Snake Oil?

What kind of mad world have we allowed to be created where now when you step out your door to go shopping for groceries and other products, you can’t simply worry whether there is too much salt, sugar or fat in it, or whether it will make you more attractive.  But rather, you have to worry about whether the container the food comes in will contain dangerous chemicals; ones that will affect your daughter’s hormones causing her to start puberty early or your son’s hormones thereby reducing his sperm count.  Or, whether the new sofa, designed to burn a little slower (though they can actually be worse in a fire), will cause deficits in motor skills, memory or changes in behaviour in developing children?  Or whether that new perfume, air freshener or laundry soap will cause respiratory problems in yourself and/or someone you love.  What kind of world is this?

I recall a term I learned in my youth.  I don’t know why I heard it but the term was “snake oil salesman”.  It seemed to me to come out of the 1800s when travelling salesmen would show up in a town and try to sell you bottles of cure-it-all, aka snake oil.  From what I understood, it usually didn’t work and you were lucky if you didn’t get sick from it.  When the ruse was discovered, they ran those salesmen out of town.  When I heard this term I thought it was gone in the past.  But I’d say the concept really isn’t gone.  It looks like we are again or still caught in the ruse.  Today, we happily peruse the shelves of our local stores and load our carts with chemical laden products.

Given nearly everything on our store shelves today contains chemicals, they’re hard to avoid.  Whether it’s the couch you and your family sit on that is sprayed with flame retardants, the hand soap with triclosan, the new computer mouse with antibacterial agents (aka triclosan), the ‘green’ bathroom cleaner that is actually a different kind of “green washing” (pulling the wool over our eyes) or the food-like products on grocery shelves, we are swimming in toxic chemicals.

And we’re still wondering why we’re getting sick?!

Our bodies were designed to process natural products that the earth produced.  They weren’t designed to repel the ghastly number of compounds and chemicals that can and do enter our bodies through our skin, nose, and mouth.  There are over 80000 chemicals used in products we buy.  Most have never been tested for safety.  The lipstick you put on your lips, the powder you put on your skin, the drink that has ingredients you can’t pronounce all come together in your body.  These chemicals also haven’t been tested for how they interact as a concoction inside us.

Be careful and read the ingredients.  If you cannot pronounce them, that’s a probable sign to be cautious.  If you want to know what the chemicals are and whether or not they are linked to health impacts, many can be found in the databases on the Environmental Working Group website.  Maybe that shampoo is okay or maybe it’s got carcinogens in it that enter your body when the product is used as it is intended, and the remainder go down the drain and into your nearest lake to cause more havoc for the fish and wildlife.

It’s a crazy world and it’s the one we live in.  You can protect yourself from ‘snake oil’ products.  Read labels and do some research.   We’re all vulnerable but children are the most vulnerable.  Chemicals will mess with their development.  Let’s keep ourselves and our families safe.  And, add your voice to the many already calling for safer products.

Follow this link for many resources to learn more about what I’ve said above:  chemicals and health.

Please also share any resources you have in the comments section.  And, please share this with others.  Let’s get the word out!

Posted in Chemicals, Food, health, hormone, Shopping | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Building Momentum

Perhaps you’ve noticed that just about any way you turn, some cause could use a little help.  Some of the issues are local and some of them are far away but could definitely affect the local (international treaties or a pipeline, for instance).

Thanks to the Internet we can fairly easily learn about happenings in our world that don’t normally show up in the local paper or even the national TV news.  Or if they do, an alternative source can give an alternative view of the same topic.

Organizations’ websites keep us abreast of what’s happening to everything from food safety issues, to threatened heritage animals to toxic chemicals in our common products, to name a few.  They also suggest ways to make things better.

What interests you?

Boreal Bird enews

Boreal Bird enews

There’s likely an organization trying to protect or promote something you may care for and most have email news updates that you can sign up for on their websites.  You can unsubscribe, too, just in case you’re wondering.  I got a little overwhelmed when I’d signed up for too many newsletters.  I had to do a little paring down to just the ones I could really focus on.

Facebook is also a good tool for me.  I have “liked” a many organizations that post articles with lots of information and periodic calls for help.  While I use Facebook for keeping in touch with friends as well, I have little of my private information posted.  My primary use of it is for keeping up with my world.  I also have “liked” many alternative news sites because they share different information, stories and viewpoints than mainstream sites.  It is good to read all sources with a critical eye to see that there is good referencing and then, even question those references.  Language used in the writing is also good for identifying those just spouting off versus those attempting to report well.  These organizations also share petitions and updates.

Still about Facebook, many of my friends share things they’ve seen and petitions they’ve signed.  Interestingly when I connected with long lost friends after joining Facebook, I found that many who I hadn’t seen for years shared similar concerns about the world as I do.  I guess that’s why we were friends way back when and still are today!

Signing petitions and sharing posts with friends are a couple of easy ways to support causes you care about.

Take it up a notch?

Want to get a little more active?  It can be as easy as not taking plastic bags and making yourself figure out how to carry the groceries when you have forgotten your cloth bags in the car.  I got much better at remembering my cloth bags or going back out to the car to get them when I forced myself to carry my groceries by stuffing cans in my coat pockets and piling the rest high on my arms!  I was probably a sight but I learned.

If you have a blog, have you written a blog post lately that lets your readers know about a concern you have or a cause you support?  Have you written a letter to the editor or sent an email to a Member of Parliament (MP), Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP), municipal Councillor, senator or congressperson?  If you don’t let them know what you care about, your support for whatever they do can be assumed by them whether you agree or not.  It has been said that “silence is taken for affirmation”.  Saying this another way:  you agree.  But do you agree?  And, by the way, if you have the time, an actual hand written, old fashioned letter carries more weight than an email according to one of my local MPs.

Have you made artwork that expresses concern or shares beauty so that others may see some of what’s in you that you care about?  Have you changed a habit or started to?  (stopped buying regular toilet paper and gone recycled)  Have you read up on a topic that affects you or someone or something that you love?  Did you pick up some garbage that makes the place look better and/or may help animals? Have you attended a rally or march in support of or against something?

Can you spare a few dollars?  

Operation Migration

Operation Migration

Many organizations operate thanks to the work of volunteers and maybe a few staff but what they are doing can often cost quite a lot of money.  They could benefit from financial support.   The Whooping crane rescue, Operation Migration, recently needed new ultra-light styled planes to meet new FDA guidelines or they were grounded!  I sent $8 to help buy the planes.  A lot of others must have, too, because they were able to buy two new planes and now they are back in the air showing young cranes where to migrate!  This knowledge was lost due to human intervention but with patient help and small planes, Whooping crane populations are slowly recovering.


There is something out there that can benefit from your action even if it is a small action.  Have you taken action this week about something important in the world to you?  Can you in the next week coming?


I’m writing a book about taking action—small or big.  I want people to know that their actions can help to make a difference in their world.  More and more people are beginning to do something and that’s creating momentum.  Can you add to that?

What have you done recently or what are you thinking of doing?  What may be holding you back?  Please comment below.

Miscellaneous news sources and other interesting things:  Mother Earth News, Permaculture Magazine, The Nature Conservancy,, The Huffington Post Canada, The Tyee, Environmental Working Group,, The Story of Stuff, as well, all sorts of journals and blogs (O Ecotextiles, 222 million tons) which can either be accessed through Facebook or your Inbox.  You can even “like” on Facebook if you like their products.  I really think 4-wheeled bikes are cool and have liked Rhoades.  I don’t know when I’ll ever own one but they make me smile.  Pick any topic and you’ll find they’re on Facebook and/or have a website.

(Don’t forget to leave a comment.)

Posted in action, Alternatives, Culture, Environmental Leaders, Tips, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Dangerous Deposable Device #3

This device is very common since bottled drinks with wide mouths exploded onto the market a few years ago.   But the device can have devastating effects on wildlife that encounter them.

small bottle better

big bottle small b

<–To the left is a common juice or milk bottle with an example of the device.

The device is also on big juice bottles that you might buy for your family.–>




When you crack open the lid of the bottle and it breaks the seal, you now have a plastic lid, a bottle and a ring.

big bottle small.

The ring is the main culprit.  It is made of thick plastic and often has barbs inside it.



When the ring falls off the bottle it becomes:  Dangerous Disposable Device #3!

rings to use

If a small creature encounters a ring and somehow gets it around part of its body, getting it back off again could be next to impossible, especially with the barbs that are on so many of them.


What they can do to wildlife

Plastic garbage is being found all over our communities and all over the world.  Even when we try to get it in the trash, animals can break open bags or tip over cans and items can escape.

Here is a terrible example of what can happen:

penguin dead

Photo from Take 3
Facebook site

This poor Fairy Penguin slowly starved to death because of the ring it got around its neck.

In another case, a duck died in St. John’s, Newfoundland when it got one around its head and neck.  People tried for a week to help it but it was too afraid to let anyone near.


We can end up with a lot of rings if we buy a lot of drinks in plastic bottles.  Some suggestions to reduce the risks to wildlife:

  1. Reduce or eliminate plastic juice and pop bottle purchases.  There are other ways to have a tasty beverage.
  2. Use the rings for craft projects.  They are very durable.  Here’s one idea for a doll clothing accessory:  headband.
  3. Last resort:  cut them in half before disposing of them.

Who knew you’d have to use a simple drink bottle ‘responsibly’?  But it turns out we do.  Wildlife depends on it.  Plastic is an amazing invention and humans are very creative with it.  We also now know that we must also be careful with it.

Did you know about the risks these rings pose to animals?  Have you been cutting them up for years?  Please click the “comments” link  below and share your experience with this little piece of plastic.

Posted in Animals, Disposable planet, Shopping, Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Connect the Dots – thoughts on Silent Spring

I have just finished reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book she wrote 50 years ago.  While I have already shared a few thoughts about the book from when I was just part way through it, my response to finishing the book came in at several more pages of thoughts—too much for one blog post!  So, here is Part I:

What were they thinking?!  


crop duster (credit: stock.xchng)

I was amazed to read story after story of the incredible harms unleashed over and over.   Highly poisonous chemicals were sprayed from trucks and crop dusters over the land and the water with no regard for the exceedingly obvious and unintended obliteration of life that it caused.  While the chemical was intended for one recipient—generally an insect—it nevertheless devastated countless other life forms in horrific ways.  I’m not a scientist but it’s not hard to understand something appalling when you read it:  birds, forest and meadow animals, fish, farm animals, and pets by the thousands all perishing by horrible deaths when exposed to those chemicals.  Effects on humans were less obvious but still present.  And, the success of the desired result?  Dismal.  Oftentimes the natural predator of the pest was killed instead, leaving the pest to flourish.  Other times the pest became resistant to the poison.

Chemical Use Continues Despite What We Knew

In working my way through the pages of her approachable writing, I was also surprised by what we knew ‘way back then’.  I’m sure I am not alone in feeling that we know more today than we did yesterday and obviously more than decades ago.  We ought to.  But I am also starting to see that important truths have been kept from us.

Carson’s book is full of stories about chemical pesticides, herbicides and insecticides and their unimaginable negative impacts.  But are pesticides, for example, now banned?  No, they are still legally used.  In only a few places after hard-fought battles, are pesticides for cosmetic use banned.  But even then they are still used, along with herbicides and insecticides, in farming, on government lands and even still on golf courses.  And their harmful effects are still being seen and felt.

We haven’t learned from the past.  We still use harmful chemicals and the consequences of those applications are not minor.  Today we see the feminization of aquatic life, eutrophication that can destroy aquatic life in lakes and rivers, and reduced sperm count in males, to name a few.  Regarding feminization and reduced sperm counts, humans are included in this.  Humans are also being affected (feminization, lower sperm counts).

Chemical Interactions…oops

Carson also wrote about the interaction of chemicals with other chemicals outside of the lab.  Often times the result was vastly worse.  Some chemicals that combined became many times more lethal than they were alone.  And today hundreds of new chemicals continue to be introduced every year.  One would wonder if some scientists or perhaps the companies they work for, just really think of the whole world as “the lab”?   Of course they do put labels on:  “handle with care”, “use properly” “hazardous”.  But they don’t know what other chemicals are in your garden shed or under your sink.  And once out of their hands, it is incredibly difficult to say that their chemical caused this illness.

Another type of unintended result that Carson points out is that one chemical may create the situation for another chemical to cause an undesired and expected health impact.  On page 31 she gives the example of one chemical destroying an enzyme in the liver that would have rendered another chemical harmless.  Often the result may occur days or years after exposure and it is still the same today.  Are you still harmed by those chemicals?  Yes.  Can you prove it and not only be compensated but possibly healed of the ailments beset you?  Extremely challenging to answer.

Today, over 80,000 chemicals are available for use in everything from pesticides to cosmetics and according to information revealed in a recent documentary I saw called Unacceptable Levels, we typically have over 200 of them in our bodies at any given time.  Few chemicals have been tested or are even required to be tested for safety to humans or animals.  Sadly, few people really know what we are truly spraying on our fields or back yards or even applying to our hands and faces, or those of our children.

Truth kept from us

In the last few years, it has just started to be revealed that chemicals can have intergenerational impacts.  That is, chemicals that you are exposed to may be harmful not only to your unborn child, but also to the child you are planning to have in a few years!  Furthermore it may affect their children, too.  ADHD in a child is the example in a documentary film called A Chemical Reaction that came out a few years ago.  It reveals the consequence of chemical exposure in a parent years before conceiving his child.

This is shocking news!

Even more shocking is …..this isn’t breaking news.  OR it shouldn’t be.  Carson wrote about the casualties among the newly born of animals exposed to chemicals, even in small doses.  From chapter 3 of this book that was written 50 years ago:

“By one means or another, the new generations suffer for the poisoning of their parents. No one knows whether the same effect will be seen in human beings, yet this chemical has been sprayed from airplanes over suburban areas and farmlands.”     Page 26

I think a lot of people wonder why we’re all so sick.  I’m beginning to wonder if instead of asking our scientists for cures, we should be asking them to stop selling us products that harm us.  We have a century of examples of harms.

Environmental Leader

Silent SpringI thank Rachel Carson for being an environmental leader.  In writing Silent Spring, she took a risk in revealing the negative effects of an unfettered chemical industry that was determined to remain active even after the end of World War II.  But she could not remain silent as she saw the harms unfolding across her country and continent.  She connects many dots with her writing and revealed the extent of a very huge injustice being perpetrated against nature—harms that were affecting humans and animals alike.

Today, we still live in a chemical culture and the harms have not gone away.  They are increasing and it remains for everyone to be vigilant in the protection of their health and that of their children.

What are your thoughts about our chemical world?

Posted in Animals, Chemicals, Culture, Uncategorized, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Increasingly Silent Spring

Who hasn’t had good intentions about reading a book that is just sitting on their shelf?  I have many such books.  But the time came to finally pick up one of them in particular.  In beginning to read it, I realized that a significant anniversary had recently past.  Fifty years ago and a little bit, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring.  This is the book I’ve let gather dust.

Why suddenly read it now?  I am now writing my own book and to be included is a short ‘history’ section about our stories.  They are “our” stories if you, too, have a concern, as I do, for the well-being of this place we call home, for its well-being affects “our” well-being.

The Spark

I knew Rachel Carson was a key figure in the early days of the environmental movement but I did not realize until now just how important she was.  She may not have called herself an environmental leader but I do.  In 1962, she bravely opened up a can of worms (not to be intentionally disrespectful to worms) and stood bravely to face the music.  And what a chorus it was that resulted.  She endured a well-funded and intense backlash for revealing, in fairly plain language, the incredible dangers of the chemicals that were being used far and wide as pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and rodenticides.  But perhaps more importantly, she started a dialogue that lead to the birth of the enviromental movement.

As revealed in the added Introduction (1994) by thenVice Silent SpringPresident Al Gore, her book was read and talked about by many diverse people including President Kennedy.  It was discussed on the news and no doubt in kitchens and backrooms—and not just those of the backlash.  I can’t imagine that many of the harms weren’t known by a lot of people, besides the ones who produced and sold the products.  But I wonder if one of the effects of her book was to connect the dots:  she revealed the extent of the situation that was otherwise only visible in fragments:  one incident here, a different one there.  For instance, when a worker died only a day after he replaced a fallen spigot with his bare hands; or the wife of a farmer who died from contaminated water after the fields were sprayed with arsenic; or the cattle or the birds that were observed suddenly sick or dead; or that even physicians who attended victims of accidental poisoning by certain chemicals were in danger themselves if they did not take precautions before attending them.

The “Big” Picture

She presented the “big” picture and did I mention that I’m only a third of the way through her book?  People and animals were being harmed and the chance of great harm was ever present.  Did people really know the loaded guns they were handling?  Do people today?

The story she tells in her book of the chemicals, their uses and unanticipated results is shocking.  Within pages of starting to read it I had two nearly simultaneous thoughts:  ‘this sounds like now’ and ‘this was written 50 years ago’ (about the widespread use of chemicals through the previous couple of decades–after World War II).  It had already been going on for a while!

Fifty years ago, she wrote at the beginning of chapter 3:  “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.”  Fifty years ago she wrote that?!  My thought is ‘it’s a wonder we’re still alive now’…and here we are.  But is it any wonder that there is so much sickness and disease as we see?

Chemical use now:  more or less?

So, has the use of pesticides, etc. been reduced because of that dialogue that was begun so long ago?  No.  We did then and have continued to coat our continent with a concoction of chemicals, for more than 50 years.  Today, thousands upon thousands of chemicals are on the market to be used by the trained and the untrained.  A vast number of them remain to be tested for safety.  Not only do we apply them to our fields, forests and streams, we apply them to our lips, face, hair and other body parts.  And, we continue to wonder why we get sick?

‘Why my husband or child or sister or me?’  ‘Why don’t I feel well?’

Pesticides and the other killing chemicals were only ever designed to harm.  The ones for our so-called beauty, I’ll leave for a future conversation about safety, or the lack of it.

We know but we do not act

Carson’s book revealed to me that 50 years ago people were realizing there were unintended, terrible harms happening and yet more chemicals—not fewer—are daily brought onto the market.

Environmental Leader

Rachel-CarsonI salute Rachel Carson’s environmental leadership and bravery.  Her book is interesting, scary, readable and, I believe, as relevant today as it was when she wrote it.

Have you read Silent Spring?

What do you think?

Posted in Chemicals, Culture, Environmental Leaders, war | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gifts Not Garbage


As we head into the gift giving season that it is for so many, I wonder how many people will give things that will last for any length of time.  In The Story of Stuff Annie Leonard tells us that most of what we buy only stays in our homes for about 6 months.  Will the items you are fretting about buying right now in order to make this ‘the best Christmas ever’ be out the door by July?

In many ways this is unavoidable because so much of what is for sale is made so poorly.  I’ve seen $80 sweaters begin losing their sequins after the first wear.  I’ve seen threads coming out undergarments’ waistbands after the second wearing and cooking utensils that break after only a few uses since bringing them home.  In a news article I read a number of months ago, someone’s 20-year old jeans were compared to the new ones they had just bought.  On the newer ones, a pocket had fallen off.  On the 20-year old ones the only thing wrong was worn out knees from lots of wear.  Are designers less smart than they used to be?  No, smarter.  So many items we buy today are engineered to fail sooner rather than last longer.  It takes work, and usually a little more money, to find something that will actually last for any length of time.

Why would engineers and designers “build to break”?  It’s pretty simple.  If they “built to last” we wouldn’t shop as frequently and part with our money.  But it’s pretty annoying to spend money that is hard earned on something that barely makes it out of the bag in one piece when you bring it home, let alone will last a few months.  We’ve almost come to expect that it won’t last.  But I speculate that anyone over 40 remembers when things lasted longer and quality was more obvious.  But more and more over the last few years, quality seems to be decreasing.  But given we love to shop anyway, do we really mind the extra trips to the store to replace yet another item bought only 5 months ago that is falling a part?  I do.  (And it isn’t just the extra trips; it’s the thing coming a part in my hands that I also hate!)

This year as you shop for gift items, see if you can find things that will be around longer than the next 6 months.  Those items are out there and sometimes it is just a matter of what kinds of things you choose.  As you contemplate your purchase, I challenge you to picture it a half a year from now.  Will it still be in a drawer or on a shelf, still played with, enjoyed or admired or will it be lying with other crap in a landfill or floating in some waterway with the other trash?  That stuff used to belong to someone.

This season let’s show greater caring for our loved ones (and our planet) by giving gifts that last.  It’s no fun throwing away a gift we’ve received when it breaks only a few short months later.  And, tell the producers of substandard items that this is unacceptable and ‘we won’t buy it’.  Say ‘no’.  Buy fewer items if necessary but give gifts not garbage.  The goal of the season isn’t to trash the planet a little more this year.  But it may to take little more creativity to give a better gift:  go for quality rather than quantity, make a donation on their behalf or create a certificate that offers the recipient a ‘service’ like a homemade gourmet meal or snow shoveling for a month.

Gift giving and receiving can be a lot of fun and I think we can do it in a way that is kinder to our planet.  In the end we’ll all benefit more from the joy of the season.

What ideas do you have for gentler gift giving?  What other kinds of creative things can we do or make?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section so others can benefit from your creativity.

Posted in Christmas, Culture, Disposable planet, Shopping, Tips | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Honouring them?

Remembrance Day

It has been my honour to have played the Last Post dozens of times for fallen soldiers and veterans: at cenotaphs on Remembrance Day, at graveyards and in churches for funerals and on parade for other honouring ceremonies.  Lest we forget.  I think we don’t forget; we do Remembrance Day ceremonies each year.

What about the other 364 days?  I wonder if we are not fully honouring them the rest of the year.  Are we not severely altering the world they fought for?  Soldiers, sailors and airmen and women fought and continue to fight for a way of life:  freedom and democracy.  But was it freedom to trash the planet that they fought for?

Our strongly defended capitalism has translated to a sense of entitlement that fosters a greed which is exceeding the planet’s ability to fulfill.  It is also rendering it increasingly inhospitable to human and animal life.  It is not something that is happening overnight but has picked up considerable speed since World War II.  We are slowly stripping our home of its lifeforce.  The evidence is increasingly hard to miss.


War, besides being awful for people, is also terrible for the planet.  Battlegrounds were once forests, meadows, rivers and lakes.  Birds lived there and so many other animals, too.  People used to grow food on lands destroyed by bombs.  There has been so much destruction to the natural environment — both inadvertent when bombs were dropped on people, and intended, such as Agent Orange in Vietnam.  Nature didn’t matter.  Destroy it, if necessary.

Getting along

Military spending is excessive all around the world.  If that money were spent on people through education, health care, arts and other quality of life ways, perhaps we would actually get along.  As it works out, fighting is good for the economy because money changes hands.  But is it good for us?

If we stopped fighting it would be far less profitable to the people who make and sell armaments, as well as the people who rebuild that which was destroyed.  If we stopped living in a culture of fear, perhaps ‘re-building’ wouldn’t be an ongoing necessity.

Imagine a world where resources were spent on helping and supporting people rather than devising ways to hurt them.  Imagine a world where we started not fighting; that is, we started to accept our differences, stopped forcing our way on others and cooperated rather than always competing.  There is enough for everyone if we would stop destroying it all the time.


Soldiers sacrifice a lot in war; sometimes everything.  We remember them offically every year on November 11th.  But will we respect what they fought for?  Sure they fought against tyranny but I can’t help but wonder if they’d be a little upset to see the state of their defended home.  Fighting and dying for a dirty, half extinct planet may not be what they had in mind.  Who would die for that?

I believe we dishonour them every time we choose combat over cooperation and every time another piece of nature dies a little more because of greed and lack of respect.  When we remember them, we should also consider the home they fought for.  Freedom on a healthy and vibrant planet where people live respectfully is true freedom.  And that is worth defending!

Posted in Culture, Disposable planet, Respect, war | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Getting Around

How do you get around on the paths between buildings?  Most of the paths are concrete and in Western culture, gas vehicles are the dominant presence on our paths.  Walking is secondary.  In fact, everything else is secondary.

Increasingly I am seeing many more ways of getting around – besides on foot:  some officially motorized, some human powered.  I think there is a shift happening.  I know from happenings in my own city that there is also strife over such things as the addition of bicycle lanes to the roads.

But this musing isn’t about bicycle lanes, it’s about the many different ways to travel on our paths and what is considered appropriate on our ‘roads’.

Diversity on the paths

I’ve seen electric bikes and electric or gas stand–on scooters both buzzing along with little high-pitched motors.  Now there are electric moped-like scooters, 3-wheeled motorcycles, Smart Cars and also hybrids (which I realize are automobiles, but different than the usual).   A few weeks ago I even saw someone driving one of those motorized 4-wheel scooters and it was enclosed!  Good idea in the rain.  Some people drive these in the bike lanes but he was on the sidewalk.  I couldn’t help thinking how much it seemed somewhat like a tiny car or go cart of sorts.

One Thunder Bay fellow designed a 3-wheeled bike that he propels with an electric motor.  Here’s the cool thing:  his electricity comes from 3 solar panels, which he has placed behind him on the bike!  Really innovative, if you ask me!  And another fellow in Canada is doing the Power of One Solar Car Project. He is demonstrating clean and sustainable energy by traveling around the country in it.  And, he is setting records with it, too!

I also know of people who are running their regular diesel engine vehicles with vegetable oil and eventually we are going to see more electric cars and perhaps even ones propelled by compressed air! (Biofuel from corn isn’t something I like because that’s food.)

On the Internet a few years ago I came across 4-wheeled bikes called surreys by one company and actually there are others that make them too.  I try to imagine having one and taking it out on the streets in my town.  Because it would take up more room than a regular pedal bike but still not go as fast as a motorized car, I wonder how the car drivers would react? I think it would be a great way to get around.

Purpose of Paths

Why am I musing about modes of transportation?  Recently, I read a statement that got my gears going:

 “Our roads are not here for automobiles. Our roads are here for people to get around.”    Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, at a ribbon cutting ceremony

Because of that statement, I’m looking at roads differently and thinking of them as pathways rather than roadways.  Being aware of all the different ways of getting around now makes me re-consider the dominance of cars and trucks.  Things are changing.  We are re-evaluating the use of fossil fuels.  And, people’s creativity is coming out.  They are trying new ways of getting from place to place.   And, they work!

We all pay so we should all have a say

Given we all contribute to city taxes – even some of the rent money to the landlord will find its way into a tax payment – shouldn’t everyone’s say about the pathways count?  Right now, the voices of people who drive cars seem to be heard the loudest and so they pretty much “own the road”.  The rest seem barely tolerated.  I think our cities and towns should reconsider their pathways and how they could be used to better serve everyone who pays for them.  And I know I haven’t even mentioned rapid transit.

Despite the fact that proponents of fossil fuel-based vehicular traffic do not seem to want to let go of their dominance over our pathways because they can sell us oil, ultimately we all own the paths.  And many people are getting creative in how they choose to get around on them.  Many of these new ideas are much better for the environment and for our health.  And, they look like a lot of fun, too!

One thing we would all benefit from, though, is a little more respect and patience for each other when we pass each other on these paths.  And, let’s celebrate the diversity of ideas and the innovative thinking!

~ Have thoughts and ideas about this topic?  Please share them below.  Also, please send this to anyone you think may be interested!

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Dangerous Disposable Device #2

Cool drinks ahead!  Summer is coming and I know that many, many people like the cool drinks you can get from almost all of the fast food and drink restaurants.  Here in Canada, there’s the Tim Hortons Iced Capp, Wendy’s has the Frosty and McDonald’s has the McFlurry.  Still others might choose a favourite Bubble Tea to quench their thirst.

I can’t comment on the nutritional analysis of the ingredients of these drinks to know how good or bad they are for you.  But I have observed that the containers they come in, while safe for us, can pose a deadly threat to the health and well-being of some of the wild creatures that share our world.

What am I talking about?  The lid that is often used with these particular drinks is the problem.  It can become a dangerous trap for the wildlife that encounters it.  Those lids are not flat like lids all used to be.

safe lid

For these drinks, it’s curved and often with a good sized hole at the top.

unsafe lid

I like to think of it as ‘how to get more drink than the cup really holds’.

For whatever reason, though, companies arrived at using this style and have used it now for years.  But combined with the tantalizing smells of something delicious within, this design creates a ‘device’ that can trap animals.

see below for photo credit

This skunk, nicknamed Bubbles, was discovered in the fall of 2011 in Vancouver’s West End.  After numerous attempts to rescue it by caring and obviously flexible volunteers of the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue, it was finally caught.  Even the news media were following the story of this little one.

The skunk was in need of medical help because it had encountered the ‘device’ as a youngster and as it was growing into an adult, the lid was getting tighter and tighter around its neck.  Bubbles was taken to the Wildlife Rescue Association (WRA) of BC in Burnaby and later released.

A much happier skunk!

Bubbles the skunk
Photo by Linda Bakker

Ongoing Problem

Animals getting injured by these ‘devices’ is an ongoing problem.  Here in Thunder Bay, a month ago a friend posted out on Facebook that she and a friend had rescued another skunk trapped in a cup.  (no, she didn’t get sprayed…the poor thing was too disoriented to do that)

In England where hedgehogs live in abundance, McDonald’s was encouraged to change the size of the hole in their drink lids.  Hedgehogs were going into the discarded drink containers but couldn’t pull their heads out because of the design.  Public outcry actually worked though it took several years and countless deaths.

I was also told recently of someone’s cat which got its head stuck in a larger holed drink container.  At first they thought it looked kind of funny but they quickly realized that it was not!  The lid was cutting their cat’s neck.

Birds also get these stuck around their necks and it can spell almost certain death for them.

Cut Them Up

One might think that being careful to put these types of drink containers into the garbage when finished with it would be good enough.  And, it is certainly better than simply dropping it on the ground.  However, garbage doesn’t always stay contained when it is in a garbage collector bin or even when it gets to the landfill.

The best solution, aside from just not buying this type of drink or trying to refuse the lid, is to cut the lid into two pieces.

making it safe

This way there is no longer a hole to get stuck in.

Ideally, it would be great if companies would revise the design of these lids.  How many people carry handy scissors with them?  …not to mention the muck!

Until they’re changed, though, please cut them up.  Thanks!

Do you have a story to share about these lids and the animals and birds that encounter them?  Please share your stories in the comments and sign up to receive these posts automatically.

Bubbles photo credit:  this photo comes from   Unsuccessful attempts were made to learn who the photographer was.  If you know who took this photo, please let me know and I will update this post.  Thanks.

The first post in this series is “Dangerous Disposable Devices“.

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An e~musing article. Please enjoy this guest post by Bonnie Lee from 222 million tons.

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