Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Many species of bird are threatened by Global consumerism Fair Trade can help change the way the world does business!

Today there are a few places around Oceanside that sell 'Fair Trade' products. This certification assures the consumer that ethical practices have been used to produce specific items. This form of trade sharply contrasts with the standard and established forms of trade, which have been used by multinational corporations for years at the expense of those living in the third world while destroying the global environment.

‘Fair Trade’ is helping communities in impoverished countries; establish sustainable practices that help to protect the global environment, while insuring that the workers get paid ethically. The entire system is dependent upon consumers who must make the choice to support this growing phenomenon. Namely you! Europe has been supporting this method of trade for decades, with a great deal of enthusiasm and effect but North America is slower to change.

The products look the same, and to most people the only difference is that they cost a little more, but the facts are in the ethics behind this movement that is changing the world. This social movement is organized and uses a market-based approach to empower producers in developing counties by advocating the payment of fair price while promoting sustainability. The result is social and environmental standards that help to transform the lives of people and the ecosystems that support them.

The most commonly fair traded products include: coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, handicrafts, fresh fruit and flowers. These items are produced primarily in impoverished countries and sold in wealthier countries such as Canada. 50% is paid to the producers when the order is placed and 50% upon delivery in the country of origin. The buyer is responsible for all transportation costs. The producers (typically individual people, families, and small groups) are paid far more for their products, an amount that allows them to live and build their communities. This ethical trade releases the people from their dependence upon large multinational companies who previously held a monopoly over the workers.

Women in Laos were nominated for the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize because of their work over the past 30 years using Fair Trade, by planting a forest of mulberry trees, establishing silk-worm farms, developing dyes using local materials, and building a sustainable industry which provides for their community while protecting the environment.

In Columbia, drug cartels rule vast regions where entire communities are ruled by cocaine. Fair Trade has been combating this vicious cycle by establishing farms that are no longer dependent on cocaine growers. The youth in these areas are no longer forced to serve cartels and live as part of their community without fear by growing coffee, tea, sugar, and food crops.

In many third world countries the standard agricultural practice, introduced by multinational corporations, is slash and burn where the soil is depleted after a few harvests making the area infertile for many years to come. Fair Trade has implemented sustainable farming in many countries over the past 30 years so that crops can grow in one area for a long time. This allows the community to survive in one place, much closer to their traditional lifestyle, while protecting the environment.

Shade Grown is another certification that goes hand-in-hand with Fair Trade and is specific to coffee, which is grown in between the trees, allowing for the habitat for birds and animals to remain. By contrast the standard industrial coffees are grown in massive plantations that have been slash-cut and burned to remove all living organisms. The soil is then depleted in a few short harvests of coffee and then more land is scorched to grow the next crop.

For birders like myself, this is very important indeed since many of my favorite species spend the winter in the south and live in the forests where coffee is grown. Industrial coffee destroys their habitat and Fair Trade Shade Grown Practices can help to protect these areas while still allowing the people to obtain a livelihood. Hummingbirds, Waxwings, Swainson’s thrush, Yellow Warbler, Western Tanager, and most Swallows spend their winters in southern countries where Fair Trade is needed to protect their habitats. You can help by supporting these ethical practices with your purchases.

For more information:

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Englishman River Falls Park has lost the lower Falls, forever!

I’ve explored much of the crystal-clear water of Englishman River, as it runs its course of 10 km between the source on Mount Arrowsmith and the estuary in the Strait of Georgia. Jumping off the cliffs at the lower falls in the provincial park led my friends and I to swim across the large pool to the gushing flow of water that was the falls. Skirting around the edge of the pounding water and thick spray we were able to access a fairly large cave in behind the cascading waterfall. We sat on a log, wedged between the rocks, and watched the light filter in through the emerald coloured waterfall. That memory will remain with me forever.

Today, that waterfall no longer exists. The water has finally carved through solid rock, allowing the river to flow under a massive boulder rather than over it. The deep canyon between steeply carved cliffs, etched out by the river’s flow of water, bears testament to the fact that this type of natural change has been happening for millennia. The disappearance of this waterfall reminds me to look at the bigger picture.

Multi-national corporations around the world are taking over control of the world’s water. The pretense is usually that the local governments cannot keep up with the public demands for increased water, safety and security. The result is that the price of water doubles, public access decreases, and poor people die of thirst. The fact is corporations have made water more expensive than anything the general public consumes because it is essential for us to exist. Water in small plastic bottles, fetches double the price of gasoline at your local convenience store.

Today Natural Glacial Waters, a local company, pumps fresh water directly out of Rosewall Creek, just north of Deep Bay. They export more than 24 million individual plastic bottles of water to Asia every year. Recycling has to be a question, but so does ownership of water. Who has the right to sell water?

In 1997 The World Bank, on behalf of multi-national corporations, forced the government of Bolivia to privatize their public water systems as explicit condition of aid for this impoverished country. The collection of rainwater by the people was made illegal. The people revolted, police killed ordinary citizens, but the people prevailed and eventually they were victorious. The government was forced to change and some of the multi-national corporations were expelled from the country. Water was returned to the people as a right, not a privilege to be paid for with cash.

“In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth.” This quote comes directly from a film I saw on the big screen during the holidays. “Blue Gold: World Water Wars” is winning awards, receiving rave reviews, and attracting a great deal of public attention. Check it out at:

The film goes on to state; “Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars.”

Maude Barlow, one of the main characters in the film proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war. A line has been crossed, as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?” As the national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, and the founder of the Blue Planet Project, Barlow has been raising awareness about this issue for decades and sees a sharp increase in support as people begin to realize the dangers. Find out more:

One of the most inspiring characters is a Canadian, Ryan Hreljac, who started raising money to provide clean drinking water for people in Africa when he was in grade one. Since then he has raised $2 million which have built 319 wells in 114 countries providing clean drinking water to nearly half a million people. Today he’s in High School.