 100 per cent of all transportation using low-carbon energy sources
  • Having people walk or cycle for 75 per cent of trips less than five kilometres

The report also stresses the importance of engaging communities and neighbourhoods. Education campaigns and local support will be critical to the success of TransformTO.

This biggest point of discussion was the price tag of this plan, $6.7 million for 2018. City staff estimated an annual cost of $8 million following 2018. While this doesn’t seem like much considering the other projects council has approved, the number is bound to increase as projects are added. However, as certain councillors said during the debate, there are times where going cheap will hurt the city. This is one of them.

TransformTO is led by a collaborative team made of the city’s Environment and Energy Division and the Atmospheric Fund, an organization that looks for urban solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

“We applaud today’s decision by Mayor Tory and City Council to unanimously approve TransformTO and renew Toronto’s climate leadership role,” said Mary Pickering, TAF’s VP for Programs and Partnerships and project co-chair for TransformTO. “Implementing TransformTO will not only cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 but also boost public health, local jobs, and social equity in our city.”

It is rare that city council votes on anything involving a high price tag unanimously, but hopefully this is a trend that will continue — especially when it comes to the King St. Pilot Study, a transit plan that will ultimately help spearhead a low-carbon corridor.

The King St. Pilot Study will be discussed Thursday morning at city council.

Simons backing Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign

Melting arctic ice is an alarming indicator of global warming affecting our planet.

Canada is considered a world leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but the world’s efforts don’t seem to be enough to combat global warming. The world has become increasingly vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change, so once again a Canadian company, Simons, is at the forefront in bringing awareness, while demonstrating innovative ideas that could help our unhealthy planet moving forward.

Simons held a special event at their Park Royal South Store in West Vancouver to celebrate Earth Day. In collaboration with Greenpeace and Eco Fashion week, they officially launched Save the Arctic t-shirt created by fashion designer and activist Vienne Westwood. Westwood is passionate about environmental issues and is bringing awareness to the cause with her Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign.

The tee-shirt design was created in 2015 as part of Westwood’s photography exhibit, with such Hollywood luminaries as George Clooney being one of several movie stars seen wearing them. The April Simons launch was attended by select media and VIP’s to support the cause. Pamela Anderson, a former Baywatch star, environmentalist and Greenpeace supporter, was one of the speakers, along with Myriam Laroche, founder of Eco Fashion Week, and Vice President of Marketing, Phillipe Normand of Simons, the leading fashion retailer supporting sustainability.

In a phone interview with Normand at his Quebec City office, he talked about Save the Arctic, which is now a national campaign, and other sustainability projects his company is involved with this year. Simons first opened its doors as a dry foods store in 1840, and since 1952, became Quebec’s fashion retailer, known today as La Maison Simons. The head office is in Quebec City, with 12 stores across Canada.

“The Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign is still running and it spread like wildfire,” Normand said. The garment is made from organic cotton, with all proceeds from sales going to Greenpeace.

With the fashion industry generally known as one of the worst polluters, Simons is making a difference by creating brands that meet sustainability and environmental standards. “We do a sustainability review of (all) our fabric suppliers, not only in Canada,” said Normand. Simons’ other sustainability projects include an August launch of power stations for electric cars to be installed in the parking lot at their Edmonton store. They will also introduce LED lighting in the store, which will greatly reduce their electricity needs. “We encourage people to submit project ideas. We want to be involved as a hands-on community organization,” says Normand.

Westwood created the tee-shirt design exclusively for Simons in North America. As a fashion giant in the industry, Simons is making its mark in sustainability projects, from Save the Arctic tee-shirt campaign, to solar panel projects and much more. How will you step up?

 

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