Beach Clean in Mazagon

20130506-022125.jpgMy ninth graders and I spent Friday cleaning a beautiful beach, Cuesta De Maneli, in Mazagon. Although the area itself is stunning– a boardwalk winds through sand dunes to the beach below– there was a surprising amount of trash. We filled over twenty big garbage bags (as the students squealed in disgust when they found increasingly yucky things) and although it was hot, stinky work, the day went by quickly and we rewarded ourselves with an afternoon spent in the ocean and siesta-ing on the beach. Not bad for a school field trip…20130506-022800.jpg20130506-022828.jpgThe tricky part came when we had to lug the garbage bags two kilometres back over the sand dunes to the parking lot. I was informed by the students that it should be considered “explotación infantil”, but we made it.20130506-023420.jpg20130506-023449.jpg20130506-023736.jpg20130506-023751.jpg

Stand Behind Canada’s Scientists

In May I wrote about how Stephen Harper was killing environmental science with Bill C-38.  Since then, the bill passed easily and more and more cuts continue to be made to research and environmental programs in Canada.  Since winning a majority, the Conservative party seems to have been systematically cutting down environmental policies and funding to major centres of scientific advancement– like shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area which is (was) known throughout the world as a leader in freshwater research.  These budget cuts aren’t happening to just “fight an economic deficit”, Harper is muzzling federal scientists and trying to get rid of any evidence that might not support his political ideologies.

Scientists aren’t usually the big-protest-type, but on Tuesday hundreds of people marched to Parliament Hill to rally against these cuts and mourn the death of evidence. This has captured international attention which will hopefully put more pressure on the government as their shortsighted cuts to the environment come into the spotlight.

Photo by Jean Levac, Ottawa Citizen

Regardless of political beliefs, I think that everyone should want to know that important decisions being made by our government are being made based on solid facts and research.  We need evidence-based decisions, not decision-based evidence. These cuts and blows to science, research, and the communication of science in Canada shouldn’t just be worrisome to professional scientists, or “tree huggers”, or activists — these affect all Canadians and people around the world.  Canada used to be considered a world leader in this field, and it’s sad to see where our country is headed.

Killing Environmental Science — Bill C-38

The environment should be a non-partisan issue.  I’m no political expert, not even close.  I read lots and follow the news from Parliament Hill; basically I try to stay on top of things and stay informed, but have never been very politically active. I certainly wasn’t planning on ever blogging about politics. But here I am. What the Conservative Government is trying to implement with Bill C-38 has me all riled up, and seriously worried. And as a concerned citizen, I want to share this info with you!

On Wednesday I went to the BlackOutSpeakOut Teach In, which was a non-partisan information session about the devastating impact that this budget bill will have on environmental laws and regulations in Canada.  The speakers included John Bennett, who is the Executive Director of the Sierra Club of Canada; the New Democrat critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food Malcolm Allen; Senator Grant Mitchell; environmental lawyer and professor Stephan Hazell, and leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May.

What I took away from the evening (and if you’re interested, you can actually watch each of the speakers here) is that we seriously need to ban together NOW if we want to preserve our Canadian environment. Without turning this into a diatribe against Stephen Harper, it seems that he is woefully uninformed about pretty much any kind of science and is bent on destroying on our country one piece at a time. He doesn’t believe in climate change, which is why it doesn’t seem to concern him at all.  He doesn’t appreciate that you can’t separate the environment from the rest of our lives; culture, economy, health, safety — these are all intrinsically linked to the health of our surroundings and our planet. To him, the environment is simply in the way of big oil, and “productivity”.  Every other political party has spoken out against this draconian bill.  Even one of his own MPs tried (the key word is “tried”) to speak out against the 425 page bill.

I could go on about Harper’s assault on the environment, but there are people out there who have already done so (and who are much better equipped to do so then I!). I just felt like I needed to get that of my chest — hope my first foray into a little political post went OK.  If there are any of you who are reading this and have no idea what I’m rambling about I really, really highly recommend that you check out this info:

As I mentioned, the event I went to was non-partisan (there were representatives from all the major Canadian political parties except for the Conservatives, but that’s not really surprising…), and it was very encouraging to see people from different political backgrounds come together to fight for our environment.  I honestly believe that even Conservative supporters can’t be huge fans of this bill — we all share this planet and its future will affect all of us. Regardless of party values, we need to work together for the environment; an environmental coalition. So please, if you want to get involved, write letters to your MP, to newspapers, to the prime minister’s office, call talk shows, make your voice heard!

BlackOutSpeakOut can get you started, so head on over now and speak out! Silence is not an option.

Confessions of an Ex-Shopaholic

I am a Magpie. I love sparkles, sequins, anything pretty and unique…I like to “guild the lily” as my mum would say.  Obviously, I am not the only girl with these fascinations but this is a fairly recent phase in my life. Growing up with three brothers, I thought of myself as tomboy-ish and I cringed at being called a “girly-girl”.  My childhood was filled with ballet classes, sports, Disney and Nerf guns…at the end of the day I would say it was well balanced.  And then suddenly when I was 17 (around the age I first had a job with real money and started going to school downtown) I became a bit of a shopaholic.  I looooved high heels (I still do. And I think it’s totally fine to wear them even if you’re tall.).  I fell hard for OPI nail polish.  I went from owning three dresses to more than my closet could handle.

I think even the Duchess has a bit of magpie in her...(picture from the Daily Mail)

Last summer I was travelling with my family in Europe and after dropping a fair amount of money in London, my Dad remarked that my spending was getting a little out of control.  He also pointed out that I could probably outfit a small country with all my clothes.  He was right (about the over-spending. I’m pretty sure I don’t have THAT many clothes.).  So then and there, outside of Top Shop in Oxford Circus, I proclaimed that I would not shop for one year. (I kept the purchases from that day though…) That was on Thursday July 21stIt has since been 26 weeks. I’m half way there!

To clarify, “not shopping” for me has just meant no objects (clothes, accessories, makeup, books, etc). I have however been purchasing toiletries (sorry, I like to stay clean!), I still bought gifts for others, and I’ve definitely spent money going out and about.  In the grand scheme of things, I realize this isn’t a huge deal, and I’m certainly not claiming to be making any kind of difference to society.  It has been a lot easier than I thought! My wallet is definitely healthier than it used to be, and I like to think that I’m becoming a smarter consumer. Being a student in environmental sciences, it is also hard NOT to think about the environmental implications of what you’re doing (i.e. what you’re buying) fairly often, so that’s another source of motivation for me — a teeny tiny way to help our planet.
So to mark six months of self-restraint I figured I should celebrate…by not shopping for another six! Happy Thursday!