January 27, 2008

Natural Step Canada

Just after I wrote a review of the Natural Step, I saw a link to Natural Step Canada on the Pacific Streamkeepers Federation mailing list.

The link was to the Sustainability at Home toolkit, which looks like an excellent resource. Check it out to see how you can contribute toward a more sustainable world with small steps at home.

Posted by Paul at 07:01 PM

January 26, 2008

US Planning Body's Sustainability Guide

The American Planning Association has an interesting Policy Guide on Planning for Sustainability that it has ratified. While I haven't read it entirely yet, it appears to follow "Natural Step" (see previous blog post) ideas for achieving sustainable communities. I wonder if Canadian planners have adopted a similar guide, and whether or not communities here are following it? As a volunteer at City of Burnaby stakeholder meetings, I wonder if the city aims to follow such guides in its community plans and ISMPs?

Here's a taste:


Planning for sustainability requires a systematic, integrated approach that brings together environmental, economic and social goals and actions directed toward the following four objectives:

1. Reduce dependence upon fossil fuels, extracted underground metals and minerals.

Reason: Unchecked, increases of such substances in natural systems will eventually cause concentrations to reach limits ? as yet unknown ? at which irreversible changes for human health and the environment will occur and life as we know it may not be possible.

2. Reduce dependence on chemicals and other manufactured substances that can accumulate in Nature.

Reason: Same as before.

3. Reduce dependence on activities that harm life-sustaining ecosystems.

Reason: The health and prosperity of humans, communities, and the Earth depend upon the capacity of Nature and its ecosystems to reconcentrate and restructure wastes into new resources.

4. Meet the hierarchy of present and future human needs fairly and efficiently.

Reason: Fair and efficient use of resources in meeting human needs is necessary to achieve social stability and achieve cooperation for achieving the goals of the first three guiding policies.

Posted by Paul at 07:39 PM

January 25, 2008

Review - Inspirational 'Natural Step' Guide

I finished The Natural Step for Communities: How Cities and Towns can Change to Sustainable Practices by Sarah James and Torbjorn Lahti today. Amid all the doom and gloom about global warming and unsustainable ecological footprints, it's a hugely inspirational guide to changing how we plan and build our towns and cities.

Many of the case studies are taken from Sweden, where all levels of government -- municipal, regional and national -- appear to be light years ahead of what we are doing here in Canada.

The Natural Step proposes four simple guiding objectives (p. 9):

1. Eliminate our community's contribution to fossil fuel dependency and to wasteful use of scarce metals and minerals.

2. Eliminate our community's contribution to dependence upon persistent chemicals and wasteful use of synthetic substances.

3. Eliminate our community's contribution to encroachment upon nature (e.g., land, water, wildlife, forests, soil, ecosystems).

4. Meet human needs fairly and efficiently.

The Natural Step should be required reading for politicians and bureaucrats everywhere, and should also be incorporated into school curricula.

The book also contains many examples of businesses that have used sustainability principles to become more profitable. "Billions of people around the world have problems with unsustainable development. What a market for those who have solutions!" (p. 221).

Posted by Paul at 07:47 PM

January 24, 2008

Cheap Latch Could be Deadly

The other day my wife was leaving the house and the door wouldn't open. I thought she was kidding, but when I went down the stairs and turned the handle back and forth, it wouldn't open for me, either.

Eventually she left through the garage while I attempted to fix the problem. I took the lock apart, and discovered that the latch portion had worn out, so that when you turned the handle, the "cam" did not draw the "slide" and nothing happened (Note: I'm not a locksmith so I'm making up my own terminology here...). I took a closer look at the part and was dismayed to see it was made from plastic and flimsy metal.

Yikes! What if the house had been on fire?

I replaced the part with a slightly sturdier-looking one from Rona (albeit still stamped metal and plastic), and remain a bit unnerved by the sensation of not having been able to open our door to get out of our house!



Posted by Paul at 07:22 PM

January 19, 2008

Review - British Columbia: A Natural History

Review - British Columbia: A Natural History by Richard Cannings and Sydney Cannings.

The western Canadian province of British Columbia is blessed with a diversity of ecosystems ranging from lush rain forests to near deserts and everything in between. This book covers the geology, and the flora and fauna of this gorgeous region of our planet. The Cannings ably describe the origins of the land, ocean, and waterways, and the animals and plants that inhabit them. The book is full of photographs that depict the natural abundance and variety of landscapes of the province.

Posted by Paul at 08:48 PM

January 18, 2008

Stream of Dreams Office Warming

The Stream of Dreams Murals Society had an office warming party this afternoon followed by our AGM and first board meeting of 2008. I was happy that by our count, 50 people turned out, including several Burnaby city councillors. As president of the SDMS board of directors I want to thank everyone who has helped make our environmental education and community art program a smashing success!

SDMS co-founder Louise Towell (in red to the right) shares the story of how the project began, while co-founder Joan Carne (blue SDMS T-shirt to the left) and others look on.

Here I am chatting with SDMS board member Jennifer (photo by my wife, Yumi).

Of course our fishy theme was reflected in the food presentation :-).

Posted by Paul at 09:22 PM

January 13, 2008

White Rock Sunset

There was a beautiful sunset at the White Rock pier late this afternoon. We were also thrilled to get close to a Cooper's Hawk.

Water patterns as the tide comes in.

Yumi checking out the tidal pools.

White Rock pier as the sun drops in the sky.

Another view of the pier.



Yumi spotted this Cooper's Hawk in a tree and a few seconds later it swooped away and down onto the beach. As we walked along, Yumi saw it again, and we got within four or five meters of it. (If it's a Sharp-Shinned, let me know, we're still learning the bird ID business :-)

Posted by Paul at 07:30 PM

January 08, 2008

Cat Defends Briefcase Against Further Absences

OK, I know this post echoes another on a similar topic from awhile back, but Choco the cat is at it again. Now she's shifted from luggage to my every day "goin' to a meeting" bag -- in both cases she seems to have linked luggage or the shoulder bag to impending absences.


Assuming that I am not anthropomorphizing, and that she really loves me and doesn't want me to leave her -- ever -- this is really sweet. On the other hand, she likes to sleep on all sorts of stuff... and maybe my bag was just never in this enticing position before...

Posted by Paul at 09:39 PM

January 07, 2008

Using Solar/Wind Power to Dry Clothes

Solar and wind power are all the rage, yet I am banned from using them to dry my clothes. And no need to spend thousands on solar panels or windmills -- just a few bucks to run a clothesline. A what? A clothesline! Apparently it's cutting-edge technology -- yet it's been around for hundreds and thousands of years.

So what happened to clotheslines? For years, people managed to dry their clothes, bedding and towels using solar and wind power -- in other words, outdoors. I lived in Tokyo for 14 years and never had a clothes dryer. I lived in apartments and had a washer, but as with most Japanese in cramped quarters, I managed without a dryer. Japanese apartment balconies come equipped with staggered hooks on which you can hang poles to dry your laundry.

Tokyo and other Asian cities are festooned with drying clothes and bedding, yet my strata here in Burnaby, British Columbia, actually forbids drying clothes on balconies.

I wonder how much energy could be saved simply by drying clothes outside? Oh, you say it's too wet here? Well, Japan has a long, humid rainy season in the late spring/early summer, a typhoon season in the fall, and darn cold weather in the winter. Yet 110 million people there somehow manage to get by with very few of them having clothes dryers.

British Columbia should amend the Strata Act to ban stratas from banning balcony clothes drying.

Posted by Paul at 08:00 PM

Shopping Carts Dumped in Byrne Creek

Yumi and I found a couple of HomeSense shopping carts dumped into Byrne Creek today. We used to find shopping carts only in the upper watershed, but I guess we'll be finding more on the flats now that the big malls have opened nearby.


Posted by Paul at 07:16 PM

More Oily Burnaby Streets

Yesterday we saw a steady stream of oil washing off Southpoint Dr. in southeast Burnaby into a storm drain and into Byrne Creek, and today we found someone had dumped oil on a street in the upper watershed at the corner of 15th St. and 14th Ave. -- just feet away from another drain that leads to the creek. The mangled plastic oil jug was nearby.


Posted by Paul at 07:09 PM

January 06, 2008

Road Oil Enters Byrne Creek Through Storm Drain

Oil that had accumulated on Southpoint Dr. in southeast Burnaby was flowing down the rain drain at the bottom end of the cul-de-sac and into Byrne Creek this afternoon as a steady drizzle washed pollution off the street.


Can you imagine the cumulative flow of this crap into drains all over the city -- all of which lead to local creeks, rivers and the ocean? Yuck!

It is precisely for this reason that streamkeepers are pushing the city to build bio-filtration swales and ponds. There are well-known, well-established ways to ameliorate the impact of such pollution on fish and wildlife habitat.

Posted by Paul at 04:18 PM

January 01, 2008

Ringing In the New Year at Tozenji

Japanese traditionally go to a temple on New Year's Eve for a short service and then to ring in the New Year on the temple bell. For the last several years Yumi and I have been going to Tozenji Temple in Coquitlam. It's a beautiful facility, and the head priest always brings the service to a close with a funny, yet moving, sermon.

Preparing to start the bell ringing.

Looking into the temple from outside after the service.


Posted by Paul at 07:03 PM