June 29, 2012

Duelling Oil/Gas vs Enviro Ads on Facebook

This following combination of ads has been running on my Facebook sidebar feed today:

Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline
Canadian Wildlife Federation Water Challenge
Kennedy Stewart (NDP MP opposing Kinder Morgan pipeline)
Spectra Energy Corporation


Looks like we're entering a social media battleground, folks!

Posted by Paul at 02:46 PM

June 28, 2012

Slashing of Canadian Fisheries Habitat Staff So Wrong, So Sad

As the word spreads that our present government in Ottawa somehow sees fit to slash Department of Fisheries habitat staff by a third, I suspect tens of thousands of volunteer stewards across British Columbia, and the rest of Canada, are reeling.

Having volunteered for over ten years and hundreds of hours as a streamkeeper, this news is devastating.

Here is a synopsis from retired DFO biologist Otto Langer of DFO habitat staff cuts announced internally today.

Today all DFO habitat protection and management staff in Canada are receiving letters that they are now red circled ie they are being affected by Bill C 38 with it's budget and habitat legislation and program cuts (ie DFO downsizing) and many will soon not have a job. Yesterday all staff in BC - Yukon were advised of this happening in a telephone call from Pacific Regional Director General Susan Farlinger. Staff were directed to not discuss this with anyone and only DFO Ottawa was allowed to comment on the issue.

132 habitat staff across Canada will be fired (laid off) in the next few months in that many will have to compete for remaining jobs. In Pacific region they now have 92 staff and that is to be reduced to 60 staff - ie 32 will be laid off ie an approx. 33% cut in staff. Also all habitat office locations in Pacific Region are to be closed down with the exception of Whitehorse, Prince Rupert, Kamloops, Vancouver and Nanaimo. That means offices such as those in Mission, Campbell River, Prince George, Nelson, Williams Lake, Smithers, Port Hardy, etc are to be shut down. If the Enbridge and the natural gas lines go across northern BC there will be no habitat staff in Prince George or Smithers, etc and the closest offices will be Prince Rupert or Kamloops. The office in Part Hardy did look after salmon farming issues.

This puts DFO back where it was in the early 1980s ie 5 offices in BC and even less staff than they had in 1983 with many giant projects such as Enbridge, gas lines, gas liquification plants, New Prosperity Gold Mine, Site C Dam on the Peace River, Panamax tankers of jet fuel up the Fraser River, Roberts Bank Port expansion, etc. now being proposed and pushed along. Never in the pasts 50 year history of habitat protection have we seen such great cuts in staff the face of upcoming massive industrial development that can and will harm habitat and our fisheries of the future.

Finally, Ottawa has given all DFO habitat staff directions to remove their name Habitat Management Program title from their organization and from their offices etc. in that they are now to be called the Fisheries Protection Program.

In summary this puts DFO back to where they were in the late s1970s in terms of habitat staff numbers in Pacific Region but with next to no legislation to protect overall habitat and a greatly reduced presence in the field where the habitat damage takes place. Their efforts will of course be distracted over the next year or more in that staff will have to compete for the surviving 60 positions and put their minds to what do can do for a living when laid off and where do they move to to get a job to support their families etc. I am told the then very low morale of the staff was destroyed by Bill C 38 and now it received its final blow and morale and willingness and direction to do their jobs can now be measured in negative quantities. . .

Cheers Otto Langer

PS. All DFO habitat protection offices from Quebec to the BC - Alberta border ie Central and Arctic Region will also be drastically cut and all offices will be shut down except in Ottawa, Burlington, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Yellowknife. It is indicated that of 63 DFO offices in Canada with habitat staff (now - fisheries protection staff) most will be closed and the number of offices having 'habitat' type program staff will be reduced to 14 for a giant geographic area - ie Canada.

This will impact volunteers, but I really feel for the Fisheries field staff on the ground and on the water -- in my experience they are wonderful, hard-working folks with huge hearts who really care about what they do. I cannot imagine the impact this is having on them and their families, much less the morale and productivity of the organization as a whole. And Pacific region was already understaffed with unfilled openings in many positions before this latest round of cuts.

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

June 21, 2012

Saying Goodbye to the Paper Papers

Today I (sob!) cancelled my paper delivery subscriptions to the Vancouver Sun and National Post, and signed up for the digital versions. This will be the first time that I have never subscribed to a paper newspaper.

But the cost advantages are compelling. The Sun and the Post together were costing about $46/month, while I can access both online for $9.99/month. That's a savings of $432/year.

Not to mention all the carbon emissions avoided, and resources used such as paper (recycled or not) and ink. I work from home and run my main computer pretty much 24/7 anyway (with all power-saving options turned on for when I'm not at my desk), and have a lovely dual-monitor setup on which to view large docs, so why run those printing presses, delivery trucks, and delivery person vehicles?

Supposedly I get "everything" that appears in the paper papers, even an identical layout view if I so desire, not to mention other cool stuff like search and text-to-voice, etc.

It will be an interesting experiment, and will certainly be a lifestyle change. I read the paper papers in the living room, next to a big balcony, with lots of natural light. The office is in the basement, and while I have a decent window down there, it doesn't compare to the airiness of the main floor. I think I'll be in withdrawal for awhile, but I'm pretty confident that it will work out. I have already shifted many of my magazine subscriptions to the online Zinio service, and that's worked out well.

Posted by Paul at 01:54 PM

June 19, 2012

Building Community–Social Connections Matter–Metro Vancouver Sustainability Dialogue

I enjoyed the above event this afternoon, and there are a couple more in the same series coming along over the next few weeks, so sign up and participate if you can.

There were thought-provoking and succinct presentations from the following panel:

Opening/Closing Remarks:
Wayne Wright, Director, Metro Vancouver Board of Directors and Mayor, City of New Westminster

Facilitator: Peter Holt


This particular series of dialogues was prompted by a Vancouver Foundation study on alienation in society in the lower mainland of BC, which has been heavily reported on in the press over the last few days. The report can be found here.

Some of the results were troubling in the sense of many respondents reporting feelings of loneliness, disconnection from their community, difficulty in establishing community relationships, etc.

I may question what Metro Vancouver can do about such issues, but I laud it for confronting the situation and inviting the public to meet and share ideas along with experts in related fields.

There were lots of questions and comments from the audience, and I didn't have a chance to speak so I'll share a few thoughts here:

  • if I look at my own micro-community, a townhouse complex with 101 units, I can understand some of the concerns. People drive out of their individual garages in the morning, and drive back in when they return, and few linger on the streets and some seem to never use their front doors or the shared walkways.
  • the free local papers are delivered right to all 101 doors, and I'd guess that on a regular basis, about 90 of those end up flying around in the wind, accumulating in eventually soggy piles against those unused front doors, etc. Partly language issues, but mostly I think people don't care about their wider community and what's going on around them.
  • I was on the strata council for over five years, with, if I recall, three as president, so I know more people than most folks here, but I still interact with only three or four of those 101 units on a regular basis.
  • How do you get folks involved? Strata AGMs rarely attracted more than 10-15% of the ownership, with perhaps a maximum of 30% (including proxies) showing when special levies were in the wind.
  • In my neighbourhood, there are over 100 home languages in the local schools.
  • I think the immigrant experience has changed dramatically. When my grandparents came to Canada, they knew it was a one-way trip with no return. And, to bear this out, of the four of them, only one ever made it back to the "old country" for a visit, and that was 40 years or more after the initial move. Now, immigrants can readily access TV, movies, music and news in their home languages, video-Skype relatives and friends for free around the world at a whim, and travel back "home" from, er, "home", on a regular and frequent basis.
  • I have always been a proponent of multiculturalism, but I sometimes wonder at the linguistic shift over the last several decades. When I was growing up, the big linguistic issue was the loss of the "old country" language over the generations, but now the issue seems to be becoming the lack of learning the new/host country language.

So, I'm not a Burnaby native or even lower mainland native. I was born and raised in Saskatoon. I spent 14 years working in Japan, married a wonderful Japanese woman, and we moved to Canada some 12 years ago. So how did we integrate and make friends? Volunteering. Our first couple of years here were pretty quiet, but then we discovered streamkeepers, and that made all the difference. From initial contacts in streamkeepers, I joined the local business & community association, the Burnaby Board of Trade, became involved on City of Burnaby committees. . . 

You have to make the commitment, you have to give before you get, you have to learn about and respect your community's history, get to know its "elders", and then you can start to receive, and be embraced by others.

Posted by Paul at 09:19 PM

June 18, 2012

All Blogs are Covered by Copyright

There was a good session by a copyright lawyer at the recent Northern Voice social media and blogging conference in Vancouver. What too many people do not realize, is that when you post original stuff on your blog, be it text, or graphics, or photography, or video, that material is automatically covered by copyright, unless you specify otherwise.

So even if you don't notice, or read, my copyright blurb (right there, at the top left corner of my blog), my material is covered, and you have to ask my permission to use it.

I've had material, both text and photos, lifted from my blog without my permission. Some folks have credited the source, but they still failed to ask permission in the first place. Chances are if you'll be using the material in a non-profit manner, I'll readily grant you permission as long as I'm cited. And if you want to make money from original material on my blog, well, we'd better do some negotiating. It's only fair, eh?

So it was refreshing to receive an email today from a staffer at the University of Victoria who wanted to use a photo from my blog in materials given to foreign students for free. I was so pleased that someone had actually asked, that I went back years into my photo archives and dug up the original shot, and sent her a higher resolution version than the tiny one on my blog.

While I'm a great fan of open source, folks gotta make a living, too. Or simply want to, and ought to be recognized.

Posted by Paul at 09:16 PM

June 16, 2012

Cool ‘Lean Publishing’ Presentation at Northern Voice 2012

I attended the always stimulating Northern Voice social media/blogging conference in Vancouver over the last two days. One of the sessions was on "lean publishing."

The website is leanpub.com, and is a means to quickly and easily publish online in pdf, epub and mobi formats, while retaining ownership and earning royalties of around 90%.

The speaker, Peter Armstrong, "wrote" a "book" (basically a title and a few sentences), uploaded it, had it converted, published and ready to download with suggested pricing, all during his 45-minute presentation in live time.

Books are available for sale (or for free) in common ereader formats from the LeanPub website, and as I understood it, authors are also free to post their output mobi files to Amazon, ePub files to iBooks, pdf files to their own website, etc.

The other interesting part of the presentation is that he encouraged a "Publish Early, Publish Often" approach, in which writers share material in progress, and modify/tailor it according to reader feedback. I can see this working well with tech books and manuals, of which there appears to be a preponderance on the website, but Armstrong said the iterative process is also taking off with fiction. In fact, he said, in a sense this is nothing new, pointing to a long history of serialized works by famous authors from Dickens to Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Oh, yes, authors are also able to set a minimum price and a suggested price for each work, and buyers can choose to pay more than the minimum, with easy-to-use sliders that change the pricing and show how much the author gets... And apparently this has led to a phenomenon in which a significant portion of sales have gone at $11.67/book. Why? Because at that price, the author receives $10.00, and with this transparency, apparently quite a few buyers feel that's a fair price, even if the minimum was lower...

I have no experience with LeanPub aside from this presentation, and do not endorse it in any way, just thought it looked cool, and I will certainly be researching it further for potential use in my own editing and writing business.

Posted by Paul at 07:38 PM

June 14, 2012

Video Interview about Byrne Creek

Byrne Creek Streamkeepers from Neilson Grove Elementary on Vimeo.

A video interview of moi, conducted by kids at Neilson Grove Elementary as part of a school Stream of Dreams project. Great fun! To see lots of other interviews of local stewards from many groups try this link:http://vimeo.com/search?q=Neilson+Grove+Elementary

Posted by Paul at 09:51 AM

Looking Forward to Northern Voice 2012

These annual social media conferences in Vancouver are always interesting.

Northern Voice 2012 is just days away!


Posted by Paul at 08:43 AM

June 12, 2012

Morning Birds at Lac La Jeune Provincial Park

I didn't realize until I was breaking camp this morning that I'd slept within meters of a downy woodpecker nest at Lac La Jeune Provincial Park. I caught a flicker of motion out of the corner of my eye as I was getting ready to roll out, and saw a pair of adults passing food into a tree cavity. I waited for an hour, but the closest I got to getting a decent shot was when I was coming back from a bio break - take your camera everywhere! : -)


Next up was a mountain bluebird


Posted by Paul at 08:55 AM

June 11, 2012

Tunkwa Provincial Park–Yellow-Headed Blackbird

Saw this stunning yellow-headed blackbird as I was leaving Tunkwa Provincial Park.



Family of Canada Geese


Posted by Paul at 09:00 PM

108 Mile Ranch

On my drive home from northern BC, at one point I stopped for a rest and snack at 108 Mile Ranch, where a number of pioneer buildings have been collected at a beautiful site. The ranch dates to a post house on the Caribou Trail in 1867.






Posted by Paul at 08:51 PM

June 10, 2012

Burkholders Receive City of Burnaby Enviro Award for Volunteering on Byrne Creek

I was happy that the City of Burnaby gave an Environment Award for Community Service to David and Jane Burkholder, who have both been volunteering with the Byrne Creek Streamkeepers Society for over ten years. Well deserved! Unfortunately I was unable to attend the ceremony, but my wife Yumi got this photo:


Posted by Paul at 04:44 PM