Saturday, July 30, 2011

Will Closing Food Banks Help End Hunger?

Image: Walmart Stores via Flickr CC

by Jeff Nield, Vancouver, British Columbia

Food banks first rose to prominence in the 1980's as an emergency measure to stave off hunger during a time of recession and high unemployment. While often very prominent in the community, these institutions are increasingly coming under fire from food activists. Some go so far as to say that if we are truly going to end hunger in North America, food banks should be closed.

Speaking from a Canadian perspective, Queen's University Professor Elaine Power explains this position in The Globe and Mail.

It's time to close our food banks. I've reached this conclusion after 18 years of researching food, hunger and poverty; volunteering at food banks; serving on a food bank board; and recently taking part in a challenge where I ate from a typical food bank hamper for three days.

Power suggests that food banks are incapable of ending hunger partially because people who could be considered hungry don't use them and they can only supply what is donated, which is often insufficient both in nutritional value and volume. Much of the food that is donated comes from corporations that may have motivations beyond feeding the hungry.

Food banks are good for corporations, especially food corporations. They can use food banks to offload edible food they can't sell, then advertise themselves as caring businesses. And holding corporate-wide food drives builds company morale. None of these corporate benefits are problematic in themselves, but they mean that corporations have a vested interest in the status quo.

Herb Barbolet, from Simon Fraser University's Centre for Sustainable Community Development, backs up Powers's claim.

A lot of the food donated by corporations is unsellable. It may contain too high proportion of salt or transfats or other ingredients that health conscious eaters don't want. Or, it may be close to being stale-dated. It should be unconscionable to give junk food and garbage to hungry people - and make them stand in line for it, at that.

Both Powers and Barbolet suggest deeper problem stems from the psychological effect that food banks have on our communities and how governments react to the problem. "The social safety net is underfunded so that senior governments can spend more on their priorities," says Barbolet. Powers points to the complex and intertwined nature of hunger and poverty issues in her conclusion.

Giving food to those who are hungry is a simple response that everyone supports. Tackling poverty means wrestling with diverse ideas about causes and solutions. It's time to begin that political conversation. But first we have to remove the obstacle that food banks have become. more story at

Friday, July 29, 2011

Melting Arctic Ice Releases Stored Toxic Chemicals

Photo: Andy Tinkham / cc

by Stephen Messenger, Porto Alegre, Brazil

As if the threat of rising sea-levels due to rising global temperatures weren't enough cause for concern, new research suggests that as arctic ice melts, it may be releasing much more than just water. According to researchers studying the melting polar caps, as snow cover dwindles as a result of climate change, toxic chemicals stored in the ice from decades of pollution are being 'remobilized' back into the atmosphere -- potentially exposing humans and wildlife to substances known to cause illness and death, for decades to come.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which include such nasty compounds as DTD, lindane, and chlordane, were once commonly used in the agriculture industry as pesticides -- though scientists soon learned that these chemicals have grave consequences on human and environmental health. Ten years ago, POPs were largely banned worldwide, but the chemicals proved resilient and capable of long-range transport, which is why POPs can be detected even in places where they've never been used.

Ultimately, a significant amount of the POPs ended up in the cold, arctic regions where icy temperatures effectively 'trapped' the chemicals -- preventing them from being spread into the environment. But now, say researcher from Canada, Norway, and China, as that regions of the world experiences warming associated with climate change, those toxins are being released.

"Our results indicate that a wide range of POPs have been remobilized into the Arctic atmosphere over the past two decades as a result of climate change, confirming that Arctic warming could undermine global efforts to reduce environmental and human exposure to these toxic chemicals," write the team of scientists, as reported by The New York Times.

The report continues: read more story at

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fourth Annual John Galt Sunday Kirking Service

GUELPH, Ontario July 28, 2011 - IN CELEBRATION OF JOHN GALT DAY, the Old Stone Churches, the Guelph Historical Society, and the City of Guelph are hosting the Fourth Annual John Galt Sunday Kirking.

Civic leaders from many faiths, cultures and volunteer organizations will be “kirked” to Norfolk Street United Church. A “Kirking” is a Scottish ceremonial parade of dignitaries led by a piper as a prelude to a civic church service. This service recognizes the public service of local leaders, expresses hope for their wisdom, and shows appreciation for their dedication to the local community. This ceremony was practised in John Galt’s Irvine, Scotland at the time of Guelph’s founding in 1827.

JOIN IN THE FELLOWSHIP as Rev. Miller and the Norfolk Street United Church congregation celebrate the 175th Anniversary of their church. A garden reception will follow the ecumenical service.

PARTICIPANTS ARE WELCOME TO WEAR TARTAN. For the first time, we will have a “Kirking of the Tartan” so get out your kilts and sashes and have your tartan blessed. Invited guests will gather at Knox Presbyterian Church at 9:50 a.m. to follow the piper to Norfolk Street United Church. Please use the Chapel Lane entrance at Knox. Parking is available in the Baker Street Lot or on the street.

ATTENDEES ARE INVITED TO DONATE non-perishable food items. Items collected for the annual John Galt Food Drive will be distributed to Sister Christine’s Welcome In Drop-in Centre and the Chalmers Community Services Centre. Both charities are supported by the ecumenical group known as CORE (Guelph Churches’ Outreach). The need for donations is great during the summer months.

John Galt Day Sunday Celebration

Sunday, July 31, 2011

10:30 a.m.

Norfolk Street United Church

75 Norfolk Street, Guelph

Please help make this a memorable and successful event.


Betty-Lou Clark
Libby Walker

Guelph Historical Society

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

University of Waterloo offers Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Award

photo credit: NASAguy via Flickr

WATERLOO, Ontario, July 26, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new student award, called Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Award, has been established at the University of Waterloo.

The award is made possible through the generosity of the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston, who gave a special gift to the University of Waterloo in order to honour the marriage of Their Royal Highnesses.

Their Excellencies decided to designate their personal contribution to the University of Waterloo to create The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Award, because of their strong belief that education provides the knowledge and tools for students to set their own objectives in reaching their full potential.

"This is a grand honour for the University of Waterloo to have a student award named after Their Royal Highnesses," said Feridun Hamdullahpur, president of the University of Waterloo. "The recipient will be an academically gifted student who possesses a strong record in volunteering and leadership, key aspects highly valued and extensively nurtured by His Excellency while he was president of Waterloo."

The award is one of many new scholarships and fundraising initiatives to support the education of students at the University of Waterloo. During the successful Campaign Waterloo, led by His Excellency in his former role as president of the University of Waterloo, a total of 529 new bursary and scholarship awards were established.

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Award will be administered by the University of Waterloo and offered on a one-time basis, during the 2011-2012 academic year. Valued at $5,000, it will be awarded to financially support a student who has volunteer and/or leadership experience and is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

Preference will be given to a student who is pursuing studies related to the British Monarchy or to Canadian Aboriginal peoples, as well as to a student who has received the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

For more information about the criteria and application deadlines for Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Award, click here

About Waterloo

The University of Waterloo, located at the heart of Canada's Technology Triangle, is one of Canada's leading comprehensive universities. Waterloo is home to 30,000 full- and part-time undergraduate and graduate students who are dedicated to making the future better and brighter. Waterloo, known for the largest post- secondary co-operative education program in the world, supports enterprising partnerships in learning, research and discovery. For more information about Waterloo, visit

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Second only to car crashes, drowning kills more Canadian children under the age of 14 than any other cause of injury

Learn as much as you can about drowning prevention!

from Health and Safety Watch - Health Through Knowledge July 18, 2011

As summer heats-up across the Country, health authorities are reminding Canadians of the importance of recreational water safety. Below is information summarized from a number of warnings and advisories.

Drowning is a silent danger and the second leading cause of death for Canadian children. Drowning can happen in an instant but affects a family for a lifetime. A few moments of inattention by a parent or caregiver can result in a child slipping silently under the water without anyone noticing. Learn all you can to prevent drownings and keep everyone safe around pools and natural water bodies.

Drowning facts:

•Second only to car crashes, drowning kills more Canadian children under the age of 14 than any other cause of injury; every year about 58 children die from drowning

•Children 1 to 4 years have the highest risk of drowning because they are attracted to water, but don't understand the risks and don't have any water safety or swimming skills.

•Most drownings of children under age 5 happen when children are playing near water and get into the water without an adult being aware. One-third of these occur in the backyard pool. Older children are most likely to drown when they are swimming in a river, lake, or other open body of water. The most common location for infant drownings is the bathtub

•Every year about 140 children must stay in the hospital because of near-drowning

•Near-drowning can result in life-long problems like difficulty learning, remembering, planning, and paying attention

•Almost half of all child drownings happen in swimming pools

•Young children can drown in as little of 1 inch of water

•About 3/4 of the children who drown each year are boys

How to enjoy the water safely and prevent childhood drowning

•Never leave children alone around water. Children need to be supervised near water at all times. Do not depend on flotation devices as substitutes for adult supervision.

•If your child is younger than 5, stay within arm's reach at all times. Life jackets are recommended for children playing near water who are younger than 5 and children older than 5 who do not swim well. Life jackets do not replace constant adult supervision.

•Never leave an infant or toddler alone in the bathtub, not even for a few seconds. A baby or young child can drown in as little as 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) of water. Do not use bath seats or bath rings.

•Parents should wait until their child is at least 4 years of age before starting swimming lessons. However, water safety and recreation programs for infants and toddlers and their parents are encouraged.

•If you have a backyard swimming pool or hot tub, a four-sided fence should be installed around the pool with self-closing, self-latching gates.

•Pool owners should be familiar with CPR and First Aid practises and have a telephone and rescue equipment near the pool or hot tub.

Check list for pool drowning prevention:

•Are your fences and gates in good repair and do they meet the requirements of your local by-laws?

•Does your gate self-close and self-latch properly?

•Is the release mechanism at the top of the gate?

•Is responsible adult supervision at poolside whenever children are in or near the water?

•Are all family members up-to-date with swimming lessons and first aid instruction?

•Is safety equipment at poolside in good repair?

•Are emergency numbers and a phone at poolside at all times?

In addition to adult supervision…

•Encourage swimming lessons and first aid instruction for family members and caregivers.

•Put young children and weak swimmers in life jackets when in or around water.

•Consider additional layers of protection such as alarms, safety covers, and water rescue equipment (e.g. ring buoy, lifeline).

•Encourage walking around the poolside, as running can often lead to slips and falls.

•Discourage the use of alcohol or drugs by adults who are supervising children by the pool.

Be Safe - Be Informed

•Learn as much as you can about water safety - check with your local public health authorities

•Check with your local municipality to obtain a copy of the by-law(s) that apply to your property

Friday, July 15, 2011

Red Cross responds to crisis in Horn of Africa

OTTAWA, July 14, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Canadian Red Cross has launched an emergency appeal to assist millions of people affected by drought in the Horn of Africa. Very poor rainfall in the region, estimated to be the worst in 60 years, has destroyed crops and livestock, and caused thousands of families to flee their homes in search of food and clean water.

"The world must not sit back and ignore this crisis," says Conrad Sauvé, secretary general and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross. "It is estimated that over 11 million people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and the situation is expected to get worse."

The rate of refugees from Somalia arriving in southern Ethiopia has increased from 5,000 a month to more than 30,000 in the second week in June. Almost half the children arriving in Ethiopia from Somalia are malnourished.

"High and increasing food prices, as well as regional conflict are combining with the weather to worsen the food crisis," adds Sauvé. "The primary focus of the Red Cross is saving lives and we are committed to providing live saving support to vulnerable people living in the Horn of Africa."

The Red Cross Movement is working across the Horn of Africa to support affected communities. Already, the Red Cross has deployed 14 mobile health clinics, provided clean water to almost half a million people and distributed over 300 tons of seeds to farmers who have lost crops. The Canadian Red Cross has a disaster response expert in the region supporting the response effort, with more on stand-by if needed.

The needs in the Horn of Africa are significant, and the Red Cross encourages Canadians to donate at, call 1-800-418-1111 or contact their local Canadian Red Cross office. The 24-hour toll free line accepts Visa, MasterCard and American Express. Cheques should be made payable to the Canadian Red Cross, earmarked "Horn of Africa Drought" and mailed to the Canadian Red Cross National Office, 170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300, Ottawa, Ontario, K2P 2P2.

The Canadian Red Cross is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, which includes the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and over 185 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The Canadian Red Cross mission is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity in Canada and around the world.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sliver of hope in Southern Sudan's humanitarian crisis

World Vision Survey

JUBA, South Sudan, July 8, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - A new country will be born this weekend. Southern Sudan, the world's 196th nation becomes the youngest country and Africa's 54th state.

Raising the flag over a new Southern Sudan did not come overnight. The new nation's history has been rooted in 20 years of civil war and a five-year peace and independence struggle. The largest stakeholders in this crossroads have been the nation's children.

Over the last two decades, World Vision has journeyed with Sudan's families helping them survive longstanding humanitarian difficulties ranging from extreme poverty, lack of access to food, and dire child and maternal health problems.

World Vision Canada recently surveyed youngsters across Southern Sudan about independence and what it means for their futures. World Vision staffers discovered the most simplistic desire of children was to have their basic necessities of life met.

Here is a sampling:

10 year -old Joana
"I expect the government to ensure that water is accessible and available to every child in the new country," says 10-year-old Joana.

15 year old Rebecca Achan
"Many women die from childbirth and it is not good; I want to become a midwife so I can help."
Rebecca's hope comes from experience. In Rebecca's new country a girl her age has a higher chance of dying in childbirth than of completing school.

James, a young boy who lives on the streets
"I would like to see a good education system in South Sudan after the independence to enable me and other kids on the street to continue with education."

"Ensuring children are at the centre of the country's plans is going to be key to its success," says Rachel Logel Carmichael, World Vision Canada's team leader for humanitarian and emergency affairs.

Facts on South Sudan:

...Independence for South Sudan on July 9 follows January's referendum when southerners voted for secession. The vote was held in accordance with the 2005 North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement which ended one of the longest civil wars in Africa.

...Sudan has been at war for all but just 11 out of 55 years since independence. The civil war raged from 1983 to 2005 and resulted in an estimated two million deaths and four million refugees. South Sudan's total population is 8.26 million.

...More than half of South Sudan's population lives below the poverty line on less than $1 (US) per day, and only one out of four adults is literate.

...More than half of the population is under the age of 18.
One out of every seven children in South Sudan will die before their fifth birthday, in a region with some of the world's worst human development indicators.

World Vision's work in Sudan:

World Vision started work in North Sudan in 1983 and in South Sudan in 1989 operating a number of relief, recovery and development programs that seek to promote peace and reconciliation in Sudan, while improving the lives of children and their families.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

6 Lame Excuses for Not Becoming a Bike Commuter (And How to Get Over Them)

Photo: tejvanphotos/Creative Commons

by Blythe Copeland, Great Neck, New York

Trading your car for a bike can make a huge difference to your carbon footprint -- and to your wallet, as gas gets increasingly expensive. But even when you know how beneficial the swap would be, it's easier to come up with reasons to stick to your current commute than to branch out onto a bike.

If any of these six excuses are holding you back from bike commuting, it's time to get over it.

1. You're carrying too much stuff.

If you're feeling weighed down with files, your laptop, your brown-bag lunch, and that change of clothes, hauling all your loot on a bike can seem overwhelming.

But a chic messenger bag, a high-tech pannier, or just a classic basket can help you carry everything in style, and even leave room for you to stop on the way home and pick up those last-minute groceries.

And if dropping the kids off at daycare is part of your daily routine, then bring them along on the bike: Invest in a carrier, and then unhook it and leave it at the daycare provider until you're back to pick them up in the afternoon. They'll be happy to skip the rush-hour traffic, too.

2. It's raining (or hot, or humid).

We know you don't want to show up at work looking all bedraggled from a commute in wet weather, or from biking through humid city streets on the steamiest summer mornings.

But this problem is easily fixed with a few simple adjustments: First, you need the right gear. Look for breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics that won't leave you soaked (or smelly), and durable, waterproof jackets that will keep most of the water away (like Runshade shirts from Patagonia and the Lightbeam hoodie from Nau).

It's also a good idea to stash a change of clothes at your desk (or in your gym locker, if that's nearby) for days when you didn't check the weather before leaving the house -- and toss in an extra stick of deodorant and a hairbrush for everyday use.

3. It's snowing.

While winter cycling brings up some of the same issues as wet- or hot-weather riding (like wearing something that you can change out of when you get to work so you don't end up in those ice-crusted pants at your 9 a.m. meeting), it also offers challenges that are all its own.

You need riding gear that's warm but still breathable -- check your local fitness store for cold-weather workout options -- and a bike that can take on salty, icy, snowy streets (a mountain bike is often better than a road bike in these situations).

If you live in an area where you expect plenty of rough weather, then studded tires are a good safety investment, and you'll want to have an extra inner tube and a patch kit on hand, too, since the harsher terrain makes you more likely to pop a tire.

Keep your bike clean so that the dirt and debris on the road don't jam it up, and remember to keep your battery lights fresh (since you'll be spending more time on the road in the dark, you'll use them more).

... read more story at

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Prominent scientists, environmentalists decry cuts to public sector and their effect on Canada's freshwater heritage

OTTAWA, July 4, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Prominent scientists, environmentalists and groups issued a statement addressed to Prime Minister Stephen Harper today decrying cuts to Environment Canada and the impact they will have on Canada's freshwater sources.

The statement is endorsed by nearly 50 environmental, social justice, women's and First Nations organizations, including the Council of Canadians, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources, International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Keepers of the Athabasca Watershed Council, Métis Women's Circle, Mining Watch Canada, National Council of Women of Canada, National Network on Environments and Women's Health, Polaris Institute, Public Service Alliance of Canada, and Sierra Club Canada, among others.

The Harper government has targeted up to $1.6 billion in cuts to environmental initiatives, and cuts of up to 1,211 jobs and $222 million from Environment Canada alone. The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Public Service Alliance of Canada warn the departure of dozens of scientists and technicians could hamper Canada's ability to protect our water supplies across the country.

The letter, which will be posted at, calls for the Harper government to cancel budget cuts to Environment Canada and rather invest in freshwater protection in Canada.


"The Harper government is clearly abandoning its responsibility to steward our freshwater heritage for future generations. All life and livelihoods come from our watersheds and ecosystems, and this government is abandoning them to fend for themselves," says Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

"These cuts represent a real and present danger to community health, ecosystem function and our economic future. In effect these cuts may represent a significant form of downloading, as problems ignored today will only manifest in our communities tomorrow - with local and provincial governments needing to step in and do the heavy lifting at potentially massive future costs," says Oliver M. Brandes, co-director of the University of Victoria's POLIS Project on Ecological Governance.

"In these times when human activity is altering the properties of the planet on a geological scale, as documented in The Economist, we need far more information on the state of the planet and the potential consequences. It makes no sense to be cutting back on scientific work in the name of the economy, when the economic consequences of what is happening to the biosphere will be immense," says David Suzuki, emeritus professor of zoology, University of British Columbia.

"We should be dealing seriously with emerging problems now so that as our population grows and our climate changes our social and economic future is not limited by water availability and quality problems we could have and should have addressed while it was easier and less expensive to do so," says Bob Sandford, chair of the Canadian Partnership Initiative in support of the United Nations Water for Life Decade.

"The Great Lakes, in serious need of funding to deal with invasive species, climate change, over-extraction and pollution, should not be punished with further cuts if they are to be saved," says Ralph Pentland, acting chairman of the Canadian Water Issues Council.

"Going forward, our environment, our health and our prosperity will require that Canada manage water better and these cuts will cripple Canada's ability to do that," says Randy Christensen, lawyer with Ecojustice.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pre-qualified Bidders Announced for Provincial Drug Information System

TORONTO, July 5, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - eHealth Ontario and Infrastructure Ontario announced today the companies prequalified to respond to a request for proposals for the development of the province's drug information system.

Maximus Canada and Telus Health Solutions GP are the companies that have been prequalified based on a request for qualifications process that began in March 2011. The companies will be invited to respond to a request for proposals, expected to be issued in summer 2011.

The prequalified companies demonstrated the experience, the qualified resources and the financial strength to develop and deliver a drug information system of this size and complexity for all Ontarians.

The drug information system will provide a secure and comprehensive record of medications to enhance patient care in Ontario. The goals of the drug information system are: to improve patient safety, to improve quality of care, to increase access to care and provide online tools to support medication management.

The system will improve patient safety by reducing the number of adverse drug reactions.

eHealth Ontario plays the leading role in harnessing technology and innovation to improve patient care, safety and access in support of the government's health strategy. The agency is responsible for implementing the government's ehealth agenda and creating electronic health records for Ontarians.

Infrastructure Ontario is a Crown corporation dedicated to delivering some of the province's larger and more complex infrastructure renewal projects; as well, it is dedicated to providing the public sector and not-for-profit organizations with long-term financing to renew their infrastructure.

Visit and/or for more information.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

From the Horn of Africa, to Texas, to New Mexico Extreme Weather & Climate Taking Its Toll

New Mexico fires, photo: John Fowler/Creative Commons

by Matthew McDermott, New York, NY

Three extreme weather stories to take you into the long holiday weekend in the US to which you probably should be paying attention: 1) Fire continues to threaten Los Alamos National Laboratory and its store of radioactive waste stored (shockingly) in drums outside; 2) the drought in Texas is so bad that the entire state has been declared a disaster area; 3) ongoing drought in the Horn of Africa and East Africa is sending masses of what are essentially climate refugees from Somalia into Kenya.

Democracy Now reports that some 10 million people in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Uganda have been affected by the drought, which has been described as the worst in 60 years and in some areas near-famine conditions exist.

The UN's Mark Bowden says, "Unless we are able to take action now, I think that we are likely to see not just more migration, but a level of deaths in Somalia that takes us back almost 20 years and certainly has been unparalleled in the recent decade."

Closer to the homes of most TreeHugger readers, Texas is experiencing the worst drought since records began 116 years ago. Over 70% of the state is in "exceptional" drought conditions and the USDA has declared the entire state a natural disaster area.

Joe Romm prefers the term Dust-Bowlification to describe what's happening now and rightly says, "If drought doesn't capture what's happening now, it certainly won't capture what we face if we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions sharply." Indeed.

Earlier in the spring, when the area should have started receiving rain, a half million acres of wildfires came instead.

New wildfires continue in New Mexico though, threatening Los Alamos National Laboratory. So far 110 square miles have been burnt, with smoke seen 60 miles away. The big threat is to radioactive waste stored there:

The Environmental Protection Agency has deployed air monitors and aircraft that can monitor radiation levels, amid fears the blaze could reach a cache of 30,000 drums, each containing 55 gallons (208 litres) of plutonium-contaminated waste.

Fire managers said foam could be sprayed on the barrels containing the radioactive materials to ensure they were not damaged by fire, a procedure which would only be carried out as a last resort. (BBC News)

This one deserves some very close more story at