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Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance warns International investors are leaving Canada

Sustainable finance is focused on harnessing the financial sector to assist and enable companies and allocate capital in a more climate aware manner to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It grew from making investments in green technology to financing companies and communities transitioning to low-carbon environments.  The goal is to build resilience to the widespread impacts of climate change and prevent further exacerbation. The industry has grown significantly with international regulators beginning to add climate change to their risk assessments. Unfortunately, according to the federally appointed nonpartisan Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance, the system as a whole has been far too slow to act, resulting in a significant risk that Canadian companies and communities fall behind in making necessary adjustments transitioning to low-carbon economies.  The lack of focus on climate change exacerbates risks and overlooks opportunities available to Canadian companies.

Canadian companies slow to transition to low-emissions operations are finding it hard to compete internationally.

The panel calls for “a concrete vision and capital plan for Canada’s course toward a competitive low-emissions, climate-smart economy; offering Canadian businesses, financial firms and individuals the ability to connect with that vision through investment and savings; and ensuring that government and industry join forces to pursue opportunity and manage risk.”  

The Expert Panel on Sustainable Finance created a roadmap for the public and private sectors by prioritizing a number of accountable steps needed to make Canada more likely to experience a smooth and successful transition to lower carbon. This involves decoupling economic growth from growth in emissions, protecting our savings and investments, and insuring that our infrastructure can handle the changes ahead – this will position Canada well in the global arena  

The panel is made up of Royal Bank of Canada board director Andy Chisholm; former Bank of Canada deputy governor Tiff Macklem (Dean of Rotman School of Management); Kim Thomassin, executive vice-president at the Caisse de Dépôt et Placement du Québec; and Barbara Zvan, chief risk and strategy officer at the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan.

Some highlights from the report include:  The need for a long-term vision for a climate-smart economy; the need to include climate related risk into regulation of Canada’s financial system; the need for broader awareness and education in the retail investment space; and the need to accelerate the development of a building retrofit market. 

The report is thorough and offers 15 recommendations with detailed strategy and suggestions on who might lead each initiative. Below is a brief synopsis of the report, written around three “pillars” to building a stronger, sustainable vision for the country. 

Pillar I: Ways to turn climate change into an opportunity for all Canadians.  

  1. Map Canada’s long-term path to a low-emissions, climate-smart economy, sector by sector, with an associated capital plan. 
  2. Provide Canadians the opportunity and incentive to connect their savings to climate change objectives.
  3. Establish a standing Canadian Sustainable Finance Action Council (SFAC) with a cross-departmental secretariat, to advise and assist the federal government in implementing the Panel’s recommendations. 

Pillar II:  Building blocks for mainstream engagement on sustainable finance in Canada.

  1. Establish the Canadian Centre for Climate Information and Analytics (C3IA) as an authoritative source of climate information and decision analysis. 
  2. Define and pursue a Canadian approach to financial disclosure of climate related issues utilizing the recommendations of the Task Force on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). 
  3. Clarify the scope of fiduciary duty in the context of climate change. 
  4. Promote a knowledgeable financial support ecosystem – a shortage of professional training, education and collaborative exploration on topics related to sustainable finance is causing a critical proficiency gap.
  5. Embed climate-related risk into monitoring, regulation and supervision of Canada’s financial system. 

Pillar III: Developing and scaling market structures and financial products that could offer transformative economic benefit to Canada in building a low-emissions, climate-smart future.

  1. Expand Canada’s green fixed income market, and set a global standard for transition-oriented financing. 
  2. Promote sustainable investment as ‘business as usual’ within Canada’s asset management community.
  3.  Define Canada’s clean technology market advantage and financing strategy.
  4. Support Canada’s Oil and Natural Gas industry in building a low-emissions, globally competitive future.
  5. Accelerate the development of a vibrant private building retrofit market.
  6. Align Canada’s infrastructure strategy with its long-term sustainable growth objectives and leverage private capital in its delivery.
  7. Engage institutional investors in the financing of Canada’s electricity grid of the future

(For the full detailed report click here)

The expert panel believes that “Canada has the financial expertise, technological capacity and resource wealth to emerge as a “global leader in climate-smart economic growth.” But they point out that it is more than just an opportunity, it is an imperative. Canada is competing with international companies in a race to supply the world with low-cost clean energy solutions and low-emissions natural resources. Through innovation and investment this can be a Canadian standard that we are all proud of. It is environmentally sensitive, socially responsible, and low cost – but in order to achieve this we must allocate capital and investments accordingly.  Investors are looking to greener shores and without an accelerated push, Canada will become less and less competitive on the world stage.

Brexit – What’s the big deal?

Brexit is arguably the U.K’s biggest political event of our generation – its ripples continue to shake, and the nation is more divided over it than it has been over anything in decades.

So: is Brexit really such a big deal? This article will attempt to unpack that question.

What is Brexit?

Brexit is the motion for Britain to leave the European Union (E.U).

When the British electorate voted in the 2016 referendum, the result shocked the world of politics – not so dissimilarly to Donald Trump’s election as U.S. President.

From over 33 million voters (a 72% turnout), those who voted to ‘Leave’ made up 52% of the vote; whereas those who voted to ‘Remain’ amassed 48% of the vote.

Due to such fine margins, the referendum has not ended the debate – not by a long shot. Here in Britain it is virtually impossible to go anywhere without overhearing a conversation, or glimpsing some headline about Brexit.

And, 3 years on from the referendum, Brexit has still not been implemented.

There are a number of reasons for this – such as the refusal of so-called ‘Remainers’ to accept the result. (https://www.bollockstobrexit.com/ )

Furthermore, U.K Parliament – equally as divided as the population – hasn’t managed to agree on how to implement Brexit.

Parliamentary conflicts triggered Theresa May – a Remainer prior to the referendum – to resign as Prime Minister. (https://www.ft.com/content/082d16f8-7dfd-11e9-81d2-f785092ab560)

I’m sure you heard about this service https://realcasinoscanada.com/. It’s a new Canadian casino. They have already won a fairly extensive clientele.

What’s Happening Now?

Disputes as to whether or not the majority of the population is still in favour of Brexit are ongoing.

There is a claim that, leading up to the referendum, the Pro-Leave campaign lied to the electorate – Boris Johnson, Conservative MP, has been summoned to court to answer for those claims. (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2019/may/29/boris-johnson-appear-court-eu-referendum-misconduct-claims )

However, there are examples of lies from both campaigns – and in this era of ‘post-truth’, where the authority of ‘facts’ is open to interpretation, it seems unlikely that Johnson will be prosecuted.

In another display of post-truth, the U.K’s results in last week’s European Parliament Elections imply different things depending on who you listen to.

Remainers argue that clearly Pro-Remain parties collectively outperformed the Pro-Leave parties clearly in favour of a so-called ‘hard Brexit’ (leaving the E.U with or without an E.U trade deal). Remainers, therefore, believe there is a mandate for a second referendum, where the electorate will have an opportunity to change its mind. (https://www.politics.co.uk/blogs/2019/05/27/european-elections-remain-triumphant )

But Nigel Farage, the leader of the Brexit Party, dismissed these claims as ‘absolute tosh’. He, along with the other ‘Leavers’, point out that 75% of activists in the Conservative Party (currently in government) are Pro-Leave, and taking their numbers into account proves that the appetite for Brexit still exists.

Judging the true message of these results is challenging; but the country is certainly still divided.

What will happen next?

Following Theresa May’s failure to deliver Brexit, pro-Leave candidates are dominating the race to replace her as Prime Minister (the current favourite is Boris Johnson). https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/0/next-prime-minister-uk-odds-candidates-boris-johnson/

It seems likely, then, that Brexit will finally go ahead on the 31st October – with or without a deal.

Will the U.K be better off?

It’s hard to say for sure whether or not the U.K will be better off.

‘Euroscepticism’ (anti-E.U feeling) is not only present in the U.K – it is spread all across Europe.

Euroscepticism also transcends the traditional politics of ‘left and right’ – the pro-Leave Brexit Party, as well as the pro-Remain Change UK, are made up of former supporters and members from both the Conservative and Labour parties.

Here are some basic arguments to LEAVE:

  • The E.U is undemocratic and adds a needless layer of bureaucracy.
  • Freedom of movement encourages immigration, adding strains to services like the NHS.
  • It has treated member states badly when in economic crisis (particularly Greece).
  • Industries, including the fishing industry, have suffered.
  • Calls for a ‘United States of Europe’ and a European army possess a dystopian flavour.

And here are some basic arguments to REMAIN:

  • The E.U has succeeded in keeping peace between European countries.
  • Global issues can’t be tackled without cooperative organisations such as the E.U.
  • The E.U provides checks and balances, preventing governments from getting too powerful.
  • Some supporters actually prefer E.U politics to their own national politics.
  • Freedom of movement is a two-ended stick, providing opportunity and improving economy.

There are counterarguments to the arguments from both sides of the debate, and it seems unlikely that either side will convince their opposition any time soon.

Nobody truly knows if the U.K will be better off or not.

So what’s the big deal?

From a democratic standpoint the referendum has been won, so Brexit simply must go ahead.

But the debate won’t go away.

Brexit is a topic which people have identified with far more than they ever identified with the traditional ‘left vs. right’ politics – and when Brexit is finally delivered, it is likely that the debate will still be relevant.

And that’s the big deal. Brexit engages people.

It may seem obvious that the U.K has more pressing concerns than E.U membership – like poverty, the environment, and its own government’s flaws (which will still exist after Brexit).

Still – for better or worse – that will all have to wait.

Beth Shaw founder of YogaFit


It is my mission to create a transformation of the whole person; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually”
– Beth Shaw

As one of the utmost leading experts in “mind, body, and fitness,” Beth Shaw is recognized as an industry pioneer drawing from years of experience and expertise in nutrition, exercise, yoga, and holistic health. For over 20 years, Shaw has committed to helping others achieve heightened mind-body health through the creation and growth of YogaFit.

Beth Shaw is a creative visionary who has helped revolutionize the fitness industry and bring yoga into the mainstream.

As the founder and CEO of YogaFit, she has brought transformation to the lives of teachers, students, and enthusiasts around the globe.

YogaFit, the workout, is a hybrid of yoga, stretching and fitness exercises that blends Eastern tradition with Western fitness science. YogaFit, the company, is a hybrid of instruction, innovation, and inspiration. YogaFit began as an instructor-training program.  When Beth started teaching yoga in upscale, Southern California fitness clubs, she found the traditional methods didn’t address the variety of body types, skill levels, and personalities she encountered in her classes. In 1994 Shaw developed her user-friendly brand of yoga, following the traditional group exercise model of warm-up, work and cool down. The concept caught on, the demand grew, and in 1997, YogaFit presented its’ first Teacher Training seminar in North Dakota. Twenty-five aspiring yoga instructors in Fargo gave birth to a program that has since trained 250,000 people worldwide.

But what makes YogaFit great? Every YogaFit instructor is required to complete community service as part of their certification, YogaFit has given over three million hours to charity and service projects.  

YogaFit is a company on a mission.  

Since 1997, YogaFit instructors have given over a million hours to community service projects.

The company asks every person enrolled in its training program to complete 8 hours of community service or charity work. Together, they’ve brought yoga to at-risk youth, the elderly, disabled adults and children, stressed out employees, teenage mothers, churches, synagogues, and prisons.

YogaFit offers seminars, educational material and training manuals for fitness professionals and a series of creative workout videos, yoga apparel, and products.  From YogaFit Basics to Power YogaFit; from YogaButt to YogaFit for Seniors, Shaw has proven that yoga is for any and everybody.

Shaw is also one of the founders behind Visionary Women in Fitness, a non-profit organization to educate and empower young women.  Partnering with Vanderbilt University’s Girl Force, Visionary Women in Fitness aims to change the way girls view beauty and teach them that true worth is determined by ones’ self. YogaFit’s extensive network of instructors will bring this message of empowerment to junior highs and high schools across the country. But there is more! Beth is also the author of three best-selling books, her premier book, YogaFit (Human Kinetics) has sold over 100,000 units worldwide. YOGALEAN a lifestyle book was released in 2014, and The YogaFit Athlete was released by Random House in  2016. Beth is working on her fourth book – Healing Trauma with Yoga look for it in October 2019.

Kyla Fox: A better vision of body image

Behind someone’s success there is always a vision. When that vision is connected to a personal experience, it makes its outcome all the more fulfilling and empowering. To use the words of Jonathan Swift, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”  I had the pleasure to talk to a modern local visionary, Kyla Fox, founder of The Kyla Fox Centre, an outpatient Eating Disorder Recovery Centre and Women’s Wellness Centre in Toronto.

A social worker by background and an eating disorder survivor, Kyla has dedicated most of her life “helping people to live full and honest lives, without harm, and to raise awareness of eating disorders and issues surrounding women’s health.” In her late teens-early 20s, Kyla suffered with an eating disorder so acute that it put her life at risk.

Opened in 2012, the Centre is a space where people can access help with the support of a multidisciplinary team, placing emphasis on individualized treatment for each client. After having been in practice for 10 years, Kyla felt “there was a massive gap in the services for those affected by eating disorders in a comprehensive way”, and so she created The Kyla Fox Centre.  And because women who don’t identify as having eating disorders/disordered eating were wanting to access care at the Centre, Kyla launched, in 2018, the Women’s Wellness Program
— a space for women and those who identify as women, “to receive care, support, and treatment in a way that will support and improve their lives.”

Contrary to popular belief, eating disorders are not a young white rich girl’s disease. Although eating disorders do not discriminate and cross over every race, gender, and every socio-economic status, they are not equally distributed amongst genders as disproportionately more women than men are affected.

As an individualized treatment centre, clients are provided with supports and services that meet their unique needs. Kyla knows that eating disorders are not exclusively about food or the body. Moreover, “what happens with food and the body is a manifestation of much deeper things that are going on with a person. The ability to be well in life is about confronting those things.” Therefore, using individual, family, couple, and/or group therapy in order to get to the root causes of the harm
—combined with food and body work—is how treatment at the Centre is designed. Nutritionally speaking, the work is to break down the rules and rituals that those suffering present with.  As the approach is “unconventional”, because no two people have the same needs, incorporation of meal support, meal prep, cooking, food outings, and groceries shopping can be part of that work. In terms of the body and reconnecting to it, clients may incorporate naturopathic medicine, yoga, meditation, reiki, acupuncture, mindfulness, meditation, or a combination of all of the above. Art therapy, creative and expressive therapies are also in place to serve the clients’ needs.

“The success rate is very high,” Kyla states, “partly because our clients seek us out and work with us generally for the long haul. Typically, treatment lasts six to 12 months.”

In a world where we are bombarded with images and messages, I wonder how much social media platforms, such as Instagram, and more specifically pro-ana sites contribute to the rise of eating disorders amongst people.  As Kyla states, “If it was as simple to develop an eating disorder by looking at images on Instagram, then every single person would have one. It’s not contagious. If it affects us, it’s because something in our lives makes us vulnerable and if it doesn’t, it’s because we have other protective factors in place. “

Kyla now deeply appreciates her body and “all it has done to forgive her, and join with her.” Giving birth to her two daughters has been “the most miraculous part of living well and living free.” As a mother, she is certain that her history will not compromise her daughters’ wellbeing because she has confronted her demons before embarking on such an endeavour.

Kyla has been an avid yogi for over 20 years. She also teaches it as a hobby at a yoga studio. It was introduced to her when she was acutely ill and since then it’s been a spiritual practice that makes her stay connected to herself. She also loves being outdoors in nature, cooking, and being in the company of “people who lift me up” and inspire her to grow and evolve.

Kyla is a public speaker, writer, and advocate for eating disorder awareness, mental health, and women’s wellness.   

The arts industry in Barbados



I’ve always believed that artists hold a special role in society. Their desire to make the world just a little more beautiful has a way of inspiring those around them. I’ve become fascinated by the role that artists play in rejuvenating communities and creating societies that are open to new ideas and embracing change.

I grew up in the core of a small city in Canada. It was the late 70s and many city centres were suffering because big box stores and sprawling suburbs had pulled people out of the city core. In our city, most of the old homes were boarded up and the tree-lined streets had seen much better days. Our local government was desperate to find a way to rejuvenate the city and had thrown all their funds behind an arts centre. It was the best decision they could have made.

The art centre acted like a beacon, drawing people in from the sprawling suburbs. It attracted all ages with programs in painting, ceramics, weaving etc. The classes were the normal arts offerings you might expect, but what we didn’t expect was the way the centre worked to ignite creativity within the community.  Over just a few years the boarded up homes started to be fixed up, people moved back in from the suburbs. The video arcades and discount stores that had taken over the main street were replaced by restaurants and high-end boutique shops. The families that moved into our neighbourhood were entrepreneurial and creative.

There is a lot of research on the impact the arts have on cities, but what caught my attention were the articles on struggling communities that improved significantly simply because a non-profit, or a social enterprise, created an art centre for creative learning.

Like the small town in Canada where I grew up, many communities around the world have felt the positive economic impact that creative education stirs up. Take for example Ballycastle in Northern Ireland. Ballinglen Arts Foundation was founded by an Amercian couple who wanted to “boost local confidence and economic security by bringing international art practitioners to stay and work in the area.” They offered residency programs attracting artists from all over the world. Over the years hundreds came, people moved into the area and the local economy grew. There are hundreds of stories of small towns that have created learning opportunities in the arts, that have invested in culture, and have become stronger and more sustainable because of their investment.  

A study done by the University of Pennsylvania found that  “In lower-income neighborhoods, cultural resources are “significantly” linked to better health, schooling, and security.” Studies in education have shown a direct connection between success in academic subjects and the participation in arts programs.

There is something very powerful that happens when people learn the arts. The process of learning creativity opens people to new ideas, to new ways of thinking, and questioning the world around them.

The arts and culture industry also enhance support for environmental initiatives. When a community is open to ideas, and working collaboratively, they become a cleaner and greener community.

There are many places that still cling to old colonial views of the arts as a charitable endeavor rather than a strong economic industry. And these communities all seem to suffer under the belief that their children must become doctors or lawyers or they will be failures. It is no wonder they also lack entrepreneurs and the creative thinking that contributes to a strong economy.

Now that we are living in Barbados I find there is a feelingof hope that seems to be igniting change, not just at the government level but within the community. I have visited Barbados for over 3 decades, and never has the drive for change been as strong as it is now. Where the arts were once viewed as an endeavor needing charitable support, the industry is just starting to be recognised for the economic value it produces.

My family and I moved to the island last year to explore the possibility of creating an environment centre, but what we found was that the need for an arts centre to feed the community desire for creativity was a much more pressing issue. With the government struggling to carry the massive debt burdening the island, there is little funding available to sustain an arts centre.

Research on changes in the tourism industry has found that both culture and environment experiences are big draws for travellers. So we decided to combine them at a centre where  travellers and the community will come together. By building a centre that offers environmental programming  and arts workshops, we can attract local participants and affluent travellers and by combining this with a boutique hotel we can sustain the centre.

I have spent the past year meeting with community organizations, artists, and business leaders and the support, advice and encouragement they have given is overwhelming.

We have formed Canvas and Cave as a social enterprise with a mission to ignite creative education in the community, inspire entrepreneurs, and build the foundations Barbados needs to become self-sustaining. I know that we won’t succeed without support and direction from the community. When I look at the future, I believe that the process of creative learning will unlock ideas within the community, build collaboration, and inspire entrepreneurs to address the larger challenges facing Barbados.

Forward. Together.

First published in Visual Arts Barbados April 2019 Edition

Bruce Poon-Tip: The giver


Usually in the Women’s Post our profiles focus on amazing women, but every now and then we make an exception by profiling men who go above and beyond in supporting women.

Did you ever have someone in your life who impacted it more than they will ever know?

Over 20 years ago I met Bruce Poon-Tip. We met backstage at an entrepreneurial awards event. As we were waiting to receive our awards,  he told me all about his company GAP (now G-Adventures) He explained that it was a social enterprise set up to do social good by offering adventure travellers the opportunity to explore countries and have a positive impact on the countries doing things like picking up garbage or helping small businesses. He explained it as doing a social good while making high returns for his investors. His concept fascinated me and we kept in touch over the years while he built G-Adventures into the largest adventure travel company in the world.

When I ran for Mayor of Toronto in 2010, he asked me to help with a team-building event at base-camp (his head office ). The event was high energy to say the least.  And I saw why Bruce was such a good leader. He moved around the crowded room with ease, knowing every employee by name (there were hundreds). He had a way of connecting with each of them, inspiring them to move out of their comfort zone, to step forward and step onto the stage. I still remember the way he made them feel – as if standing up and trying your best was all that mattered. I think even the shyest would have stepped onto the stage to dance or sing if he asked them to, heck had he asked me I know I would have!

I hadn’t seen Bruce since 2010 but in 2013 I read his book, Looptail,How One Company Changed the World by Reinventing Business and was surprised and honoured to see that he had mentioned my help back in 2010 with his team-building event.  In his book he wrote about the struggles he faced launching his business and the people who helped him along the way. I purchased a few dozen copies of his book and have since given it out to dozens of people hoping that I might in a small way help him give back to the world.

The significant impact Bruce had on my life occurred when I reached out to see if I might run a business idea past him.  When we met I told him about my dream to build a social enterprise – Canvas and Cave. It will be an eco-arts centre and hotel in Barbados with the mission to further creative education in the country and build the creative foundations needed to develop entrepreneurs.  I explained how I wanted to prove the concept in Barbados and then duplicate it on other islands that were also struggling to sustain themselves.

Most people in your life will tell you what you can’t do, but Bruce Poon-Tip is the kind of person who will tell you that you can do it.  

He told me that he believed in me and would support my idea. I went home and wrote a note in my journal that began “Bruce shook my hand, he believes in me!”

I wrote about all the ways we might provide another revenue stream for him.  How the experiences we would create for visitors would appeal to his customers who might be looking for unique experiences that didn’t involve as much physical travel.

The confidence Bruce instilled in me ignited my creative side. We needed a way to attract two different demographics – the local community that we hoped to serve at the arts centre, and international travellers staying at the hotel.  I began reaching out to famous artists, writers, actors and musicians with the idea of getting one a week to attend Canvas and Cave to speak or teach. And I think the confidence I exuded caused many of them to agree. The ideas keep coming but it all started with Bruce telling me that he believed in me.

An entrepreneur who is just launching her business needs the trust and support of friends and family who believe in her. The entrepreneurs in Barbados aren’t able to get support from friends and family simply because the culture hasn’t learned to support creativity. With the help of people like Bruce Poon-Tip we will build the creative education the community needs to recognise and empower entrepreneurial ideas. Bruce is a true giver.

RECIPE: Chickpea tacos!

There’s a good chance your first thought when you hear of chickpea tacos is “Ew, who’d want to eat that?” But trust me on this. They are amazing.

What you need:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1 package of taco spice
  • 1 clove of garlic (minced)
  • Dash of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • Vegetable oil or extra virgin olive oil (how much is up to you)
  • Hard taco shells (blue corn if possible)
  • taco fixings (lettuce, onion, tomato, salsa, cheese, sour cream, guacamole)

Take a can of chickpeas, rinse them, then put them in a bowl.  Evenly coat the chickpeas with the taco spice, garlic, lime juice, water and oil. Bake them for 20 minutes. Cook the taco shells for 10 minutes.

Take them out of the oven, add your fixings.

I actually found these because I said chickpea to someone in an e-mail. Gmail picked up the word (as it scans your e-mails for keywords and directs ads at you based on these) and promoted a recipe link to me. For the record, this recipe is the only reason I am okay with Gmail reading my mail.

 

Woman of the Week: Kim Smiley

A look back at our Woman of the Week from 2013 …

Beneath its glittering surface, the jewelry world can be a pretty ugly place. From blood diamonds to ivory poachers, the history of jewelry is filled with examples of the darkness to which a person can descend in the pursuit of precious stones.

That’s why it is such a relief to see people like Kim Smiley, the creator of Sapphô by Kim Smiley, using jewelry to create a positive impact on the world and giving these baubles a reason to shine.

“The essence of my vision,” Kim says, “is to use fashion as a platform for empowering women with meaningful work.” By providing marginalized women the opportunity to work for Sapphô and earn a living wage, Kim is changing lives.

“I have always loved fine art and fashion, but my heart has always drawn me to the charitable sector. Sapphô marries my passion for social justice with my love of aesthetics and style.”

Sapphô, Kim’s jewelry collection, is named after the ancient Greek poet. Known for her lyrical odes to the beauty of women, she is a fitting namesake for a jewelry company that is aiming to use its pieces to introduce people to great poetry.

Each one-of-a-kind and handmade piece of jewelry in the collection is inspired by a poet, and comes with a poem from said poet’s collection.

“We juxtapose Nobel Laureates like Pablo Neruda with brilliant emerging poets like American Jessica McFarland, whom I met while a graduate student [at Harvard] in Boston,” Kim says.

This unique marketing scheme is one of the many ways Kim sets her company apart from the pack. However, this was not a decision made just to creatively market her collection. Kim really believes in the power of poetry.

“We’re using fashion as a portal to open people’s eyes to the beauty and wonder of poetry,” Kim explains. “Many people are turned off by poetry because they think it’s inaccessible or elitist. We want to turn them on. Who ever thought jewelry could get people to read Pablo Neruda? We’re feeling pretty optimistic.”

Drawing attention to beautiful poetry by linking it to stunning jewelry, the impact of Sapphô would be enough reason to laud Kim as a supreme businesswoman (as well as a fashionista). But she doesn’t stop there. Kim also has solid work experience in the non-profit sector.

Currently, she serves as the vice president of community capacity building at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. This role allows her to once again use her social consciousness to make a difference, but focuses it more on the Jewish community in the GTA.

Prior to her work with the UJA Federation, she served as vice president of marketing and development for Habitat for Humanity and assistant director for the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre & Museum.

Clearly, Kim has spent much of her life striving to make the world a prettier place, both literally and metaphorically. What’s the next step for her?

“I’m joking with friends that maybe I should start a modest poetry library where people can check out books and try on jewelry,” she says.

All joking aside, such an endeavour would be a natural fit for a woman who has so adeptly combined the worlds of charity, literacy and jewelry.


*** Kim Smiley is doing even greater things to find out what she is up to now go to: https://www.kimsmiley.com/

The joy of Zumba

My daughter, Erin, loves Zumba.  A 21 year old engineering student, Erin talks about her fondness for the fitness / dancing phenomenon with unfettered, uncharacteristic enthusiasm.  Erin always returns from Zumba flushed, sweaty, and invigorated.

Every time, it’s the same.  I ask, “How was Zumba?”

“Great,” she says and it warms my heart she enjoys such an enriching, positive experience.

Recently, Erin got her Zumba Instructor certificate, so she can lead classes.  She’s lead 3, so far, and looking forward to more.  Erin is not alone in her affection for Zumba: although it is only 20 years old, it’s estimated more than 14 million people, from 180 countries, participate in Zumba classes, moving and meditating their way to a happier, healthier self.

A high-energy exercise program, Zumba is dance and aerobic movements, put to lively Sambo, Salsa, Mambo, Merengue, and Hip Hop music.  Listening to well-liked music is, of course, an affirming experience, on its own.  Adding dance to music is like putting gravy on fries and Smarties in the ice-cream.  Erin said, of the music and its variety, “I like all the styles used in Zumba, but Reggaeton is my favourite.” 

(I had to look it up.)  Reggaeton is a energetic genre, which started in Puerto Rico in the 1990s.  It is influenced by homegrown sounds, Caribbean music, and hip hop.  With the world at my fingertips, I went to the Internet and listened.  I can hear why Erin likes it. 

Alberto Perez started Zumba classes, in the 1990s, in his hometown of Cali, Columbia.  In pursuit of the American dream, he moved to the US in 1999.  Erin said, “Alberto couldn’t speak English, well, when he came to America, so Zumba only uses visual cues.  Anyone can take a class and follow along, no matter what language they speak.” 

Inclusivity is affirming.  

I believe, wholeheartedly, in, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.  After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”  Mindless, mindful, muted locomotion is therapy, beyond words.  Invigorating beats can enhance the experience and benefits of exercise. 

The lack of lyrics in Zumba music allows participants to write their own.  Zumba dancers think and figure life out, without interruption or input, while moving and grooving, to groovy tunes.  Zumba is meditation in motion. 

Zumba provides a nice slice of variety; the spice of life.  Erin said, “It’s fun, because the company (Zumba) is constantly coming out with new music and dances, on the instructor’s website, so it’s rarely the same class twice, for regulars.”

Inactivity is death: we are supposed to move, vigorously, and breathe hard.  According to what I’ve heard, vigorous exercise can restore brain cells.  As well, when the body burns fat, most of it is converted to CO2 and exhaled, so robust exertion is necessary to maintain optimum health.  No guff: huff and puff until buff.  It is important to find an enjoyable fitness program, in order to stick with it.  Dancing is fun.  Vigorous dancing is fun and aerobic. 

Public fitness facilities can be cesspools of judgment, resplendent with withering, derisive looks.  Passively hostile climates put, some, people off exercise, which is tragic: exercise is divine.  Erin said, “Zumba is a supportive, positive environment; there’s no judgment.  We’re all in this together.” 

People are social animals, so prolonged, hearty, heartfelt dancing, with a group of like-minded Zumba enthusiasts, is an enjoyable path to a happier self.   Erin said, “I met a lady, who is in her 60s, and has lost 50 pounds doing Zumba.  Her name is Erin, too.  She’s obsessed, and has been doing it almost every day for 2 years.”  Earned, accurate, and inviting, Zumba’s motto is, “Ditch the workout, join the party!”

A universal, international celebration, there are Zumba classes for seniors, children, beginners, differently abled…  Almost, everybody can Zumba.  Music, movement, meditation, and comradely: Zumba is joy. 

LOVE & TECH: Is Tinder the death of romance in the technological age?

With the rise of instant dating smartphone apps like Tinder is true romance really just one tap and swipe away?

Today’s young professionals have a rabid appetite for social fulfillment. The enticing and fast-paced social applications for today’s cellphones allow people to satisfy their social urges more rapidly than ever, producing a cult-like atmosphere of social media worshipers. As this industry grows, social media developers are continually finding more creative ways to indulge people’s fixation with social efficiency.

The rise of the social-media empire has even conquered the world of dating. Today’s singles have quickly caught on to the benefits of using social media for their Romantic pursuits. These applications offer people a quick, nonchalant way to pursue someone within a relaxed virtual environment. Consequently, social media is enabling society to court others technologically – but to what extent is technology tarnishing the natural dating process?

We are currently experiencing a battle between efficiency and romance. Alas, we have the rise of Tinder, the savior to quench society’ thirst for unabashedly shallow, yet quick routes toward courtship. It epitomizes the death of organic dating. Through this program, one can browse through dozens of local singles, separating desirable candidates from the undesirables. If two individuals are mutually attracted to each other, they are able to converse.  Essentially, this program permits the mass accumulation of potential dates via iPhone; it is a pathetic excuse for romance!

We have essentially become a romantically deactivated society. We are experiencing an epidemic where at least 2 out of 3 people you know have likely been courted via text as opposed to meeting organically through friends or a tasteful piano bar. Tinder is mercilessly plunging our society at hyper-speed into a new era of dating where romantic contenders have been diminished to a cold selection process on a mobile screen. Dating has officially become stale, flat and virtually effortless as technology creates these fast-paced dating platforms.

Nevertheless, this unapologetically superficial, hyper-speed dating style is appropriate for the needs of today’s busy young professionals. Tinder’s efficiency makes it the ideal contemporary dating tool. It is a convenient, yet non-threatening way to pursue others. People are able to protect their egos through this low-risk courtship style.  Therefore, people can feel more emotionally safe because their pursuits appear unintentional and casual; it is easier to toss a message into a virtual vacuum than to create a face-to-face opening line. However, this care-free approach to courtship has soured the vulnerability and beauty of the traditional high-risk dating process. I am not implying that people re-enter a world of classic chivalry with codified ways of offering greetings or lofty proclamations of eternal commitment (society’s dating habits are far too removed from these hyper-romanticized ideals).  But this does not mean today’s 20 and 30 somethings have to live in a romantic wasteland! People should try abandoning their technologically protected realms—their phones screens— and genuinely interact with each other. When courtship is accompanied with anxiety and fear of rejection, the thrill of dating is preserved in its most raw form.  There is a heated sense of risk and sensuality associated with face-to-face courtship .Thus, people need to set aside their feelings of machoism and embrace real romance once again.

As the rise of these speedy dating alternatives continues, the integrity of intimate, face-to-face courtships are relentlessly dying. Social media applications such as Tinder are decaying the spirit of traditional organic courtship. But with the growing starvation for quicker, more compelling ways to socialize through media, technology will continue to address society’s growing demands. Yet, I find it difficult to imagine the next big dating application when society has already seemed to reach he peak of romantic lethargy.

 

 

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