Blogging at the Intersection of Community & Technology

This is a blog about design.

More often than not, our problems are design problems – meaning they can be solved by designing better. Most Cape Bretoners I know would agree. After all, “self-reliant” is just a bold word for problem-solver.

Last summer I met an elderly woman who told me a story about her mom, a country midwife (that’s so Kafkaesque). During the winter, mom used a snowmobile – or its mid-century equivalent – to get to deliveries. It was huge, on skis, and powered by propeller.

One day the propeller chopped mom’s ear off.

Dad’s response was to dismantle the thing, presumably to prevent it from hurting anyone else. Come to think of it, I can’t remember if the vehicle belonged to mom’s family, or if it belonged to the family of a woman in labour, who had sent little Jimmy to fetch the midwife. I suppose dad could just as easily have dismantled the thing out of revenge; or as payment for one lost ear.

In any case, dad took the propeller, rigged it up to some batteries, and attached it to the roof of the house to create a miniature wind turbine. It produced enough energy to power the lightbulb in his daughter’s room.

The neighbourhood kids, whose own homes were lit using coal oil lamps, came over all the time to marvel at the newfangled contraption.

One can only imagine what dad did with the rest of the dismantled machine’s parts.

Message to CBRM

Everyone who brought a reusable mug to the vigil on Saturday had their name entered in a draw for Al Gore’s new book, Our Choice. The winner asked that the prize be donated to a good cause. On behalf of the vigil organizers and everyone who attended, the book has been sent to CBRM council with the following message:

A report released by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities estimates that ”municipalities have the potential to supply between 20 and 55 Megatonnes of emission reductions, equivalent to 15 to 40 per cent of Canada’s 2020 emission reduction target [of 20% below 2006 levels].”

The report calls for “a strategic approach, led and in part funded by the Government of Canada.”The benefit to the federal government is that local, community-based greenhouse gas emissions reduction initiatives – such as improving public transit, shifting to more fuel-efficient fleets, retrofitting public buildings and turning landfill gas into energy – are an especially cost-effective way to cut emissions.

The benefit to municipalities is job creation, community economic development and increased competitiveness; and energy efficiency measures can lead to lower overall municipal operating costs.

Municipalities are key to achieving large and low-cost emission reductions, in partnership with federal and provincial/territorial. Not only do Municipal governments have direct or indirect control over approximately 44 per cent of GHG emissions in Canada, but “Municipal governments are also the order of government that is the closest to citizens and can most easily engage households and businesses to implement local projects to reduce GHG emissions. Municipal governments can affect GHG emissions as a regulator, facilitator, partner, program deliverer and educator.”

Full report: Act Locally – The Municipal Role in Fighting Climate Change [pdf]

Climate Vigil in Sydney a success

Approximately 60 people braved sub-freezing temperatures, gusting winds and blowing snow to attend the climate vigil in Sydney this past Saturday. They joined people across the country and throughout the world to show support for a binding emissions reduction agreement in Copenhagen.

The gathering took place at the Wentwork Park bandshell. The acoustic amplifier helped carry the sound of Mi’kmaq drummers – performing traditional songs about the need to respect the earth – out into the street and beyond.

Brief but powerful speeches described the effects of climate change on Inuit in Canada’s Arctic, coastal residents of low-lying Bangladesh, and Cape Bretoners themselves – highlighting the need for an international solution to a global problem.Closing out the event was a call for leadership at all levels of government, as well as practical suggestions for each of us to reduce our ecological footprint.Only a few candles beat the wind, but the message was clear: change is possible.

Climate Vigil in Sydney

Join us at the Bandshell in Wentworth Park Saturday evening (December 12) from 6 – 6:30 p.m. as people across the country and throughout the world gather for a candlelight vigil to show support for a binding emissions reduction agreement in Copenhagen.

Help make it known that Cape Breton cares about climate change. There will be speakers, readings, music, and hot chocolate.

All generations are encouraged to come. Please help promote this event by by telling your friends and families!