Social distancing and quarantines don’t mean you have to live on canned soup alone.
Welcome to the new coronavirus kitchen. Many of us have practice in stocking up for storms and such, but the pandemic pantry is a slightly different animal. Hurricane shopping, for instance, has people buying “hedonic products” to weather the storm – like cookies, chips, and alcohol, along with the bottled water and batteries.
But stocking up in the face of a pandemic varies a bit. We expect to have power and gas, so cooking and food storage shouldn’t be a problem. That said, in preparation for a pandemic the government recommends having a two-week supply of food on hand. Which makes many people think: Canned soup, rice and beans, pasta, and 46 cases of granola bars.
With this in mind, we took a look through our archives, and as it turns out, our food section is basically like Little House on the Prairie meets Pinterest – which is to say, pretty pandemic friendly. In terms of delicious basics, we’ve got this covered. Here’s a start; we will keep adding as we find more.
Australia’s apocalyptic bush fires make the dystopian future of “Mad Max” look tame. The World Economic Forum recently reported that it will take another 100 years to achieve gender equality at the current pace of progress. Garbage patches twice the size of Texas have accumulated in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, wreaking havoc on ocean food chains that reach all of the way to human consumption.
Corporations are implicated in it all. That isn’t company bashing. It’s just a reality.
Pick an issue. When it comes to climate change, we can rightly blame the top energy companies (prominent among them are Canadian companies such as Suncor and Canadian Natural) that are responsible for the majority of industrial emissions. But we can also put the responsibility on car companies for not making more fuel efficient or alternative fuel cars. Or Amazon for congesting roads with polluting vehicles to make same-day deliveries. Or paper companies for their use of virgin tree pulp that removes major carbon sinks by cutting down forests. Or the banks that finance these companies. And the list goes on.
Achieving gender equality is slow because companies simply are not hiring and promoting women into higher paying roles. Pay transparency reports in the U.K. revealed many Canadian companies that operate there — for example, RBC, SNC-Lavalin and BlackBerry — have wage gaps of 30 to more than 90 per cent, mainly due to the lack of women in leadership.
According to Greenpeace, one truckload of plastic enters the ocean every minute. It identified 10 companies — Coca Cola, Pepsi-Co, Nestle and Danone among them — as the largest sources of this plastic pollution. We can hold retailers that sell those products accountable as well.
Many corporations have negative social or environmental consequences that can be considered trade-offs: we get fast delivery, but pollution increases; oil companies employ people and return dividends to shareholders, but the climate warms; organizations avoid changing promotion practices, but qualified underrepresented people do not get advancement opportunities.
While the government clearly has a role in regulating pollution or mandating pay equity, companies can and should step in to lead change.
It is in vogue for companies to file corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports discussing how they are doing on these social impacts.
Action to address these trade-offs has been, on average, incremental at best.
That simply will not do. It’s 2020 and the world is on fire.
One wonders if Canadian business leaders are more interested in being seen as doing the right thing rather than doing the work to make transformational change. They have budgets for splashy events, but what about budgets for transitioning to a low (or no) carbon economy, reshaping how they recruit and promote diverse talent or move to zero waste?
If companies don’t get ahead of these challenges, governments and society will push harder to hold them accountable.
Lawsuits demanding governments make polluting corporations pay for climate change damages are increasing around the world. Many European nations, and recently the State of California, now demand quotas for women on boards. Non-profits in India are launching brand audits of waste to put the spotlight on firms producing single-use plastics. Canadian companies will not be immune to these pressures.
For example, Jet Blue’s recent announcement to purchase carbon offsets to go carbon-neutral for all its flights is a commitment mechanism that will inspire innovation. By bringing the cost of its carbon footprint to its bottom line, it will be forced to demand more fuel-efficient jets and reconfigure its operations.
These companies are transforming how they operate to address the climate, inequality and pollution crises. Canadian business leaders need to see these crises through an innovation lens and pursue radically innovative solutions.
If an innovative solution to feeding the world’s growing population is to be found, it is likely to come from Wageningen, a quiet corner of Europe that is the nexus of global food science. But at what cost to the environment?
Photography by Judith Jockel
In the low-lying Gelderse Valley some 85km east of Amsterdam, a Dutch university is changing how humans eat.
There, a bright-eyed press officer with Willy Wonka flair is showing me the miracles of modern food science. One laboratory door swings open to reveal giant, fragrant basil leaves growing under multicoloured lights. In a greenhouse nearby, thousands of tomatoes are suspended mid-air like plump, levitating Buddhas. A few steps away, I shake hands with a world-famous banana scientist, who dreams of introducing Europeans to the many varieties of banana eaten across Asia, Africa and Latin America, and ending the tyranny of the common yellow Cavendish.
For miles in every direction, fields bulge with crops; in some, drones monitor soil fertility, in others, giant luminescent panels light up greenhouses at night. The press officer is accustomed to impressing visitors. “What do you think?” he asks at every turn.
The Netherlands is not a big place. You can drive across the whole country from the north to the south in under four hours. And yet it ranks consistently among the world’s top food exporting nations, in terms of gross value. The country’s surpluses are mind-boggling; how does the second largest exporter of tomatoes and onions also produce such outsize quantities of dairy and potatoes, and export more eggs than any nation on Earth? The mystery of how this tiny patch of northern Europe does it draws government delegations, multinational companies and agriculture students from around the world to marvel at the nucleus of the Dutch innovation juggernaut: Wageningen University.
A trial subsidy scheme that rewards farmers for boosting biodiversity on their land has been extended after yielding positive results for nature
Image: Gary Butterfield
The two-year pilot was carried out on farms in Norfolk, Suffolk and Yorkshire. According to Natural England and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, which led the trial, participating farms had 43 per cent more seed-bearing plants than nearby sites that claim existing subsidies. Such plants provide a rich food source for birds in winter.
The trial was co-funded by the European Commission and could help inform future agri-environmental subsidies in the UK as the country leaves the EU.
Unlike current agri-environment schemes, where payments are fixed and land management techniques prescribed, the ‘payments by results’ pilot gives farmers the freedom to choose how they manage their land to improve biodiversity.
Farmers involved in the trial had access to training and reported feeling more motivated to manage their land in a way that enhances nature. Defra has decided to extend the pilot for another two and a half years.
“I have been struck by the resourcefulness and passion this pilot has inspired to deliver for nature on working farms,” said Tony Juniper, Natural England’s chair. “Farmers must be front and centre in efforts to restore the natural environment and these results reveal huge potential for the future.”
While scientists and researchers work to find ways to stall the effects of climate change, it’s possible that the answer to one of our problems may actually already exist in the form of a caterpillar.
In 2017, it was discovered that waxworms have the ability to eat through plastic. At the time, it was unclear how exactly this was possible and whether it could be replicated, and now researchers think they may have found a breakthrough.
A paper published earlier this week reveals that it’s all about the worms’ gut bacteria and microbiome. This discovery allows for the hope that an efficient method of environmentally friendly plastic degradation could be on the horizon.
Christophe LeMoine, an associate professor and chair of biology at Brandon University in Canada, told CNN:
We found that waxworm caterpillars are endowed with gut microbes that are essential in the plastic biodegradation process. This process seems reliant on a synergy between the caterpillars and their gut bacteria to accelerate polyethylene degradation.
Currently, the best way to tackle plastic pollution is recycling, but this is far from perfect.
The process of recycling itself requires the use of non-renewable energy, plus unlike other materials such as glass or metal, plastic can only be recycled a certain number of times. A single plastic water bottle will take approximately 450 years to completely break down, and this process emmits dangerous gases which contribute to climate change.
While some steps are being taken towards minimising the demand for plastic products (such as banning straws and charging for bags), the world is still currently producing nearly 300 million tons of plastic each year, much of which ends up in the ocean, leading to devastating environmental consequences.
Waxworms don’t provide a perfect solution, as their excrement is somewhat toxic, but it could be a starting point for scientists looking to develop innovative ways of tackling the huge issue of plastic waste. SOURCE
Washington DC-based bank grants funds to redraft south American state’s oil laws by lawyers linked to oil giant
Ships carrying supplies for an ExxonMobil offshore oil platform leave the Demerara river south of Georgetown, Guyana. Photograph: Luc Cohen/Reuters
The World Bank is to pay for Guyana’s oil laws to be rewritten by a legal firm that has regularly worked for ExxonMobil, just as the US producer prepares to extract as much as 8bn barrels of oil off the country’s coast.
“The World Bank claims to be striving for ‘good governance’ in revising Guyana’s legal framework for oil development,” said Heike Mainhardt, senior advisor on multilateral financial institutions at Urgewald. “However, they are hiring the law firm who counts among their major clients ExxonMobil – the company leading the oilfield development in Guyana.
“This is ‘good governance’ for the oil companies, not for the people of Guyana or the global climate. The World Bank is causing a conflict of interest, in effect undermining good governance.”
The World Bank has already faced criticism over its involvement in the oil sector. It garnered praise from environmental campaign groups in 2017 when it pledged to stop investment in “upstream oil and gas”. However, the Guardian previously reported it had earmarked $55m to improve governance in the oil and gas sector in Guyana.
ExxonMobil, based in Irving, Texas, announced in December it had started production off Guyana’s coast, less than five years after oil was first discovered there. At the end of January, ExxonMobil increased its estimates of the size of the discovery to 8bn barrels of oil equivalent. That made it one of the world’s biggest finds in recent years and a key part of ExxonMobil’s plans to extract more fossil fuels, even as other oil producers look at reducing their environmental impacts. SOURCE
Onshore wind power, utility-scale solar power, reduced food waste: These are just the first three of Project Drawdown’s plan to end the climate crisis with existing technologies.
[Source Image: StudioM1/iStock]
An important thing to realize for anyone thinking about the climate crisis is that things are not hopeless. In fact, the solutions the world needs to tackle climate change already exist. A new report from the nonprofit Project Drawdown analyzed the potential of dozens of solutions and found that we could reach what the organization calls “drawdown”—the point where greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere peak and begin to drop—as early as 2040 if all of the solutions are scaled up together.
“We look at individual solutions to climate change that actually exist in the real world,” says Jonathan Foley, executive director of Project Drawdown. “They’re not just in the lab, they’re not a startup somewhere that’s talking about it, but they actually exist in practice today. And we ask fundamental questions like, how big could it be? How effective at removing or avoiding greenhouse gas emissions would it be? What does it cost to build it and what does it cost to operate it?” It’s an updated version of an analysis that the organization did in 2017, leading to a best-selling book called Drawdown.
All of the solutions need to be deployed in combination, but some rise to the top as most impactful—and they aren’t necessarily what most people would consider first. In a version of the analysis that looks at what it would take to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the top solution is reducing food waste, which could reduce more than 87 gigatons of CO2 over the next few decades. That’s followed by health and education; educating girls, and providing access to reproductive health care, leads to young women choosing to have fewer children, which in turn has a major impact on emissions. Third on the list is switching people en masse to a plant-rich diet, since meat and dairy production is a significant source of emissions. Next is managing refrigerants, the ultra-polluting chemicals that can leak from air conditioners and refrigerators. That’s followed by restoring tropical forests, which play a crucial role in sequestering carbon from the atmosphere. The full list of 76 solutions is available on Project Drawdown’s website.
To stop at 2 degrees of warming, these are the most important things to focus on:
Reduced food waste
Health and education
Tropical forest restoration
Utility-scale solar power
Improved clean cookstoves
Distributed solar power
Another version of the analysis, which considers how to move faster and limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, ranks the solutions in a slightly different order, with onshore wind turbines and solar photovoltaics at the top, followed by reducing food waste, plant-rich diets, health and education, tropical forest restoration, and improved clean cookstoves that can replace sooty cooking fires that are still common in many parts of the developing world. While the ranking is interesting, it doesn’t really matter whether a particular solution is higher than another on the list, since everything needs to happen—including the solutions that rank lower, from smart thermostats to bike infrastructure. “We need all of them,” Foley says. “But the rankings do show you the relative impact each of these could have.”
To stop at 1.5 degrees warming, the list is slightly different:
Onshore wind power
Utility-scale solar power
Reduced food waste
Health and education
Tropical forest restoration
Improved clean cookstoves
Distributed solar power
The report also lays out a basic explanation of the problem, illustrating the emissions coming from various sectors. Agriculture and land use are as polluting as power plants. On the other side, the ocean and land absorb some greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, though obviously not enough to keep up with the current rate of human-caused emissions. The complexity shows why such a diversity of solutions is needed simultaneously; solar panels and electric cars are only a small part of the answer. “If you don’t start with a framework of knowing where the problem is, it’s really hard to understand what the solutions are,” says Foley.
This is now the second time Project Drawdown has calculated this list, after a first attempt in 2017. “Since 2017, a lot of things have changed in the economics, the technology, the policy landscape,” says Foley. “And so we had to kind of do it all over again.” They now plan on releasing a new list every year.
The challenge now is making the changes in policy, business, urban design, and culture to actually implement each of these solutions. The report estimates that implementation might cost $23.4-$26.2 trillion but would save $96.4-$143.5 trillion. “We’ve shown, I think pretty convincingly, we have the tools,” Foley says. “They could be big enough to solve the problem. They all would cost some money but then make back far, far more. They’d all be good for us. They improve our health, our security, our jobs, our economy, our well-being, all of these things would improve. So it’s not like we can’t do it, we just have to do it fast.”
“Business leaders can really step up and lead, not just be followers, not just be pushed by governments, but maybe help shape what regulations could be in the future to take advantage of this new emerging economy,” Foley says. “The smart businesses are not going to be just dragged kicking and screaming to a climate-safe future. They’re going to be leading it.” SOURCE
Protesters block the Johnson Street Bridge on Feb. 8. They said they were acting in support of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose construction of a natural gas pipeline in northern B.C. Photograph By DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST
With the Wet’suwet’en protests now largely behind us, for the time being at least, there is an urgent need for a serious discussion about how such matters should be handled in future. It seems quite likely there will be more to come.
We say that partly because when police forces stand aside and allow roads and rail lines to be blocked, it emboldens protesters to ramp up such tactics. But it is also a reality that our governments, provincial and federal, have communicated a sense of unwillingness to become actively involved.
The starting point for any such discussion should be how much is due to Aboriginal groups when resource projects are being planned. The Supreme Court of Canada has said that consultation is obligatory, and that it must be meaningful, not cursory or perfunctory.
But the court has also ruled that First Nations do not have a veto over such projects. That is to say, while they must be heard in a respectful manner, and every effort made to mitigate whatever concerns are raised, their consent is not constitutionally required.
However, in a commentary on this page two weeks ago, a First Nations negotiator wrote that consultation is no longer by itself deemed adequate or sufficient. Consent is now a necessity if there is to be genuine reconciliation.
It is essential that our political leaders make clear where they stand on this. There are 198 First Nations in B.C., and 634 nationwide. If consent, rather than consultation, is to become the ruling principle, that must be said.
In our view, this policy would be tantamount to hanging a “going out of business” sign at the border. What is the likelihood that foreign resource companies will invest in Canada if such a labyrinthine approval process were adopted? Recently, American billionaire Warren Buffett pulled out of a liquid natural gas pipeline project in Quebec, citing “the current Canadian political context.” But what cannot be allowed to happen is continuing confusion as to what the rules are. That merely invites further blockades as protesters test the will and resolve of governments to call a halt.
There is a precedent here. In 1990 an armed standoff between police and members of the Mohawk First Nation in Oka, Ont., led to a police officer being killed. Ownership of land was at stake.
Two factors played a part in this tragedy. First, law-enforcement agencies, seeking to avoid a confrontation, stood aside in the early stages. But that merely allowed the situation to reach a boiling point.
Second, some of the protest leaders began believing their own rhetoric, which became increasingly violent as things dragged on for 78 days. Arguably, had police taken a firm stance earlier, this might not have happened.
There is also a necessity for leaders within the Aboriginal community to talk this matter through. Some of that is already happening.
For First Nations groups cannot complain about high levels of unemployment on remote reserves, with the accompanying dysfunction that causes, if some remain adamantly opposed to projects that can bring jobs to their region.
We understand the sensitivities involved. Numerous land title claims have gone unresolved for decades. Impatience and distrust are entirely reasonable given this fact.
But by slamming the door on resource projects, Aboriginal leaders are not only depriving their own people of much needed work. They are undermining the Canadian economy upon which we all ultimately depend for services such as health care and education. There is no future in that.
First and foremost however, Parliament and provincial legislators must stop waffling and make clear how future blockades will be dealt with. Until that happens, there is an open invitation for more of the same. SOURCE
Native communities do not hurt the economy – they bear the hurt of corporations ruining the land.
Supporters of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs block access to the Port of Vancouver as part of protests against the construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline [Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]
It is all well and good until the Indian mascots start talking back.
That has been an observation of mine, after years of public advocacy as a Native woman. Society likes us in caricatured form, they sometimes like us in regalia opening events, but once a Native speaks out in a way that challenges North American society, we are regularly, and sometimes violently, silenced.
We need look no further for an example of this than the current Indigenous-led infrastructure shutdowns in Canada, in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who have refused passage of the Coastal GasLink pipeline through their territory.
Across what is now Canada, Native resistance is exposing an underbelly of racism, ignorance and historical denial. Following the Canadian government’s refusal to listen to the hereditary Wet’suwet’en chiefs’ rejection of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, hundreds of ongoing disruptions to transportation infrastructure have forced a reckoning on every level imaginable. Angry comments proliferate across online comment boards, death threats fill the inboxes of Native front-line resistors posting photos of solidarity actions with #WetsuwetenStrong and #LandBack hashtags.
Angry fossil fuel employees, their families, friends and citizens, concerned with economic security (but apparently not at all concerned with equality) call for violence upon Indigenous youth standing up for their long-suffering people, upon any and all Native peoples disrupting infrastructure trying to be heard, to be seen, to be respected.
“Yes, this is [a] threat,” I read in one Tweet replying to the Twitter feed of the Unist’ot’en (working in conjunction with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs) Camp, along with instructions and an illustration for locating and approaching Indigenous blockades with a mask and baseball bat.
Hostility to Native resistance ranges from physical violence to basic supremacy themes – people who “live off our taxes” have no room to complain about anything. The incalculable contributions Native people made to both non-Native survival then and to the economy as it exists today are summarily disregarded. I suspect a vast majority of North America has little to no understanding of treaties made between fledgeling Western governments and Native Nations, or of what “unceded land” means.
While the US and Canadian constitutions are respected law, the treaties that literally ceded the lands those countries exist on today in exchange for basic services ensuring the survival of the people holding those lands are viewed as old news, as something to “get over”.
The desperate state of far too many Native nations should anger any patriot who believes in country; a glaring failure of the US and Canada to uphold their end of the contracts they signed. Instead, Native communities are a source of shame, of anger towards Native people, or intentionally ignored. The refusal of Native peoples to assimilate is a 500-plus year thorn in the side of colonisation and an affront to American exceptionalism.
The racism on display with regard to Wet’suwet’en is not a new phenomenon. It did not just suddenly appear because of incendiary stories about job layoffs (layoffs that were already in progress before the disruptions).
I recall how a group of men driving by an Anishinaabe woman walking down a pavement in Thunder Bay, Canada, allegedly threw a trailer hitch at her and struck her in the stomach. Barbara Kentner, 34, later died of her injuries. The man charged with her killing faces trial in April. Internet rumours attacking Barbara Kentner grew so malicious that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) ran a piece debunking one claiming Kentner assaulted a child. The celebrations around the killing of Colton Boushie – a young Cree man shot in the head by a white farmer who was subsequently acquitted of his murder and manslaughter – was another moment that should have cued folks to the deep-seated racism towards Native people. So is the literal epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women on both sides of the colonial border.
Throw in extractive industrial projects that hold the boon of hundreds of well-paying jobs, a way to keep food on the table, and that ignorance explodes to the surface. The Native person trying to protect their land, the deepest part of their identity, becomes an obstacle blocking a good job. Such a narrative benefits the company seeking its latest fossil fuel project. Stories of Coastal GasLink pipeline, Enbridge, TransCanada and many others’ failing profit margins, uncertain oil forecasts and lack of demand are buried. It has to be somebody’s fault, we are told, but it never seems to be the companies making these destructive choices.
I was born and raised in North Country; I grew up with loggers and miners, the folks who use their hands and backs for a living, as my family members and neighbours. Distrust and lack of understanding between rural communities and the Native folks nearby are a constant. Exploitation of the lands and waters we call home is also a constant. The jobs that pay well are usually jobs that require taking far, far more than we need, for shipment somewhere else.
When the mine finally gives out, it is our water that sits contaminated, our children that play on the soil with a spreading chemical plume below it. When the old growth timber is gone, it is our ecosystem that is disrupted, the wild game many of us still depend on that disappears. We bear the risk of spills, of explosions, of all the immediate risks of bodily harm associated with extractive industry. When Coastal GasLink bulldozes its way through the unceded territory against the authority of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, it is our communities that bear that hurt and destruction, it is our people, our youth that carry those wounds and further separation between Native and non-Native neighbours.
We are at the point now where the climate crisis has extended serious risks outside of our local communities. The polar ice caps are melting, the Global South has rising seas and burning rainforests, North America’s own western seaboard is on fire for longer and longer periods in these recent times. It is not just our problem and reality any longer; it belongs to the whole of humanity.
In the realm of finger-pointing, it seems to me that blaming the Native taking a stand for our shared and only home might seem like the easiest thing to do, but it makes the least sense. Corporations are made of people, those people make decisions with enormous consequences. Governments are made of people, those people shape economic accountability, public policy and subsidise the future they want to back. Communities are made of people, we can collectively all do a lot better towards understanding one another and ending a vicious cycle of hatred.
It is the 21st century – surely we can do better than unchecked mega-corporations destroying our only home to make a buck. Investment in technology, in people, in education, in the forgotten, still-beautiful places that hold the remaining biodiversity and delicate ecosystems we all need to survive should be a no-brainer, one would think. One would hope.