Archive for the ‘David Suzuki Foundation’ Tag

Long work hours don’t work for people or the planet   1 comment

Busy? No time? Stressed? Unemployed?

Here’s a possible alternative for our society, so let’s begin talking about how we humanize our time.The David Suzuki Foundation has just published a thoughtful piece that challenges us to think about why we who work for a living, seem to be working long, stressful hours.

In their column, they quote the New Economics Foundation which advocates a 21 hour workweek. Such an innovation would, they argue, address problems such as overwork, unemployment, high carbon emissions and entrenched inequalities in society.

The full column can be found on the Suzuki Foundation website: www.davidsuzuki.org

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Action on the Climate Change Crisis   Leave a comment

Easter sunrise, 2014

Easter sunrise, 2014

Despite the bad news that many politicians, and powerful corporate personnel refuse to acknowledge the existence of climate change, there is also positive news. The David Suzuki Foundation, for example, has published a summary of how some Canadian cities are responding to the need to reduce our use of energy. These are steps along the journey, as the faith statement of my Christian denomination tells me, towards “living with respect in creation”.

Read the positive news at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/07/canadas-cities-lead-on-climate-action/

 The posting from the Suzuki Foundation also provides links to a number of original sources that are the source documentation for their conclusions.

Are you allergic to global warming?   Leave a comment

IMG_0089The David Suzuki Foundation has published a response to the above question. Part of what they write is:

“We’ve upset the Earth’s carbon cycle by burning fossil fuels and destroying forests and wetlands. Plants help rebalance it by absorbing carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. Thanks, plants! A warming planet also means longer growing seasons and stimulated plant growth in many areas (although it’s causing drought and reduced plant growth in some parts of the world). And rising atmospheric CO2 actually increases pollen production. Add to that the extreme weather impacts of climate change that can exacerbate allergy symptoms and other respiratory problems (rain and higher temperatures create more moulds and fungi in some places; more dust contributes to allergies and asthma in drought-stricken areas), plus the all-around increases in ground-level ozone, smoke and pollution, and you’ve got a recipe for mass discomfort, illness, death and rising health care costs.”

The whole article is available at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/05/you-might-be-allergic-to-global-warming/

Is it time for a real war on cars?   1 comment

The following was posted by the David Suzuki Foundation at:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/04/is-it-time-for-a-real-war-on-cars/

Is it time for a real war on cars?

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Credit: poeloq via Flickr

In railing against everything from bike lanes to transit spending, pundits and politicians often raise the spectre of a “war on cars.” Of course, there is no war on cars — but there should be.

Cars directly kill and hurt more people every year than most diseases, resulting in 1.5 million deaths and 78 million injuries needing medical care, according to the World Bank. Road injury is the eighth leading cause of death worldwide. Pollution from cars also causes acute and chronic health problems that often result in premature death — from heart disease and stroke to respiratory illness and lung cancer.Environmental impacts of cars are also well-known and wide-ranging, including climate change, smog and oily run-off from roads, not to mention the green space sacrificed for infrastructure to sell, drive, fuel and park them. Despite fuel-efficiency improvements, emissions from vehicles have more than doubled since 1970, and will increase with rising car demand in countries like China, India and Brazil, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Because many people, especially North Americans, can’t conceive of a world without cars for everyone, we overlook major problems caused by our private automobile obsession. We’re rightly outraged when a company like General Motors ignores faulty ignition switches in some of its vehicles, thought to have caused 13 deaths over 13 years. The massive recall that followed was justified and necessary. But as a headline on Treehugger’s website argues, “It’s time for a bigger recall of a seriously defective product: The Car.”

The article continues, “Since we can’t recall every car all at once and redesign the entire country, there are at least things we can do to make it less bad. Significantly reduce speed limits. Make drivers pay the full cost of infrastructure construction and maintenance through the gas tax. Build the cost of medical care for those millions of injured by cars into the price of gas. Invest in walkable cities and alternative forms of transport.”

Seattle newsweekly The Stranger, only somewhat tongue-in-cheek, created a 2011 manifesto for a real war on cars. “We demand that car drivers pay their own way, bearing the full cost of the automobile-petroleum-industrial complex that has depleted our environment, strangled our cities, and drawn our nation into foreign wars,” it says. “Reinstate the progressive motor vehicle excise tax, hike the gas tax, and toll every freeway, bridge, and neighborhood street until the true cost of driving lies as heavy and noxious as our smog-laden air.”

As Treehugger notes, we can’t shift from car-centric societies overnight. And until we find ways to better design our urban areas, many people will continue to rely on cars. After all, in the “developed” world, and increasingly in the developing world, we privilege private automobiles when creating infrastructure, often at the expense of what we need for public transit, walking and cycling.

Some even claim automobile and oil companies bought and dismantled streetcar and urban rail lines from the mid-1930s to the 1950s to sell more cars and oil. Fuel efficiency wasn’t a concern because, before pollution and climate change impacts were known, gas sale profits were a priority. Many factors were involved in the development of car culture, but we now find ourselves in an era when much of our oil is burned to propel mostly single users in inefficient vehicles.

Even with today’s improved fuel standards, only about 15 per cent of the energy from each litre of fuel burned is used to move the vehicle, which typically weighs 10 to 20 times more than the passenger(s) it carries. That translates to about a one per cent efficiency to move those passengers.

Although we can’t stop using cars altogether, we can curtail their damage to people and the environment. We can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by cutting back on car use, choosing fuel-efficient vehicles, joining a car pool or sharing program and reducing speed. At the policy level, we need increased investment in public transit and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, stronger fuel-efficiency standards, reduced speed limits, higher gas taxes and human-centric urban design.

Besides combatting pollution and climate change, reduced dependency on private automobiles will lead to healthier people, fewer deaths and injuries and livable cities with happier citizens. And that’s worth fighting for!

Pete Seeger – and David Suzuki   Leave a comment

David Suzuki Foundation

Pete Seeger: “From way up here the Earth looks very small”

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Photo Credit: wfuv

“This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

– Words painted on Pete Seeger’s banjo

A man with a banjo can be a powerful force for good. Pete Seeger, who died January 27 at the age of 94, inspired generations of political and environmental activists with songs ranging from “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” to “Sailing Down My Golden River”.

From the late 1930s until his death, Seeger brought his music to union halls, churches, schools, migrant camps, nightclubs, TV studios, marches and rallies – always inviting audiences to join in. His calling took him from being hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955 to being invited to perform at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.

Like me, he was inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring to become a strong defender of the environment as well as human rights. In both social justice and environmental causes, he believed in the strength of grassroots efforts. As he told the CBC Radio program Ideas, “The powers that be can break up any big thing they want. They can attack it from the outside. They can infiltrate it and corrupt it from the inside – or co-opt it. But what are they going to do about 10 million little things? They don’t know where to start. Break up three of them and four more like it start up.”

Seeger and his wife, Toshi, devoted a lot of time to protecting the Hudson River near their home in Beacon, New York. To save the polluted waterway, they raised money to build a sloop, the Clearwater, to take children, teachers and parents sailing. The boat and cleanup efforts have since spawned a science-based environmental education organization and music festival – and led to progress in restoring the river and ridding it of toxic PCBs, pesticides and other chemicals.

Seeger was also involved in anti-fracking efforts, adding the line, “This land was made to be frack-free” to his late friend Woody Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land Is Your Land”, when he joined Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp and Dave Matthews at a Farm Aid benefit last year.

Like all of us who devote our lives to trying to make the world better, Seeger made mistakes along the way. But he was willing to admit when he was wrong and to change his views.

As a geneticist, I’m fascinated by the built-in need we have for music; it reaches deep within us. The power of a good song to touch us emotionally and rally us to action is nothing short of extraordinary.

And musicians are often the first to donate their time and music to worthy causes. It’s why I’ve had such deep admiration for musicians I’ve worked with and often been lucky enough to call my friends, from Bruce Cockburn and Gordon Lightfoot to Neil Young and Sarah Harmer and the members of Blue Rodeo. Musicians have inspired millions of people with powerful anthems, from Seeger’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” In recognition of the power of song, the David Suzuki Foundation invited musicians from across the country to contribute to a recording called Playlist for the Planet in 2011.

I recently had the pleasure of joining Neil Young and Diana Krall on their Honour the Treaties tour to raise money and awareness for the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation’s legal battle to protect their traditional lands and rights guaranteed under Treaty 8. As “just a musician”, Young was criticized for having the nerve to speak out and for his harsh words about rampant tar sands development. But, as much as it would be better if the media, public and government paid far more attention to First Nations and their spokespeople, a celebrity with conviction and the ability to communicate through the powerful medium of song – or other forms of artistic expression – can often highlight a struggle in ways few others can.

Like Nelson Mandela, who died in December at age 95, Pete Seeger was a great communicator for whom principles mattered more than anything else. He was a true American and world citizen and we’re better off for the contributions he made during his long life.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington