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  • 01 May 2018 10:47 AM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Andre Jankowski, from SPEC Energy Committee

    Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more popular in Vancouver. The annual sales of EVs are rapidly increasing reflecting the growing desire among the population to switch over from gas and diesel powered cars to EVs powered by clean electricity. The most commonly cited concerns inhibiting decisions to purchase an EV are: cost of EVs, battery range, and availability of charging stations. While the first two concerns are largely in control of the EV’s suppliers, the availability of charging station is dependent mainly on local authorities and property owners.  Making charging stations easily accessible, particularly at home for overnight charging, or at work for charging during work hours, will help many people decide to purchase an EV instead of a gas or diesel powered car.

    While the installation of an EV charger in a house is not very complicated and can be accomplished relatively quickly by an experienced contractor, installation of chargers in condominium parkades is more complex to design, construct, and manage. According to the 2016 Census, 62% of Vancouver dwellings are apartments. This percentage is increasing. All new condominiums are required to provide electrical outlets for parking stalls, to facilitate car charging. However, parking stalls in older buildings are not likely to have electrical supply connections, sized for EV charging. Beside technical issues, there are other, administrative issues that strata corporations have to grapple with, issues like metering of power consumption and cost sharing. But do not despair! Metro Vancouver has prepared a comprehensive information package for us. If you are a resident of a condo or a strata council member or a property manager, have a look at information contained in this link:

    Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations on Strata Properties in British Columbia

    This is a great place to start your project!


  • 13 Apr 2018 7:03 AM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Carole Christopher

    Carole is SPEC’s President and sits on the Food and Environment Committee. She is also an important part of SPEC’s Elder’s Circle program.

    Now that you know how much energy clothes dryers use, perhaps you’re motivated to try more energy efficient options. Here’s a few tips that will save energy and save your clothing from damage to fabrics from dryers.

    Tumbling clothes for five minutes takes the wrinkles out. I use my dryer for short spurts to get the wrinkles out, which is the major advantage of dryers over air drying. Clothes, bedding, other linens, and towels only take a couple of minutes once the dryer warms up. During that time, I hang all the items that shouldn’t go in the dryer or don’t need to be de-wrinkled. Then I hang the clothes from the dryer. Hopefully there is an area where you can hang clothes to air-dry after the five minute de-wrinkling. More than five minutes is not necessary and over-drying makes the fabrics wrinkles again.

    I have clothes hangers of various types but not wire hangers in the laundry; plastic hangers for t-shirts, shirts, jackets, sweaters, etc; two pant hangers (meant to hang pants in the closet) which I use for pants, towels, napkins, pillow cases, even sheets that I triple -fold. Yes, it takes longer to dry sheets that way but they do dry. Why bother to de-wrinkle socks and underwear? I just hang them on a compact little hanging device made for these items. Other things that are not meant for dryers include tights, fleecy clothing, and most (particularly wool) sweaters. I use padded hangers for sweaters or lay them flat.


    Admittedly I live in a private home where I have the luxury of a laundry area but I’ve set this kind of system up using bathtubs or showers. A sturdy shower curtain rod will hang a lot of laundry in the bathroom. An enclosed tub is a bit more difficult, but one option is buying retractable laundry lines to hang up in your shower.

    An exception to the five minute rule is anything with down or feathers like jackets, pillows, and duvets. They need low/medium heat and tennis balls (or dryer balls) to bounce around and keep the downy feathers from clumping together. But once they regain their look of fullness, they can finish drying wherever you can hang or spread them.


    Sun drying also damages fabrics but I dry outside when possible. I still give them the five minute de-wrinkling treatment before I hang them outside. I have a collapsible clothes rack along with some hangers that I take outside. If you can get things outside, you’ll probably love the sweet smell of sheets and clothes dried outdoors. Enjoy your “Right to Dry.” And please let us know any additional tips you have to promote this sustainability campaign.

    If you would like to read the previous Right to Dry blog post, click here.

  • 27 Feb 2018 4:54 PM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Olga Lansdorp

    Olga is the program manager for SPEC’s Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers program. 

    It was a cold, windy morning in late January, but that didn’t stop the farmers, presenters, volunteers, and other interested parties from coming to the Scandinavian Community Centre in Burnaby, BC. It promised to be a day filled with talks, discussions, and activities around the topics of soil, drainage, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and farmer resilience, with plenty of time for networking and chatting in between.

    The day came to a running start with an activity by Emma Holmes, the Organics Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture. She asked attendees about their challenges and what types of extension services they would like to see, which started an atmosphere of discussion and participation that lasted through the rest of the day.

    Next up was a highly popular workshop focused on farmer resilience. Kimi and Kareno of Sweet Digz Farm in Richmond led the session, which focused on work-life balance, taking care of yourself, and tools to make it through life as a farmer. Many participants commented that tidbits learned from this workshop were the most important things they learned at the Symposium.

    This was followed by presentations about soil, compost, drainage, and IPM, all of which the audience listened to attentively, and participated in activities and discussions. Included in that was the passionate talk and discussion about soil health by DeLisa Lewis, the keynote speaker for the event.

    Lunch was provided by Potluck Café and Catering, a social venture based out of the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver which gives meaningful employment to marginalized people. Coffee was donated by Trees Organics Coffee and pastries were donated by PureBread. Conference attendees ate well, and used breaks and meal times to connect with one another in discussions and conversations that flowed freely, and lamentably had to be broken up to allow for the next activity.

    Some of the takeaways from the event were that many farmers are seeking an online platform on which to ask questions, as well as wanting more on-farm visits/extension. Many also expressed in the surveys that they would like to have more events where farmers come together like this one, or of a more casual nature.

    Overall SPEC considered the event a big success, and hopes that we can host more similar events in the future!

    A big thank you to our supporters who made this event possible: Growing Forward 2, Government of British Columbia, Young Agrarians, Vancouver Urban Farming Society, UBC Farm - Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, E.S. Cropconsult, Vancouver Farmers Markets, Whole Foods Market, Vancity, KPU Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems, University of the Fraser Valley Agriculture Centre of Excellence, UBC Botanical Garden, and BC Farmers Markets.


  • 07 Feb 2018 4:47 PM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Art Bomke and Wayne Temple

    Art Bomke is a SPEC Director and co-wrote this piece for the Delta Farmland & Wildlife Trust newsletter. You can find the complete article here

    In the Beginning: It’s hard to believe that nearly 25 years have flown by since the inception of the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust (DF&WT). In spite of all of the tensions and misunderstandings of the day, there was truly a window of opportunity in 1992 to mobilize a community conservation effort. Arguably the most important contribution was from Mayor Beth Johnson’s Delta Municipal government led by Councilor Wendy Jeske. Delta provided a conciliatory meeting environment, as well as technical and legal advice that enabled farmers and conservationists to come together to work out the details of an organization that would even-handedly strive to conserve and enhance wildlife habitat and support the sustainability of Delta farmers and their land base.

    Landscape Approach: The principle espoused by the founders was that wildlife conservation efforts were best served by engaging and supporting the farmers who manage most of the uplands across the Fraser delta. This represented a policy change on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Regional Manager, Art Martell, and his staff deserve credit for shifting emphasis from the purchase of farmland to supporting conservation programs on farmer owned or rented land. Also, the vision for a landscape approach centered on the skills and knowledge of Delta farmers must be credited to the farmers themselves, notably Hugh Reynolds, John Malenstyn and Robert Savage.

    Wayne’s World: Coincident with the efforts to preserve and enhance wildlife habitat, the UBC Soil Conservation Group was working under the auspices of the Delta Farmers Institute to develop practical approaches to reversing soil degradation as exemplified by poor soil structure, impeded drainage and declining organic matter. Much of the on-farm project work was led by Dr. Wayne Temple, a versatile researcher who was as comfortable on a tractor as in the lab or at the computer. From this joint effort arose two programs that did double duty in improving soil health and creating habitat.

    Greenfields: For a number of reasons, the Fraser delta had a high proportion of bare soils, especially during the rainy season. The Greenfields Project pioneered over-winter cover crops to protect soils, add organic matter and provide upland forage for waterfowl. It morphed into the longstanding Winter Cover Crop Program of the DF&WT.  

    Read More

  • 06 Feb 2018 9:45 AM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    Presented by the SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee

    For Vancouver residents hoping to reduce energy consumption at home, switching from a clothes dryer to a clothesline is an easy and affordable option. Yet some residents hoping to use clotheslines are being denied their right to dry.  

    If you live in a strata complex and have tried to hang-dry your clothing outside, odds are you have been reprimanded. That is because B.C. allows residential buildings to ban clotheslines for aesthetic purposes. Many stratas have a bylaw which states:

    A resident must ensure that no air conditioning units, laundry, flags, clothing, bedding or other articles are hung or displayed from windows, balconies or other parts of the building so that they are visible from outside of the building.”

    However, it is important for residents to have the option to use a clothesline, both for saving energy and money. It is estimated that clothes dryers make up 9% of residential electricity consumption in BC. If just half of condo and apartment owners in B.C. line-dried their clothes for even one quarter of the year it would result in savings of 60 million kilowatt hours every year. That is over 1 million kg of CO2e GHG emissions per year!

    The governments of Ontario, Nova Scotia and six U.S. states have passed legislation to overrule clothesline bans and SPEC’s Energy & Transportation Committee believes that B.C. should be next. The committee is currently working with a team of UBC students to research the importance of having the right to dry, with the intention of petitioning the public and bringing the results to the Vancouver City Council.

    If you want to learn more about Right to Dry, come to the next Energy & Transportation Committee meeting on February 21, or stay tuned for updates on our research.

    Sources:

    Jon Howland’s Original Report on Sightline from 2012: http://www.sightline.org/2012/05/16/does-bc-mean-bans-clotheslines/

    Business in Vancouver follow-up to Howland’s article:

    https://biv.com/article/2012/06/unsightly-solutions-to-removing-wrong-headed-restr

    Credit to Rob Baxter from Vancouver Renewable Energy and SPEC’s Energy Committee for assisting with research.

    http://www.vrec.ca/

    Additional article from BuzzBuzzNews Canada:

    http://news.buzzbuzzhome.com/2012/06/the-right-to-dry.html

  • 04 Dec 2017 9:07 PM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    This summer, Shambhala Music Festival celebrated their 20th year anniversary at Salmo River Ranch, and in honour of their anniversary Shambhala launched The Greater Good Contribution Contest.

    The Greater Good Contribution Contest celebrates Shambhala camps that make a positive impact on the Shambhala experience, local communities, or abroad. The three winners of the contest are awarded $15,000 split amongst first, second, and third place to donate to their charity of choice. This year, The Party Pocket Camp won first place, with $10,000 donated to their charity of choice: Society Promoting Environmental Conservation!

    We at SPEC are so grateful for this recognition from fellow environmentalists, and want to highlight the Party Pocket’s story as an inspiration for how sustainability can be a part of partying.

    Check out this story from Andee, a member from the Party Pocket crew, about how their camp got started.

    A big thank you to Shambhala Music Festival and the Party Pocket!

    This past summer we wanted to camp with a large group of friends but we were hesitant that it would be messy and stressful. No one wants to party like that! So we started getting together on planning after making a Facebook group. I made a friend who is the leader of a large and well known camp to ask for tips and tricks. He said the most important thing was having a mission - something we could all agree and focus on. That was when we decided to take sustainability really seriously as a camp, as we do in our lives. It inspired us and we started figuring out ways to manage waste in the bush and making commitments to properly recycling anything possible. We picked up some reusable plates/bowls/cutlery and some laundry bins that we could use as organized waste bins. All were on board for how we were doing it, we have a very strong team!

    At Shambhala, we encouraged our neighbours to use our bins and did educational outreach where we could. We had a large crew to save space for and teach about our mission as well. My partner and I went around cleaning dance floors and included other dancers in the process. Dance floor and festival garbage has always upset me on a deep level and I am so, SO happy that we could make a legitimate and tangible difference this way.

    Shambhala recognizing that their waste stream organization is flawed is a huge win for transformational festivals, as well as the Salmo River. Acknowledging us as winners means they want our help, that they want to be better. Liz and I, as well as The Pocket, are incredibly excited to take our camp missions to the next level next summer and we hope to do it with you!


    And the camp’s sustainability mission does not end at Shambhala. Andee also runs a street cleaning initiative called The Butt Touchers, which picks up and recycles cigarette butts from Commercial Dr. and many Party Pocket members are also involved!

    If you would like to read more about how the Party Pocket made a difference at the festival, Shambhala has a great description of the camp on their website.

    So where does SPEC come in? Evan Cronmiller, another member of the Party Pocket, said SPEC was a logical choice of charity since we share similar values concerning sustainability, waste management, and other things "green". He and other Party Pocket members were “thrilled to have won the contest and to be able to donate the winnings to a worthy cause such as the SPEC.”

    SPEC is so grateful for this recognition, and we want to thank Andee and Evan Cronmiller for sharing their stories and choosing SPEC as their preferred charity, everyone at The Party Pocket Camp for being sustainability superstars, and Shambhala Music Festival for this generous donation! 

  • 20 Nov 2017 10:22 AM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Chris Gooderham, a member of SPEC's Board and the Energy & Transportation Committee

    As road traffic in the Vancouver area increases with the use of more vehicles, bicycles, e-bikes, skateboards, and other modes of transportation, taking a good look at the "Motor Vehicle Act" is long overdue. Simply put, the Motor Vehicle Act needs to include all types of transportation methods and be updated regularly to ensure safety. 

    Not too long ago, I was driving my car one rainy evening and I approached a roundabout that I had used many times on one of our many bike routes. As visibility isn't great, I'm going quite slow, and upon entering the roundabout, I come in contact with a cyclist. Fortunately, we both stopped before any impact. Why did this happen? The cyclist forgot to turn on his headlamp and he was completely invisible to me. Luckily for both of us, he and I were travelling at a speed that allowed us to react in time and avoid injury. 

    The biggest misconception is the Motor Vehicle Act does not apply to cyclists, as they aren't motor vehicles. This of course is false, and one of the many reasons the Motor Vehicle act needs to be updated.

    Please take a moment and reach out to your MLA to ask for their support in getting the Motor Vehicle act of BC updated through the HUB community link.

    If you are interested in this topic and want to volunteer and meet like-minded people, join us at our next SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee meeting on December 20th at 2305 West 7th Ave. Please double check the events page closer to December to confirm the date. 

    Chris previously wrote on this topic in August; check out that blog post here.


  • 18 Oct 2017 12:06 PM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Robin Hadac

    Robin has been SPEC’s outreach facilitator since January. She wrote this piece for her course on climate change.


    From the Elephant Hill Fire in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area. Photo by Chris Gooderham. Be sure to check out the rest of the photos at the end of the blog piece. 

    One summer evening this July, I walked to Kits Beach to watch the sunset. The sky was lit up an unusually dark orange, with a noticeable haze in the horizon. Little did I know, that evening would only be the beginning of a long reign of smoke and haze clouding the lower mainland. The 2017 fire season had started in BC, and it was going to be one of the worst ones in BC history.

    Like many other areas of the world, BC has a historical pattern of summer fires. However, fire seasons in recent years have been more severe. The summer of 2015, a notable fire year for BC, had 1,858 total fires with 280,000 hectares (Ha) burned. More recently, 2017 had a record-breaking amount of land burned with significant impact to human lives. Since April 2017 to September 2017, 1,282 fires were reported, with 1,212,000 Ha. (12,120 sq km) burned across BC. For comparison, that is over four times the size of Metro Vancouver, and almost half the size of the lower mainland. 

    Air quality was one of the most widespread effects to humans this season, even in areas far away from active fires. On an Air Quality Index out of 10, certain parts of BC received “very high risk” air quality scores of 18 and even as high as 36.

    Forest fires and other disturbances are normally part of a healthy ecosystem. Fires can stimulate new growth by opening up the canopy to sunlight, release valuable nutrients stored in the forest floor, and allow certain tree species to reproduce by opening up cones (Natural Resources Canada, 2016). However, there is clear evidence to suggest that climate change is impacting BC’s forests, affecting fire probability and severity.

    Climate change is resulting in an increase in average global temperatures. While there is variation in temperature differences and effects depending on location, BC on average is experiencing warmer weather, hotter temperatures, and more water vapor in the air. You can see more of the ways climate change has affected BC here.

    This can mean more precipitation, which might boost plant growth and be beneficial for some forests. However, warming climates are altering the seasonality of rainfall. Most precipitation is falling in the fall and winter, leaving summer to be hot and dry. Glaciers are also melting earlier, contributing to earlier run-offs and drier summers (The Climate Examiner, 2017).

    When water stocks are decreasing faster than usual, the resulting droughts and drier summers can impact a forest’s health and make trees vulnerable to insects and pathogens. When forests and foliage die, it increases the amount of fuel for burning and the probability of fires. (van der Kamp, 2016; Natural Resources Canada 2017).

    With conditions dry and prime for fires, there just needs to be a spark. Studies show that the probability of lightning, which on average is responsible for 61% of BC fires, increases by 12% per each degree Celsius of warming.

    But the cycle does not end there; the increase in forest fires creates an amplifying feedback loop. As climate change increases rate and intensity of fires, the CO2 emissions given off from forest fires further contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    While official reports will not be available until next year, it is estimated that the 2017 fires emitted 190 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is almost triple BC’s annual carbon footprint. In addition, data from the last 25 years suggests that fire emissions are only increasing. Between 2003 and 2012, 271 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted from forest fires over the 10 year span. Compare this to the previous 10 years (1993-2002), where only 41 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted (Wieting, 2015).

    In conclusion, the mechanisms by which climate change affects forest fire intensity and probability rate include many factors, but can be simplified as follows; temperatures are increasing, altering precipitation levels available for growth and increasing fire fuels. Those fires then release greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere, creating a feedback loop and exacerbating the issue. As Natural Resources Canada puts it, “One thing is clear: the future will not be like the past.”


    The logging road to Chris's cabin. "It used to be 14ft wide, but BC Wildfire team used it as a firebreak and now its 25ft wide road with another 25ft of clearcut."


    "Putting out a fire deep underground where 2 logs continued to burn, they happen to extend under our driveway."


    A trail that used to be extremely lush.


    Sources:

    All photos are from SPEC Board member Chris Gooderham.

    BC Wildfire Service. (2017). Current Statistics. Retrieved from http://bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/Statistics.asp

    Carman, T. (2017, Jul 29). Area of B.C. burned by wildfires at a 56-year high. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/area-of-b-c-burned-by-wildfires-at-a-56-year-high-1.4226227

    Desmog Canada. (2017). Overview of Forest Fires in British Columbia. https://doi.org/10.1029/2004GL020876

    Elledge, J. (2016, May 26). Where are the world’s largest cities? Retrieved from http://www.citymetric.com/fabric/where-are-worlds-largest-cities-2131

    Hernandez, J. (2017, Aug 24). “It”s alarming’: Wildfire emissions grow to triple B.C.’s annual carbon footprint. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/it-s-alarming-wildfire-emissions-grow-to-triple-b-c-s-annual-carbon-footprint-1.4259306

    Johnson, L. (2017, Aug 2). Health risk from smoky skies off the charts in parts of B.C. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/smoke-bc-august-2-wildfires-1.4232156

    Little, S., & Yuzda, L. (2017, Aug 16). 2017 officially B.C.’s worst ever wildfire season. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3675434/2017-officially-b-c-s-worst-ever-wildfire-season/

    National Resource Canada. (2017, May 10). Impacts. Retrieved from http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/climate-change/impacts/13095

    Natural Resources Canada. (2016, May 20). Why forests need fires, insects and diseases. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/fire-insects-disturbances/forest-need/13081

    Province of British Columbia. (2017). Wildfire Averages. Retrieved from http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/wildfire-statistics/wildfire-averages

    Suzuki, D. (2017, Aug 17). Wildfires are a climate change wake-up call. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2017/08/wildfires-are-a-climate-change-wake-up-call/

    The Climate Examiner. (2017, Jul 20). BC wildfires caused in part by and contributing to climate change. Retrieved from http://theclimateexaminer.ca/2017/07/20/bc-wildfires-caused-part-contributing-climate-change/

    van der Kamp, D., & Metro Vancouver. (2016). Drought, wildfire, and climate change in Metro Vancouver’s water supply area. Metro Vancouver. Retrieved from https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/sustain.ubc.ca/files/Sustainability%20Scholars/2016%20Sustainability%20Scholars/Project%20Reports/Drought%2C%20Wildfire%2C%20and%20Climate%20Change%20in%20Metro%20Vancouver%27s%20Water%20Supply%20Area_van%20der%20Kamp_2016.pdf

    Wieting, J. (2015). B.C. Forest Wake-Up Call: Heavy Carbon Losses Hit 10 Year Mark. Sierra Club BC, (June).

  • 12 Oct 2017 12:05 PM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Olga Lansdorp
    Project Coordinator 
    Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers
    Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

    Have you ever had your eyes opened to a new way of seeing the world, to find that there is no turning back? I first experienced this when I was 18 and worked studying birds in the Rocky Mountains; suddenly the forest was alive with alarmed parents, begging chicks, predators, and males showing off, to name a few examples. It was a whole new world opening up before me, and I loved it.

    I did not expect to have a similar experience at an IPM field day with experts Dru Yates and Kiara Jack of E.S. Cropconsult, organized for farmers to help them manage their diseases and insect pests. It wasn’t until the end that things got truly interesting. First we went over the principles of Integrated Pest Management, which produces economically feasible recommendations for farmers dealing with pests and diseases. It looks at proper identification, monitoring and thresholds for your diseases and pests, relying on Biological, Cultural, Physical and Chemical control options to deal with them.

    Once we went over the theoretical background, we decided to go out on to the vegetable crops to identify pests and diseases. I thought it would take a lot of time to find a single insect, so I stood back and let the experts do the work. Within seconds Kiara cried “An aphid!”, followed shortly by “.., a parasitized aphid!”

    Did you know that parasitic wasps lay they eggs inside a developing aphid larvae, turning the aphid into what is known as a mummy aphid? I certainly didn’t. A mummy aphid is a completely different colour from its sisters, a metallic shiny brown rather then green or black, and it also has a different shape, growing into a round blob rather than its more svelte sisters. Sometimes you can even see a round hole in the top of a mummy aphid: in this case, the wasp larvae burrowed out and flew away. IPM experts like to see mummy aphids, because they are a sign that the aphid populations are being controlled.

    Within fifteen minutes there were many more examples of insect pests and beneficial insects. There were beneficial serphid larvae, tiny green larvae whose intestines you can see through their skin, and who move around as if there foot is tethered to the ground; there were tiny thrips and collembola who cause damage by sucking the leaves; weevils who cause characteristic notched damage to leaves; diamondback moth caterpillars, who are distinguished from similar species because they “freak out” when their heads are poked, moving their heads rapidly back and forth while they back up away from the stimulus. There is a whole world of creatures whose unique characteristics make them either a pest or a beneficial to farmers.

    By knowing more about the insects and diseases farmers open themselves up to new methods of control. For example, many beneficial insects are limited by water availability, so including some buckets of water between plants may boost their populations. Or a young seedling being eaten by wood-lice or sow-bugs may be helped by spreading diatomaceous earth, which clogs up breathing organs and cuts up soft-bodied organisms.

    It was an eye-opening experience to explore the farm fields with experts Dru and Kiara. Near the end of the day Dru cried out “An aphidoletes larva!!” Kiara rushed over to have a look, and together they counted 5 of these orange midge larvae, voracious aphid-eaters, which they were not expecting to see. It was good to see that they were still just as excited as I am about new creatures after all these years of monitoring crops.

    The Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers project is supported by Vancity enviroFund, Vancouver Foundation, SPEC individual donors, the Gow-Jarrett -Millard Family and Whole Foods Market.

  • 03 Oct 2017 10:16 AM | Robin Hadac (Administrator)

    By Anna Suarez, a public health advocate focused on raising awareness about how the built environment and the presence of toxins can influence human health.

    Sustainability, or the ability to use resources without degrading them for future generations, has strong ties to public health. Despite being able to supercede certain aspects of the natural world, humans are still subject to the necessities of clean air and clean water. The field of environmental health helps bridge the gap between people and the natural environment, and makes a case for simultaneously protecting both health and resources.

    But environmental health is also a concern in the built environment, such as buildings and cities. It’s estimated that people today spend about 90% of their time indoors, making those spaces all the more impactful on health. Some of the materials used to create man-made structures can actually have a negative impact on air quality and subsequently on public health. Today, although some materials are known hazards, they can still be present in our built environment and therefore still a risk to people. A great example of one such material is asbestos, once thought of as a miracle product that was widely used in construction and automotive industries. Understanding the health risks present in our everyday environments is one step toward ensuring a more sustainable future.

    Asbestos can be found naturally in some parts of North America and was mined for use in a variety of materials and building products. Mining operations continued until as late as 2011 in Canada, and one town even going so far as to name itself Asbestos. The mineral’s natural properties made it an ideal choice for use in a wide variety of products. Asbestos fibers are exceptionally durable, and even resistant to heat and fire. This resistance to degradation helped ensure the longevity of the products in which it was incorporated.

    However, just like asbestos cannot be degraded by the physical environment, it similarly cannot be broken down by the human body. This makes any asbestos fibers that are accidentally inhaled or ingested very dangerous as they can cause scarring of the body’s tissues. Over time, this can lead to illnesses such as a cancer known as mesothelioma, which has an average life expectancy of about one year after diagnosis.

    The health risks associated with this toxin are incredibly harsh and heartbreaking for patients and their families. When it comes to asbestos, avoiding exposure is the key to preventing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. The Canadian government notes that asbestos can still be found in the following materials:

    • cement and plaster
    • industrial furnaces and heating systems
    • building insulation
    • floor and ceiling tiles
    • house siding
    • car and truck brake pads
    • vehicle transmission components, such as clutches

    In the fall of 2016, the Canadian government announced that it would ban asbestos. Canada has previously been one of the largest exporters of the mineral, but asbestos was also considered the largest occupational killer in Canada, claiming as many as 2,000 lives annually. Over fifty countries around the world have already banned asbestos, not to mention the World Health Organization’s maintains a strict stance against asbestos. However, Canada is by no means the last country on the anti-asbestos bandwagon. The United States has yet to ban the material, but is currently evaluating it along with nine other toxic materials.

    It’s important to note that although the Canadian asbestos ban was announced, it won’t take effect until 2018. Which means in the interim, and even after implementation, there is still a risk of interacting with asbestos. The greatest risk of developing an asbestos-related illness is through occupational exposure, which in developed nations primarily occurs during renovation, maintenance, or demolition of older buildings since those are more likely to contain asbestos.

    September 26th marked Mesothelioma Awareness Day (MAD), which is our yearly reminder that asbestos and the cancers it can cause are still a part of our reality. Remaining educated about the risks of this material and where it can be found can help protect human health. And by examining sustainability holistically to include environmental health, we can see that it’s time to end the use toxic materials like asbestos. Only then can we collectively take steps toward a sustainable future.

    Only certified abatement professionals should attempt to remove asbestos to ensure that the material is handled safely. Proper precautions protect everyone involved, including the workers, building occupants, and the public at large. Once the asbestos-containing material has been removed, the material is often disposed of in designated landfills. However, as available landfill space continues to decrease, recycling asbestos can be a good alternative. Asbestos can be added to into cement or heated at extremely high temperatures to form a glass or ceramic material. Again, these processes should only be completed by trained professionals, but you can certainly check with local household hazardous waste collection companies to see if they’re able to recycle the asbestos.

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Society Promoting Environmental Conservation

2305 West 7th Ave 

Vancouver, BC  V6K 1Y4

T: 604.736.7732
E:  admin@spec.bc.ca


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