Friday, July 27, 2007

A Child's Address to the Plenary Session, Earth Summit, Rio Centro, Brazil 1992

Hello, I'm Severn Suzuki speaking for E.C.O. - The Environmental Children's organization.

We are a group of twelve and thirteen-year-olds from Canada trying to make a difference: Vanessa Suttie, Morgan Geisler, Michelle Quigg and me.

We raised all the money ourselves to come six thousand miles to tell you adults you must change your ways. Coming here today, I have no hidden agenda. I am fighting for my future.

Losing my future is not like losing an election or a few points on the stock market. I am here to speak for all generations to come.

I am here to speak on behalf of the starving children around the world whose cries go unheard.

I am here to speak for the countless animals dying across this planet because they have nowhere left to go. We cannot afford to be not heard.

I am afraid to go out in the sun now because of the holes in the ozone. I am afraid to breathe the air because I don't know what chemicals are in it.

I used to go fishing in Vancouver with my dad until just a few years ago we found the fish full of cancers. And now we hear about animals and plants going exinct every day - vanishing forever.

In my life, I have dreamt of seeing the great herds of wild animals, jungles and rainforests full of birds and butterfilies, but now I wonder if they will even exist for my children to see.

Did you have to worry about these little things when you were my age?

All this is happening before our eyes and yet we act as if we have all the time we want and all the solutions.

I'm only a child and I don't have all the solutions, but I want you to realise, neither do you!

  • You don't know how to fix the holes in our ozone layer.
  • You don't know how to bring salmon back up a dead stream.
  • You don't know how to bring back an animal now extinct.
  • And you can't bring back forests that once grew where there is now desert.

If you don't know how to fix it, please stop breaking it!

Here, you may be delegates of your governments, business people, organisers, reporters or poiticians - but really you are mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles - and all of you are somebody's child.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all part of a family, five billion strong, in fact, 30 million species strong and we all share the same air, water and soil - borders and governments will never change that.

I'm only a child yet I know we are all in this together and should act as one single world towards one single goal.

In my anger, I am not blind, and in my fear, I am not afraid to tell the world how I feel.

In my country, we make so much waste, we buy and throw away, buy and throw away, and yet northern countries will not share with the needy. Even when we have more than enough, we are afraid to lose some of our wealth, afraid to share.

In Canada, we live the privileged life, with plenty of food, water and shelter - we have watches, bicycles, computers and television sets.

Two days ago here in Brazil, we were shocked when we spent some time with some children living on the streets.

And this is what one child told us: "I wish I was rich and if I were, I would give all the street children food, clothes, medicine, shelter and love and affection."

If a child on the street who has nothing, is willing to share, why are we who have everyting still so greedy?

I can't stop thinking that these children are my age, that it makes a tremendous difference where you are born, that I could be one of those children living in the Favellas of Rio; I could be a child starving in Somalia; a victim of war in the Middle East or a beggar in India.

I'm only a child yet I know if all the money spent on war was spent on ending poverty and finding environmental answers, what a wonderful place this earth would be!

At school, even in kindergarten, you teach us to behave in the world. You teach us:

  • not to fight with others,
  • to work things out,
  • to respect others,
  • to clean up our mess,
  • not to hurt other creatures
  • to share - not be greedy

Then why do you go out and do the things you tell us not to do?

Do not forget why you're attending these conferences, who you're doing this for - we are your own children.

You are deciding what kind of world we will grow up in. Parents should be able to comfort their children by saying "everything's going to be alright', "we're doing the best we can" and "it's not the end of the world".

But I don't think you can say that to us anymore. Are we even on your list of priorities? My father always says "You are what you do, not what you say."

Well, what you do makes me cry at night. you grown ups say you love us. I challenge you, please make your actions reflect your words. Thank you for listening.

Ms. Suzuki is the daughter of David Suzuki. At the age of 12 she spoke at the Earth Summit in Brazil. She received a standing ovation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Are we better off now?

"After almost a century of improvement in the speed of cars, in roads and in traffic control, it takes as long to cross central London now as it did in 1900. Then, the average speed of horse-drawn carriages was 8mph (13 km/h). In 1988, cars could move no faster."

- Reader's Digest How in the World

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Drive Change

For most people, choosing a vehicle (and how much they should drive it) is the biggest single opportunity to slash personal carbon emissions. Each gallon of gas we use is responsible for 25 pounds of heat-trapping emissions; better gas mileage not only reduces global warming but can also save drivers thousands of dollars at the pump over the life of the vehicle. Compare the fuel economy of the cars you are considering and look for fuel-efficient technologies such as hybrid engines. Drive less by making more use of public transportation, carpooling, bicycling and walking for shorter trips, and “bundling” errands to make fewer trips.

Taken from a report from the Union of Concerned Scientists titled “Confronting Climate Change in the US Northeast”

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cycling in Copenhagen

The film "Cycling in Copenhagen", which can be seen at this link,
tells of how that great city (with a northern climate not unlike most Canadian cities) spends 20% of its municipal transport budget on bike facilities. It can now boast that one third of its trips are made by bike. The city planner interviewed, Jan Geld, claims they created the bike culture by creating safe space for bikes while removing car space, little by little, a deliberate planning objective. Compare that to the congestion, smog and car-nage of North American cities!

EA bump-up request for road widening

Below is an letter from environmentalist and Richmond Hill resident Natalie Helferty requesting a bump-up for the Bayview widening Environmental Assessment.

We need to consider ALL the costs of adding more traffic lanes and provide better alternatives to car and truck travel. We can and must plan our transportation system more sustainably. A healthier and happier future depends on it.

P.O. Box 32217
Harding Postal Outlet
Richmond Hill, ON L4C 9S3

Honourable Laurel C. Broten
Minister of Environment
135 St. Clair Avenue West, 12th Floor

Toronto, Ontario M4V 1P5

November 7, 2006

Re: Class Environmental Assessment (EA) for Bayview Avenue between Elgin Mills & Stouffville Roads in Richmond Hill on the Oak Ridges Moraine

The Bayview Avenue Class EA done by York Region recommends widening of Bayview Avenue to 4 lanes plus turning lanes, so 5 lanes, on the Oak Ridges Moraine in Richmond Hill.

The Region’s Class EA is lacking a number of very important analyses and alternatives that can only be addressed through an Individual EA or with revision to the Municipal Class EA standards of practice to include them. Given the latter is too late for this particular Class EA, we recommend that the Ministry consider a ‘bump-up’ to a Part II Individual EA to address these outstanding issues and concerns which follow:

- In my view, widening to 5 lanes is premature. The Region has not demonstrated ‘need’.
- Recommendation to widen is based on the old 2002 Transportation Master Plan that is now undergoing an Update by the Region. This needs to be completed before widening is considered.
- Transportation Alternatives undergoing EAs now were not evaluated specifically with respect to reducing car use and the need to widen now: Phase II VIVA dedicated lanes up Yonge Street; Biking & Walking Master Plan; Carpool Matching/SmartCommute/404 Carpool lots; new GO Station in Richmond Hill being considered now for all-day GO train service.
- Environmental Health impacts on residents ignored. Lighting, smog, noise not addressed. Noise increase is based on an unvalidated model. No cumulative or health analyses done.
- Climate change impacts ignored. More storms + more pavement = floods! More cars = more CO2. Planning for climate change must occur in all Environmental Assessments to avoid costly infrastructure replacement and downstream flooding and also analyze impacts of cars on climate.
- Rouge Strategy recommends reduced pavement and renaturalization for flood control. This strategy is developed from modelling climate change and future urban growth (pavement) impacts using urban stormwater data and climate models. The technique is used elsewhere as ‘Low Impact Development’ (LID) to reduce paved surface runoff and do onsite infiltration for storm water. Transportation Master Plan (TMP) update should incorporate new thinking and designs.
- Peak Oil impacts ignored from rising oil prices from ‘peak oil’ when the easy oil is gone and when supply cannot match demand due to global growth. The reality of fossil fuels as a finite resource needs to be acknowledged in TMP Update. Planning to 2031, so past estimated ‘peak’.
- Impacts on residents and wildlife are outstanding. Urban ‘upgrade’ with full street lighting will degrade dark sky and property values; ‘curb and gutter’ is an amphibian ‘death-trap’; connectivity is not seriously considered as no wildlife studies were done; salt impacts on forest, streams & wells and air & light pollution measures and impacts on wildlife were ignored
- An increase in traffic speed is a safety issue. There will be an increase in speed, without stops or traffic lights, with ‘street racing’ and safety issues for traffic turning out of residential streets.
- The Class EA incorrectly interprets the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan. The plan states that transportation infrastructure is not allowed unless there are no reasonable alternatives as interpreted by the Region. The Region incorrectly says that roads are allowed as long as its justified and there is no reasonable alternative. This is permissive when the Act is restrictive.
- The ORMCP Section 22(2) Areas of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI) was ignored. It states that a Vegetated Protection Zone be required adjacent to an ANSI, such as the Jefferson Forest, with a Natural Heritage Evaluation being done to determine the limits of the Vegetated Protection Zone for all site alterations, including infrastructure where ‘need’ has to be demonstrated with no reasonable alternatives. With 5 lanes, vegetation will be removed along the road way.
- The intent of the ORMCP has not been upheld with this Class EA. The intent of the ORMCP is to protect all natural heritage features and functions and their water resources. Any work within the ORM should have been treated as an Individual EA (Category D) “if potentially adverse effects are suspected or serious public concern exists.” (ORC Screening Rules) In Natural Core Areas, Natural Linkage Areas and Countryside Areas, only very restricted new resource management, recreational, transportation, infrastructure and utility uses are permitted within these features.

Please seriously consider our issues that remain outstanding through this Class EA process, which is premature and is in need of a Part II Environmental Assessment to look at full impacts and alternatives considering the location on the Oak Ridges Moraine through Core area and the Provincial Acts that have post-dated the TMP 2002. The test of ‘need’ was not demonstrated in this Class EA.

If you wish to contact us, feel free to do so.

Thank you.

Natalie Helferty, Past President
Marianne Yake, President
On behalf of the Executive

Bruce MacGregor, York Region Commissioner, Transportation & Works
Bryan Tuckey, York Region Commissioner, Planning & Development Services
Salim Alibhai, Project Manager, Roads, York Region Transportation & Works
Eugene Zawadowsky, Richmond Hill Commissioner Engineering & Public Works
Marcel Lanteigne, Manager Transportation, Richmond Hill Engineering & Public Works

Joan Anderton CAO, Town of Richmond Hill
David Barrow Deputy Mayor, Town of Richmond Hill
Brenda Hogg Regional Councillor, Town of Richmond Hill
Ana Bassios Planning Commissioner, Town of Richmond Hill
Vito Spatafora Ward Councillor, Town of Richmond Hill
Joe DiPaola Ward Councillor, Town of Richmond Hill

Minister John Gerretsen, Minister of Municipal Affairs, Province of Ontario
Gord Miller, Environmental Commissioner, Province of Ontario
Andre Marin, Ombudsman, Province of Ontario

Richmond Hill By-Law to Regulate Light Pollution
Greenbelt Act and Plan
Oak Ridges Moraine Act and Plan
Technical Papers for the ORMCP
ORC EA Screening Tool

Conservation Art Contest

These are my entries for the Ontario Public Service's Energy Conservation Art Contest...

Highway expansion may solve traffic congestion in the short-term, but it is not sustainable. Highway 401, shown here, has 18 lanes of traffic through Toronto and no more land available for expansion. We need to get cars off the road by providing better alternatives.

We all need to do our part to keep Ontario beautiful. This trillium was one of thousands seen on the Oak Ridges Moraine trail one morning in May 2007. These green spaces are treasures and we must treat them as such so future generations can also enjoy them.

If Geese Could Talk, Would We Listen?
We need to listen to the environment around us. Currently there is a huge dependency on economic growth. Oscar Wilde once said, “nowadays people know the cost of everything and the value of nothing”. What do we really value?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Nature-deficit disorder

It is sad to hear about the trend that children are spending less time connecting with nature. This article points out some negative effects this can have on their social, psychological, and spiritual development. Let's continue to protect and promote our natural places and car-free public spaces, for they are indeed treasures.


Nature-Deficit Disorder and Social Integration in Children
By Mario J. Alves
In an excellent interview the author Richard Louv points out that in the developed world children live in a bubble that is slowly disconnecting them from nature. In his recent book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, he coined the term "Nature-Deficit Disorder."

Several research studies around the world have shown that the lack of meaningful connection with natural areas leaves children spiritually and emotionally impoverished and ill-equipped to face their adult lives. In a study financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Schweizerischen Nationalfonds) and by the city of Zürich, Marco Hüttenmoser studied families using both qualitative and quantitative methods. One of the results: children who can not go outside to play without accompaniment already show at the age of five major deficits with regard to their motor and social skills. This is mostly due to the dangers of car-traffic and lack of suitable play environments near their home.

In a further study Hüttenmoser compared drawings made by children who walked to school with drawings from children who were driven to school by car. When asked to draw their journey to school, children showed very different patterns according to their method of transport.

Pedestrian childhood : Annina, 7 years

Children who walk to school draw a rich path with many details of nature, animals, and other people. Children who are driven to school draw the route, consisting of, at best, a road, a few cars, the school house, and home.

Auto-centric childhood: Roberto, 6 years

Cars not only have a direct impact on children - putting them in danger - but also an indirect impact - changing the streets where they play and depriving them of nature and social interaction. In a more recent project entitled "The contribution of good public spaces to social integration in urban neighbourhoods" Daniel Sauter and Marco Hüttenmoser studied - once again under the auspices of the Swiss National Science Foundation's "social inclusion and social exclusion" program - the effects of traffic on the social relations of residents living on streets with different traffic volumes and speeds in the city of Basel.

The results substantially confirmed the findings of the famous study by Appleyard and Lintel more then 30 years ago: residents who live on traffic-calmed streets have considerably more contacts and more intense social relationships with their neighbors. Moreover, those who live on streets with fewer and slower cars feel safer and use public space more often - only 24% of residents living in 50 km/hr streets claimed to linger occasionally in the street, 37% in 30 km/hr streets reported doing so, and 51% in strolling zones (shared-space with priority to pedestrians and a maximum speed of 20 km/hr). Children who are allowed to be outdoors on their own stay there considerably longer than other children.

In summary: traffic and the quality of the street environment have a substantial influence on the social life of neighborhoods, the use of public space and the personal feeling of being socially integrated. The results of the study show a fascinating spectrum of street life and interactions in the different settings and provide additional arguments for creating walking-friendly, livable street environments.

About the book....

"I like to play indoors better — cause that's where all the electrical outlets are," reports a fourth grader. But it's not only computers, television, and video games that are keeping kids inside. It's also their parents' fears of traffic, strangers, Lyme disease, and West Nile virus; their schools' emphasis on more and more homework; their structured schedules; and their lack of access to natural areas. Local governments, neighborhood associations, and even organizations devoted to the outdoors are placing legal and regulatory constraints on many wild spaces, sometimes making natural play a crime.

As children's connections to nature diminish and the social, psychological, and spiritual implications become apparent, new research shows that nature can offer powerful therapy for such maladies as depression, obesity, and attention-deficit disorder. Environment-based education dramatically improves standardized test scores and grade-point averages and develops skills in problem solving, critical thinking, and decision making. Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that childhood experiences in nature stimulate creativity.

In Last Child in the Woods, Louv talks with parents, children, teachers, scientists, religious leaders, child-development researchers, and environmentalists who recognize the threat and offer solutions. Louv shows us an alternative future, one in which parents help their kids experience the natural world more deeply — and find the joy of family connectedness in the process.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Cars a step backward in spiritual civilization

"I'm not sure about automobiles.... With all their speed forward they may be a step backward in civilization - that is, in spiritual civilization. It may be that they will not add to the beauty of the world, nor to the life of men's souls. I am not sure. But automobiles have come, and they bring a greater change in our life than most of us suspect. They are here, and almost all outward things are going to be different because of what they bring. They are going to alter war, and they are going to alter peace. I think men's minds are going to be changed in subtle ways because of automobiles; just how, though, I could hardly guess. But you can't have the immense outward changes that they will cause without some inward ones, and it may be that... the spiritual alteration will be bad for us. Perhaps, ten or twenty years from now, if we can see the inward change in men by that time, I shouldn't be able to defend the gasoline engine, but would have to agree...that automobiles 'had no business to be invented."

From Booth Tarkington's The Magnificent Ambersons, 1918


This blog exists to inspire change--to become more in harmony with nature in order to improve the quality of life for this and future generations.

"But the day soon came when the mountains began to leave them. It started with roads. Engineers in sola topis arrived with their sinister instruments and charted their designs on reams of paper. These were to be modern roads, they promised, roads that would hum with the swift passage of modern traffic. Roads, wide and heavy-duty, to replace scenic mountain paths too narrow for the broad vision of nation-builders and World Bank officials.

…Progress was slow at first, so slow that Mr. Kohlah and all the inhabitants of the hills harboured an irrational hope: the work would never be completed, their little haven would remain unscathed...
But the road continued to inch upwards, swallowing everything in its path. The sides of their beautiful hills were becoming gashed and scarred...

Then the promised rewards began rolling up the road into the mountains. Lorries big as houses transported goods from the cities and fouled the air with their exhaust. Service stations and eating places sprouted along the routes to provide for the machines and their men. And developers began to build luxury hotels."

Rohinton Mistry, A Fine Balance (1995), selections from pp. 259-61