By Anchita Kaushik
Zero Waste is a concept that means exactly what its name suggests. It is an effort to reduce waste to the point where none of it is sent off to landfills, where it is dumped with other garbage that has been collected over a long period of time. Nowadays, most people describe the philosophy of zero waste as principles that encourage the redesigning of the life cycle of our resources in such a way that all products are reused.
Our current resource life cycle shows that almost all materials tossed into garbage cans find themselves at a landfill or, in some cases, an incinerator. Many of the things that are thrown away and sent to landfills are ones that don’t biodegrade at all. One such example would be plastic. The fact that it’s a man-made substance just goes to show that some of our technological innovations aren’t necessarily helping the world we live in. With our modern-day philosophy, the amount of trash sent to landfills is at the maximum, whereas with zero waste, it would be minimal. Zero waste is a concept that is similar to how nature reuses resources.
Experts on zero waste often use the following definition in regards to zero waste:
“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient, and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, waste, or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal, or plant health.”
Zero waste is considered a goal that is not only ethical, but economical as well – something most people don’t think would go together. Generally, people would think that in order to be ethical, the price of something may be higher than if the object was produced though unethical or unfair means. However, zero waste is an exception. It helps people change their way of living to a way where sustainable natural cycles are followed, and all cast-off materials become resources that have another use. Zero Waste means that products would be designed and managed in a way that reduces and eradicates the amount and toxicity of waste while conserving all resources without burning or burying them in landfills.
Executing Zero Waste in the proper manner would remove all discharges that wrongly alter the planet, humans, animal, or plant health. Methane, for example, is released in landfills and it is a relatively potent greenhouse gas.
In regards to industry, zero waste would involve making wares out of products that are usually considered as waste, and recreating old outputs into new outputs for similar or different industrial divisions. For example: in the cycle of a glass milk bottle where silica sand is formed into glass before being turned into a bottle, the bottle is filled with milk and circulated to the customer, and in normal waste methods the bottle would be disposed of in a landfill. With zero waste, the customer will get a deposit, which can be redeemed when the bottle is returned. When returned, the bottle is washed, refilled, and resold. In this type of sustainable life cycle, the only waste material is the water being used to wash. This shows how zero waste can signify an alternative to “normal” waste systems where new resources are constantly needed to replace raw materials that have been turned into waste.
By Samantha Chow, Grade 8
Most people may know that global warming has a very big impact on Earth. Scientists say that global warming is due to humans-induced greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse Gases are produced in part because we burn fossil fuels.
Baby harp seals are among the many species impacted by global warming. They need 30-70 centimetres thick of ice to keep them stable. As the ocean warms, the baby seals could be drowned or crushed by broken-up chunks of ice. If the climate gets even hotter, the survival rates of their pups will drop even more greatly. These cute little creatures need help to survive. Luckily, while people do hunt them to sell their fur, skin, and meat, these seals are not yet endangered.
By Andrea Novakovic, Grade 11
Hundreds of people gathered in the streets of downtown Prince George, British Columbia to protest against the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. The march through the Dakelh
Territory and the streets of Prince George was led by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, who felt that the government was ignoring their title and status by approving this project when it clearly encroached upon the First Nation’s territories.
The Enbridge Northern Gateway involves a $5.5-billion 11770-km twin pipeline system running across Canada, transporting bitumen from the Alberta tar sands to the tanker port on the B.C. coast above Kitimat. The smaller 20” line would transport condensate, which is used to dilute heavy oil for transportation; the larger 36” line would transport about 500’000 of crude bitumen to marine terminal every day. The terminal itself would be frequented by all sorts of oil tankers, ranging from the Aframaz vessels (which only carry 700’000 barrels of oil) to the VLCC (“Very Large Crude Carriers”) tankers that have a carrying capacity of 2.3 million barrels of oil each. (more…)
By Kevin Liu, Grade 12
Hello to all Christmas lovers, everyone knows that Christmas is the perfect time for gifts and we are all rushing to buy something special for our loved ones. Christmas is the time for giving and many of our presents have some materials that are disposable and end up in the landfills. Before you give out your lovely gifts, keep in mind these techniques that you can use to help reduce the amount of waste produced while sharing your Christmas spirit!
By Angela Ho, Grade 11
Over the last six months, concerned activists and organizations fought together against one of the most controversial oil projects in North America, the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline. Hundreds of thousands of people sent petitions to the White House and State Department. Around 1250 people were arrested for civil disobedience and over 12,000 people encircled the White House to demand the halting of this disastrous proposal. After a long struggle against the expansion of the Keystone XL, activists celebrated victory when the Obama administration announced that the project would be delayed until after the U.S. elections in 2012, and further inspection of all impacts will be conducted. (more…)
By Angela Ho, Grade 11
Today, people around the world are becoming more aware of an increasingly controversial issue that affects all. Underneath huge reserves in various countries lies an incredibly profitable yet extremely destructive resource. The resource I am referring to is tar sands, but in particular the Athabasca tar sands located in northeastern Alberta.
In a nutshell, tar sands oil is extracted from a mixture of heavy crude bitumen, clay, sand, and water. However, it takes three barrels of fresh water in order for one barrel of crude oil to be extracted, and a massive amount of contaminated water is pumped back out to the surrounding environment daily. This is an outrageous act of crime against the residents of the Fort McMurray region. As the oil companies become filthy rich, people who live around their mines are becoming much sicker. Air, water, and land become polluted by the waste coming out from the tar sands; the entire region is virtually a toxic waste dump. Rare cancers are occurring much more frequently and people are dying, yet these companies aren’t held accountable. This is just a brief peek at how nasty the tar sands are; there are a large number of other complications around these operations, but all in all the Athabasca tar sands is one hell of a nasty place.
Recently, a huge two-week campaign against the expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline was held in front of the White House in Washington, DC. Over 1,200 people were arrested for civil disobedience while protesting against a new pipeline that will surely bring more disasters upon North America. This proposed oil pipeline will carry what is probably the dirtiest type of oil known to mankind – tar sands oil. Stretching 2,000 miles (about 3200km) from Hardisty, Alberta, the Keystone XL pipeline will enter Montana before continuing southeast towards South Dakota and Nebraska. There, the pipeline will be connected with the current Keystone pipeline in Kansas and continue down to Oklahoma, before reaching the final exiting terminals in Texas.
Such a pipeline can wreak havoc in every shape and form imaginable. Every day, one million barrels of oil will be transferred, travelling through the heartland of America to the Gulf Coast. The Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest aquifer in North America, will be disrupted and heavily contaminated if an oil spill occurs. This aquifer supplies a massive amount of fresh water to Americans and is depended upon by agricultural industries. If the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is approved, clean water will slowly become inaccessible due to contamination and people will suffer under widespread sickness. The air will become polluted; precious rivers, agricultural lands, wildlife, and communities across the US will be endangered. The concept of a clean-energy economy will be undermined and the progress towards a sustainable society will be impeded.
In all honesty, the Keystone XL pipeline is not for the benefit of the people; it holds a bigger agenda than just “providing oil for America”. The price of the crude oil transported to the U.S. will increase and huge profits will go into the pockets of oil companies who are rich even without the money. Additionally, the oil will be processed by American refineries for export to overseas markets. In other words, much of it won’t even reach the tanks of U.S. drivers.
This is neither right nor ethical, and definitely not sustainable! Oil companies should not gain wealth at the expense of the security and health of the general public, as well as the deterioration of the environment. Incredibly, the U.S. State Department concludes that the pipeline meets environmental and safety standards. A final decision will be made in later this year, but it’s not too late to stand up because President Obama has the power to veto this project. Sign a petition online (for more information, please visit http://act.350.org/sign/tar-sands/) and pressure him to reject the pipeline for our own sake. The planet will continue to exist for years to come, but we may be the ones who will not.
By Sydney Emo, Grade 10
Alberta is home to a huge oil reserve known as the Alberta tar sands, or the Alberta oil sands. The reserve is worth billions of dollars and produces about 1.3 million barrels of oil per day, with an estimated total of 175 billion barrels of crude oil available for further extraction.
There has been a lot of controversy regarding the impact this large industry has on the environment and the people living in the area. Although it creates jobs, there are many health risks involved in working around so many toxins for days at a time. However, despite of being fully aware of the hazards, workers from local communities and other provinces have no other option but to work there due to their desperate need of income.
The oil companies are drilling everywhere they can, even on land that does not belong to them. Sadly, the local residents feel powerless as individuals to make the government and oil companies more environmentally and socially responsible.
By Tammy Lee, Grade 12
Burns Bog is a remarkable natural site located in the suburban region of Vancouver, and it is the largest raised bog on the west coast of North America. Although it may not be as acclaimed as the “gem in the city” we know as Stanley Park, Burns Bog is considered to be the “rough diamond buried under tons of garbage,” due to the endless garbage disposal at the landfills located right on the edge of the peat bog. (more…)
On Friday, April 22nd, a historic Earth Day event took place in Vancouver!
Youth For Climate Justice Now is a group of East Vancouver high school students from Windermere Secondary. They organized this year’s Earth Day Parade and Celebration with great support from organizations such as the Wilderness Committee, Transformation Projects, Metro Vancouver, and the David Suzuki Foundation. This Earth Day event provided a great opportunity to increase youth participation in democracy, especially as environmental issues have been sorely missing from the discussion in the ongoing federal election campaign.
This youth-led Earth Day Parade started at 11:00 AM on the intersection of Commercial Drive and Grandview Highway. An estimated 3000 people from all around the Vancouver area paraded down Commercial Drive to Britannia Secondary School, where the Earth Day Celebration would later be held at. Guest speakers at the celebration included MP Libby Davies, MLA Jenny Kawn, and Melina Laboucan-Massimo, an advocate for indigenous rights with a focus on the impact of the tar sands. The event focused on the need to keep global temperatures from rising beyond 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Throughout the day, student volunteers circulated a petition urging governments to do 2 things that would significantly reduce the supply and demand for oil: redirecting money from highway expansion to public transit and banning oil tankers on the Pacific coast.
Although this year’s Earth Day had already gone by, Youth For Climate Justice Now is not going to stop there! They would like to continue to encourage more and more of their peers to learn, take action, and show everyone that the time to save the Earth is NOW!
By: Eric Lam, Grade 11
In our current society, our status quo is to constantly consume and constantly buy new things. Plastic is the most commonly disposed item from the common household. In reality, only organic/biodegradable material can decompose in a short period of time. Plastic, being manmade, cannot. In fact, it can take a whole century for plastic to even start decomposition! Almost every item in a household contains plastic nowadays. Very recently, Blest, a Japanese company, invented a new machine that converts plastic into oil in hopes of creating a better innovative sustainable future and help restore the environment.
This new plastic to oil machine is not very hard to use. You can think of this machine as a washing machine, but instead of putting your clothes in you just insert your plastic and press a few buttons. Most people put their plastic waste into a garbage can, but because of this machine’s potential of creating more sustainable opportunities, people might find themselves with more chances to recycle.
The process of turning plastic into oil is incredibly simple; you even learn this in science class! The machine emulsifies the plastic with high temperatures which melt the plastic into oil, CO2, H2O, methane, butane, ethane, propane, etc. Excess dangerous compounds like methane, butane, ethane and propane, are filtered into a separate component which decomposes these compounds into H2O and CO2. Oil, H2O and CO2 will then be pumped into a tank with tap water so the oil can then be cooled. The oil will float to the surface because oil is lighter than water. There is a pump that pumps the oil out of the tank for easy access. However, the downside is that the oil is actually made up of lots of different types of oil. The oil contains diesel, kerosene and gasoline. These could later be refined and separated by another machine, which is another product sold by this company. The oil produced can be used to run things such as automobiles. However, only three types of plastics could only be put into this machine; polyethylene (PETE), polystyrene (PS) and polypropylene (PP). If you look at the bottom of your plastic container, these plastics would be numbers 1, 5 and 6. This means things such as water bottles and caps, chip bags, Styrofoam, and yogurt containers can be recycled by this machine. The company is still researching how to use the same process for other types of plastics such as the material used to make car tires. Who knows what is in store as this type of technology improves?
Like everything else, however, this machine has its downsides. This product costs around $10,000 and cannot be easily purchased. The cost of this machine is equivalent to the price of solar panels. Additionally, you can’t buy this machine on its own; you have to buy another machine that separates the unrefined oil. It could cost as much as a new car; the average person could not afford a machine. It is guaranteed that this machine will eventually pay off in the long run in terms of income since you are creating oil and you can eventually sell it. Blest has an industrial-level machine which can create oil 24/7. The current household machine cannot be used as frequently because the high temperatures will eventually destroy the machine. In order to use the machine again you would have to let it cool down between uses.
However, the main problem is not the temperature; it’s the long term impact due to the consumption of oil. An excuse will rise from oil companies saying that “oil is sustainable now”. Blest’s goal is not to make oil sustainable but to get rid of waste and use the oil for better means. We cannot forget that oil is not really sustainable. Oil disappears because it is consumed by transportation or machinery. The whole goal of a sustainable society is not to use oil, but to use other methods of energy that can be renewed. Oil creates CO2, which contributes to climate change.
There is a solution to everything, and there is hope that we can save our race from extinction. Despite the many controversies surrounding this machine, there are some things that it can do to bring about a better future. We currently have a problem with our oceans; gigantic islands of plastic are floating and circulating in the Pacific. We also have a problem with our landfills that are incredibly filled with plastic, because our society is built to consume and throw away things. Last but not least, cities in third-world countries are filled with plastic waste because they have not been taught to recycle, and due to extreme poverty, do not have the resources to do so.
Now you may be wondering, “How could this machine have a positive impact?” A phrase that perfectly fits this machine’s description is “stepping stone”. It is a stepping stone we can use in order to create a sustainable society. There has to be a foundation or outline for a new society before we can move forward into creating it. How else would a sustainable society come about? It has to come from somewhere. The machine offers the solution in solving the plastic problem we have around the world. In fact, Blest has donated these machines to third world communities and is educating them about recycling instead of throwing away plastic onto the streets. The next goal for this company is to get rid of plastic that circulates within the ocean. The majority of plastics end up in the ocean or in landfills and this machine is the solution to that problem.
Blest has opened doors for our society and we need to take advantage of this; it will help us move forward and change the way we live. We are ruining our lives constantly because our mentality thinks that things will go away once we put them into the trash can. Landfills do not disappear or degrade properly because of plastic. We need to solve this problem and use better means of waste management than the way we are currently using. This machine alone is just one piece to the puzzle and we should not count on this machine alone. We have to do so much more than advance our technology. There are other solutions that do not even require technology. We need to be aware of these, and realize what are we doing to our only earth that we live on.
By: Emily Chan, Grade 12
One of the most critical barriers that Canadians face in regard to addressing environmental issues is the lack of regulation in support of green initiatives. However, our new Environment Minister makes environmentalists slightly more dubious about the government’s position of support for the green movement.
Mr. Kent was a Deputy Editor of Global Television News before he became the Environment Minister. He started out, in the 1960s, as a radio journalist; and then moved onto television, working for many well-known stations (CBC, CTV, Global, and NBC). His background in the media earned him the President’s Award in 2006 for his history of bringing distinction and major contributions to the media industry.
On January 4th, 2011, Peter Kent became our Environmental Minister.
In merely his first week on the job, he’s already created uproar amongst environmentalists; the Environmental Defence launched a campaign to write letters to Mr. Kent to show tell him what he needs to do to become a worthwhile minister.
His stance on the Athabasca Tar Sands has been the most unnerving (However, instead of having to read the details of the Tar Sands’ negative impacts in this article, please read past Word articles referenced at the end of this article). Peter Kent claims that the Tar Sands are ethical, stating: “The profits from this oil are not used in undemocratic or unethical ways. The proceeds are used to better society in the great Canadian democracy. The wealth generated is shared with Canadians, with investors.”
Mr. Kent’s position is one that needs to be dealt with honestly. His support for the Athabasca Tar Sands is not only unsettling, but is disappointing. As Environmental Minister, he should be trying to help our movement, instead of hindering our efforts.
It is our moral obligation to help save the environment; as the saying goes, “We’re all part of the problem – so we must all be part of the solution.” We will wait with baited breath for Mr. Kent to step up and deliver the change that’s essential for a safe future for our families.
We can make a wave of change, but unless the government removes the barrier that’s currently blocking our pathway, the change will not be visible enough. And Mr. Kent needn’t worry. We will continue to weather down the barriers until our wave is heard and received with support. Until then, I hope he’ll rethink his policies and realize that, right now, the environment relies upon his choices.
Past Word Articles about the Athabasca Tar Sands:
Neelam Khare, “A Not So Happy New Year” January 2009: http://whsword.wordpress.com/2009/01/13/a-not-so-happy-new-year-the-tar-sands-take-over/
Mitchell Agostinho, “The Shame of Canada” March 2009: http://whsword.wordpress.com/2009/03/04/the-shame-of-canada/
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
As if the “Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch” isn’t bad enough already, similar garbage patches can be found in the Mediterranean Sea, the historic heart of western civilization. Plagued by trash for years, the Mediterranean is now covered with more than 250 billion pieces of plastic. This is equivalent to nearly 500 tonnes of garbage. Yet, the body of water that carries so much garbage also forms the northern and western borders of a number of Middle-eastern countries, and from which many people depend on to earn their livelihoods from fishing, tourism, and other activities.
The research work is completely done by Mediterranean EnDangered (MED), an international organization dedicated to the protection of the Mediterranean Sea. Its marine biologists surveyed the water off France, northern Italy, and Spain to a depth of up to 15 centimeters in July, 2010. Most of the plastic particles found were microscopic, each weighing 1.8 milligrams or less. These particles of micro-debris are smaller than 5 millimeters in size and are often missed in coast clean-ups. As these particles mix in with plankton, they are ingested by small fish which in turn are consumed by larger predators. And by this I mean that they could very well wind up in our own dinner plates.
When you throw out your garbage, you want it gone. Yet, the garbage is now coming back to haunt us, poisoning us by hiding in the food we eat. Floating between Japan and Hawaii is an island of plastic materials the size of Texas. In the Mediterranean Sea is the storehouse of 250 billion pieces of equally poisonous plastic waste. They were both created by the human addiction to plastic. We have reached an era when it dominates our daily lives. It now seems plastic is as important to us as air and water. Sure enough, this magical creation of man brings much convenience to us by providing us with plastic food wrappers, plastic bags, plastic water bottles, etc, etc. However, more than 180 marine species, including seals and tortoises, are paying for our unconstrained use of this unsustainable material. Their absorption of plastic debris can cause death by suffocation or starvation because their breathing or digesting system is blocked.
MED’s research last year had only focused on the surface waters. New research missions in 2011 are expected to give scientists a better understanding of the plastic crisis. Meanwhile, there is already some progress in lowering people’s dependency on plastic; Italy has recently made a decision to completely abolish the use of plastic bags. This sets an example for the other Mediterranean countries and the rest of the world. If all come together in this movement, the amount of plastic going out to the sea will significantly reduce.
By: Eric Lam, Grade 11
It has been half a year since the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on April 19th, 2010. The oil spill lasted for 3 months as the oil gushed out of the oil well at an alarming rate. They had reported that 162,000 barrels were spilled. The devastating effects of the oil spill impacted the local environment and, like all other major and minor oil spills, it must be remembered always. This sort of environmental catastrophe and the large scale of casualties it brings may leave behind all kinds of long-term problems that we are forced to spend countless days and dollars to fix. Thus, pressing onward for better solutions in dealing with such problems. The BP methods are inhumane and unreasonable; their choices only added more problems on the list. The corporation’s irresponsible decision avoided taking things into their own hands.
By: Kaitlyn Fung, Grade 10
Turtles are often thought of as timid, gentle, and slow-moving creatures. While this may be true, though, many of these reptiles are plummeting to their demise at a ferociously quick rate. It’s been said that over 40% of all freshwater turtles in the world have fallen into the category of threatened species. As a lover of turtles (terrapins, sea turtles and tortoises included), I have known for a while that many species of turtles have been endangered, so this doesn’t come as a huge surprise. However, beyond the usual suspect of habitat loss, I still find myself wondering what could possibly be wiping out these animals so aggressively.
First of all, let’s review some basic knowledge about freshwater turtles. What comes to your mind when you think of turtles? You might know that, as reptiles, they are cold-blooded and are covered from head to toe in scale-encrusted skin. They breathe air, lay eggs, and spend a lot of time underwater. You might even know that the ancestry of turtles can even be traced all the way back to the time when the dinosaurs were still roaming on the planet. Nonetheless, the first thing you probably have thought of is the protective bony shell that turtles are so well-known for, and sometimes even regarded as defining characteristic.
In the wild, turtles usually feed off insects and plants that are plentiful in freshwater ecosystems they live in. Wetlands, rivers, and ponds are just a few examples of their common habitats. Unfortunately, like the turtles, these environments are at high risk due to poisonous water pollution and the damming of rivers for hydro-electricity – both reasons are associated with humans. However, they are only part of the deadly equation; additional human contribution to the bulk of decline in turtle species is the hunting of turtles for pets and food.
In some parts of Asia (e.g., China, Vietnam, and Indonesia), it is believed that turtles have medicinal properties. As a result, farms have begun to breed the reptiles for human consumption; sadly, the demand for their meat (and their eggs) is so high that people are still resorting to the unsustainable act of hunting. This unconstrained hunger for turtles is still doesn’t complete the picture, though, because it still leaves us with the hunting of turtles as pets. The prettier and rarer the species is, the more desirable it becomes. Often, people tend to prefer wild turtles that have not yet reached the mature age of 15, causing a drastic decrease in the chance of reproduction and, consequently, the population.
Collectively, all these factors are responsible for the gradual demise of freshwater turtles across the globe. However, despite the severity of the issue, people are still having hope for the survival of these creatures. Captive breeding programs seem to be the best (and sometimes only) option for a majority of the turtles left in the world, but most of the fight is in limiting the number of wild turtles hunted. After that, the biggest concern would lie only in preserving the turtles’ habitats and maintaining laws and restrictions on turtle hunting.
These are few steps needed to rescue these reptiles, but they are yet to be done. Keeping those ideas in mind and displaying much care to these living creatures, there is still a good chance for these shelled reptiles to re-establish a peaceful existence.
By: Brendan Chan, Grade 12
There comes a time when enough is enough! There’s no question that food, the crucial item all humans need to survive, is becoming an issue. With a growing population, it is inevitable that we will find ourselves wondering how we are going to feed future generations. “The tools of science will be critical for bringing about food security and well-being for a global population of more than nine billion people in 2050 in the face of enormous technological, climatic and social challenges,” predicted a paper published this August by the Royal Society. Well today, scientists are working on a way to fix our food problem! They have found a way to mix nanotechnology into our food and call it “the promises of nanotechnology.” However, there are others who see this as a threat to food and our health. Although technology has brought us so far in life, it’s time to draw that line and say enough is enough!
Basically, nanotechnology manipulates atoms and molecules to perform a new function. In the food industry, nanotechnology is already being used for processing, cultivation, production, and packaging. This enhances shelf-life, gives new tastes or textures, and, of course, lowers those calories. One may ask, what’s wrong with that? Well, long before our time people called “farmers” would grow food from “seeds”. Somewhere along the line the word farmer has changed to scientist. Scientists’ first task as farmers was to create a better product known as genetically modified (GM) foods. This eventually led to a series of food crises in Europe, which later led to the ban of GM foods in Europe. It’s important to note that a 2003 survey by the Pew Research Center found that the majority of people in all countries surveyed felt that GM foods were “bad.” The lowest scores were in the US and Canada, where 55% and 63% (respectively) were against it, while the highest was in Germany and France with 81% and 89% disapproving.
European countries are pushing for better knowledge of their food and how it’s being produced. But where are Canada and the US? Well, Robert B. Zoellick, a United States trade representative, indicated that the European position toward GM foods was “immoral,” since it could lead to starvation in the developing world. They argue GM food is a way to solve this problem. Nanotechnology is their latest attempt at a solution, and the general public has no clue about it. It’s still not researched enough; its effects on the human body are still unknown. Although tests aren’t totally conclusive, researchers from ABC Science say “there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that indicates nanoparticles can cross into the body’s cells and cause damage. Questions have been raised over whether nanoparticles and even larger micro-scale particles in the diet can inflame the gut, and testing is required to check if nano-food ingredients or additives affect nutrition.”
Without variety, where does the future of our food lay? Even though we go down to that grocery store and see foods galore, we really have no clue where it came from, who grew or produced it, or how it was grown or produced. We have become disconnected with our food and it’s time realize that creating food has huge side effects which, in the long term, is not a solution to the world’s food problem. We have to look at real solutions instead of creating new problems. Nanotechnology has its benefits, but it screams out problems, not only for the general public but for traditional farmers as well. Food is one of those topics that we can go on and on about. Unfortunately, its history and its development has become a sad story which needs to be re-written. Nanotechnology can do many things such as make fast-food fat free, but what are the consequences? Engineered food will have an impact on health, society, and the environment. By turning food into an engineering process that can be patented, we are saying that food can be owned, and the companies who own it effectively decide what society eats. “The way we eat has changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000… Now, our food is coming from enormous assembly lines where the animals and the workers are being abused, and the food has become much more dangerous in ways that are deliberately hidden from us. This isn’t just about what we’re eating. It’s about what we’re allowed to say. What we’re allowed to know.”- Food Inc.
By: Winnie Liang, Grade 11
What is food? To us, food is something that provides us with nutrients, energy, and life; to Monsanto, a U.S.-based multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation, the food that we consume every single day is a new form of poison that can provide the corporation’s high echelon with virtually limitless amount of wealth.
“Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods, better animal feeds and more fiber, while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.” On Monsanto’s homepage, this excerpt introduces the corporation with great rhetoric… and with zero truth.
Monsanto is well-known for products called genetically engineered seeds, which are modified using insertion or deletion of specific genes to make the crops resistant to the Round-Up herbicide. This allows farmers to spray Round-Up – another product from Monsanto – to kill weeds and all other unwanted plant life while preserving their crops. With these genetically modified organisms (GMOs), Monsanto has linked itself to “life sciences”. Already, about 90% of the plant gene pool in America is genetically modified.
Five pure myths that Monsanto designed for its GMOs to gain public interest are: 1) they are needed to feed the world’s huge population; 2) they have been thoroughly tested and proven safe; 3) they increase crop yield; 4) they reduce the amount of agricultural chemicals that is used; and 5) they can be contained, therefore capable of coexisting with natural crops. As fantastic as the words might sound, every single one of the five has been proven to be false. For instance, a former Monsanto employee named Kirk Azevedo was recruited in 1996 to sell GM cotton, mostly fed to cattle. When he found out that no safety studies were conducted on the new, unintended proteins in Roundup Ready cotton plants, he stressed the necessity of either conducting safety tests or destroying the GM cotton due to possible toxicity. To his utter astonishment, people shunned him and paid no mind to the issue. That was when Kirk Azevedo, feeling disgusted, resigned. “I am not going to be part of this disaster,” he said.
You may ask, “Isn’t the government supposed to protect us?” Contrary to our common belief, this protection is not guaranteed. To get government approvals to sell GM products in countries worldwide, Monsanto, with mountains of cash, coerced and bribed government officials, and even successfully infiltrated the upper echelons by placing former corporate officials into government positions. In Indonesia, at least 140 officials were bribed or given questionable payments for an approval of GM products in the country. In India, official report on Monsanto’s Bt cotton was falsified to show increase in crop yields. Moreover, faces that once appeared in the Monsanto administration continually reappeared in important government positions in America, India, Brazil, Europe, and other countries. In the U.S., GM foods were declared to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) by the FDA in 1992 without undergoing the required testing procedures. The policy of self-policing, in which products are believed to be safe in the FDA as long as Monsanto “says so,” was overseen by the Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Michael Taylor, who just “coincidentally” happened to be a former outside attorney for Monsanto and the Food Biotechnology Council.
When it comes to scientific research, Monsanto is definitely brilliant in creating flawed experiments to avoid showing negative effects that would otherwise be present if correct scientific methods were used. Flaws in duration, tested subjects, and amount of variables such as the amount of digestive enzymes are common. For instance, the GM protein in Monsanto’s high-lysine GM corn was labeled as safe because its presence in the soil was consumed as tiny residues in regular human diet. However, the company neglected to mention that the corn’s protein amount is actually 30,000,000,000 to 4,000,000,000,000 times more of what is consumed by an average U.S. citizen, meaning that 22,000 pounds of soil are eaten every second of every day. Do you think 22,000 pounds is the weight of the small, hardly detectable soil residues that a fruit or vegetable has?
Nowadays, desperate farmers in India are forced to buy GM products due to the elimination of non-GM cotton seeds in many regions. No matter how hard they work, the high interest rates of four times the original price only add to a debt that is impossible to pay off, especially when the farmers’ bodies are weakened by the large amount of pesticides used. The number of Bt cotton-related suicides in India exceeds 125,000, often committed by drinking unused pesticides. Although in our much more comfortable lifestyle, we do not handle deadly chemicals everyday, GM foods still affect our health if consumed regularly. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) testified that consuming GM foods, which is hard for us to identify with the lack of labels, can cause health issues such as infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system.
After reading about the negative effects of Monsanto’s products, I returned to its homepage and read the so-called Monsanto Pledge under the “Corporate Responsibility” section. What I saw immediately was several bolded key words such as integrity, transparency (of information), sharing, and benefits (to customers and the environment). Any one of these words would contradict the truth of Monsanto’s lack of care for anything other than financial profit. After being proven guilty of covering up a 50-year-long poisoning of a town in Anniston, Alabama, on February 22, 2002, Monsanto’s documents were released to the public. One of the corporation’s best quotations is: “We can’t afford to lose one dollar of business.” Way back in 1991, Monsanto had already been planning for its goal of achieving industrial dominance in a world where there are virtually no natural seeds, but over 100 GM and patented foods. They hope to realize this future around 2015 or 2020. Their goal is very difficult to achieve, but not impossible, especially considering they know controlling global food sources is more powerful and more destructive than nuclear weapons. By controlling what we eat, they control us.
By: Valerie Wong, Grade 11
It’s soft. It’s white. It’s like nothing you’ve ever touched. The contact of it against your skin is like a thousand tiny little beads sifting through the cracks between your fingers. It’s soooooo lush. It’s the softest thing you’ll ever wipe your butt with.
So, we all know what toilet paper is. It’s the thin paper layer that you clean yourself with after using the toilet. Most of us go through life without giving a second thought about what we use to wipe our bums. So why is it that big companies, like Kleenex or Scott, spend millions upon millions of dollars researching and advertising their softest toilet paper ever? They promote the image of disposable toilet paper that doesn’t leave behind bits (Ew, why bring that up at all?), leave your bottom soft and moisturized, and is the strongest blend of thin tree you will ever find.
By: Chris Tam, Grade 10
A year ago, a significant ban was enacted that would trigger a chain reaction in how Canadians viewed bottled water. Toronto is the largest city in the world to implement a comprehensive ban on bottled water. After that, many more cities, communities, parks, high schools, institutions and public places have banned the plastic bottles. The consensus is encouraging. The Big Three, Coca-Cola, Nestle and Pepsi have seen their sales drop significantly since then. This was all due to the fact that the public is finally waking up to a plastic awakening; sorry, crude awakening.
I wonder what percentage of the public actually have critical thinking skills. Not many know about quantum mechanics or the Theory of Relativity. How many know how plastic is made and sold? How many know that it will never leave the Earth after it is made? Roughly the amount of oil needed to create one water bottle is one third of the contents of a plastic bottle. Plus, don’t forget the oil used for shopping, extraction and disposal of the bottle. Consumers never think about the impacts of the things they buy. Things like the disposal and waste of plastic water bottles is irrelevant to the people that purchase something for almost free.
By Hassan Haque, Grade 12
On Friday December 11th, 2009, dedicated Windermere Secondary Students organized and hosted a youth driven Climate Change Conference – C3 – to raise awareness and educate youth across the lower mainland about the escalating problem of climate change. The conference was attended by over 270 keen participants; students from schools across the Lower Mainland.
The amazing event ran from 8:30 in the morning to 2:30PM. It was kicked off with an exciting Q&A video-correspondence (via Skype) with wonderful members of the Canadian Youth Delegation attending the climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
By: Jhona Binos, Grade 12
If you were given time to prepare for an encroaching typhoon, what would you do first? Would you be grabbing your iPod, clothes, food, or important papers perhaps? That’s not the case with many citizens in the Philippines who went through a sudden flash flood that changed their lives forever. Even though the people were given a heads up of an approaching storm, they were overwhelmed of how quickly the water built up in a short amount of time.
By: Puneet Riar, Grade 12
“The objective of the Summit on Climate Change, which I am convening on 22 September, is to mobilize the political will and vision needed to reach an ambitious agreed outcome based on science at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen.” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
When you put environment and politics together, it can’t be a good thing. This was the case for the main theme of the day-long UN Summit on Climate Change. Over 100 heads of government attended the summit on September 22nd, which was intended to get all the leaders thinking on the same page before the major climate change summit in Copenhagen (the Copenhagen meeting will replace the Kyoto Protocol). Ki-moon urged world leaders to work on a draft proposal that would work with developing countries.
By Soraya Parwani, Grade 9
Sockeye salmon are one of the world’s brightest red fish. When they reach maturity at the age of four, and weigh in at five to twelve pounds, they are ready to spawn. They travel long distances to reach their spawning ground. The most important spawning areas in British Columbia are the Fraser, Nass, and Skeena Rivers.
A female sockeye salmon lays about 2000-5000 eggs in a shallow red. The eggs, which mature in pebbly gravel, hatch after two months. After the eggs hatch, the sockeye salmon begin life as an alevin. Alevin’s are tiny with huge eyes, and carry an orange sac, filled with nutrients. Approximately after two months, the alevins lose their egg sacs and emerge from the gravel, no longer alevins. Instead, they are fingerlings; at this stage they make their way downstream toward the sea. The last and final stage of sockeye salmon is the adult spawners, as during this period the salmon make their way back upstream towards the river to spawn. After the female lays the eggs, the male fertilizes them by covering them with a milky substance called milt. Several days later, the spawning salmon will die.
By Kaitlyn Fung, Grade 8
Four years of construction and a budget of $495 million. What does that add up to?
Recently, I had the chance to take a look into the new convention centre that Vancouver now boasts, or more specifically, the expansion of the convention centre. While the main (and rather obvious) purpose will be to host conventions, this massive building will be the hub for media activity concerning the 2010 Olympics.
Personally, I didn’t really find anything that grasped my interest immediately, but it’s an attractive place with big rooms and high ceilings. There were numerous little conference rooms and a huge ballroom that included a spectacular view, and the exhibition hall was very spacious as well. Even the escalators rides were extended. In short, everything was just kind of big. However, there was some hype about its green features as well, especially about the green roof.
As you walk to the cashier of the supermarket with your hands full of groceries, place it down onto the conveyor belt, and pay for the total, it is rare for the cashier to ask paper or plastic. Instead, they would ask, “Would you like any bags?” The majority of supermarkets give out plastic bags that customers usually use only once or twice. Where do they end up after that? Most of the bags end up in the landfills with other garbage that cannot decompose for thousands of years. If they don’t go into landfills, they’re literally floating around in huge masses in the sea. The plastic that ends up there cannot be easily scooped out, as it means extracting all the smaller organisms as well. Burning plastic bags is one solution, but pollutes the environment and increases the greenhouse gas emissions in the process. On top of that, plastic bags are mistaken as food by animals, such as turtles. They clog their airways or intestines, causing animals to suffer painful deaths.