Sustainable Cape Breton

We are a group of concerned citizens exploring ways to promote environmental, economic, social, and cultural sustainability in Cape Breton.

Global climate change poses one of the most significant challenges of our time, and affects us all. It is therefore incumbent upon us to work together to find solutions. We believe that the most practical place to start is at the local level, expanding outward; and that the best way to address this and other issues is with an integrated, community-based approach.

And we are not alone. Our goal is to engage communities and organizations already working on these issues, as well as all those with a stake in Cape Breton’s future. As an organization we are goal-oriented, but we believe that sustainable, legitimate results are only possible through consensus-building.

We believe real change is needed, and that significant gains can be made, in three sectors:

  • energy
  • transportation
  • agriculture

Creative, grassroots solutions to the climate crisis can reduce our impact on the environment, develop (as oppose to grow) the economy, preserve and promote our cultural heritage, and protect society. All the while making our communities more resilient and adaptive, safer and healthier – and generally better places to live.

SPARCK PARK: Steel Plant Area Renewal for the Community and Kids

The Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup is almost complete. In its place will be a new park, with walking trail, creek-side boardwalk, dog park, bike park, sports field, playground, outdoor skating, and amphitheatre.

Since the tar ponds are no more, the area needs a new name. A contest to name the park received over 200 submissions from school-age kids. Here are the 5 finalists: SydneyParkProject.ca

One of the finalists is my daughter’s grade primary class (she’s front-row right in the video above). They suggested the name SPARCK PARK, which stands for Steel Plant Area Renewal for the Community and Kids.

Voting is open to the public. You can vote daily. Voting closes midnight June 3rd. VOTE HERE.

Zadie’s grandfather worked at the steel plant for 40-odd years, around the time he returned from the war until his retirement.

For more info about the future use of the former tar ponds site, check out tarpondscleanup.ca/futureuse.

Happy Earth Day

CustomMade Buying Local Infographic

Why Buying Local is Worth Every Cent Infographic by CustomMade

Bras d’Or Lake: Canada’s Newest Biosphere Reserve

From the Canadian Commission for UNESCO‘s official announcement yesterday:

Canada welcomes its 16th Biosphere Reserve, as Bras d’Or Lake, Nova Scotia, is designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

Biosphere Reserves are living laboratories of sustainable development, where local communities choose to take the challenge to protect biodiversity while fostering economic and social development. The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now numbers 580 sites in 114 countries.

This new Biosphere Reserve includes the complete watershed of Bras d’Or Lake, a salt-water estuary that constitutes a true inland sea. This estuary has unique oceanographic and biological characteristics as it contains both species typical of Arctic waters and of warm subtropical oceans, living within a few hundred meters of one another.

UNESCO’s designation of this site is the result of a highly collaborative process that started in 2005, involving First Nation representatives, provincial and federal government agencies, academics, and the nearly 14 000 citizens of the region. This process led to the development of a comprehensive management plan for the lake, to the creation of new jobs and encouraging business opportunities, while respecting the principles of sustainable development.

More at the Bras d’Or Lake Biosphere Reserve Association website

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!

The way forward in Copenhagen: Rich countries must blaze a green path

This was read on-air on CBC's Maritime Noon and reprinted in the Cape Breton Post

The urgency to reach a deal on climate change seems lost on the Harper government. As world leaders gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a global carbon emissions reduction agreement, Prime Minister Stephen Harper continues to delay and disrupt talks by demanding carbon reduction parity, arguing that unless all countries accept equal cuts we run the risk that some will gain economic advantage over others.

Harper’s position is not only callously self-interested, but short-sited and wrong-headed.

Short-sited in that an economic disadvantage already exists, but not the one Harper is concerned with.

Developing nations are not responsible for the build up of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which is to blame for global warming, nor have they reaped the economic benefits during the last two hundred years of the Industrial Revolution. Developing nations are, therefore, not in an economic position to adapt to climate change.

The result is that those who will be hit first and hardest, due to geography, are also those most vulnerable to rising sea levels and extreme weather events due to lack of infrastructure.Harper’s position is also wrong-headed in that moving away from fossil fuels presents an economic opportunity.

Of the 44 countries committed to emissions reductions under Kyoto, only 4 are on track to meet their targets: Britain, Germany, Sweden and Denmark. (Canada’s emissions rose by 26 per cent between 1990 and 2007.) Yet far from experiencing economic contraction as a result of investing in a ‘green-collar economy,’ those countries are in fact outperforming other wealthy nations in terms of job and business creation.

Greater investment in a sustainable energy future will not only result in decreased emissions, it will bring down the cost of renewable energy technologies, thereby making it possible for all nations – including developing nations, and especially rapidly developing nations – to make the switch away from fossil fuels. It’s no wonder that the heaviest polluters are fighting such a move given that 55% of Canada’s emissions come from industry.

Harper has further warned that “without the wealth that comes from growth, the environmental threats, the developmental challenges and the peace and security issues facing the world will be exponentially more difficult to deal with.” This is surely true, and reinforces the urgency for rich countries to fulfil their commitments made under Kyoto for an adaptation fund to help developing nations cope with the effects of climate change.

But if the growth of which Harper speaks is fuelled by carbon, the challenges of climate catastrophe facing the world will be exponentially worsened.

To quote from the ‘Survival Pact’ by Mohamed Nasheed, President of the Maldives:

“It is not carbon we want, but development. It is not coal we want, but electricity. It is not oil we want, but transport.”

In other words, growth without environmental destruction is possible. But only if we break the link between energy and carbon. In order for this to happen, we first must break the link between energy companies and government.

The damage caused by the profligate burning of fossil fuels over the last two centuries must now be answered by a green energy revolution – one from which every nation would benefit, both economically and environmentally. Only a global Green New Deal, combined with a global agreement rooted in social justice, can rectify the historical economic disadvantage experienced by developing nations while ensuring a sustainable energy future for all.

The way forward must be led by rich developed nations, including – especially – Canada.