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The Rebirth of Green & more highs and lows from 2014

Rural signboard - Forward - BackwardWhat is it they say about hindsight? That it’s 20/20? The more distance I get on 2014, the more its green highs and lows come into focus. I wrote up my Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014 in the last Ecoholic column, covering everything from the fall of butterflies and bees to the rise of climate marches and pipeline resistance. But it ain’t easy cramming a year’s worth of news into one top 10 list (I mean, David Letterman gets a chance to do one every single night). Some had to be cut for space and one big picture thread just hit me as I took another look in the rear view mirror at the year that was. Here are a few of those bonus green highs and lows from 2014 too important not to share with all y’all.

Canada says ‘nah’ to protecting 76 endangered species.  

On my top 10 list, under “Canada remains best at 8590728562_0b37fd8e86_zbeing the worst” I mentioned that “sadly, the federal government generally sucked as hard as it can possibly suck on all environmental fronts.” I listed a bunch of examples but failed to mention one major area of record-breaking suckage. Recently released docs revealed that Canada has opted out of protecting a record-setting 76 endangered species from international trade. If you’re uncomfortable with Canada officially taking the reigns as the world’s biggest asshole in this regard, sign the petition.

One book changes everything.

Author/activist/thought leader Naomi Klein stormed This Changes coveronto the climate scene with a shit-kicking tome of a book that galvanized planet lovers globe-wide. Klein cautioned that we’re all guilty of climate change denial by passing climate action off as someone else’s problem. Rest assured she issues a face-slapping wake-up call in the most influential and consequential green book in years.  As I said in my  book review, “The odds may be stacked against her social-justice-steeped Marshall Plan to save the earth, but so too, argues Klein, were the odds of abolishing slavery.” At the very least This Changes Everything should “inspire a whole generation to join the resistance movement and push for change from a place of love for the only planet we’ve got.” Her message certainly resonated with the 100s of thousands that took to the streets to stand up for the planet back in September during the UN’s New York Climate Summit (including the 3000 of us that marched in Toronto!). Can’t say This Changes Everything can really, on its own, change anything, but there’s no denying Naomi has helped breath new life and big picture analytics into the environmental movement. Speaking of which….

People's Climate March New York

Smells Like Green Spirit: The Rebirth of Environmental Consciousness

Like the pale moon overhead, ‘save the planet’ consciousness waxes and wanes from year to year and pollsters will tell you again and again that North Americans tend to back burner green issues when we’re stressing out about the economy. Mostly because our politicians tell us we have to choose between a healthy economy or a healthy planet. Under that ruse, much of Canada’s environmental protections quietly faced the axe at the federal level over the last five years. But there are tectonic plates shifting underfoot and 2014 saw a resurgence in green consciousness. Freakish weather, bursting pipelines, exploding oil cargo trains, fracking bans and collapsing oil prices created a spike in startling environmental news stories, public dialogue and community/First Nations resistance across the country. Stir in the sternest warnings to date about impending global disaster from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a few headline-grabbing climate summits and it’s no surprise that record-breaking numbers of global citizens peacefully took to the streets to march in support of climate action and that the majority of Canadians are now telling pollsters we need the government to get serious about protecting the environment. Bottom line, growing legions of everyday peeps are getting fired up about how badly we’re fucking with the planet. 2015 should be a doozy of a year and a major tipping point so lean in, people. I hear even the pope is planning on ramping up his campaign to convince 1.2 billion Catholics that climate inaction is a sin. Catholic or not, get engaged in what’s happening in your community, show the planet some extra love and support and stay tuned for major environmental news updates in the year ahead!

For the rest of my look back, check out my Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2014 here, first published in NOW Magazine. Wishing you all an inspiring year ahead!

The Big Interview: David Suzuki on His “Final” Push – Unedited

David SuzukiI’ll admit I was pretty giddy about interviewing the godfather of Canadian environmentalism. I’d met David Suzuki briefly in passing once and the man officially endorsed my first book, Ecoholic, but we’d never sat down and just talked. When I finally got the chance to do so while he was in Toronto for his final cross-Canada tour, the Blue Dot Tour, I was less interesting in questioning him, journalist to subject, and deeply keen on communicating environmentalist to environmentalist. Or as he suggested “human to human.” And what an honour it was talking to this particularly legendary human being. Here’s some of the unedited version of our 40+ minute interview originally published in condensed form in NOW Magazine.

You’ve been called the godfather of Canadian environmentalism. Nonetheless, after decades of work leading the movement, you said you and others failed. Did that sense of failure prompt this tour?

It didn’t lead me to say we gotta do a tour in a different way. It all happened to fall together. I was really moved by the Nordhaus/Shellenberger piece [on the death of environmentalism]. They pissed me off in a way. In some ways they were right on but they see the solution as going the way of business and technology which, to me, is driving the problem. So the thing that lead me to say, ‘my god we failed’ is what we celebrated as successes back in the 70s and 80s, stopping oil tanker traffic down the west coast of BC, stopping damns, we’re finding the same battles 30 years later. So the failure was in shifting the paradigm. We saved this forest and thought ‘oh that’s great move onto the next’ but we didn’t explain to people why did we do that. And so that was a realization that came out of the Nordhaus and Shellenberger piece. I was seeing these repetitions. I don’t want to fight anymore because when you fight there’s a winner and loser. I looked at the way we’d try to deal with forestry issues in BC…’oh we’re going to have a fight up in Smithers so we’ll set up a round table.’ At the round table all the stakeholders come in, first nations, loggers, then they basically duke it out. The reason they’re stakeholders is they’ve got a particular stake they’re fighting for. I said, you know you’ve forgotten the story of the goose that lays a golden egg. As long as a goose is happy and healthy, it’ll lay a golden egg every day, if you get greedy and you want all your eggs at once you get nothing. I said the forest is the goose and if you all come together, forget that you’re stakeholders, you’re all there to protect the goose! As long as it’s happy and healthy, everyone can make a living, then it’s up to you to divvy it up, but that’s not the way the process worked. I began when I said jesus we’re fighting the same battles over again. Look we can’t go on fighting, we’ve got to meet people and work out what we agree on.

What was that? 

I had a guy that called me from Fort McMurray, CEO of a huge oil company in the tar sands, came down the next day. I said look I’m really honoured that you’d come and talk to me but I’m asking you before you come in the door if you can leave your identity your profession outside. I want to meet you human to human. I want to talk to you about what we can agree are basic human needs. Then we can begin to build up how are we going to live. If we don’t have a platform of agreement then we’re all over the map. Immediately he was very uncomfortable. He wanted to negotiate. I had gotten rid of that. I said ‘look, what is the most important thing every human being needs.’ He didn’t know. I said ‘if you don’t have air for 3 minutes for air. If you have to breath in contaminated air you’re sick so could you not agree with me that the absolute highest priority we have is clear air?’ Then I went through clean water and clean oil that gives us our food and biodiversity. To me, if we can’t start at the basis with this is the foundation of how we live as a species then I’m not interested in everything else. I want to build the way I live.

This is the necessary paradigm shift?

It’s not a paradigm shift, it’s getting rid of all the overloaded garbage of the economy. I’ve been told over and over again that the economy is the bottom line. ‘Be realistic Suzuki.’ It is a paradigm shift, I guess. Until very recently people knew nature was the source of our happiness and our wealth. But I believe the huge shift from being a farming animal to being big city dweller is what signalled the change. If you’re a farmer you know damn well climate, pollination…

My grandfather was from a farming family of 18 kids…

There you go. But when you come into the city, what is your highest priority? It’s your job. I need a job. I was just telling Matt Galloway this city is one where you could live in a high rise apartment, come down into your garage, get into your car, drive to the CBC and the CBC is connected through tunnels. You don’t have to go outside for weeks if you don’t want to. So we lose all contact with nature.

So if our fundamental disconnection from nature is creating the problems. Suzuki coast imageHow do we fix that? 

The foundation is really focused now on getting kids outside. They have the 30 by 30 challenge  [where you agree to spend 30 minutes in nature every day for 30 days]. When they first came to me and said they’re doing it, I said, “What the hell are you talking about? It should be two hours. This is crazy.” They said, no, no, no. So I said okay and signed up and god damn it if I didn’t miss three days.

I know, I thought it was going to be  breeze!

I found that in order to meet that I have to actually schedule [nature] in. What kind of a fucked up world is that.

I know and we’re on board. As environmentalists, we already feel connected to nature.

Yeah, exactly. We know that this is necessary. When I see everyone [mimicking a person with their heads in their phones], you’ve got the world at your fingertips, you don’t need to go outside. You want to see whales? Hell, I can see a great video of whales. You don’t need nature.

But it creates a fundamental rift in our psyche.

Well, the thing I don’t understand is you have a guy like Harper who is a childhood asthmatic, I would have thought anybody would asthma would understand what you put into the air has consequences. Years ago I wanted to do a show on asthma. I said let’s wait for a smog alert day in Toronto. You don’t have to wait very long. We went to Toronto General, I couldn’t believe the old people and kids literally gasping for air, being brought in by people who were scared shitless that they couldn’t get to the hospital in time and they drove up in a sports utility vehicle. Then you realize, holy cow, do we live in a fragmented world. We don’t see the causal connections in our lives and the consequences.

Before our religion, our spirituality drove us, First Nations, Druides, etc to be connected to nature. What do we do now when people don’t have that spiritual connection to nature. Do we just shove people outside for 30 minutes and start with the kids and hope that that spreads to the adults?

The funny thing is all of our polling says 90% of Canadians say nature is important to who I am, to my identity. If you say, what do you think of the idea of enshrining the right to a healthy environment, 85% say ‘of course.’ So even though we have become so disconnected people understand in some kind of way, yeah, yeah a healthy environment. The day where we’d say we shouldn’t kill bears because they have a right to live, that day is long gone. We’re not going to save the other species because philosophically it’s not right, it’s because me, me, me, my health, that’s the connection that people are feeling so the tour is just so opportune at this moment. David Boyd was doing a guide a book and found 110 countries have some healthy environment clause in their constitution and Canada, the US, Britain, Australia do not, So the majority of countries already have some kind of environmental right, that doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee but they’re much better environmentally. He was doing this book and said why don’t you guys do an initiative. We said that’s a great idea. We didn’t jump on it right away. We then said ‘Suzuki has done six other cross Canada tours for various things. They’ve all generated a huge amount of interest but after we pass through the interest just goes [gesticulating down]’ and the reason is we didn’t give the people that were really excited something concrete to do.

You’re right.

There’s a guy at Harvard named Marshall Ganz. He quit Harvard  to go work with Cesar Chavez lettuce boycott, long time activist. He developed the Ganz technique adopted by Obama in both campaigns to raise money. The guy that ran the Florida campaign for Obama is running the Blue Dot Tour.

So your movement building strategy here is tight…

It’s based on Ganz. You find a person who is really keen and committed, then you train them in the Ganz technique of how you start a movement. Then that person goes out and recruits 6 people who are really keen. And he trains them. And he’s only responsible for those 6. Then those six go out and recruit six. It’s a chain letter. And it works like a champ apparently.

blue dot imageLet’s rewind and boil down why we need to enshrine environmental rights into our constitution.

This really changes the whole discussion. Right now if you want to build a pipeline. Then you come in with a proposal and say it offers this many jobs, this much income for the coming years then environmentalist have to prove in some way that it’s a danger. That’s what always happens, the environment is just one aspect of this development. And we have to make a point that this is damaging. All the burden of proof is on the environmentalist. What this
does is we have a constitutionally guaranteed right to a healthy environment. You want to build that pipeline you have to show, you have to prove that this is not going to harm air, water soil, biodiversity. It just shifts the whole thing around because it starts from the fundamental premise that air, water, soil, those are the critical things. You’re just an add on, you want to make money and add to the economy but you’re an add on. This is our foundation. It changes the whole game. For years, environmentalists, we were fighting against logging and the logging company says we’ve got this many jobs, this many feet of lumber, this many cubic metres of pulp and we’re going around saying, well you might get some income from berries and maybe some salal bush for flower arrangements. We aren’t able to say, look the forest is performing services that keep the planet healthy.

Because we were playing their game by their rules?

Because we have to play by their rules! That’s what Naomi Klein says is that capitalism is itself so shaky as a structure and yet we’re allowing capitalism to drive everything including how we frame our environmental concerns. So we’re sunk.

Would enshrining enviro rights into the charter necessarily create an economic shift?

It means that if you’re going to use an economic argument you’re still going to have to confront the reality that it must not in any way destroy your opportunity for clean air, clean water, clean soil. So right away, tonight at the event, there are two first nations people who have a legal suit in Sarnia, who are saying you’re violating our right to a clean environment. And that’s what the shift is. It’s got nothing to do with the economy. If they want to create jobs, that’s fine but it must not impinge on those fundamental needs.


Looking at the way politics are set up in this country right now, a lot of people will say it’s a pipe dream. How are the hell are we going to get environmental rights enshrined in the charter when our governments have been acting the way they’ve been acting?

Ultimately, if you really do believe in the idea of democracy then the only way open to us is to exert that democratic right to be a part of the elections, the campaigns. The problem we face is this huge dsuzukibluedotdysfunctional system of first past the post, which the prime minister has used very well for his advantage. The story I tell is my mom and dad were born and raised in Canada but couldn’t vote until 1947 because they were Japanese. So when I reached 21 I took the right to vote as one of my most import privileges I have. I’ve voted in every federal election since I turned 21. I’ve never voted for a party that got into power. So my vote has just been [wasted] because basically minorities you don’t register anything. So I think we need an overhaul.

Part of the Blue Dot strategy is that should go after our cities first, then provinces before we go after the federal government and hopefully by then the  federal government will have shifted over… 

You said that, not me [laughing].

Yes [laughing] so if you were to give our readers some advice on how to get over the feeling of despair and get engaged down this the avenue, what can they do?

This is easiest thing. Municipalities are where the rubber hits the road. It’s where there’s real opportunity for change. If you look at Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, unbelievable mayors. Gregor Robertson, as soon as he got in, he said we’re going to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. [He faced] huge opposition to the committed bike lanes we have, we sectioned off a lane on one of our main bridges and its just for bikes. People were so pissed off.

Even Vancouver?

Now it’s hilarious, everyone’s gathering around saying look at our bike lanes. I brought my bike with me on this tour but I’m not going to bike on the streets of Toronto it scares the hell out of me. Too scary.

I’ll show you around.

[Laughs]. I think there’s huge opportunity to see change and it’s amazing. We’re only ¼ of the way through our tour and we’ve already got something like 1500 people, we’ve got a person in Vancouver whose whole job is to communicate with people who want to start a movement in their cities. I think we are now covering over half of municipalities. We’ve already got mayors that are saying I want to pass this. The city of Richmond is going to vote on a declaration on environmental health on Octobober 28. So it’s happening. It’s just the right moment. By the time we hit Vancouver we want just a wave. It will fall out at the municipal level and we’ve already been approached by a province, I won’t tell you which, that wants to be involved in some way. I think there are at least 3 provinces on board right off the bat. The minute we get commitment from provinces, they become our cheerleaders to cheer on others [at the federal levels] to join us. So this is the plan. The tour is just basically lighting the fuse. But it’s been very exciting.

On that note, you really do need to stop and check out the whole Blue Dot campaign. It’s encapsulated in this video – pretty powerful stuff. Once you watch, you’ll want to join the movement at


The Big Interview: Naomi Klein on Climate Change – Unedited

Portraits of Naomi KleinWhen I heard that no-holds barred lefty thinker Naomi Klein was putting out a book on climate change, I thought “damn right, sister.” Like I said in my book review in NOW Magazine, no matter what subject this woman tackles she has a way of skewering the shit out of whoever she finds screwing with humanity. In This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Naomi takes no prisoners, nailing to the wall sell-out green groups (including one that actually drills for oil on one of its own nature reserves! Really!), green billionaire messiahs, geoengineering, and the current economic system that puts growth above everything else. Her recommendations aren’t actually as radical as they may seem on the surface, she points out how environmental protection and climate action used to have all-party support from conservatives/republicans as well as liberals but that’s all shifted in recent years. And that we don’t have to go back to being off grid pioneers to move forward, she points out the way we lived comfortably in the 70s was actually a lot more sustainable than our bloated lifestyles of today.

Whether you agree with her politics or not, you really should read this book. It’s an eye-opener and she makes a pretty convincing case for her solutions to our systemic woes. Which is why I dedicated my whole column to it this week (no product guide or greenwash of the week this column, sorry!). My favourite chapters though almost had a spiritual component and were the ones filled with beams of love for this earth, for this life and for each other,  like “Love Will Save This Place” as well as personal chapters rooted in Naomi’s own emotional reproductive challenges and her realization that she was up against the same challenge facing the planet as a whole, that species big and small deserve the right to reproduce. I didn’t get to half the questions I wanted to ask her in our allotted time, but you can read my published interview with her posted on NOW Magazine’s website. We had to, of course, condense and edit it down quite a bit to fit her answers on the page. I’ve included a couple of her extended unedited answers below, plus a bonus Q we didn’t have room for in print about my favourite quote from the book. Enjoy!

Q. You confess you denied climate change for longer then you care to admit.

A. In the book I talk about hard denial vs soft denial. Hard denial is the kind of Donald Trump denial saying “this isn’t happening because it’s cold outside.” I didn’t deny climate change. I believe the vast majority  climate scientists are telling us the truth. I was still in a kind of state of denial, looking away, and I think that is the state that most of us are in. Even those of us engaged in the topic, we’re choosing not to read the really scary stories. I wasn’t engaging in the issue, I was outsourcing it to the big green groups that were supposed to be dealing with it. I thought it was too complicated. The whole world seemed archane – the solutions, feed-in-tarriffs. I just kind of tuned out. That’s the denial we need address. We spend a lot of time talking about the right wing kind of deniers and not our own day to day deniers.

Q. We’re all guilty of it, feeling like that’s how we get through the day without deep depression. What would you say to those who feel disempowered by looking at climate change straight in the eye?

A.  I don’t think we can look at the crisis this big straight in the eye unless we see a way of dealing with it that is commensurate with the scale of the crisis. It’s the difficulty of looking at problems of this scale and hearing warnings from scientists and even from our own political leaders who will occasionally admit just how dire it is….There’s such dissonance between that reality and the way our political leaders are behaving, they’re doubling down on fossil fuels then in the next breath they talk of importance of pursuing rapid economic growth even though our model of growth is intimately tied to the climate crisis. I think what we look away from is not just the crisis. It’s the combination of the climate crisis and the lack of political response to it. We will really only be able to look when we see a path forward that’s inspiring. That’s why it’s so heartening that there’s a new climate momvement finding its voice at this moment and there’s this converage of all this front line activism against, extractive projects, as well as the fossil fuel divestment movement and front line communities dealing with the real impacts of a fossil fuel based economy. The climate movement is coming down to earth. It’s no longer about just floating perspective from space. The logo of the movement for so long was the image of a disembodied planet. It’s really people who are very rooted in places they want to protect.

978-0-307-40199-1So what’s the alternative…in a nutshell?

Let’s try leaving [fossil fuels] in the ground. Instead of emitting it or offsetting it or trading it or trying to find another form of fossil fuels like natural gas. Let’s actually switch our economy to decentralized renewables, which doesn’t mean crashing the economy but it is a challenge to the hyperprofitable model of fossil fuels. I think we are an economy for the 1%. These are carbon deposits that are concentrated, require exnepsive infrastructure to extract and transport, so you have a few mega players who profit a huge amount from this model. So much that they’re able to buy our whole political system, the results of which we’ve seen in Canada where there’s been a seamless merger of oil and state. The alternative to that is a decentralized renewable economy that does create benefits for communities that has real win-wins. That’s not going to deliver the sorts of hyper profits that fossil fuels do. The good news is that the profits stay in communities. That’s the model we’re starting to see in places  like Germany, which has a really good feed-in-tarriff system that has encouraged 100s of new energy cooperatives and publically controlled, democratically-controlled utilities. This is what is really inspiring. You don’t get a transition like that without some friction.

You say the scale of needed reductions and changes needed can’t be left to the lifestyle decisions of earnest urbanites shopping at farmers’ markets and wearing upcycled clothing. That’s my community, for sure. What should earnest urbanites be doing to be more helpful?

I’m not saying farmers’ markets don’t matter or that it doesn’t matter how we live. It does. We need to show that responding to this crisis isn’t grim and can actually build stronger communities and happier lives, but we also need to be going to climate marches and engaging with policy to stop the tar sands. A lot of Canadians have changed their lives and lowered their carbon footprint in meaningful ways, yet we know that Canada has emissions that are 27 per cent higher than they should be under the commitments our government made under Kyoto. We have to do both – it’s that simple.

Bonus Q: My favourite quote in the book is (to paraphrase) “what will save this place is not hatred of fossil fuel companies but love will save this place.”

That’s a quote from a really extraordinary human being and activist named Alexis Bonogofsky, who I met in the really early stages of research for this book. My mood has changed as a I was changing this book. When I began things were just unremittingly bleak, but by the time I finished, in the last few years there was a lot of good news. When I talk to Alexis now they’re winning, they’re winning all kinds of victories. Part of it has to do with the Northern Cheyenne, who they work with really closely and there’s been a really strong fight back against the coal companies. Part of it is what I call Blockadia, the new spirt of resistance spreading all over the place against pipelines and against the coal they want to take out of Montana. They’re having trouble building the rail to get it out, having trouble building the ports, everywhere they’re trying to build they’re meeting resistance and people are networking and at the same time building alternatives. There are all these projects to bring wind energy, solar energy to show people that there really is an alternative to fossil fuel extraction. That’s really fuelling peoples resistance to the fossil fuel frenzy. That wonderful quote is hers: “love will save this place.” That’s true of all these resistance movements that I write about in the book. They’re not driven by hatred of the tar sands or hatred of oil companies. They’re really about people falling in love more deeply with their place and coming together in the face of a common threat. It’s a really beautiful movement.

For the rest of the interview read on here here plus you’ll find my book review here.

Connecting the dots…breast cancer and everyday chems

breast cancer chemsAre chemicals in our environment connected to the rise in non-genetic causes of breast cancer? For lots of us following environmental toxin news, it seems like a no-brainer, but scientists are still trying to firm up the connections. A recent study by the Silent Spring Institute and Harvard School of Public Health published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives notes that exposure to chemicals that cause mammary gland tumours in rats is common, but “few studies have evaluated potential breast cancer risks in humans.” In the studies that have been done, researchers found that chems that cause tumours in rats are often associated with breast cancer in women.

The scientists eventually narrowed the list from 216 chems known to cause breast tumours in rodents to 17 common groups of chemicals that should be “top targets for breast cancer prevention.” On the list are substances found in gasoline/diesel fuel, flame retardants, stain-resistant fabrics, paint strippers and (gulp) disinfection by-products of chlorinated drinking water. The list goes on.

The study makes it clear that more research is definitely needed. Silent Spring’s goal was to identify high-priority toxins for further research and biomarkers for these toxins in women. While scientists continue to learn more about these chemicals, the authors of this latest study say there’s enough information to begin reducing our exposures.

On that note, here’s the Silent Spring Institute’s list of the most effective strategies:

• Avoid fuel and exhaust: Turn the engine off instead of idling. Give up gas-powered mowers and leaf blowers. Walk or take transit when you can. Don’t store gasoline in your home.

• Quit smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke.

• Limit consumption of carcinogens in charred foods and use ventilation fans when cooking.

• Go to perc-free dry cleaners or ask for “wet cleaning.”

• Avoid stain-resistant rugs, furniture and fabrics.

• Don’t buy furniture with polyurethane foam, or ask for foam not treated with flame retardants.

• Make sure you’re protected from toxins on the job. Push for good ventilation and protective equipment.

• Reduce exposure to chemicals in household dust by removing shoes at the door, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter and cleaning with wet rags and mops.

• Use a solid carbon block filter for drinking water.

This article originally appeared in NOW Magazine.

Earth Day Manifesto: I Think a Change Will Do Us Good


Most of us get antsy when we think about change. We brace for it like a bad smell coming downwind, cringing and turning our heads, hoping it won’t hit us if our faces are cranked the other way. But it always does. Maybe not the bad smell but change always finds us. The question is, can you welcome it?  I don’t know about you but no matter what shit storm I’ve been through in my life, it’s always made me change for the better. It’s made me stronger, gentler, wiser, more adaptable, more resilient. It’s cracked wide open my mind and expanded and unfurled my heart.

And that my friends, is the gift hidden, waiting, in the shit storm called climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel report released in stages over the last couple weeks has been clear as day. Change is coming, actually change is here and already knocking on our door, at our flooded city gates (hello, Calgary, New York, Toronto) and on our bone-dry barn doors (sorry, Prairies). Sooner or later, we’re going to get stronger, gentler, wiser, more adaptable, resilient and creative, we’re going to open our hearts and minds to it and we, as a people, as a civilization, will change for the better. The question is how much suffering do we want to cut off at the pass? After all the lessons I’ve learned from my brother Nick’s suicide and my father’s disabling stroke, I sometimes haggle with the universe, telling it, “you know what, I think I’m good with the hard lessons for now.” That’s when I negotiate, vowing to learn not just from all the things that go wrong in life –  the way humans usually do – but to keep trying to be a more conscious, caring, mindful, grateful human being day by day, to really awaken to the amazing gifts of living on this earth, in this lifetime, not just on my deathbed at the end of it.

So let me ask you again, how much suffering do we want to cut off at the pass? The wise IPCC scientists from all around this incredible planet say we still have time, but we have to H-U-S-T-L-E. What can I really do, you ask? I’m just one person. Well, for one, we have to care. And we have to vote for and support the politicians and policies that can help us thrive in the face of change that’s coming whether we like it or not. What you can do is tell all three levels of politicians elected to represent you – right or left – to bravely lead on renewable energy, on shifting away from fossil fuels and on getting the places we live in ready for a changing climate. Tell them you don’t want us to just turn our collective heads the other way hoping the stench of climate change doesn’t hit us. We need to walk towards change with our eyes, hearts and minds open.

For my Earth Day feature in NOW Magazine, I wrote about how cities like Toronto can lead the planetary rescue (to read it in full, click here).  Truth is no matter where you live – country, city, Toronto, Texas, Timmins – we all need to get involved, show we care and work on changing the world from our little corners, as my mom would say. There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the IPCC reports but if you read between the lines there’s also a hell of a lot of exciting potential for change, to build thriving, resilient, dynamic communities that our families can call home for generations to come. Places that remind us that, yes, a change can do us good.


Is that asbestos in your reno dust?

asbestos home

It’s National Asbestos Awareness Week. Do you know where your asbestos is? Canada’s asbestos mines may finally be shuttered, but people are still finding the cancerous fibres tucked into all sorts of hidden corners of their homes. If your house was built before the 1980s/90s, it could contain asbestos in a dizzying number of spots. All fine and dandy if not disturbed. But if you’re planning any renos, you should really head to WorkSafeBC’s very useful According to WorkSafeBC, one of the most common places is under vinyl flooring tile. The tape around old ducts and piping could have been made with asbes- tos fibres, too; just peeling it off will release it into the air. Ditto for drywall with sprayed-on texture (like stucco), drywall mud, acoustic ceiling tiles, roofing shin- gles and more.

Breathing in asbestos is astoundingly damaging. Just watch the video below for Heather’s startling story. Her husband Cameron contacted me about sharing her story with readers to help raise awareness about the ongoing dangers of asbestos. You might assume the story couldn’t happen today because asbestos isn’t allowed in this country, but any people working with brake pads (ie mechanics), cement pipes and reno materials are just a few of those potentially exposed to hazardous levels on the job. If you’re worried about disrupting asbestos in your home, get suspect materials tested by an accredited lab. And call a trained professional to remove it.

Mindful Living 2 Go: Resolutions & Apps for Mind, Body, Planet

Planet GoodwillWe’re only ankle deep into the new year and if you listen closely you can hear resolutions straining, cracking, and, wait for it, shattering left, right and centre.  All it took was a snotty cold to knock me off track with my resolution. Lying in my bed the morning of Jan 1, my vow was to turn love into a verb and put more mindfulness and heart-centred consciousness into each and every day. Hokey? Definitely, but life-shifting? 100%. My theory is if we choose to put more heart and awareness into literally everything – making breakfast, walking to work, working, shopping, eating, interacting with the world, including our family, friends and total strangers, well, we just can’t help but be better to ourselves and the world around us, including the planet as a unified ecosystem. Okay, fine, it’s not just my theory – there are a few thousand monks and yogis who’ve been saying it for eons, quite literally. And now a growing army of people around the world are turning on and tuning in to that very idea. I touch on it in my resolutions article.

Ratcheting up my morning meditations and yoga classes, I was feeling all zen and alive…until my face turned into a faucet and my body started begging for blankets and a soft couch. Goodbye enlightenment, hello, six of the seven dwarves (Cranky, Snotty, Sleepy, Grumpy, Sicky and Foggy). But now that the cold’s lifted, it’s time to get back into gear. So, I’m sharing here with you my Meditation on the New Year and Mindful Living to Go….5 apps that can help boost your mind/body/planet connection. Buddify‘s fun because you can take small ‘mindfulness’ breaks while at your desk, on the bus, on break, at the gym, eating lunch. Kind of cool. I’ve tried a lot of meditation apps and too many of them are just new age music on timers. There are, however, two others I didn’t have room to mention in print. Headspace is a proper good meditation app guided by a pretty hip British monk but after 10 free meditations, there’s a monthly fee – just a heads up. Omvana‘s got a big library of various self-help guru-led audios for meditation, sleep, relaxation, focus, inspiration. A bit hit n’ miss but worth exploring.

The other apps I mention are more about making conscious choices in our everyday routines, from the products we buy and food we cook up to the goodwill we spread. Go ahead try ‘em. They might just help keep you from falling off the resolutions wagon (it’s too soon to give up on ‘em!). To get the full low down, read on…

Toxin Toxout: the new brave book, the authors, and me?

Toxin Toxout coverI’m a huge fan of Slow Death by Rubber Duck, the bestselling book by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie, so when Rick called me up and asked me if he could interview me for his next tome on toxins, I was pretty pumped. We met in a sunny east end Toronto park and chatted about the rise of green consumerism along with pseudo-natural and genuinely green products for a couple hours. He also asked me if he could include an excerpt of Ecoholic Body’s guide to label decoding. What an honour!

Now, drum roll please, I’m excited to announce Toxin Toxout: Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World is on shelves and it, my friends, rocks – and not just because I’m in it, of course. You’ll learn more about how easily everyday toxins seep into our bodies, in the most up close and personal way, as the authors, once again, turn themselves into human guinea pigs. This time they take on the often whacky world of detoxing in some pretty hilarious experiments. If you’ve ever eyeballed ionic footbaths or infrared saunas and wondered whether they actually pull toxins from your bodies, well, the boys dig up some answers. I sample a few of those answers in the latest Ecoholic product guide (hint: organic food and green products actually do lower your body’s chemical levels!). You’ll also find my Q&A with Bruce and Rick. Click here for the full story, Ranking Detox Strategies. If you pick up the book, I promise you this: you’ll laugh, you’ll wince, and you’ll learn a hell of a lot.


The Bright Idea Edition: lightbulbs & Tzeporah Berman

Lightbulbs guide image

In this issue of Ecoholic, we’re just brimming with bright ideas, both literal and figurative. The literal ones come from the latest innovations in lighting – figured a roundup on light bulbs would be useful right about now since most basic incandescent bulbs are being phased out in a couple weeks. The figurative ones come from Canadian activist extraordinaire Tzeporah Berman. I got to have dinner with Tzeporah when I was hosting Earth Day’s Beyond Green Youth Summit that she was speaking at. I have to say I love this woman. She’s a power house for change and the new green economy. (I definitely recommend putting her bio “This Crazy Time” on your holiday reading list. You can read some snippets from her fascinating speech on Petropolitics here, along with my bulb guide and greenwash of the week (Raw Essentials!).

Busting lice & the campaign against hormone disruptors

Lice guide

Hey kids, After taking a few weeks off work to get away from it all and unplug, I’m digging back in the vaults to share the columns that have been running while I was living the Luddite life!

First up, got something crawling on your scalp and it ain’t just a bad feeling? Well, have no fear Ecoholic is here with a breakdown of all your options, both toxic and non…and yes, you can get a grip on the situation without resorting to nasty pesticides banned from lawns but allowed on heads. Plus you’ll get a roundup of the latest heavyweight campaigns to get hormone disruptors out of our products for good. For the full column read on here.