21 April 2015

grow a forest from scraps!

Aquarium keeping can be an expensive hobby, but you can build a great collection of plants for cheap by being a little patient. One example involves Java ferns, an easy to grow moderate-light plant that attaches to rocks and wood. The deadest, most decayed leaves will still sprout plantlets... given a little time you'll end up with a lush, fully plantscaped aquarium! Typically, I collect plantlets into a grow-out vase and leave them until they get a little bigger and can be used for 'scaping.
 
^^regular Java fern (Microsorum pteropus), plantlet sprouting from dead leaf.
 ^^close up
 ^^just waiting to take over their corner of the world

31 March 2015

Greening C-51

Elizabeth May (Green Party Leader and MP) and Bruce Hyer
(Deputy Leader and MP) announced their proposed amendments of
 Bill C-51 at a press conference Monday morning. The two Green Party MPs,
both vocal critics of Bill C-51, will table 60 amendments during
clause-by- clause consideration of the bill.


From  elizabethmaymp.ca/ Monday, March 30th, 2015
“ ...While there is no way to fix this deeply flawed bill, our duty as elected legislators compels us to protect Canadians from its most egregious faults,” said Ms. May. “Our amendments seek to protect Canadian’s Charter rights and make this country safer by eliminating the reckless and dangerous Conservative policies in C-51.”

The Green Party proposed amendments to each of the 5 parts of the omnibus terror bill. Part 1 would create an information sharing act that would allow almost every government department to share private information about citizens with virtually no restrictions.

“I was shocked that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not invited to testify at Committee,” said Ms. May. “There’s a reason: he is deeply concerned that this bill will trample on Canadian’s privacy rights. Our amendments are guided by those concerns.”

Part 2 would expand the no-fly list in Canada. It has been widely criticised as having been drafted without appropriate consultation with the airline industry.

“I greatly question the need to expand Canada’s no-fly list,” said Mr. Hyer. “C-51 creates a dangerous scenario with a complete lack of due process and the ability for Canadian officials to share the information on the list with virtually no caveats.

“Remember, this list catches people deemed too dangerous to fly but too harmless to arrest. The money spent on these pre-screening systems would be better spent on investigative or emergency response measures.”

Parts 3 and 4 would introduce broad new criminal code offences for ‘promoting terrorism’ and radically transform CSIS, providing new police powers to the agency which was designed to only collect domestic intelligence.

“C-51 will chill free speech,” said Ms. May. “It would make those involved in de-radicalising efforts fearful of prosecution which would serve to further isolate – and thus make more dangerous – those individuals prone to committing ideologically driven acts of violence.

“By providing CSIS with disruption abilities, we take an agency that we know to overstep its existing powers, and equip it with a mandate to operate like a secret police. The weak changes the Harper administration announced last week are nowhere near sufficient to satisfy the bill’s many critics. The single best solution to C-51 remains scrapping it completely.”

While Ms. May was a regular attendee of committee hearings during its study of Bill C-51, Conservative MPs blocked her every attempt to ask a single question. Although any MP has a right to sit at committee, participation is at the discretion of the Chair. During these hearings, the Chair chose to put Ms. May’s requests to the floor for unanimous consent, which was summarily denied by her Conservative colleagues.

The process by which Green MPs submit amendments to committee is one created by PMO to deprive Green MPs from‎ presenting amendments to the House of Commons at Report Stage. Ms. May used this right effectively in opposing Bill C-38 in spring 2012. Since the fall of 2013, due to identical motions passed by Conservatives in every committee, Green amendments are deemed to have been moved at committee. Ms. May and Mr. Hyer will be given time to present each amendment but are not allowed to vote. ..."

16 February 2015

bees, pesticides and food security

" ...These chemicals are nerve poisons that are toxic even at very low doses 
and persist in plants and the environment. They affect the information-processing abilities 
of invertebrates, including some of our most important pollinators...
The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our 
natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT. 
Far from protecting food production the use of neonics is threatening the very 
infrastructure which enables it, imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers 
and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem... ”

(from: The David Suzuki Foundation, February13,2015)
 No matter how you feel about Ontario’s proposal to restrict use of neonicotinoid insecticides on corn and soybean crops, we can all agree: bees matter. But as important as bees are, there’s more at stake. Neonics are poisoning our soil and water. This problematic class of pesticides needs to be phased out globally to protect Earth’s ecosystems. By implementing restrictions now (the first in North America), Ontario will have a head start in the transition to safer alternatives.

Not surprisingly, Ontario’s proposal has drawn the ire of the pesticide industry.

Neonics have only been around for a couple of decades, but annual global sales now top $2.6 billion. They were initially embraced because they are less directly toxic to humans than older pesticides and are effective at low levels, reducing the volume used. They can be applied to seeds and are absorbed into the plant, which then becomes toxic to insect pests, reducing the need to spray.

We now know these characteristics are the problem. These chemicals are nerve poisons that are toxic even at very low doses and persist in plants and the environment. They affect the information-processing abilities of invertebrates, including some of our most important pollinators.

Bees have borne the brunt of our unfortunate, uncontrolled experiment with neonics. Beekeepers report unusually high bee death rates in recent years, particularly in corn-growing areas of Ontario and Quebec. Virtually all corn and about 60 per cent of soybean seeds planted in Ontario are treated with neonics. A federal Pest Management Regulatory Agency investigation concluded that planting neonic-treated seeds contributed to the bee die-offs.

Europe reached a similar conclusion and placed a moratorium on the use of neonics on bee-attractive crops, which took effect last year.

Critics emphasize that other factors — including climate change, habitat loss and disease — affect pollinator health. But these factors are not entirely independent; for example, chronic exposure to neonics may increase vulnerability to disease. A comprehensive pollinator health action plan should address all these factors, and scaling back the use of neonics is a good place to start.

Apart from the immediate and lethal effects on bees, neonics represent a more subtle threat to a wide range of species. The 2014 Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impacts of Systemic Pesticides, the most comprehensive review of the scientific literature on neonics, pointed to effects on smell and memory, reproduction, feeding behaviour, flight and ability to fight disease. Jean‐Marc Bonmatin, one of the lead authors, summarized the conclusions: “The evidence is very clear. We are witnessing a threat to the productivity of our natural and farmed environment equivalent to that posed by organophosphates or DDT. Far from protecting food production the use of neonics is threatening the very infrastructure which enables it, imperilling the pollinators, habitat engineers and natural pest controllers at the heart of a functioning ecosystem.”
 pesticides
Is there some uncertainty involved in calculating these risks? Absolutely. Uncertainty is at the heart of scientific inquiry. The precautionary principle requires that where there is threat of serious or irreversible harm to human health or the environment, the absence of complete scientific certainty or consensus must not be used as an excuse to delay action. In the case of neonics, the weight of evidence clearly supports precautionary action to reduce — or even eliminate — them.

Ontario’s proposal to restrict the use of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed, starting next year, is far from radical. The idea is to move away from routinely planting neonic-treated seeds and use neonics only in situations where crops are highly vulnerable to targeted pests. The government expects this will reduce the uses of neonic-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017.

It’s no surprise that the pesticide industry and its associates oppose even this modest proposal and are running expensive PR campaigns to obscure the evidence of harm. The industry’s objection to restrictions on neonics is eerily similar to big-budget advertising campaigns to create a smokescreen thick enough to delay regulatory responses to the obvious harm caused by cigarettes.

Let’s hope today’s decision-makers have a better grasp of the precautionary principle and a stronger commitment to protecting the public good, because bees really do matter.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Ontario and Northern Canada Director-General Faisal Moola. Support the David Suzuki Foundation