Why Canada may be heading into a food security crisis

A 2012 study supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, “Household Food Insecurity in Canada,” found “four million individuals in Canada, including 1.15 million children, experienced some level of food insecurity.” This can mean anything from buying less or cheaper food to skipping meals to going for days without food. Invariably, food insecurity is related to low income, but lack of proper nourishment is now occurring among students and people with jobs.

The way that food insecurity, along with an overabundance of processed, high-sodium, high-sugar food, impacts the health-care system is evident in Public Health Agency of Canada figures from 2009 to 2011. They indicated 26.2 per cent of Canadians over the age of 18 were obese and, among those 20 and over, 4.2 per cent had elevated blood glucose and 7.8 per had elevated blood pressure.

According to statistics gathered by Food Secure Canada, farms are growing bigger but less numerous. Food policy analysts such as Wayne Roberts and growers such as Dan Jason cite data on the way the federal government boosts big agribusinesses, thereby encouraging monocrops, in a way that favours trade and economic goals over biodiversity and better food better distributed in Canada.

At the retail level, Food Secure Canada reports, “55,000 farms sell essentially to four or five retailers who supply 85 percent of our food.” And 96 percent of the meat supply in Canada is controlled by four companies.

Perhaps the worst news to come out of the food movement is the monopolization of the seed supply, whereby 75 per cent of seeds sold commercially in Canada are controlled by 10 companies, according to Food Secure Canada, and most of those seeds are proprietary, meaning that farmers and gardeners must buy them every year.

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The coming decentralization of food production

Humanity is entering an age of accelerating decentralization and complexity.  The turmoil we are witnessing globally is a manifestation of this and suggests a turning point altogether as cataclysmic as the transition from the agricultural age to the industrial age.  The forces of centralization and control (governments, corporate and labor structures, any hierarchical structures really) are in full panic mode because they are being rapidly upended by the decentralization trend.

If you want to see the violent death throes of centralization and control in action, look no further than our food production and distribution systems.  Mac Slavo shared an outrageous story yesterday that will make your blood boil.  It was about a group of private Nevada citizens who gathered together recently at Quail Hollow Farm for a Farm-to-Fork dinner consisting of organic food prepared by a popular chef.

The Nevada Health Department got wind of the dinner and dispatched a food inspector who barged onto the property to prevent anyone from eating the prepared food. In fact, after consulting with her unseen superiors back at H.Q., the inspector forced the gathering to destroy all of the food — literally hundreds of pounds of it — by pouring bleach over the top of it.

As outrageous as this sounds, it’s happening with such frequency these days it’s not even surprising anymore. We’ve seen a wave of stories of fully-armed and armored government thugs raiding raw food stores, arresting citizens who sell raw milk, threatening citizens who have home vegetable gardens, even shutting down children’s lemonade stands....

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Computer Recycling in Africa

Take a look at these pictures of how computer recycling is done in Africa, its appalling, disgusting and downright criminal. The locals are forced to breath in toxic chemicals from the burning of these old second hand computers and other e-Waste products, along with massive amounts of toxic chemicals being released into the water and surrounding areas.

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‘Fifty miles out we could smell the pollution’: sailing amid the ocean litter

For the majority of landlubbers, the fact that the world’s oceans are clogging up with the detritus of a rampant consumer society can easily be ignored. For most, the watery expanses beyond our coastlines might just as well be another planet.

Not so for the crews of the fleet of high-speed ocean racing yachts currently competing in the Volvo Ocean Race around the world, which spend up to three weeks at a time at sea racing day and night. For them the effects of ocean littering are all too obvious.

British double Olympic silver medallist Ian Walker skippers the Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing team and is competing in his third race around the world. In more than 100,000 miles of ocean racing, Walker says he hasn’t hit anything major – yet. It may be just a matter of time – on a high-speed training run across the Atlantic this summer Walker and his crew narrowly missed hitting a household fridge-freezer bobbing in the middle of the ocean.

“We passed within a boatlength of it,” Walker remembers. “Fortunately we saw it. It could easily have put a hole in our boat.”

As incongruous as having to dodge a fridge-freezer mid-ocean might seem, Walker says that encounters with manmade waste afloat on the ocean happen all too often...

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Urbanization and Air Pollution: Then and Now

Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, people have increasingly congregated in urban areas so that as of 2005, more than half of us lived in cities [Cohen, 2006], There are about 28 megacities, defined by populations greater than 10 million. Most projected future growth in the world’s population will occur in urban areas [United Nations, 2014].

Air pollution often plagues industrialized cities, particularly during their early development. Episodes of high levels of sulfurous smog killed or sickened thousands in Donora, Penn., in 1948, as well as in London in 1952 [Bell and Davis, 2001; Helfand et al., 2001]. Other cities—primarily in the industrialized regions of the United States and Europe—also suffered from notoriously bad air quality. These events were the result of very high emissions of sulfur dioxide, smoke, and other particles during stagnant, foggy weather conditions.

As governments controlled more traditional pollution sources and urban vehicle fleets grew, a different type of air pollution also arose. Photochemical air pollution—a new phenomenon, distinct from sulfurous smog—clouded the skies over Los Angeles, first recognized in the 1950s. This type of air pollution results from photochemical reactions involving nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs; e.g., ethylene and benzene) that produce ozone (O3) and particulate matter. Both cause lung problems, among other deleterious effects, and particulate matter reduces visibility.

In North America and Europe, the coupling of industrialization and air pollution required the creation of air quality standards and regulations for emission sources such as vehicles, electrical power generation, and industrial facilities. The success of these efforts has caused the most severe air pollution episodes to be distant memories in those regions. However, as industrialization spread, air quality concerns also spread to other areas of the globe. For example, recent news headlines warn of extreme air pollution episodes in many Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (Figure 1), showing that urban air pollution remains a major world health issue [Chen et al., 2013; Grahame et al., 2014].

Cleaning up the world’s air is a daunting task. However, a broad review of about 6 decades of efforts in Los Angeles, including how scientists overcame societal and technical challenges, demonstrates that air quality in megacities can, in fact, be greatly improved. Several questions remain: Looking forward, what new challenges will megacities now developing throughout the world face? Are there limits to further improvement of air quality in more developed countries? Looking back, has the improved air quality in our cities been worth the large expense required?

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Organic Farms Become a Winner in Putin’s Feud With the West

In August, Russia banned all beef, pork, fish, fruit, vegetables and dairy products from the European Union, the United States, Canada, Australia and Norway for one year, retaliating for Western economic sanctions imposed after the Kremlin destabilized Ukraine.

Senior leaders, starting with Mr. Putin, heralded food sanctions as a chance for Russians to finally stock their larders with homegrown products. Dmitri A. Medvedev, the prime minister, released a “road map” for agriculture last month. “The aim of our efforts is to increase our own agricultural produce and to reduce Russia’s dependence on food imports,” he said.

But the content of the road map was basically “watch this space,” with new agricultural policies promised by the end of 2015.

Critics said the government typically announced the sanctions first and thought about the fallout afterward. A range of experts and organizations noted that beyond the populist, patriotic speeches about growing food locally, there is minimal government support when it comes to supplying the new land, long-term credit and transportation logistics that Russian farmers desperately need to expand.

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Doctors, nurses urge ban on neonic pesticides

A group of doctors and nurses is urging the Ontario government to ban an agricultural pesticide blamed for the deaths of bees and other insect pollinators.

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario are placing advertisements in Toronto’s subway system, warning “neonic pesticides hurt our bees and us.” In the ads, a young boy is gazing sadly upon a dead bee.

Gideon Forman, executive director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, said the neonicotinoid insecticides used to grow corn, canola and other crops are a “major threat to both nature and people.”

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Amazon Joins Apple Using Clean Energy at Cloud Data Centers

Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) is turning to wind to power data centers forming its giant global network after committing in November to drive all operations on renewable energy.

The online retailer will buy electricity from a planned 150-megawatt wind farm in Benton County, Indiana, for 13 years, the project’s owner and developer Pattern Energy Group LP said Tuesday in a statement. Amazon Web Services will use the wind energy at its data centers, joining other technology companies that are buying power from clean energy projects.