Environment and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Organic farming: a healthier career choice

“If you were given a choice to grow your food than buying it at the local supermarket, what would you do?”

Scott Crook at the UBC farm

I put this question forward to Scott Crook, a student at the “Sowing Seed for the future Practicum”.

“I would grow my own food. It is cheaper, fresh, healthier for us and the environment. I get to work at my own pace at the farm. It is great exercise. I cannot find any reason why not to grow my own food. “Crook said.

Crook got involved with the UBC farm as part of the practicum for his certification and has never looked back since. While on location Crook took me on an informational tour of the farm which amalgamates a farmer’s market and plots of land where students perfect their craft.

Organic farming and learning to manage agricultural farms has become increasingly popular among both male and female students in BC. According to a report issued by the Government of Canada, “Organic farming is booming in Canada”. In 2008 there were 444 organic farms in BC, as stated by a report issued by the Canadian Organic Growers.

Environmental protection and social responsibility are two of the main reasons Crook was inspired with to take this career path.

Checking out plants that have sprouted

“If you love nature this is the right place to be. I cannot be at a better place than this. I am learning how to avoid toxins, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And it is animal friendly farming” Crook said with a passion in his eyes.

Statistics Canada website states, “Since 2000, the number of certified organic producers in Canada has plateaued, after nearly tripling between 1990 and 2000. In 2003, the country had 3,100 organic producers – 1.3% of Canada’s farmers – farming just over 390,000 hectares.”

This means organic farming students like Crook may find it viable to take it up as a small business. Initially he wants to work for an established farm to gain further insights. Crook acknowledges he is on a successful track to becoming an organic farmer. Yet as with all career paths this also comes with challenges.

“There are days when it rains constantly. Then it is my job to protect the seeds from getting washed away. You have to put in long hours at maintaining the land otherwise the produce may not turn out the way it is supposed to be.”

In the program Crook got hands on training for all the processes involved in agricultural sciences. The most exciting part was learning how to work with a farm tractor.

I saw Crook and his colleagues in action with the tractor which seemed to be a fun process visually.

Crook put me in touch with reality, “It may seem like fun but it is a very technical process to get land prepared for sowing the seeds. You cannot risk going wrong with the very first step.”

“Do you still want to keep on doing this?” I asked.

“Absolutely. I would love to own a vineyard some day and make my own wine”, said Crook with a big smile on his face.

Crook is very clear about his future goals. He is motivated towards applying his skills through an apprenticeship program at local farms in the Lower Mainland.

I put Scott on the spot and asked him how he would describe himself in three words- “fun, adventurous and committed”.

“That’s the best attitude to life.” Crook said

Environment and Climate Change, life

Space tourism the Cirque way

Move over Gold Coast Australia, the hot new tourist destination is the stars. 

Laliberte's Cirque Du Soleil - Photo courtesy: Cirque Du Soleil Promo
Laliberte's Cirque Du Soleil - Photo courtesy: Cirque Du Soleil Promo

Fire-eater and stilt-walker Guy Laliberté, 49, founder of the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, will fly on a Russian ship as a space tourist in September.

The first circus act in space is being trained to visit the International Space Station and is spending millions for his joyride. Some of us are questioning the motive. Is it a publicity stunt to bring the 25th year anniversary for the show to public’s attention or a genuine need to discover the twlight zone?

Laliberte has begun training with cosmonauts at Star City, near Moscow, for a 12-day trip organised by Space Adventures that will cost him around $20 million.

He said yesterday: “Travelling has always been my way of life and I have been researching the possibilities of space travel with Space Adventures since 2004. But I needed it to be the right time and for the right purpose.

“This is the time. And the purpose is clear: to raise awareness on water issues to humankind on planet earth. My mission is dedicated to making a difference on this vital resource by using what I know best: artistry.”

Unfortunately Laliberte will not be allowed to take his accordian on board the space station in case he gets an epiphany for the next fire breathing Cirque show.

Here is more coverage on the issue:

Cirque du soleil’s Guy Laliberte defends millions being spent on space trip

Environment and Climate Change, life

Livin’ the high life “off-gird”

Rooms inside an off-grid house
Rooms inside an off-grid house

The push for becoming environmentally friendly and responsible has now taken a new turn. Its not just reducing your carbon foot print or disposing your recycling in the appropriately marked bins.

There is more to it than taking three minute showers or using a plant based product as popularized by Jennifer Aniston. Some Canadian households are turning to a completely different lifestyle. They are going “off the grid”.

The EPIC Vancouver, Sustainable Living Expo is to be held from May 08- 10 at the New Vancouver Convention Centre. The three day event features everything “Green”. From Eco-Supermodel Summer Rayne Oakes talking about sustainable style and beauty to Vancouver’s top Green chef’s it is a one stop shop for eco-friendly good samaritans.

Initially the term “off-grid”  brings to mind visions of dark communes and societies that exist on bare essentials without plumbing and eating raw meat, but this is no secret cabal. It is just a human connection and the urge to save our planet’s dwindling resources.

” For a person like me who had never gone camping in the most scenic locations with all the Mopark accessories, the idea of living off the grid seemed outrageous.” said Nathan Barbosa.

Then he got hired as the Business Development Manager for a Vancouver renewable energy company, and that proved to be iconoclastic for his thought processes.

” It was not easy to leave my beautifully equipped penthouse and move to a solar panel equipped house in the suburbs, but it was worth the effort.” Barbosa reminsces.

Now he lives independent of muncipal electricity system without any power lines hooked to his house.  The roof of the house is covered in solar photovoltaic panels and evacuated tubes. These store natural renewable energy in form of batteries for running his appliances around the house.

Solar Panels on an off-grid house.
Solar Panels on an off-grid house.

Given the BC weather it is bad news when there is no sun to store energy in the solar panels, but this is when Barbosa switches to a propane generator, especially in the winters. 

This lifestyle is not cheap. It costs between $40,000- $50,000 for a four kilo-watt hybrid solar and wind system. People seem to be latching on to the idea. 

For those who are not familiar with the concept there are many websites such as www.treehugger.com and http://www.off-grid.net/ that can entice people into starting to recognize the importance of renewable energy.

” When the adjustment period is over it is a healthy lifestyle.  If my TV stops working, I rely on my iPod to keep me energized ” joked Barbosa.

Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Off leash dog parks in Coquitlam

The article I wrote about residents for off leash dog parks in Coquitlam is at the Thunderbird.ca


The issue has been making rounds for a while now but the push is becoming greater.

With the Civic elections on November 15 and a newly elected council, residents will make an appeal for their cause again.

Environment and Climate Change, Published articles

Sustainability and climate change: Need action Now

Cullis-Suzuki at UBC

Severn Cullis- Suzuki and Stephen Lewis were at UBC as part of the “Students for Sustainability” tour.

Here are the two articles I wrote that got published in the NowPublic and The Ubyssey.

Environmentalists Severn Cullis-Suzuki and Stephen Lewis are calling on governments globally to “force” sustainability measures on their citizens and want action now.

Cullis- Suzuki, the daughter of renowned activist David Suzuki and Lewis, Canadian politician and diplomat, were speaking to a gathering of students at University of British Columbia (UBC). They outlined a plan of action to address global warming that includes the urgent need for government leaders to provide pragmatic solutions to climate change crisis.

Lewis called it a “desperate moment in time”. Cullis-Suzuki reiterated, “Human societies never change unless they are forced to, and the problem is that our elected leaders are not implementing them.”

His main concern was about working towards sustainability as a common goal, not for the ways governments planned on handling the issue.

“I don’t care whether the answer is a carbon tax which appeals to me more than other regiments …. I really don’t care what you use…it has to be done and political interventions are necessary.” Lewis said.

The talk was part of the Canada wide 21 university campus tour lasting 30 days. The “Students for Sustainability” tour was aimed at creating awareness about climate change and the environment among university students.

The tour came about after realizing Federal government of Canada’s inability to meet the international obligations for lowering carbon emissions. Canada had committed to reducing emissions 6% below 1990 levels during 2008-2012, instead greenhouse gas emissions had increased by 27% in 2004.

The Canadian Federation of Students and the Sierra Youth Coalition and the David Suzuki Foundation together have mobilized students across Canada to put pressure on politicians to take action on climate change and other environmental issues. The students at each campus were asked to sign a petition to support the sustainability cause which will be presented to the Parliament in November 2008.

UBC was the second to last university for the tour, launched from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland on September 30 and ended at the University of Victoria, BC.

Cullis-Suzuki put the onus on students to recruit parents for becoming more environmentally friendly, as their challenge is far more powerful than any other person.

“Use your inter-generational power. These people [parents] are still decision makers in our society,” Cullis-Suzuki said.

Cullis-Suzuki had optimistic hopes about the future, “Each of us directs the future by what kind of difference each of us makes. How we make that difference is up to us.”

Faiza Zia Khan