July 2014


  1. 1 July 31, 2014
    1. 1.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  2. 2 July 30, 2014
    1. 2.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 2.2 The Truth About Natural Gas: A "Green" Bridge to Hell - ecowatch article by Naomi Oreskes,
  3. 3 July 29, 2014
    1. 3.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  4. 4 July 28, 2014
    1. 4.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 4.2 Cost of perfection may be unhealthy - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 4.3 Fracking in Nova Scotia should be put on hold to allow for more study: expert - The Guardian article
    4. 4.4 Tackling sustainability challenges - The Guardian Guest Opinion by article Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan
    5. 4.5 Taxpayers on financial hook - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  5. 5 July 27, 2014
    1. 5.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  6. 6 July 26, 2014
    1. 6.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 6.2 Hope in a Book: Michael Pollan’s Foreword to Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country, by Courtney White
  7. 7 By Michael Pollan December 2013
  8. 8 July 25, 2014
    1. 8.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  9. 9 July 24, 2014
    1. 9.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 9.2 Don’t blow the Water Act - The Journal-Pioneer Editorial
    3. 9.3 P.E.I. government an arrogant one - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  10. 10 July 23, 2014
    1. 10.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 10.2 Pesticides now a political issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 10.3 CETA’s pro-trade plan of great benefit to P.E.I. - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Gail Shea
    4. 10.4 On P.E.I., parents should know when it’s safe to use playground - The Guardian Lead Editorial
  11. 11 July 22, 2014
    1. 11.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 11.2 Announcing David Suzuki’s Blue Dot Tour
  12. 12 July 21, 2014
    1. 12.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 12.2 Group calls for pesticide ban near schools, seniors homes - The Guardian on-line article by Mitch MacDonald
  13. 13 July 20, 2014
    1. 13.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  14. 14 July 14, 2014
    1. 14.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  15. 15 July 13, 2014
    1. 15.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 15.2 Putting families ahead of lawns - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  16. 16 July 12, 2014
    1. 16.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 16.2 Fracking's long-term impacts still poorly understood - Cape Breton Post article by Jim Guy
  17. 17 July 11, 2014
    1. 17.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  18. 18 July 10, 2014
    1. 18.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 18.2 Chemicals Damages Many Life Forms - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  19. 19 July 9, 2014
    1. 19.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
  20. 20 July 8, 2014
    1. 20.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 20.2 Farm tour not balanced? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  21. 21 July 7, 2014
    1. 21.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 21.2 Another kind of media tour? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
    3. 21.3 Farmers fight back against unfair attacks - The Guardian main editorial
    4. 21.4 More lessons on pesticides - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  22. 22 July 6, 2014
    1. 22.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 22.2 Bill Trainor's Presentation to The Standing Committee on High Capacity Wells
  23. 23 July 5, 2014
    1. 23.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 23.2 Party getting out of hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor
  24. 24 July 4, 2014
    1. 24.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 24.2 A Twenty-First Century Water War Erupts in Texas - Earth Island Journal article exerpt by James William Gibson
  25. 25 July 3, 2014
    1. 25.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 25.2 Toxic economic farming model done on P.E.I. - The Guardian Guest Opinion by John Hopkins
    3. 25.3 Time to fight back - The Journal-Pioneer Letter to the Editor
  26. 26 July 2, 2014
    1. 26.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update
    2. 26.2 This Canada Day spread the word that environmental laws matter - Ecojustice article by Darcie Bennett
  27. 27 July 1, 2014
    1. 27.1 Chris Ortenburger's Update

July 31, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It has been a week since the David Suzuki Foundation announced the Blue Dot Tour, his last cross-country trek to visit every province and discuss the concept of environmental rights, bringing along some Canadian talent to share the stage with.

The tour's launch date was set a while back, apparently, but the PEI location wasn't set until much closer to that date; there has been some confusion and some of their materials still have the default main PEI event location on them.  On behalf of the Citizens' Alliance, we will be in touch with the folks on Vancouver to point out some inaccuracies and find out more details.

Blue Dot Tour home page:

So the PEI stop is Monday, September, 29th, 7PM, at Summerside (Harbourfront Theatre).
more  info:

So do plan to come, if at all possible -- it should be a great evening for all.  Tickets are still available and in the price range of about $60, $40, and $25 for students.

Why "Blue Dot"?
The Apollo astronauts in the 1960s first called the Earth a "pale blue marble", and astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan called it the "pale blue dot", as he requested the Voyager unmanned planetary craft turn, right before it left our Solar System, and take one shot back at Earth.  There, with a little sunlight distortion, was this tiny blue dot:

Earth (marked with arrow) is a tiny blue dot seen from the edge of our Solar System.  Photo credit: University of Hawaii

From The Planetary Society ("Empowering the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration"), the text Sagan wrote:

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

Sagan's audio recording of his words have been set to images; this powerful one is here (3 and some minutes):

An aside, from The Atlantic on-line, editor Rebecca Rosen's writes:
"A peek into the evolution of a beloved passage."

July 30, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Stanley Bridge Centre Farms (9AM - 1PM) and Charlottetown (9AM - 2PM)  both have Farmers' Markets open today.

And tonight is "The Master's Wife" at Orwell Corner, 7:30PM.  I think tonight and next Wednesday are the final two performances at Orwell.
This is yet another long read, but critically looks at the many of the arguments made in North America that natural gas from fracking would be that "bridge to renewables".   It focuses on the U.S., but reminds us what is at stake in our little corner of things.


The Truth About Natural Gas: A "Green" Bridge to Hell - ecowatch article by Naomi Oreskes,

An excerpt,bold is mine:

Albert Einstein is rumored to have said that one cannot solve a problem with the same thinking that led to it. Yet this is precisely what we are now trying to do with climate change policy. The Obama administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many environmental groups, and the oil and gas industry all tell us that the way to solve the problem created by fossil fuels is with more fossils fuels. We can do this, they claim, by using more natural gas, which is touted as a “clean” fuel—even a “green” fuel.

Like most misleading arguments, this one starts from a kernel of truth. That truth is basic chemistry: when you burn natural gas, the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) produced is, other things being equal, much less than when you burn an equivalent amount of coal or oil. It can be as much as 50 percent less compared with coal, and 20 percent to 30 percent less compared with diesel fuel, gasoline, or home heating oil. When it comes to a greenhouse gas (GHG) heading for the atmosphere, that’s a substantial difference. It means that if you replace oil or coal with gas without otherwise increasing your energy usage, you can significantly reduce your short-term carbon footprint.>>

<<What this means is that most of the benefit natural gas offers comes not from the gas itself, but from how it is burnedand this is mostly because gas plants tend to be new and use more efficient burning technologies. The lesson, not surprisingly: if you burn a fuel using twenty-first century technology, you get a better result than with late nineteenth or twentieth century technology. This is not to defend coal, but to provide an important reality check on the discussion now taking place in this country. There is a real benefit to burning gas in America, but it’s less than often claimed, and much of that benefit comes from using modern techniques and new equipment. (If the coal industry weren’t so busy denying the reality of climate change, they might publicize this fact.)>>

A little more from Naomi Oreskes and the TomDispatch.com "A Regular Antidote to the Mainstream Media":

July 29, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

European decisions, some Canadian reactions:

A sigh of relief, for now:
Trade-wise, Germany appears ready to reject the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), but it's not just about us, it's with any eye for their future trade deals with the United States.  The sticking point, which has been repeatedly brought up by the Island groups critical of CETA  -- but not mentioned much by federal government people pushing it --  is about corporations suing a state.

Applause from The Council of Canadians:

A swift intact of breath:
U.K. going "all out for fracking"

From their Business and Energy Minister, Matthew Hancock, "Ultimately, done right, speeding up shale will mean more jobs and opportunities for people and help ensure long-term economic and energy security for our country,.”

And if not "done right":
from an anonymous comment on the website article:
"Poisoning the water tables that have taken thousands of years to form and causing unknown changes to pressure plates that balance the earth's stability. We are like moths flying into the fire. Insanity, just plain insanity."

July 28, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some letters and an article from last week's Guardian, on various topics, but worth a read:

On Cosmetic Pesticides:

Cost of perfection may be unhealthy - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 26, 2014 As a frequent visitor to your beautiful province I have noticed many aspects of Island life which I think other jurisdictions could learn from — recycling and courteous driving are the first two that come to mind.

However, this obsession with perfectly manicured lawns has me puzzled. Almost without exception, the predominant landscaping theme appears to be to remove all trees and shrubbery and replace it with massive neatly trimmed expanses of grass.

The golf courses are equally complicit in this regard. But we all know this comes at a price, and while it is heartening to hear that there is a small but committed minority raising the alarms about rampant pesticide use, their concerns aren’t being taken seriously.

While the rest of the country is waking up to the clear environmental and health risks of this practice, I am afraid that the local culture here seems a bit resistant to change. For those of us that just pass through each summer, the effects are minimal.

But for everyone else who calls this lovely Island home, and more importantly for their offspring, the desire for perfection will come at a very high price.

I hope that a change will come before the effects are irreversible and that P.E.I. will continue to be a healthy, peaceful place for future generations of Islanders and tourists alike.

Ian Dobson, Thunder Bay, ON

An Update on the Wheeler Commission on Hydraulic Fracturing:
Dr. David Wheeler is saying he won't tell the government in Nova Scotia to keep the moratorium, but he says fracking should not go ahead until a broader public discussion is had and more research is completed.  So the review is not a rubber stamp, I hope.


Fracking in Nova Scotia should be put on hold to allow for more study: expert - The Guardian article

Published on July 25, 2014

HALIFAX - The head of a panel reviewing the potential for hydraulic fracturing in Nova Scotia says the province should not allow the industry to proceed until a broader public discussion is held and more research is completed.

David Wheeler, president of Cape Breton University, says the province needs more time to get up to speed with the rapidly expanding unconventional oil and gas industry.

Nova Scotia imposed a two-year moratorium on fracking in 2012 as public concern grew over the potential impact of high-volume fracking.

Wheeler's comments come as his independent panel is about to wrap up a series of stormy public meetings, where the vast majority of participants said they were opposed to fracking.

The panel is expected to release a final report with recommendations next month, but Wheeler stressed his experts won't tell the province what it should do about the moratorium.

However, Wheeler says the panel will recommend that once the public has had a broader conversation and more research is completed, it should be up to The communities to decide whether to allow fracking within their borders.

Reasoned commentary on the world environmental status:

Tackling sustainability challenges - The Guardian Guest Opinion by article Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan

Published on July 25, 2014

With the purpose of expanding and strengthening the role of the present United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA), a new governing body of the UPEP, with representatives from all UN member states,  was conceived by the world leaders at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Subsequently, a landmark inaugural meeting of the UNEA was convened last month in Nairobi, Kenya, from 23 to 27 June 2014. Over 1,200 high-level participants attended this historic meeting —the highest-level UN body ever convened to discuss environmental sustainability issues.

“With its augmented role as a subsidiary organ of the UN General Assembly, UNEA has the mandate and capacity to position the environment alongside peace and security, poverty reduction, global health, trade and sustainable economic growth as an issue of crucial importance to every government,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at this momentous meeting.

Also, Ban Ki-moon emphasized the need for unwavering action to change humanity’s relationship with planet Earth. Protecting our life-supporting system of the Earth is integral to sustainable development.

He said forcefully and succinctly: “The air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil that grows our food are part of a delicate global ecosystem that is increasingly under pressure from human activities. As our population grows, we have to recognize that our consumption of the planet’s resources is unsustainable. We see the heavy hand of humankind everywhere — from tropical deforestation to depleted ocean fisheries; from growing freshwater shortages to increasingly polluted skies and seas, land and water in many parts of the world; from the rapid decline of biodiversity to the growing menace of climate change.”

The opening session of UNEA dealt with mounting environmental problems such as illegal wildlife trade, chemical waste, air pollution, and new development goals.  Comprehending the fact that every second around 200 tonnes of plastic wastes are dumped into the world’s oceans is difficult. The fragile marine ecosystems are increasing jeopardized, despite our growing awareness of the problem, and the financial damage alone amounts to $13 billion a year, according to a recent UN estimate.

Environmental crime epidemic, such as  poaching and trafficking of a wide range of animals, illegal fisheries, illegal mining and dumping of toxic waste, among other things, poses a shocking threat to security and development, according to a recent report from the UNEP and INTERPOL. The monetary value of all environmental crime is worth up to US$213 billion each year, compared with global Overseas Development Assistance of around US$135 billion a year.

“Beyond immediate environmental impacts, the illegal trade in natural resources is depriving developing economies of billions of dollars in lost revenues just to fill the pockets of criminals,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim. “Sustainable development, livelihoods, good governance and the rule of law are all being threatened as significant sums of money are flowing to militias and terrorist groups.”

Given ever more disquieting state of the global environment, we have entered a new era in tackling the Gordian knot of sustainability challenges of the 21st century. First and foremost, a transition from inherently unsustainable development trajectory to sustainable development trajectory requires a fundamental change in our socioeconomic system. Surprisingly, four decades have gone by since the 1972 UN Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Over the years, there has been no dearth of international conferences, UN summits, and mountains of scientific reports that have dealt with sustainability crisis of our time. Yet, the crisis has been deepening. It is time to recognize the obvious fact that the root cause of the sustainability crisis has not been addressed at all.  We have been trying to move towards sustainable development path without changing the system which is contributing to the problem. At levels of decision-making, we continue to think ‘inside the box’ rather than thinking ‘outside the box’ for taking bold action to cut the Gordian knot of sustainability.

Human and nature dynamics (HANDY), a mathematical model of developed by Motessarrie, Rivas and Kalny (2014), published in latest issue of Ecological Economics, shows that unsustainable exploitation of natural resources or increasingly unequal wealth distribution can independently lead to collapse of modern societies. Societal collapse can be averted if the rate of deletion of natural capital can be reduced to a sustainable level, with an equitable distribution of resources. The validity of this handy model lies in reproducing the irreversible collapses of past societies.

Just two years ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon reminded the world community, during his opening statement at Rio+20, that our efforts in dealing with climate change and environment “have not lived up to the measure of the challenge.” He said: “Nature does not wait. Nature does not negotiate with human beings.”

Against the backdrop of what is going on in the global environmental landscape, it is time to reflect and ponder whether Homosapiens would be able to avert the possible collapse of modern societies with wisdom and foresight.  Will UNEA pave the way for taking a sharp U- turn in moving towards sustainable development trajectory? Time will tell.

 Dr. Palanisamy Nagarajan is emeritus professor of economics and Island Studies Teaching Fellow, University of Prince Edward Island.

And just a give-your-head-a-shake letter:

Taxpayers on financial hook - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 23, 2014

Whose money was allegedly misappropriated by Senator Duffy?

Whose money was it that paid for the year-long investigation by the RCMP? Whose money will be used for a very lengthy trial, probably costing many millions? If the accused is convicted, whose money will be used to pay for his incarceration and rehabilitation?

The answer is you, the taxpayer, will bear the cost.

It is amazing that one citizen can singlehandedly change the political landscape of a nation. Mr. Duffy may well become the most important Islander in history.

Meanwhile, taxpayers’ money flows unrelentingly down the 1864 drain — bread and circuses.

M. Raymond Moore, Charlottetown

July 27, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight is the Bonshaw Ceilidh, 7PM, Bonshaw Hall.  More details:

A couple of interesting articles, for Sunday reading:

From EcoWatch, a sobering article on how fracking is changing everything in Appalachia, "How Fracking Changed the World."


Labels that help a consumer make better environmental choices:

Eco-watch article on ecologically useful labels for purchases


From Nature PEI (Natural History Society), a blog entry from the Canadian Wildlife Federation about bats and the Species at Risk list.  Bats have been decimated by White Nose Syndrome.  I know I haven't seen any bats since earlier this summer, and we were pretty batty here in Bonshaw.

Comments from the public are welcome and might help. Deadline is August 18th.  Read more here.


And another "Could this possibly happen in PEI? -- some waters off California are so polluted that fishing and tourism are affected.   California businesses band together for environmental protection of their livelihood connected with the ocean.

July 26, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Summer food gathering, as it is Saturday, there are local farmers' markets open in:
Stanley Bridge (new for Saturdays, I think),
Montague Waterfront and
Murray Harbour Farmers' Market
There are still lots of salad and other greens, in addition to small beets and new potatoes and such.  :-)
Summer food reading...save for another day, if you have to, but it's worth it.

There is an (superlatives fail me -- he's just extraordinary) writer named Michael Pollan, whose most "famous" book perhaps is The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.    The library and bookstores have it.  It chronicles the origins of four meals -- a fast-food meal, an industrial organic convenience food, a home cooked meal at a self-sufficient farm, and wild-caught (hunter-gatherer) meal, and revealed a great deal about corn production and high-fructose corn syrup and such.   Pollan became one of the spokesman for responsible and local food production, along with writer and chef Alice Waters. 

So he gets asked to read and write forwards for others' books on related-issues, as he did for Courtney White's book,  Grass, Soil, Hope.

From the website about the book:
A former archaeologist and Sierra Club activist, (Courtney) White dropped out of the 'conflict industry' in 1997 to co-found the Quivira Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to building bridges between ranchers, conservationists, public land managers, scientists, and others around the idea of land health (www.quiviracoalition.org). Today, his work with Quivira concentrates on building economic and ecological resilience on working landscapes, with a special emphasis on carbon ranching and the new agrarian movement.

His writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Farming, Acres Magazine, Rangelands, Natural Resources Journal, and Solutions. His essay "The Working Wilderness: A Call for a Land Health Movement" was published by Wendell Berry in 2005 in his collection of essays titled The Way of Ignorance.

Courtney is the author of the book Revolution on the Range: the Rise of a New Ranch in the American West, and he co-edited, with Dr. Rick Knight, Conservation for a New Generation, both published by Island Press in 2008.

(Chris's note: This Island Press is located in Washington, D.C., and deals primarily with environmental issues: http://islandpress.org/press/about.html

The website for the book: http://www.chelseagreen.com/bookstore/item/grass_soil_hope/

And (finally) here is Michael Pollan's beautiful preface, originally posted on the Organic Consumers Association website:

Hope in a Book: Michael Pollan’s Foreword to Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country, by Courtney White

  • By Michael Pollan
    December 2013

Hope in a book about the environmental challenges we face in the twenty-first century is an audacious thing to promise, so I’m pleased to report that Courtney White delivers on it. He has written a stirringly hopeful book, and yet it is not the least bit dreamy or abstract. To the contrary, Grass, Soil, Hope is deeply rooted in the soil of science and the practical work of farming.

Grass, Soil, Hope is at the same time a challenging book, in that it asks us to reconsider our pessimism about the human engagement with the rest of nature. The bedrock of that pessimism is our assumption that human transactions with nature are necessarily zero-sum: for us to wrest whatever we need or want from nature—food, energy, pleasure—means nature must be diminished. More for us means less for it. Examples of this trade-off are depressingly easy to find. Yet there are counterexamples that point to a way out of that dismal math, the most bracing of which sit at the heart of this book.

Consider what happens when the sun shines on a grass plant rooted in the earth. Using that light as a catalyst, the plant takes atmospheric CO2, splits off and releases the oxygen, and synthesizes liquid carbon–sugars, basically. Some of these sugars go to feed and build the aerial portions of the plant we can see, but a large percentage of this liquid carbon—somewhere between 20 and 40 percent—travels underground, leaking out of the roots and into the soil. The roots are feeding these sugars to the soil microbes—the bacteria and fungi that inhabit the rhizosphere—in exchange for which those microbes provide various services to the plant: defense, trace minerals, access to nutrients the roots can’t reach on their own. That liquid carbon has now entered the microbial ecosystem, becoming the bodies of bacteria and fungi that will in turn be eaten by other microbes in the soil food web. Now, what had been atmospheric carbon (a problem) has become soil carbon, a solution—and not just to a single problem, but to a great many problems.

Besides taking large amounts of carbon out of the air—tons of it per acre when grasslands are properly managed, according to White—that process at the same time adds to the land’s fertility and its capacity to hold water. Which means more and better food for us. There it is: a non-zero-sum transaction.

This process of returning atmospheric carbon to the soil works even better when ruminants are added to the mix. Every time a calf or lamb shears a blade of grass, that plant, seeking to rebalance its “root-shoot ratio,” sheds some of its roots. These are then eaten by the worms, nematodes, and microbes—digested by the soil, in effect, and so added to its bank of carbon. This is how soil is created: from the bottom up.

To seek to return as much carbon to the soil as possible makes good ecological sense, since roughly a third of the carbon now in the atmosphere originally came from there, released by the plow and agriculture’s various other assaults, including deforestation. (Agriculture as currently practiced contributes about a third of greenhouse gases, more than all of transportation.) For thousands of years we grew food by depleting soil carbon and, in the last hundred or so, the carbon in fossil fuel as well. But now we know how to grow even more food while at the same time returning carbon and fertility and water to the soil. This is what I mean by non-zero-sum, which is really just a fancy term for hope.

It has long been the conventional wisdom of science that it takes eons to create an inch of soil (and but a single season to destroy it). This book brings the exceptionally good news that this conventional wisdom no longer holds: with good husbandry, it is possible to create significant amounts of new soil in the course of a single generation. The farmers and the scientists who are figuring this out are the heroes of Grass, Soil, Hope.

The book takes the form of a travelogue, a journey to the grassy frontiers of agriculture. Some of these frontiers White finds in the unlikeliest of places: on Colin Seis’s “pasture cropping” farm in Australia, where annual grains are seeded directly into perennial pastures; on John Wick’s cattle ranch in Marin County, California, where a single application of compost has roused the soil microbiota to astonishing feats of productivity and carbon capture; in the tenth-of-an-acre “edible forest” that Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates planted, according to the principles of permaculture, right behind their house in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Each of these chapters constitutes a case study in what is rightly called “regenerative agriculture.” Taken together, they point the way to a radically different future of farming than the one we usually hear about—the one in which, we’re told, we must intensify the depredations (and trade- offs) of agriculture in order to feed a growing population. Courtney White’s book points to very different idea of intensification—one that also brings forth more food from the same land but, by making the most of sunlight, grass, and carbon, promises to heal the land at the same time. There just may be a free lunch after all. Prepare to meet some of the visionaries who have mastered the recipe.

Michael Pollan Berkeley, California December 2013

You can purchase “Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey through Carbon Country,” by Courtney White, at a 35-percent discount (good through Dec. 31, 2014). Go here  and enter the discount code: CGP35


What a lovely, hopeful bit of writing.

July 25, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Midsummer Updates
What some groups of people like you have been watching and acting on this summer:

The Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water will watch how government plans to work on the water policy announced last month.  The Coalition sent a letter to the Premier and Minister and others with suggestions on how the process would be inclusive and transparent.  Lots of background, including various groups' submissions to the Standing Committee at http://peiwater.com/

Don't Frack PEI
is keeping an eye on the Nova Scotia Expert Panel Review of fracking, public meetings taking place this week and next.  It bears watching.  Andrew Lush attended the meeting and published some thoughts at  http://dontfrackpei.com/web/ 

(On a side Plan B-note:  He has also pointed out a few weeks ago some problems with the not-so-realigned driveway from Plan to the Strathgartney Equestrian Park, and how tricky driving to the Park with a horse trailer is.  TIR has had a crew out there to "mitigate" things recently.)

FairVote/Leadnow is meeting regularly ("Connect" meetings, the first Thursday of each month, usually in Charlottetown, usually at the Haviland Club) to discuss raising awareness about proportional representation and making that an outcome after the next federal election.  Several events are taking place in August which they are involved in.

Food Exchange PEI has been a big promoter of the garden plots at the Legacy Garden behind the Farm Centre on University Avenue, and holds workshops aimed at helping people enjoy food and be empowered to grow and process their own.
The next thing is a Kale Workshop this Saturday, 10AM, Farm Centre, free.

Gary Schneider of Macphail Woods, in addition to hosting summer camps for kids and workshops for everyone, went to the Atlantic Agrologists' convention on day this week in Stanley Bridge, participating in a forum about farming and the high capacity well issue.  He felt it was a positive session and that a lot of issues about farming today and in the future were aired.

Pesticide Free PEI has called on the provincial government to -- at the very least -- immediately implement buffer zones from cosmetic pesticide spraying around places where children and seniors are. They continue to meet regularly and encourage Islanders to write letters to the editor and copy to their MLAs about this issue. 

The NDP-PEI immediately endorsed the call for the buffer zones; they also recently reminded Islanders and government that the details about last year's fish kills were never released.

SOSS Save Our Seas and Shores has also been meeting regularly, and recently followed up with a letter to Premier Ghiz about their meeting, with additional questions about PEI's role in protecting the Gulf and additional resources about sustainable energy production.

and is promoting The Blue Whale Campaign

And what has our provincial government been doing?
the finished the Upton Road/Charlottetown Bypass this week, and announced plans to move a church and reduce a curve in Tryon.  Both projects were eligible for use with the Atlantic Gateway money (the "50-cent dollars") and this was confirmed by the chief engineer in a meeting with Premier Ghiz and Minister Vessey two years ago.
Both projects appear to have had consultation about the actual plan chosen *before* construction started.

To the Department of Tourism Parks' credit, they did deliver five picnic tables and a few garbage cans back to Bonshaw Provincial Park, as all "infrastructure" was removed before Prince Charles came along for his stroll.
(Parks are inexplicably in a division called "Corporate Services" in the department.)
And you probably know that David Suzuki is taking up the cause of environmental rights legislation as his last major project across the country.  He is coming to PEI in Monday, September 29th, 2014, to Summerside. Info and ticket link:  http://bluedot.ca/the-tour/

Apologies for any errors in the updates above.

July 24, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Last weekend The Green Party of Canada held its convention in Fredericton, NB, and
from The Green Party PEI press release:
The Green Party of Canada honoured Darcie Lanthier with the 2014 Community Involvement Award for her active participation in many community groups; Pesticide Free PEI, Voluntary Resource Council, Coalition for the Protection of PEI Water, Home & School Association, Women's Institute, Citizen's Alliance, PEI Food Exchange, Legacy Garden, Green Drinks Charlottetown in addition to serving at both the federal and provincial levels of the Green Party.
She also is a fantastic cook, wife, mother and energy efficiency expert.  And she is a wonderful henkeeper.

The Journal-Pioneer weighs in, its lead editorial a breezy gust not-from-Charlottetown:

Don’t blow the Water Act - The Journal-Pioneer Editorial

Published on July 23, 2014

For many faiths water is a sacred element. It has been used in a thousand different ways since the dawn of human time.

Life cannot exist without it.

So how sobering a thought it is that we here on Prince Edward Island are metaphorically floating on a raft of fresh water in an ocean of salt.

P.E.I.’s fresh water supply is entirely supplied by groundwater.

If something happens to that supply. Game over.

Islanders would have to either invest in hugely expensive desalination plants to replace our supply or pack up shop and head for the mainland.

This reminder of water’s importance is notable because the government of Prince Edward Island is set to bring in a Water Act.

This act will, presumably, encompass any and all rules and regulations for accessing and utilizing this shared resource.

Premier Robert Ghiz and his government should be commended for doing this.

Frankly the fact this gaping hole in our legislation has been overlooked for so long is stupefying.

Ah well, hindsight is a wonderful thing.

In any case, this act has now been proposed and work on it will soon start, if that hasn’t happened already.

Those doing the writing need to keep some things in mind.

They would have done well to be in Stanley Bridge over the last couple of days, where a meeting of the Atlantic Province’s agrologists were discussing all things water.

Many of the professionals in attendance, scientists, environmentalists, business people, etc. were deeply concerned about the future of the Island’s fresh water supply.

Some asked why current and past recommendations by scientists have yet to be implemented, other’s questioned the validity of what science has already been done and still more lamented the politicizing of the issue.

Several people questioned whether or not this water act will be a slapped together affair – a token move to kick the proverbial can of debate further down the road.

One visiting businessman from the United Kingdom commented that in his country, they’ve been fighting over water rights for 10 years.

So how is P.E.I. supposed to do that in a year? Or however long the province expects to take to write this document?

These are all valid concerns.

We can’t afford to ignore them.

Our future on this Island depends on them.

F. Ben Rodgers writes very good letters, usually making me smile or grimace.

P.E.I. government an arrogant one - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 22, 2014, in The Guardian

I believe the real arrogance of this government began on the night of the last election when Robert Ghiz chastised the people of Souris over the airwaves for not re-electing Alan Campbell. He stated Mr. Campbell was a great guy and would have a job in the premier’s office tomorrow.

The present direction of this government concerns me. I’m referring to the probable removal of the moratorium on deep wells asked for by the potato industry.

Six months ago on CBC Compass, Environment Minister Janice Sherry stated she had received reports dealing with the issues concerning deep wells. The interviewer asked would she make them public? The minister said no, they were for her info only. Six months later, still no info. Such arrogance.

This minister needs reminding whom she works for, who pays her salary. The last time I checked it wasn’t the potato industry. Now it appears the lifting of the moratorium is a done deal. George Webster is in the provincial cabinet, which will decide the issue. Strange, isn’t Webster a potato farmer?

Then we have two defeated Liberals working on behalf of the potato industry lobbying to lift the moratorium. It all seems a little bit slanted in favour of a large industrial corporation.

The seriousness of this issue, if it becomes a done deal, is we can’t go back. It’s not like the other issues such as Plan B or the HST. This is about the survival of our Island, of risking the one sustaining and precious resource life depends on.

If government goes ahead with this reckless and irresponsible action it will be too late to reverse the damage. I ask the question, is this really what government wants to do? What about future generations, politicians have children/grandchildren too.  

 It’s difficult to understand why I have to write this letter of protest. The interests of government should follow the same lines as the majority of Islanders. They should share our concerns and act on the promises made during election campaigns.

Remember the last election campaign, they came to our doors smiling and promising to work on our behalf. Well, it is past the time for Robert Ghiz and his government to do the right thing.  The Island can’t risk deep-water wells simply because a few greedy corporations can grow more potatoes.

F. Ben Rodgers, Abram Village

PS  I am not sure of details, but I think tickets for David Suzuki's Blue Dot tour are set to go on sale today at noon.  http://bluedot.ca/  and go to "The Tour" choice on the top bar.   However, the website may not be caught up with the PEI stop details yet, which are Monday, September 29th, 7PM, Harbourfront Theatre.

July 23, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Islanders standing up on lawn pesticides:

Despite no promise of public consultations or of a timeline, the Department of Environment is feeling public pressure and considering the call by Pesticide Free PEI for buffer zones around areas where children and seniors are. 

Pesticide Free meeting tonight, 7PM, Trinity United Church Hall, corner of Prince and Richmond Streets, Charlottetown.

In Monday's Guardian:

Pesticides now a political issue - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 21, 2014

Pesticides have been in the media a lot lately. And it's not good news.

- National Geographic is calling them a "Second Silent Spring," referring to biologist Rachel Carson's groundbreaking book written 50-plus years ago about the harmful effects of pesticides;

- The Globe and Mail released an article about pesticides being linked to causing autism from a recent study in California;

- the Ontario government just announced they are taking action by planning to reduce or eliminate the use of neonicotinoids - a class of pesticides implicated in the mass deaths of bees.

And the problem on P.E.I. is that we use a disproportionate amount of pesticides for such a small area. We spray our lawns with cosmetic pesticides, we have a lot of golf courses that use large amounts of pesticides and the biggest culprit of all is the 85,000 acres of potatoes that are sprayed up to 20 times a season.  

Let's hope the government of P.E.I. takes swift action, especially given the recent onslaught of scientific proof of the detrimental effects and bans cosmetic pesticides which so many people have been asking for, for so many years. It's gotten old and tired, but now that the media is picking it up maybe that will be the incentive for the government to act. Kind of like how Premier Ghiz so quickly changed the legislation on the order of P.E.I. issue.  

Pesticides are a political issue, sadly, and they are impacting the health of the people and the environment of P.E.I., possibly being responsible for our high cancer rates. I think most people would say they believe there is a likely chance for this to be true. Being willfully blind to this cannot continue, not with so much evidence. Who's going to be the politician to step up to this issue?

Maureen Kerr, Pesticide Free P.E.I.

And even The Guardian's lead editorial on Tuesday was about the issue. 

"Kids, seniors deserve our protection"
It's a bit winded, but starts with "On P.E.I., parents should know when it's safe to use playground" and ends with:
In the absence of agreement on a cosmetic pesticide ban, Pesticide Free P.E.I.’s call for a buffer zone around playgrounds and senior citizen facilities seems like a sensible one and something the province should ensure takes place.
The entire text is at the end of this Update.

Let me be clear -- Gail Shea is channeling her inner Harper:

CETA’s pro-trade plan of great benefit to P.E.I. - The Guardian Guest Opinion by Gail Shea

Published on July 21, 2014

Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada’s economy. It is even more so in these globally challenging economic times. Indeed, trade today is equivalent in size to some 60 per cent of Canada’s annual Gross Domestic Product and one out of every five Canadian jobs is dependent on exports.

When we trade, we become more competitive. Prices for goods and services go down. Wages, salaries and our standard of living go up, and businesses are able to hire more workers. All this is why our government has put so much effort into expanding market access for business people and investors here in Prince Edward Island as well as right across Canada.

Our government’s pro-trade plan is about creating economic growth and jobs in every region, rather than “advancing the rights of businesses” as a recent letter to the Charlottetown Guardian inaccurately suggested.

Since trade today can extend beyond the import and export of goods to encompass a vast number of business connections, Canada’s free trade agreements include provisions concerning foreign direct investments – an important input into the creation of new jobs and business innovation.     

The Canada-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA) is no exception. CETA’s investment rules provide greater certainty, transparency and protection to Canadians who want to invest in the EU and will ensure that EU-member governments treat Canadian businesses no less favourably than they do EU businesses.

These new investment rules will ensure that markets remain open while protecting Canadian businesses against arbitrary government measures that discriminate in favour of domestic companies.

Let me be clear, there is absolutely nothing in CETA or any other Canadian trade agreement that restricts the ability of a national, provincial or local government to regulate and legislate in areas designed to protect the environment, public health and safety, our water supply, our health-care system, culture and a myriad of other such fields. Under CETA, foreign investors, like domestic companies, are subject to and must abide by the laws and regulations of Canada and P.E.I..

Despite the fear-mongering of CETA’s anti-trade critics, the reality is that this agreement will be of great benefit to P.E.I. across all sectors of our economy.

For example, tariffs on Canadian exports in the EU currently range from nearly 18 per cent for frozen French fries, to an incredible 25 per cent for seafood. When this agreement comes into force, 96 per cent of tariffs for fish and seafood products will be lifted. In the first year alone, the lobster industry stands to save $6.7 million. Seven years into the agreement, the last of the tariffs will disappear, and our lobster products can be sold completely duty-free. The long-term benefits of increased exports to Europe mean more jobs, higher wages, and greater prosperity.

Gail Shea is Egmont MP and Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Lead Guardian  editorial from yesterday:


On P.E.I., parents should know when it’s safe to use playground - The Guardian Lead Editorial

The issue of banning cosmetic pesticide use on Prince Edward Island has been a political hot potato for some time now. And, as with all such controversial debates, the devil is always in the details.

The issue is back in the news following some weekend advocacy by a group called Pesticide Free P.E.I. It is a grassroots organization that advocates for the prevention of what it terms pesticide-related health risks. On the weekend, the group reiterated its belief the provincial government should enact legislation protecting children and seniors from the potential risks of cosmetic pesticides.

While the group would be made most happy by seeing a complete ban on cosmetic pesticide use, for the time being it would be satisfied if the province moved to protect some of society’s most vulnerable citizens — children and seniors. It wants to ban spraying cosmetic pesticides near playgrounds, day cares, schools, bus stops, hospitals and senior citizen complexes.

Roger Gordon, a spokesman for the group and former UPEI biologist, said the request for a 25-metre buffer zone near those areas would be similar to a current requirement for homeowners. Residents who spray their lawns with cosmetic pesticides must give advance notice to all their neighbours within a 25-metre radius of when the spraying will take place.

Mr. Gordon and the group say it doesn’t make sense that while residents get notice when spraying is about to take place, there’s no provision to let children and their parents know when the area around a playground is being sprayed. What parent hasn’t heard the call from the wee ones in the back seat to stop at a colourful and fun looking playground. It would be nice to know a spraying program had not just taken place. And when it comes to children, Pesticide Free P.E.I. says there are studies that have found children are at a greater risk for harm from cosmetic pesticides than adults.

P.E.I. doesn’t have a ban on cosmetic pesticide use, but it does ban a key chemical ingredient that is used in many pesticides.

Of course, cosmetic pesticide use is only part of the pesticide debate in the province. There is also the issue of agricultural chemical spraying that is used to control pests. In the past, runoff from agriculture chemicals has found its way into Island streams with deadly results for fish. The industry has responded with better stewardship of the land, which is designed to prevent runoffs from reaching our precious waterways.

At least when it comes to agriculture pesticide use, the industry can argue the spraying is necessary to enable farmers to grow their crops and make a living. Farmers will argue that given the choice, they would just as soon not have to spray costly chemicals. Critics of cosmetic spraying argue that having a nicer looking lawn isn’t worth the price of causing health problems to neighbours or fellow citizens.

One of the areas where the call for a ban on cosmetic pesticide use gets dicey is when it comes to controlling legitimate insect or weed infestations. For example, is it realistic to expect homeowners to stand by and allow their house to become overrun with ants or some other undesirable visitor? Of course, there is usually more than one way to control such things, and the answer doesn’t always have to come from a spray can.

So the debate goes round and round.

In the absence of agreement on a cosmetic pesticide ban, Pesticide Free P.E.I.’s call for a buffer zone around playgrounds and senior citizen facilities seems like a sensible one and something the province should ensure takes place.

July 22, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Tonight the second of three free Transition Island Talks is at the Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, at 7PM. Tonight features Mike Thususka from Summerside about their wind farm.

And speaking of the Summerside, mark you calendars for Monday, September 29th, when David Suzuki is stopping in PEI for what's likely to be his last cross country tour, to share the concept of environmental rights.

Things are still in the planning stages, which is why the location may be listed on the tour page as Charlottetown instead of Summerside, but more details will follow. 
It's great timing as the Citizens' Alliance will be hosting a workshop in early September for folks interested in being involved in a PEI working group on the concept of environmental rights, in conjunction with East Coast Environmental Law Association.
We have been invited to help host the PEI stop of David Suzuki's Blue Dot Tour. 
And the concept of environmental right is sure to be a focus of our Citizens' Alliance first annual general meeting on Saturday, October 11th. 

Take care,
Chris O.,

from an e-mail:

Announcing David Suzuki’s Blue Dot Tour

The David Suzuki Foundation is excited to announce the Blue Dot Tour, a cross country celebration featuring David Suzuki and a star-studded line up of Canadian performers, artists and leaders.

Between September 24th and November 9th, David Suzuki and the Blue Dot Tour will visit 20 communities from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Vancouver, BC. From engaging community events to spectacular concert experiences, this once in a lifetime experience is not to be missed.

The Blue Dot Tour is the celebration of a simple yet powerful idea: that all Canadians should have the right to drink clean water, breathe fresh air and eat healthy food. 

(Suzuki and other are touring) for one simple reason: they believe that by coming together to take action locally, we can guarantee that all Canadians will have the right to a healthy environment no matter who they are, or where they live.

Website for The Blue Dot Tour

July 21, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

In today's print Guardian (and on-line over the weekend), is a story about the call from Pesticide Free PEI to the Department of the Environment to create buffer zones from cosmetic pesticides to protect the most vulnerable.  My understanding is that buffer zones would not call for new *legislation*,  just *action* by the Department of Environment.


Group calls for pesticide ban near schools, seniors homes - The Guardian on-line article by Mitch MacDonald

Published on-line on July 19, 2014

A group of Islanders is calling on the province to enact legislation protecting children and seniors from the potential risks of cosmetic pesticides.  Pesticide Free P.E.I., a grassroots group advocating for the prevention of pesticide-related health risks, has made its dealings with the government public after seeing little progress during private emails and conversations made during the past year.  The group has made a public calling for the provincial government to ban  spraying cosmetic pesticides near playgrounds, day cares, schools, bus stops, hospitals and senior citizen complexes.

Roger Gordon, a spokesperson for the group and former UPEI biologist, said five provinces currently have a complete ban on cosmetic pesticides.  While the group would also like to see a ban on P.E.I., Gordon said right now the focus is on protecting the most vulnerable members of society.  “We recognize the government is not likely to do that (a complete ban) in the immediate future unfortunately. What we feel urgently needs attention is protecting children and elderly people from cosmetic pesticide spray,” said Gordon. “This is not an unreasonable request.”

Gordon said the group’s request for a 25-metre buffer zone near those areas would be similar to a current requirement for homeowners.  Residents that spray their lawns with cosmetic pesticides must give advanced notice to all their neighbours within a 25-metre radius of when the spraying will take place.

“It seems inconsistent to us that if any of my neighbours were to have their lawn sprayed we’d get a notice in the mail saying that spraying is going to be done… but there’s no provision to advise children that can come from all over the place visiting a playground,” Gordon said, adding that some studies have found that children are at a greater risk for harm from cosmetic pesticides than adults. “We think that is a dangerous situation and the very least the province can do is to put in place a buffer zone around these areas where children and elderly people congregate.”

Pressure for a ban on cosmetic pesticides increased after a public forum in Stratford a little over a year ago.  Pesticide Free P.E.I. was formed out of that meeting and has remained active since by lobbying members of government and holding another forum last month in Charlottetown.  However, Gordon said email requests and phone calls between the group and environment department officials have not led to any progress.

He said the group has been hitting a brick wall.  “We reached a point where we thought ‘we’re getting nowhere doing things in private’,” he said. “That’s why we issued this press release, it’s not because this is the first request we’ve made along these lines. We’ve sincerely tried."  The group sent an open letter to Environment Minister Janice Sherry, as well as the department’s deputy minister, assistant deputy minister and other high-ranking officials, earlier this week asking the government to immediately create buffer zones near the areas.

The group said it hopes for the buffer zones to be brought in ahead of the lawn spraying season for chinch bugs in August.

Pesticide Free PEI is meeting this Wednesday, July 23rd, 7PM, at the church hall of Trinity United Church, corner of Richmond and Prince Streets, Charlottetown, and all are welcome.

An excerpt from earlier this month in her naturapathic column in The Guardian, regarding changes that would make major changes to Islanders' health:
Kali Simmonds' comment:

July 8th, 2014
<<I would like our government to become more involved in addressing the concerns around cosmetic and agricultural pesticide use. Like the smoking debate, before the impact on human health was so clear and could no longer be ignored, we need to address the concerns around pesticide use and its impact on our health and the environment. If an elementary school principal were to chain smoke today in a school it would be ludicrous. However, I am 42 years old, and that was my reality 31 years ago.

I suspect that eventually the perception of any gain from routine pesticide use will be considered equally ridiculous. Anyone who sprays their lawn I would say educate yourself about the reasons not to continue such behaviour and farmers as well to consider the impact on their health, those they love and the population at large. In my experience, many who say that pesticide use is not a problem have failed to take the time to really look at the evidence. For those who share these concerns speak up, avoid pesticides and choose organic foods (especially local) whenever possible.>>

Kali Simmonds, ND

July 20, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

If you wish to goof around with a program that makes a little Lego-ish figure that shows you are unhappy with Lego's partnership with Shell Oil, go here and follow the prompts:


You can choose to "register" it with the website and then share it.

unable to upload :( check facebook page for image

Not an accurate likeness.

Former Prime Minister Paul Martin is working on something called Mission Ocean, which is proposing a new agreement to protect the high seas and promote ocean heath.

Here is a Globe and Mail article with background and graphics.

There are eight proposals listed here, along with the report, many having to do with overfishing and pollution, but regarding oil and gas exploration, it's number 6 that caught my eye.  It includes the line:

The Commission supports the adoption of international binding protocols with safety and environmental standards for offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation on the continental shelf, including provisions for emergency response, and capacity building for developing countries.

...which implies that safety standards are enough.  The whole endeavor of course is trying to improve things, and is worth finding about a bit more.

July 14, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Three videos, the first two being about neither the environment nor democracy issues in PEI, but worth passing on.

"July 14th -- Malala Day": A friend passed on this link to a one-minute YouTube celebrating the birthday of Malala Yousafzai and her wish for access to education for all girls and boys.
A simplified, but concise -- and therefore violent -- cartoon history of the conflict in the Middle East. 3:30 minutes.  Below the film is a key which shows the various groups throughout history who have battled for the scarce resources of the region.  The identification is *below* the character.
LEGO toys blocked the Greenpeace video that criticizes its partnership with Shell.

Background story on Greenpeace's campaign:
EcoWatch summary of story

and the new location of the video, in case you wanted to see it again or share it:

July 13, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

This is long, but very worth it; consider reading it one section at a time:
"Broken Ground: On the Frontlines of a Fractured Landscape."

It interviews individuals with their experiences about fracking and other uses of the land, and with the law, to highlight the idea of Environmental Rights.  There are both text and short videos.

“A campaign today to respect a clean and healthy environment — is that a good thing? Does it make us as a country stronger? Absolutely. Go for it.”
--Svend Robinson, former NDP MP from British Columbia, interviewed about his work getting environmental rights included in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the response then.

The article is from the folks at the David Suzuki Foundation, which is solidly behind the Environmental Rights movement.
David Suzuki is going to be speaking about environmental rights across Canada this Fall. 

From David Ing in Saturday's Guardian:

Putting families ahead of lawns - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published July 12, 2014

When are we going to put our families ahead of our lawns? The spraying of noxious substances on our lawns has been denounced by the Canadian Medical Society, the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the P.E.I. Medical Society, the Ontario College of Family Physicians, the David Suzuki Foundation and the Sierra Club of Canada.

Here are a few natural weed controls one can apply to their lawns:

Dig dandelions manually with a Fiskal picker, fertilize with 10-10-10 (Agro Co-Op) in the spring, over seed with new grass seed at the same time, lime in the fall, always mulch the leaves and leave the mulch on the lawn.

For spot treatment of weeds, use a vinegar-based spray but not the whole lawn. Corn gluten (Phillip's Feeds) is supposed to control dandelions from germinating but you have to apply it as soon as the snow disappears, and it also stops new grass seedlings from germinating, so you'd have to wait to overseed the barren areas with grass seed.

For controlling chinch bugs and June beetles use a biological insecticide from Halifax Seeds. Look for “nematodes” or “entomopathogenic nematodes” on their website.

For insect control on vegetables and ornamentals, spray with soapy water. Crushed eggshells help to keep the slugs at bay.

Dr. Roger Gordon, retired UPEI biologist, presented this information in an article in the 2013 Stratford Town Talk entitled “Why Cosmetic Pesticides Are A Bad Idea”:

Long-term effects include: impaired blood clotting; impaired immune system; genetic damage; linked to non-Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers.

Lastly, cosmetic spraying has been used to achieve perfection in our surrounding – but no one needs a perfect lawn. We need clean air to breathe and clean water to drink in order to stay healthy. Continued spraying will negate both of these.

Let's not be “P.E.I. The Pesticide Province”.

David Ing, Stratford

Good people, near and far, speaking out.

July 12, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

The 2014 Farmers' Market schedule, but today add Stratford, 9AM to 1PM, Cotton Centre, Bunbury Road.

unable to upload :( check facebook for photo.

Until the government website gets the "2014 Fresh Products Directory" on-line, here is a photo of the Farmers' Market schedule from a paper copy.

Meanwhile in Nova Scotia....

Cape Breton University has been hired to conduct a review of some aspects of the fracking issue for that province.  Here is a link to the  "Hydraulic Fracturing Review" page with various subpages and other links.

Below is a published commentary, from last month; a look at what is *supposed* to be an objective and critical look at some aspects of fracking in Nova Scotia.
From it:

"Nova Scotia has had a moratorium on fracking since 2012, but wants to assess the public health and environmental risks to communities before the industry is permitted to unlock natural gas trapped in shale formations across the province."

Among those who have been around the block with these kinds of reviews (especially for projects in the oil and gas industry), there is a feeling that it's a "elaborate masquerade", to paraphrase Roy Johnstone's eloquent assessment of the Environmental Impact Assessment process for Plan B.


Fracking's long-term impacts still poorly understood - Cape Breton Post article by Jim Guy

Published 17 June 2014

The fracking panel led by Cape Breton University president David Wheeler has published two draft reports confirming an anticipated conclusion — that fracking should be permissible and is "safe" provided we watch it very carefully.

Considering the fracking industry’s history in Canada and elsewhere, this is not a confidence-building message. In almost every part of the country where fracking is licensed, this industry has been observed at least ignoring, if not violating, government regulations to get oil or gas — come hell or high water.

The impacts of other industrial practices that have threatened public health and environmental integrity in Cape Breton over the years are known full well and remain deep in the collective memory of families all over the island. All communities need to take a penetrating glance at what fracking can mean for them over the short term and long term.

Since the announcement that the provincial government wanted an independent review panel to examine fracking for all of Nova Scotia, there have been many strongly expressed opinions reflecting doubts about this panel's objectivity and impartiality. As its chair, Wheeler may well have achieved the independence and credibility he wanted for the job at hand. But the optics on the panel's impartiality have suggested otherwise.

For the provincial panel to endorse hydraulic fracking as safe with the condition that it be monitored is simply not supported as definitive by peer-reviewed research. In fact, there is no way of saying that with either the confidence of experience or of science. Monitoring shale gas exploration is different from monitoring other industrial activities, such as mining.

The Council of Canadian Academies, an independent research body that supports rigorous study projects and conducts expert assessments on science matters, has published reports on the fracking issue. Its panel's reports have pointed to problems with hydraulic fracturing, highlighting risks to surface water and groundwater quality, and threats to public health from air emissions and ultimately to the climate.

Even if fracking was "carefully monitored," the CCA observes that the industry does not know how to do it so as to prevent well leakage. In fact, the CCA observes that neither the industry nor governments claiming to monitor the geology around fracking can answer questions about its long-term effects.

Nova Scotia has had a moratorium on fracking since 2012, but wants to assess the public health and environmental risks to communities before the industry is permitted to unlock natural gas trapped in shale formations across the province.

Without a doubt, the policy implications on fracking will bring the water-energy nexus to the fore in a province that currently has one of Canada's most extensive source water protection programs. The political implications will also be significant if fracking is endorsed; they will be controversial and likely divisive in rural communities.

The millions of litres of water used at any fracking site is not returned to the hydrologic cycle. And unlike other water uses — in agriculture, privately or commercially — the water used for fracking is considered a permanent toxic withdrawal. The industry downplays these effects under the pretense of science, pointing to little or no risks involved.

While one of the draft papers presented by the provincial panel on fracking confirms the integrity of well bores, and dismisses risks of contaminants migrating through underground water, evidence in other provinces contradicts this position, showing that well bores predictably leak and leak a lot.

University of Waterloo professor emeritus John Cherry, a contaminant hydrologist who chaired the expert federal panel on fracking in Canada, has called the shale gas industry a "mess" and has criticized the lack of science on the methods and technologies being used to gain access to natural gas.

The business of fracking for natural gas is replete with contradictory evidence about risks to public health and environmental damage.

The CCA notes that many critical issues around fracking are still poorly understood. We don't yet know how to improve hydraulic fracturing techniques to avoid the kind of harm that might only become evident after decades of fracturing.

Jim Guy, PhD, is professor emeritus of political science and international law at Cape Breton University.

July 11, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

In the middle of the June 28 PEI newspapers was the 2014 "Fresh Products Directory".  It looks like a small sunny-coloured map, and it is a publication of the Department of Agriculture and Forestry.

One side is a map with numbers and the other is a list of producers and what they have.  There are symbols for type of produce or products, farm-gate or farmers' market, for U-pick, Community Shared Agriculture, and Certified Organic.  Unfortunately, the last two symbols are multi-coloured and similar in shape (one is a basket of vegetables, the other a logo of some sort) they really don't help the consumer.  The letters "CSA" and "ORG" might be clearer.

Anyway, I think the producer has to pay to be included in the Directory, and it's late enough in the year that a lot of CSAs are full.  But the box listing of Farmers' Markets is great (Cardigan, Old train Station, today from 10AM - 4PM).  But it is a good effort.

It is also available at liquor stores, Access PEI centres, visitor information centres, and the Department offices, or you can call 1(866) PEI-FARM (734-3276).

It is supposed to be on-line (according to the "FarmNet" column in June 30th's Guardian) at PEIFarmFresh.ca which immediate goes here:

and the selection for the Directory takes you here:
which only has last year's guide.  :-/

Screenshot of website this morning with last year's directory:

temporarily unable to upload.  Please check facebook for photo.


Tomorrow the Stratford Farmers' market opens in the Robert Cotton Park off Bunbury Road (it was supposed to open last week but was delayed due to Hurricane Arthur).

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party is at the Farm Centre tonight:

July 10, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

A mixed bag today:

Anne Gallant's hard-hitting letter from Tuesday's paper:

Chemicals Damages Many Life Forms - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published July 8th, 2014

Re: The Need to Compete in Saturday’s paper, explains the good side of potato farming to the media. I have yet to see anything positive about the large potato industry we have here on P.E.I. We are told that in order to compete we must have access to our deep-water well. Mr. Lawless, how about the survival of our families and the environment?

How about giving the future generations a healthy environment and clean water to drink. Giving the potato industry access to our deep water will be just another step in the destruction of the living environment on the Island. I am not a scientist; I am just a well-informed and well-read Islander who tries to live life in a sustainable manner. I do not understand the ins and outs of the production of potatoes, nor do I understand the science behind the living environment.

But, I do know that chemicals damage many life forms and it stays in our environment for a long time. Any person with a conscience and average intelligence knows that spraying these chemicals in our environment and on our food is terribly wrong for so many reasons.

Little P.E.I. has a cancer rate that is higher than the national average. That does not surprise me because potato producers are allowed to spray chemicals very close to our properties and our schools. Buffer zones simply are not enough.

Finding the perfect cancer cure will never happen because we are not doing anything about the cause. As long as we ignore the cause, we will live with this illness for a very long time. Why doesn’t our government or the potato industry do something about it? Money!

For them it is all about the bottom dollar and not about the environment or people’s health. Producers and governments have been brainwashed into believing that these chemicals are safe by the very corporation that sells them these chemicals.

Anne Gallant, Kensington

And it's a Lewis Carroll time of year:

Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Friday, July 11th, 2014, 6PM, Farm Centre Legacy Gardens, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown.  Call 892-3419 for more information or to reserve tickets. Adults $10 Children $7 (5 and under free)
"While the Father's of Confederation were meeting in 1864 Lewis Carroll was putting the finishing touches to his enduring classic novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The Mad Hatter's Tea Party at the Farm Centre Legacy Garden will feature fresh picked strawberries from Penny's Farm and Garden and Cow's ice-cream, WI shortcake, Purity Dairy chocolate milk, Caledonia House gourmet roasted coffees and Lady Baker's Teas. 'We’re serving the best the Island has to offer to celebrate strawberry season,” says Farm Centre GM Phil Ferraro. “People with thirsty gardens will even be able to learn how to make nutrient rich garden teas!' "
More details:

Coro Dolce is performing three times in the next couple of weeks.
Sunday, July 13th, 7:30PM, (not sure of price), Bonshaw Hall
Coro Dolce is the Island's classical choir under the direction of Carl Mathis.  Among the beautiful selections is an original piece by Terry Pratt, a "setting of JABBERWOCKY from ALICE IN WONDERLAND."
The same concert can be heard in Charlottetown on Thursday, July 24, at St. Peters Cathedral, and on Sunday, July 27, at St. John's Anglican Church in Milton, both at 7:30.

"Lego: Everything is NOT Awesome" is the title of this one-minute, 45-second film-message from Greenpeace regarding Shell Oil's partnering with children's block maker Lego, packaged with a bit of a background article from EcoWatch. The actual YouTube link is below the EcoWatch, but the YouTube comments are pretty pathetic.

If you anthropomorphize little Lego people, and animals, just beware things don't go well once Shell Oil starts digging in the Lego Arctic.

July 9, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Last summer, many people who gave *so* much fighting the Plan B highway got busy with their "other" jobs of being fantastic actors or musicians or artists.  I was thrilled and humbled by their talents.  This summer it is no different, and I am giving a bias and incomplete listing of a few productions.

The art exhibit is free; the performance productions require tickets. There is so much going on this summer, and so many free offerings from 2014-related monies, that it's likely hard to fill the seats. But worth supporting local artistic endeavors, to help keep them here next year and the next, when the 2014 Gravy Train is gone.

Sarah Saunders' exhibit Salt is at the Farmers' Market (and a reminder that the Charlottetown Farmers' Market is open today!).

Cathy Grant stars as the mother of one of the leads in Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun,  playing in Victoria.  Patricia Stunden Smith has ably taken the reins as Managing Director.

Tonight and the next four Wednesdays is The Master's Wife: A Theatrical Celebration,  at Orwell Corner Hall.  Harry Baglole has been a driving force behind this, and Roy Johnstone is in the musical chorus.

Story sounds so evocative -- it has been created by some folks whose love of this place and concern for its future fill my heart near to bursting.
"Writer/Storyteller, David Weale and Musician/Producer, Colin Buchanan collaborate to marry stories, song and film to create a storytelling show like you've never seen before; an intergenerational portrait of the inherent spirit of Islanders."

I was given a free ticket to The Ballad of Stompin' Tom, but would have gone regardless; and may go again.  (Cam MacDuffee is fantastic as Tom Connors; no matter how you feel about Stompin' Tom's music, MacDuffee makes it enjoyable.)  Catherine O'Brien directs.  And what theatre lets you walk right outside on a boardwalk on the harbour at intermission? 

And because tables are fun:
How some Plan B People Spend Their Summer 2014; info for the rest of us:

Production Title




Until When

More info

Salt (this town is small)

art exhibit

Wednesday and Saturdays, 9AM to 2PM

Charlottetown Farmers' Market

July 19


Kiss the Moon, Kiss the Sun


daily except Monday (Sunday matinee, other evenings)

Victoria Playhouse, Victoria

August 3rd


The Master's Wife: A Theatrical Celebration

play, music

Wednesday evenings, likely going to a few community halls in Fall

Orwell Historical Village Hall, Orwell

August 6th




Sunday matinees,
Monday and Tuesday evenings

Arts Guild, Charlottetown

August 26th


The Ballad of Stompin' Tom

play with music

Every night but Monday

Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside

August 30th


apologies for any errors

July 8, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Some events this week:

Tonight: The Transition Information Series begins at the Farm Centre, 7PM, Farm Centre, 420 University Avenue, Charlottetown.  This series of three free lectures is on alternate Tuesdays until August 5th.

"Environment session to be held in Charlottetown Tuesday.  There will be a free information session on the international transition movement and transition surrounding the province in Charlottetown.
The session takes place at 7 p.m. in the Farm Centre on University Avenue.
The transition movement is happening in thousands of communities across the world. It is a community-led process, to grow towns and cities stronger and happier by building resilience to address the global challenges of peak oil, climate change, increasing energy costs, economic instability and resource depletion.
Robert Larsen, a student from Summerside Intermediate School, will speak about the work he and his classmates did in Prince County by planting approximately 1000 native trees.
The public is invited to attend this first of three sessions to be held at the Farm Centre."

Tomorrow night (Wednesday) is a Pesticide Free PEI meeting.  It is at 7PM at the Trinity United Church Hall, corner of Richmond and Prince Streets, Charlottetown.

from yesterday's Guardian:

Farm tour not balanced? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Journalists like ‘balance’ in reporting. Here are suggestions for the Toxic Tours series of the Island. We welcome the media to Tracadie to witness the violation of the Crop Rotation Act.

Reporters could drop by the QEH Cancer Centre to get testimony from Islanders suffering from rare diseases. A visit to graveyards in the ‘Potato Belt’ would also be very informative.

The June 28 story didn’t fool anyone. We don’t want our tax dollars used to fund media tours promoting dangerous industrial farming practices? Enough already.

Marian White, Tracadie

July 7, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

On Thursday, July 3rd, The Guardian published this letter:

Another kind of media tour? - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 3rd, 2014

Teresa Wright wrote about a media tour set up by Agriculture P.E.I. designed to fight back against negative PR farmers were getting in the paper’s opinion page recently. Wright explained that although Andrew Lawless didn’t realize they were coming, he was good enough to interrupt his spraying to explain that fungicides and herbicides are applied much more carefully and strategically than in the past and that he didn’t spray unless he had to, a claim made earlier this month by Gary Linkletter.  I would like to ask Linkletter and Lawless: If this is so, why have the pesticide sales for P.E.I. not been published since 2008?  Surely, they would want to show Islanders how much less is being used in comparison to past years. I would think the responsible and sustainable practice would be reactive to problems as opposed to routinely spraying every week.

Fish kills, declining bees, butterflies and birds should all be considered ‘canaries in the coal mine’.  Anyone who doesn’t see the connection of their decline to the declining health of Islanders is either in denial or simply too far removed from nature.  I am all for sustainable farming and realize change will not happen overnight, but the time has come for government to enforce sustainable farming by significantly reducing our pesticides and doing much more to encourage organic farming.  This is the only ethical and sustainable solution.

I wonder if we could organize a media tour to go around the various farming communities and talk to people like me who are faced with the choice of either staying inside on a beautiful summer day or risking being poisoned simply by breathing air, and who are afraid to drink the water from our own wells.  We promise not to be spraying when you arrive.

Joan Diamond, Fairview

On Saturday,The Guardian opined on farming and food and criticism:

Farmers fight back against unfair attacks - The Guardian main editorial

Published on July 05, 2014

Media tour shows kinder, gentler side of agriculture

Hold it for a minute. Farmers are getting a bad rap these days. The recent flood of comment against deep-water wells and pesticide spraying is painting an unflattering picture of farmers as greedy abusers of the land. The P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture is so concerned that it helped organize a media tour of farm operations around the province to allow members of the press to see for themselves what is happening on the family farm and tell other Islanders about the kinder, gentler side of farming.
Farmers are much more concerned than their urban neighbours in safeguarding the land as a legacy for future generations. They are reluctant to apply pesticides and only do so as a last resort in order to protect their crops and investments. More and more, farmers are using the latest technology to operate more efficiently. Farmers are already heavily regulated in each and every thing they do — how many acres they can own, where they can cultivate, what they can plant and how often they must rotate their crops.
It just takes one or two hot button issues like water and spraying to paint an unfortunate, negative picture of the entire industry. Let’s not forget that farmers are our friends and neighbours who chair rink boards, serve as elders in our churches etc. and remain the cornerstone of rural P.E.I. Most importantly, they are producers of the fresh and safe food we consume each and every day.
It's amazing how few Islanders are aware where their food comes from and how it’s produced. We walk into a store or supermarket and there it is — all cheaply priced, neatly packaged and garden fresh.

Do we care how much time, money and labour were invested in that product?  Yet, we still expect that cheap and plentiful food supply to keep appearing, as if by magic.

Weekend thoughts

<<snip  (a short editorial on Brad Richards, and on beer)  >>

The story of some hens living in penthouse luxury in Freetown has ruffled some feathers in other chicken coops across the province. A poultry farm operated by the Burns family has installed the latest housing cages for their hens. For the bashful Rhode Island Red, there is a private, curtained-off area for laying eggs, while the leggy White Leghorn gets a scratching board to keep those pointed nails in perfect conformity. Alas for the Plymouth Rock which is heading for the kitchen crock-pot.

I found the tone of the last one so ridiculous, and incongruous with the serious sentiments in the first editorial.
And on the same page:

More lessons on pesticides - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published on July 5th, 2014

I want to thank Gary Linkletter for the lesson on pesticide application in The Guardian, June 12th, 2014, in which he offered to “dispel myths about pesticide application on P.E.I.” I would like to add to this ongoing lesson.

1. There are no buffer zones for humans, only for fish.  

2. Farmers do not have to notify property owners, schools, nursing homes or hospitals about when or what they will be spraying.

3. There are two types of pesticide drift: particle (off target movement during application), and vapour drift (off target movement when evaporation occurs), which accounts for 40 per cent of all drift.

4. Last year 89,000 acres received 15-20 applications of pesticides. When Mr. Linkletter speaks of 1 kg per acre, he forgets to mention the mind-boggling magnitude of the total annual amount, and the cumulative effect on our soil, ecosystem, and human health.

5. Mr. Linkletter states “Potato growers are diligent with responsible pesticide use on P.E.I.” In fact, the 2010 State of the Environment reports that only 40.9 per cent of farmers have adopted the government endorsed environmental farm plans, down from 2009.

6. Although he predicts dire consequences if we stopped using them, our soil biodiversity continues to be depleted each year, due in large part to our industrial farming practices.  

Mr. Linkletter finished off his lesson by informing us “Regulated and safe application of pesticides, which have been reviewed and approved by Health Canada, is an integral tool in producing only the best quality potatoes for Islanders.”  In fact Health Canada relies on the Pesticide Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), as does our provincial government.   Here are essential lessons on the PMRA:  

•  it relies upon studies financed by the pesticide industry

• 25 per cent of the PMRA's funding comes from the pesticide industry

• pesticide regulation was transferred to Health Canada to ensure protection of health, but the PMRA is yet to resolve its conflicting dual roles of approving pesticides while also protecting human health.

Blair Cowan, Charlottetown

The pun is too easy: Food for thought.

July 6, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Hope you survived the winds (and what rain there was) with minimal damage.

The Legislative Assembly website recently posted the transcript of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Environment, Energy and Forestry from June 25th.  Presenters that day were hydrologist Cathy Ryan, the Aquaculture Alliance executive director, two concerned citizens, and Cindy Richards and I representing the Citizens' Alliance.

The pdf of the transcript is here:

Dr. Cathy Ryan starts on page 38  (it's one of those documents that continues during a session and starts on page 38....)

Ann Worth from Aquaculture Alliance starts on page 45

Bill Trainor's talk starts on page 49

Re. Karen MacRae's on page 51

Citizens' Alliance on page 55

But is it Bill Trainor's that was the most profound.   I have copied from the Hansard transcipt, below. 

seems long due to the narrow paragraph copying, but was really quite short, and it does says it all.  Hope you can find time to read it.

Bill Trainor's Presentation to The Standing Committee on High Capacity Wells

My name is Bill Trainor and I’m presenting as individual.

First of all, I’d like to say that I talk in a very monotone voice and my family accuses me of mumbling, so if you do not hear what I’m saying just stop me and I’ll speak up.

I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts today. I asked for an opportunity to appear before this committee around my concerns on water and land use. I applaud this committee’s
decision to follow through on a recommendation that was made to them in establishing of a water act.

Also, our government’s recent decision that no further consideration will be given to lifting the moratorium on high capacity wells for agriculture irrigation until the water act and regulations are in place.

Having said that, the situation still leaves me with a concern about where the issue of deep water wells will go in the future in relation to agriculture and in particular potato production on this Island.

I should tell you a little bit about me for you to fully understand where I am coming from on this important issue for all Islanders. This includes all farmers, big and small, some who are in the circumstances who are unable to speak for themselves. I have lived in the community of Emerald all my life, with the exception of a seven-year stretch where I resided in Alberta, Annapolis Valley and
Charlottetown. I grew up on a mixed farm with potatoes being the bigger source of the family income, and although livestock was secondary, it was felt to be necessary for the proper nurturing of the soil.

Starting with my great-grandfather there have been five generations of farmers in my family. Although my career was not spent in farming I never lost my love for the land and always took holidays around harvest, and to a lesser degree planting season, to help out the family at home.

I have seen in my lifetime crop rotations decrease to a standard three-year rotation, less today on some farms. Proper crop rotation, then, was not in question, it just was. Our soil and water were meant to be
conserved. We looked on our soil, woods and streams much like they do in Europe today, where respecting nature provides the necessary balance to protect the soil, water and wildlife crucial to controlling the insect population.

As a child and youth I swam in the Dunk River, fished there as well with my dad. Skated in winter months on a number of ponds, and with at least one on every farm you didn’t have to walk far. Today a child couldn’t swim in the Dunk in our community as the water depth is not there. As far as fishing, you could fish for days without a bite. For skating on those natural ponds fed by springs, they are hard to find.

In our community, where there used to be a woodlot on most farms, there isn’t anymore, and the natural treed hedges are few as they have been cut and bulldozed out as well to make for bigger fields more conducive to the large machinery that is required in industrial potato farming today. I might add,
this practice is still going on.

Our natural soil conservation methods, I believe, were more effective than berms and grasslands they are promoting today. A lot of those grasslands were wet areas we left and worked around, and the hedgerows along fences we left.

In working the soil we were very cognizant of not overworking it. Instead we cultivated the grass and weeds away from our plants, versus killing all weeds and grass with chemicals that contaminate our soil and water, kill organic matter and, in turn, our soil’s ability to hold water.

Now some farmers are using a new machine they call a sub-soiler that works the land depth to at least 18 inches, loosening up the brick clay bottom. This practice, I believe, as well as others I have talked to, will further reduce the soil’s ability to hold water and in turn the chemicals and pesticides will
reach our water table that much quicker.

The Irvings’ presentation to the committee pointed out they have plants in other growing regions where farmers are enjoying higher yields and more consistent quality with irrigation. In comparison, we are a much smaller land base to the areas they are talking about, with a shorter growing season,
lower soil depth that doesn’t hold the water as well.

This is a much bigger issue than water.

Money talks, as we know, but these types of threats by a processor to pull out further squeezes our farmers to become even more industrialized in their farming practices. PEI soils can’t sustain this in the long haul, and by that I mean just our children and their children’s generation.

There have been numerous articles written in our local papers on the issue of deep water wells including some science, some fact, and some opinion. It is quite evident the majority are against lifting the moratorium, including the majority of the presenters to this committee, and for good reason.

Mr. Irving has said he is at a crossroads without the deep water wells moratorium being lifted in terms of his ability to maintain his level of business here with the quality and quantity of potatoes that are
grown here. I would say we as Islanders are at a crossroads as well in terms of deciding how far we go with this way of farming on our small Island.

I have lived in the centre of one of the biggest potato growing areas on PEI for 60 years and, as I have pointed out, I have seen firsthand the deterioration of our land, river and forest.

We have to ask the following questions:

1: How much further do we go with the industrial model of agriculture? Deep water wells will add to that and reduce our number of farmers.

2: Can we afford the health costs associated with growing the perfect potato with the chemicals and pesticides getting into our water table along with the nutrients and organic matter being depleted in our soils?

3: The negative impact this can have on our tourism and fishing industry in the future.

4: When our soil is completely contaminated and robbed of organic matter and its ability to grow potatoes, how long will the processors be here and what will the economic impact be then if we just look at the short-term profitability of this industry?

It's our children and grandchildren left to deal with all of this. No, not an immediate problem for us here today sitting around this table, but what does it say about us if we allow this to happen?

It doesn’t say much either about us in support of our future farmers. We have a major responsibility to
them and we should take it seriously. Our land and water for them is more important than the short-term goal of a better, more profitable french fry.

I’d like to leave you with my thoughts on a few recommendations: we need to enforce the regulations I understand that are already in place on crop rotation and look at these further in terms of reestablishing and strengthening the organic matter in the soils that is not up to par – and I’m not saying here that there isn’t good farmers out there that keep their soils up to par, but there are problem areas in that; we need to explore other types of farming as well that will put more organic matter back in our soil; support the rejuvenation of our livestock industry; put in place a no tree cutting zone for clearing purposes in high industrial potato growing areas; increase programs to support organic farming;
do not lift the moratorium on deep water wells for the irrigation of agriculture products.

I would like to end my presentation today with a couple of quotes.

The first quote is from an ancient First Nations proverb. It states that: We do not inherit the earth from
our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.

The second quote is from Gandhi: Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.

Thank you.
Yes, to everything he said.

Now it's our job to keep talking about these ideas and moving them along.

July 5, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

On fiscal responsibility:

An excerpt from
Paul MacNeill's editorial, July 2nd, 2014, in The Eastern
and West Prince Graphic:

<< "Prince Edward Island is $3 billion in debt. The Ghiz government has added more than $1 billion to that total since taking office in 2007, an unprecedented attack on the viability of the province and noose around the neck of future generations. It has raised taxes, at last check jacked 434 fees since 2011, bailed out public pension plans to the tune of half a billion dollars with virtually no debate and done nothing substantive to reshape government to reflect our priorities as a province."

the rest of the editorial:

And in yesterday's Guardian:

Party getting out of hand - The Guardian Letter to the Editor

Published July 4th, 2014

Editor: Dear Robert Ghiz and Stephen Harper:

The 2014 Celebration for the 150th anniversary is costing at least $29 million and I will bet my boots it will come in at $35 to $40 million by December 31st. That comes to at least $550,000 a week for 52 weeks.

We hear that the feds are assisting heavily and of course that makes sense since our federal debt is $1.6 trillion and our P.E.I. debt is over $2 billion.  Our elected officials continue to spend like drunken sailors.

Let’s be serious and sensible. We can never get an increased return in tourism spending any way near this amount. But the party continues with no way to reduce or eliminate it al all.  It's so far out of hand, it's a spending avalanche and when all is said and done, a two-day celebration with cake and a band and a flag raising ceremony would have easily satisfied us all.

No one enjoys a good party like we do but this excessive spending is outrageous. By the way everyone we have talked to feels the way we do.

We are told a Grade 1 class at Sherwood Elementary will have 27 students in September - that $29 million would go a long, long way to lower and offer a much better student - teacher ratio...

When will sensible, courageous, competent and future-thinking people take the reins and stop all this nonsense.

Maureen & Bruce Garrity, Charlottetown

July 4, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

"Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point," said Scrooge, "answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

"Men's courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead," said Scrooge. "But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!"

--from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, 1843

The following is about water rights in Texas, a three page article, but worth it. 

A Twenty-First Century Water War Erupts in Texas - Earth Island Journal article exerpt by James William Gibson

Gary Cheatwood grew up near the town of Cuthand, in far northeast Texas, and he always found peace along the wooded banks of Little Mustang Creek. His grandfather had bought 100 acres in 1917 and now Gary’s family owns 600 acres of bottomland near where the creek’s clear waters meet the Sulphur River. He especially loves the woods around the creek—some 70 species of hardwood trees, including a massive Texas honey locust that ranks as official state champion. “This forest is not making money,” says Cheatwood, a retired surveyor and construction manager. “But a lot of things are more important than money. The trees give me pleasure.”

Everything about the land pleases Cheatwood. Still wiry and lean at 75, he walks it every week, always wearing his standard outfit of lace-up work boots, jeans, plaid flannel shirt, and baseball cap. He collects finely crafted Caddo and Cherokee Indian arrowheads. In the spring, blue and yellow wildflowers bloom. He takes pleasure, too, in looking for rare creatures—the American burying beetle, a certain obscure shrew, even the eastern timber rattlesnake.

Yet as he stood on the creek bank this January, he knew his family could have their homestead taken by the state of Texas. If Texas Water Development Board planners have their way, sometime in the next 20 years or so Cheatwood’s land will disappear under Marvin Nichols Reservoir, a proposed 72,000-acre lake meant to provide water to the Dallas-Ft. Worth “Metroplex” 135 miles to the west. Some 4,000 of his neighbors (a few estimates go as high as 10,000 people) will also become refugees, driven off their lands, either for lake bottom or for the hundreds of thousands of acres to be taken as “mitigation.”
Full article here:

Take care today, and planning for rains and wind tomorrow,

July 3, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Two letters and a link to a blog post, dealing with the call to lift the ban on high capacity wells, and the bigger picture:

Toxic economic farming model done on P.E.I. - The Guardian Guest Opinion by John Hopkins

Published on July 2, 2014

Alan Holman’s June 21st, 2014, letter to the Guardian "Is the Island too tiny to embrace change?” with interest.

After digesting these comments, I don’t understand why some Islanders still cannot fathom that the P.E.I. has gone past its environmental breaking point in producing “biggie” fries for the Irvings. The place is a disaster for anyone with eyes: the rivers filled with silt, bees almost all but gone, hundreds of thousands of trout and salmon dead, incredibly high cancer rates likely linked to tons of pesticides being released into the air, putrid nitrates in people’s wells, entire shell fish operations wiped out, sickly green bays and estuaries, and yet … this is the necessary cost of doing business?

And are we as Holman suggests - in his criticism of Islanders as shallow beings incapable of understanding “progress” - to follow his advice and take all of this to the next level of catastrophe by supporting the Irving’s insatiable greed and their fist pounding for more deep water wells? How many billions do they need anyway?

What we really need is a new model to define progress that does not include making Islanders hostage to the Irving model of doing business. Their whipping threats against Islanders to obey them or else, in addition to the 38 mega wells that already exist - if granted - will aggravate this sickly problem to the extreme.

 And we are to beg Cavendish Farms not to leave, while bankrupting our fast disappearing family farms? Even relatively small-scale traditional potato farmers like the Bests of Tryon are being booted out under the Irving model robustly supported by the P.E.I. Potato Board.

The exodus of the Irvings and their vertically integrated business model, and the backward local mindset supporting them, is actually the most welcome and immediate and long-term news to begin to address these problems with real and implementable solutions.

On the contrary, Islanders are not naive, hicks, backward, or wanting in their desire to protect the only fragile source of water we have - the same groundwater the Irvings and their servants are after. Their mega-wells will suck the land dry when we need it the most - for our homes. Holman's recent article is revealing of everything which is truly regressive in this Province in seeing that Islanders, now and in time their grandchildren, can ever sensibly take back our environment — let alone

vast ranges of once healthy Island land currently under the Irving’s control or ownership.

The absentee landlords have truly returned to P.E.I. as we celebrate 150 years and Confederation which permitted Islanders to reclaim and farm it for themselves in the first place. Truly forward thinking, at this point in our history, would see Islanders making progress to reverse this obvious damage around us, while pursing and developing other economic models, such as happening in California which has fully gone after the exploding global health food market and billions up for grabs.

What goes across the minds of Islanders when they see these products with whole sections devoted to them for sale at Superstore and Sobeys - an Irving company? The only thing backwards in P.E.I. are those who cannot develop or envision anything new other than the existing and very tired, old, and incredibly toxic economic mono-culture model which is frankly “done."

John Hopkins is a media producer/writer living in Breadalbane. Hopkins was hired by CTV’s W5 to investigate and research the situation for the documentary episode “The Perfect Potato.”

Here is a blog post from the Atlantic Chapter of the Sierra Club, by Zack Metcalfe.  There are a few small factual errors, but overall it's a good piece.


And last, a fresh call for consumers to choose not to spend their money on Irving products for the month of July, bold and link added by me.  http://www.journalpioneer.com/Opinion/Letter-to-the-Editor/2014-06-30/article-3781639/Time-to-fight-back/1

Time to fight back - The Journal-Pioneer Letter to the Editor

Published on June 30, 2014

Robert Irving has recently announced that if the government of Prince Edward Island does not lift the moratorium on deep well irrigation his company would no longer purchase potatoes grown here and he might even move his company, Cavendish Farms, elsewhere.

Disappointing words coming from someone who has received a tremendous amount of government money in the past.

The wealthy elite of this country like to think that they hold all of the cards while we taxpayers are completely dependent on them. Nothing could be further from the truth. If Irving did leave there would be a financial vacuum, a vacuum that would be quickly filled by other entrepreneurs who see that there is a profit to be made. This would lead to competition as opposed to a monopoly, which the Irvings currently have, which would be better for everyone as competition is what keeps capitalism healthy.

Furthermore, the wealthy are far more dependent on us consumers than we are on them. We can get our products elsewhere but they rely on us for their money, which they are addicted to. Anyone with more than a billion dollars should be content. The fact that they feel the need to threaten people by saying they will monopolize the resources necessary for life in order to make more money, which will inevitably rot in a foreign bank account, clearly shows that they are consumed by the need to accumulate far more wealth than they will ever need. This is their weakness.

It is time we consumers demonstrate that we are not powerless, as our collective buying power is what makes people wealthy. It is in this that we have a choice. We can allow the ultra rich to take our resources from us, or we can force them to accept that when it comes to the resources necessary for life we will stand together to protect these important resources for all. We can easily do this by carefully choosing who we purchase from, denying them the power to accumulate more wealth.

I would like to challenge all Islanders to be more selective when deciding which companies to patronize for the month of July. When, in August, the profits for some have decreased dramatically, perhaps they will realize that the power is indeed with the people.

I have created a Facebook page under my name (Erman Vis) with more information about my plan. https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007580567675&fref=ts

Everyone who is concerned for future generations should acknowledge this effort, because if we allow the wealthy to control our water, they will next want to control the very air that we breathe. Enough is enough. We must act now to save ourselves from incessant greed that threatens to make financial slaves of us all.

Erman Vis, Summerside, P.E.I.

Tonight at 7PM, at the Haviland Club is the Connect meeting regarding FairVote and Leadnow, discussing electoral reform and other issues.  All are welcome; it's a lovely spot near the waterfront, too.

July 2, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

It's Wednesday but it feels like a Monday after a holiday :-)

An Event:
This evening and the next five Wednesday evenings, 7:30PM, Orwell Corner Village Hall, theatrical production: "The Master's Wife: A theatrical Celebration", Tickets $20 (adults) and $15 (students), from tonight until August 6th.
"This is the first-ever dramatic adaptation of Sir Andrew Macphail’s classic memoir The Master’s Wife, set in the community of Orwell in the years just after Confederation. Macphail was born in 1864, the same year as the Charlottetown Conference. The production makes generous use of music, both sacred and secular. The performers/musicians are Melissa Mullen, Rob MacLean, Roy Johnstone, Nancy Whytock, Jack Whytock, Nelleke Plouffe and Sean McQuaid.
This is a production of The Homestead Players, sponsored by the Sir Andrew Macphail Homestead Foundation with financial support from the 2014 Fund, as well as from PEI Mutual Insurance Corporation and Gerritt Visser & Sons Farm.
For additional information, please see the Macphail Homestead website, www.macphailhomestead.ca ; and to reserve tickets, e-mail macphailhomestead@pei.aibn.com ; or phone (902) 651-8515 or (902) 651-2789.

The production will tour the Island in late September and early October.


Something I saw yesterday, from Ecojustice:On Canada Day and Environmental Rights Legislation:

This Canada Day spread the word that environmental laws matter - Ecojustice article by Darcie Bennett

By Darcie Bennett, director of communications and marketing

There is a direct connection between the quality of our laws and the health of our environment. In
Canada, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants us the right to free expression and protects us from discrimination. But it remains silent on the issue of our right to a healthy environment.

Environmental rights encompass things like the right to clean water, pure air, and safe food. They
also include the right to information about proposed laws and the right to ask the government to investigate environmental violations.

Since 1972, the right to a healthy environment has gained global recognition faster than any other human right. From Norway to Nicaragua, 92% of UN member countries now legally recognize their citizens' right to live in a healthy environment. So why doesn't Canada?

While countries around the world are strengthening their environmental laws and recognizing
environmental rights, Canadians are having to fight harder than ever for their right to breathe clean air and to be protected from harmful industrial activities.

Canada has no national drinking water law. And even though the oilsands are one of the biggest industrial projects on the planet,
there is no national law that regulates the resulting pollution. Recognizing environmental rights
would go a long way in rectifying those situations.

Countries that formally recognize environmental rights tend to have smaller ecological footprints
and do a better job of addressing issues such as climate change and air pollution. That is why we are partnering with the David Suzuki Foundation to set our country on the right course.

If you haven’t had the chance, check out A Tale of Two Valleys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1m1k8uCsa0 This two minute video sums up the
difference that a recognized right to a healthy environment could make for residents of one of
Canada’s most polluted communities.

This Canada Day, share the video with your friends and spread the message that strong laws are the best way to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink and the environment we depend on.

July 1, 2014

Chris Ortenburger's Update

Happy Canada Day!  I hope you have a great time, whether it is at one of the community events, the big Charlottetown events, having some quiet time at home, or some combination of these.


Some news on fracking, from not-so-far and near:
Eco-Watch news (click link for article), June 30, 2014:

In New York State:
New York Court of Appeals rules that its towns can ban fracking

(two excerpts; bold and black text is mine)

"In a precedent-setting case decided today by the New York Court of Appeals, local communities have triumphed over the fracking industry. The court ruled that the towns of Dryden and Middlefield can use local zoning laws to ban heavy industry, including oil and gas production within municipal borders."

And: "In response to the court’s 5-2 decision, John Armstrong of Frack Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking said, ”We applaud the court for once again affirming the right of New Yorkers to ban fracking and its toxic effects from their communities. As Chief Judge Lippman said, you don’t bulldoze over the voice of the people.** But water and air contamination don’t stop at local boundaries, and Governor (Andrew) Cuomo must ban fracking statewide to protect our health and homes from the arrogant and inherently harmful fracking industry.”


Dryden is in the centre of the state, close to Ithaca, which is where Cornell University is.
The photo on the second page of the article shows some community residents, an area lawyer who did a lot of research, and a lawyer from Earthjustice who came in to argue the case.  The Earthjustice lawyer looks pleased, but it's the happiness and *relief* on the residents faces that shines through.
The ten-minute short documentary about Dryden  (toward the end of the article) is pretty interesting.

Just south in Pennsylvania, a very sad example of history repeatedly repeating itself:
Eco-watch commentary on fracking boom in Pennsylvania, specifically the state allowing fracking in public forests.

an excerpt:
"The process (fracking) has been criticized for its contamination of drinking-water wells, 24-7 noise, thousands of miles of new roads scraped out of our forests and fields, caravans of trucks in what had been Penn’s Wood’s most remote enclaves, and dependence on “water buffaloes.” These bulky front-yard tanks filled by trucks are now used to replace once-pristine well-water, which had been the health and pride of rural residents. Now they drink out of a plastic tank, like so many cattle stranded in a hot pasture. Lease agreements with the gas industry often bar the people affected by this plight from complaining."

Examples of "water buffalo tanks."

Ah, water buffalo tanks are good for GDP.

Meanwhile, in New Brunswick:

a notice from the New Brunswick Environmental Network:

Saturday, July 5th, 2014, 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Elsipogtog School, 365 Big Cove Road, Elsipogtog, N.B.

Link to event Saturday, organized by the New Brunswick Environmental Network
From the link:

"Calling all people who are concerned about shale gas development! Join us in the spirit of peace and friendship for meeting and sharing. Our goal is to strengthen relationships and prepare ourselves for the upcoming season.

Come and help us celebrate what we have stood for, what we have built together and the journey that we are traveling together. At noon we will share a potluck lunch and at the end of the day we will go to visit the site of a proposed well pad and plant markers to indicate the reclaiming of Mi’Kmaq stewardship of the land.

Things to bring:

·          Your contribution to the potluck lunch
·          Your own cutlery and dishes, if possible
·          An object that is sacred to you

Please RSVP to the New Brunswick Environmental Network at (506) 855-4144 or send us an email at nben@nben.ca