Farm Sanctuary Internship

It’s week one of my internship at Farm Sanctuary in Orland, California, and, I have to say, I am already having the most incredible experience.

There are many animal welfare organizations that I admire, but Farm Sanctuary has always been at the top of my list. In addition to their advocacy and making great strides in improving legislation for farm animals, Farm Sanctuary has a reputation for a successful hands-on approach to rehabilitation, healing, and providing refuge for injured farm animals. And seeing it happen firsthand — and being part of it — is a phenomenal experience.


September 2, 2012

The GMO Film Update

As of today, you are most likely eating GMOs, and you probably don’t know it.  As we forge ahead on this film, I keep coming back to a really basic question for us here in North America – how is it possible that we are eating GMOs everyday, but we don’t know about it? Many people don’t even know what a GMO is! (FYI: GMOs are genetically modified organisms.)

GMOs are about industry for industry’s sake. It’s not for us, our health, increased yield, feeding the poor….those are all lies. GMOs exist so chemical companies can sell more chemicals. That’s what this film we are making wants to awaken people to. It’s about crops modified for resistance to chemicals that are made by the same companies that are peddling the GMO seeds.

It’s about big, big money. It’s about us being lied to and experimented on. It’s about massive corporations in bed with the government, and our government betraying its own people to line various corporate pockets.


March 21, 2012

Polar Orbit Satellite

Hopefully there are fewer and fewer people in the industrialized world who are non-believers of anthropogenic (human) induced climate change. Maybe there are some who will never be convinced, especially those who have a vested interest in not believing it, or perhaps they are anti-leftist thinking, or just plainly anti-everything.

If you are one of those – please read the following intently, and if you are a believer then please read knowing that yet more evidence (if we need it) is going to come down the technical pipeline.

Over the last decade or more, NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS) satellites have monitored the clouds, oceans, vegetation, ice, land and atmosphere, but the latest satellites promise even better information.


March 15, 2012

Ayurvedic Retreat Blog

It is now day seven of my Ayurvedic retreat at the Ayurveda Yoga Retreat and Hospital, nestled in hectares of tea plantations in the province of Tamil Nadu in southern India, and I have finally settled in enough to give an update.

The retreat is located north of the city of Canoor, roughly 1800m (5,900ft) above sea level in the famed Nilgiri Hills, boasting roughly twenty-four peaks above 2000m (6,560ft). These hills are part of the Western Ghats, a mountain range on the southwestern edge of the Deccan Plateau. The area is world renowned for its teas.

After a long forty-eight hour journey to get here (yes, I offset and I know it really doesn’t make a difference!), and a gut-churning drive up the mountain (the car, truck, motorcycle, scooter and Tuk-Tuk drivers utilize some indecipherable system of horn honking and light flashing to pass each other on an extremely narrow winding road), I ended up with a lethal case of jet lag and a bit of altitude sickness. However, I did learn that eucalyptus is great for helping with altitude discomfort and thankfully grows in abundance in the area. The jet lag passed and you eventually get used to the roads and wild driving conditions, which are just a little different to the sleepy Canadian island driving I am used to.


March 11, 2012

Space Junk Janitor

The Swiss Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, have designed a “janitor satellite” to help clean up the growing problem of space junk. The US$11million (10 million Swiss Francs) CleanSpace One satellite is a prototype for what they hope to be a family of satellites that are sent to retrieve large, defunct satellites and de-orbit them – making them burn-up in Earth’s atmosphere or splash down in an ocean.

NASA tracks 16,000 pieces of space junk larger than 4 inch (10.2cm) in diameter, but in reality the U.S. space agency estimates that over 500,000 pieces of space junk is up there, consisting of spent rocket stages and broken satellites. The debris orbital velocity is around 28,000 km/h (mph), and even the tiniest of particles can damage spacecraft or impact other debris, splitting it into ever-smaller pieces.

Known trash impacts include a French satellite damaged in 1996 by a rocket casing, and an U.S. Iridium Communications Satellite that was destroyed in 2009 in a collision with a defunct Russian satellite. The Iridium Satellites are in low earth orbit constellations, occupying the same orbital path so this debris will eventually spread around the Earth, affecting the other Iridium Satellites.


February 21, 2012

General Electric’s Privatization of Water

Investment banker Goldman Sachs has famously been described by the Rolling Stone’s business writer Matt Taibbi (July 2009) as “a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.” So it’s a good idea to take notice whenever that Vampire Squid moves its blood funnel towards something. Having profited handsomely from the Wall Street bailouts, the Squid has smelled money in a new direction: water privatization.

In January 2010, Goldman Sachs, General Electric, and the World Resources Institute (WRI), a Washington-based think tank, together launched a water “initiative” to develop an index measuring water-related risks facing companies and their investors. As their news release put it, “In many regions around the world, water scarcity from climate change and pollution is starting to impact a company’s performance, yet few analysts account for water-related risks.”


February 15, 2012

Plastic in Marine Animals

I just read recently the BBC News article about microscopic plastic particles that have been found in marine animals, including the fish we eat, and then they end up inside us. Where does all this plastic come from? From those discarded plastic bags of course, all that trash that gets dumped in the ocean or washed out to see or partly burnt and blown away, and that really obnoxious polystyrene shipping foam that breaks into little balls. Much of that plastic photo degrades into smaller and smaller pieces, and has been written about before.

But this microscopic plastic contamination is different, it comes from the synthetic clothes we buy, wear and wash! The research is published in the Journal Environmental Science and Technology, and shows that 1,900 tiny fibres come off each item of clothing and into the water that gets flushed away.

“Research we had done before… showed that when we looked at all the bits of plastic in the environment, about 80% was made up from smaller bits of plastic,” said co-author Mark Browne, an ecologist now based at the University of California, Santa Barbara and a member of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, USA


January 29, 2012

Wall Street/Cortes Island

Sometimes the world of high finance and the centers of capitalist accumulation can seem a long way away from us here on this far-flung coast.

Then, at other times, the world becomes very small. Brookfield Asset Management—a corporation with investments in the real estate market and resource industries—has achieved notoriety recently for evicting Occupy Wall Street from Zuccotti Park, which the company owns. A seemingly distant and nebulous embodiment of the sort of wild real estate speculation that brought the financial industry to its knees in 2008, Brookfield is now making its presence felt in our own British Columbian back yards.

Brookfield owns Island Timberlands, which is about to log old growth forest on Cortes Island, an area comprising much of the last remaining 1% of the original ancient Douglas Fir forest that once blanketed the coastal region. This is a clear and blatant example of ecological destruction in the name of excessive profits—old growth forest sacrificed for the out-of-control growth of the market economy.

Brookfield boasts $150 billion in assets. Their website touts that “Turnaround investing is in Brookfield’s DNA.” This means that Brookfield is in the business of buying up underperforming companies and wringing quick, short-term profits out of them. The profits to be gained by logging Cortes Island are a mere drop in the bucket for a corporation this size—and yet that isn’t going to stop a machine built to extract profits at any costs, from any place, no matter what the consequences.

We don’t think the last 1% of old growth Douglas firs should be used to help line the pockets of the economic 1%. We call upon all concerned to stand in solidarity with the Ancient Forest Alliance and the residents of Cortes Island. We stand in solidarity with a view of the world which would hold economic and ecological concerns in balance, and which would not sacrifice our environmental future for short-term profits today.

Logging is slated to begin in the coming weeks but the people of Cortes Island are organizing to oppose Brookfield and Island Timberlands, and members of Occupy Vancouver will be joining them in direct action. Together we can save what remains of the coast’s old growth forests. Together we can say no to Brookfield. As the saying goes, another world is possible. But only if we don’t completely exhaust, despoil, and destroy this one first.

Please sign the on-line petition:

Stephen Collis is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which, On the Material (Talon Books 2010), was the recipient of the 2011 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. Forthcoming books include A History of Change (vol.1): Dispatches from the Occupation (Talon Books 2012) and To the Barricades (Talon Books 2013). He teaches poetry and poetics at Simon Fraser University, where he is a 2011/12 Shadbolt Fellow; since October he has been involved in Occupy Vancouver, writing for

January 29, 2012

It’s Time to Fight Back by Bill McKibben

It’s time to fight back. Prime Minister Harper and Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver are waging a dirty campaign to discredit anyone who is opposed to burning the oil sands or building Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline.

Dear friends in Canada,

I’ve been visiting Canada all my life, but I’m a little worried about my upcoming trip.

In late March I’m supposed to come to Vancouver to give a couple of talks. But now I read that Joe Oliver, your country’s Minister of Natural Resources, is condemning “environmental and other radical groups that would seek to block” Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline from the oil sands of Alberta to the Pacific.

I think he’s talking about people like me.

So I’m pushing back a bit, and I need your help. Let’s tell Joe Oliver that preventing the combustion of the second-largest pool of carbon on the planet isn’t “radical” — it’s exactly the opposite. It’s rational. It’s responsible. And it’s just plain right.

Click here to sign the petition to Prime Minister Harper and Joe Oliver, and help show that Canadians everywhere are committed to stopping the oil sands.

Here’s the thing: I’ve spent much of the last year helping rally opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline from the oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico. I was arrested outside the White House in August, and emceed the demonstration that brought thousands of people to circle the White House in November. And just yesterday, I helped lead a crew of hundreds of “climate referees” to blow whistle on the influence that Big Oil has over our democracy. But this fight knows no borders, which brings me back to my concern about my trip to Canada in March.

When I come to British Columbia, I’ll urge everyone I meet to join a growing movement standing in solidarity with First Nations Peoples across Canada who oppose Enbridge’s Gateway’s project. Since a majority of Canadians, according to the polls, also oppose the pipeline, I’ll be in good company. But Oliver, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the organizers of the “Ethical Oil” campaign don’t want any outside voices. As the latter explained on its website, “It’s our pipeline. Our country. Our jobs. And our decision.”

Fair enough. But you know something? The atmosphere belongs to all of us. There’s not some wall at the 49th parallel that separates Canada’s air from everyone else’s. Since the oil sands is the second biggest source of carbon on the planet, that makes their development everyone’s business. As NASA’s James Hansen, the planet’s premier climatologist, put it recently, if you heavily develop the oil sands, it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” That’s why I’m doing everything I can do to build this movement — and that’s why I need your help to unite a groundswell of activists in Canada.

Add your name to the petition saying you’re ready to take a stand to stop the oil sands — if we can get 10,000 Canadians to sign on, we’ll stage a high-profile delivery that Joe Oliver, Prime Minister Harper, and the oil companies won’t be able to ignore.

It’s much easier for Ottawa to pretend that anyone who raises doubts about the oil sands are ideological extremists who hate Canada, much easier to demonize the scientists and citizens who ask uncomfortable questions. You can judge for yourself, but I don’t think I’m some kind of extremist. I’m a Methodist Sunday School teacher who happened to write the first book for a general audience on climate change.

To me, the extremists are the ones running the oil companies, because they’re willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere; those of us who want to keep the planet a little like the one we were born on seem more like conservatives.

I know I don’t hate Canada. I spent five years living in Toronto as a young boy, while my father worked for Business Week magazine. I remember with great fondness Mrs. Reesor, Miss Beer, Miss Conway and Miss Wright, who taught my first four grades. I remember rooting for Davey Keon, the Toronto Maple LeafsCentre, and I remember waiting with great impatience each summer for the CNE to open.

In later years I’ve traveled the country stem to stern, written about fishermen struggling in Newfoundland, hiked the mountains above Jasper, skied the trails of the Gatineau. The Canada I remember was open to the world: It welcomed the rest of the planet to Expo 67, it hosted the Olympics, it helped crack the Great Wall of China.

I don’t know how that changed, but my guess is that the wealth of the oil-sands had something to do with it. Canada’s government doesn’t want to hear from the rest of the world because paying attention to their legitimate fears might cost it some money.

To judge from Oliver’s nasty little letter, those vast pits of bitumen across Alberta aren’t just dirtying the sky, they’re starting to do some damage to the country’s soul.

Help start to undo that damage, and sign on today.


Bill McKibben via

P.S. If we’re going to have any shot at stopping the wholesale burning of the oil sands, we’re going to need a massive movement of Canadians willing to take a stand.

Sign the petition to help build a groundswell of Canadians who are ready to stop the oil sands:

January 28, 2012

Monsanto Sucks T-shirts!

If you know anything about Monsanto then you know they suck. My personal opinion is that they are one of the most psychopathic, dangerous and controlling companies on the planet. But, ironically, in spite of their might or because of it, they keep an extremely low profile in North America where many of their genetically engineered crops are grown.

I am not big on conspiracy theories, but I find it surprising that there is so little coverage of Monsanto in our mainstream media (and so few people know who they are) when genetically engineered organisms remain an extremely hot and controversial topic in countries like India, Hungary, Haiti and the European Union. Mass protests, crop burnings and direct resistance against Monsanto is happening on a global scale, but we hear almost nothing about it in North America.

If you don’t know who Monsanto is, you need to get up to speed– there is a great movie called “The World According to Monsanto” by French filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin (available on YouTube in its entirely) and our filmmaker friend Jeremy Seifert, (director of the amazing Dive! Living Off America’s Waste) is also in the process of making a documentary about genetically modified organisms.  The current working title is The GMO Film Project (Untitled). If you are interested in supporting Jeremy’s work then please contact him as they need supporters to help finish making this important film.

January 21, 2012

Clearcut Forecast: Cortes Island

Long considered “socially inoperable” due to local opposition, now the mixed-age forests of Cortes Island may be on the chopping block. A visit from Island Timberlands’ operations manager is described in vivid detail here. (The manager seems to be suffering from a touch of social operability himself.) Island Timberlands has offices in Nanaimo and Vancouver, but the company is now owned by Wall Street conglomerate Brookfield Asset Management.

Cortes Island is known as a cradle of the early Greenpeace movement and home to Hollyhock, the influential eco-wellness institute. Yet our forests are under threat. Islanders were notified last year that logging would begin in mid-January. Saxifrage says she is “cautiously optimistic” the efforts of residents and supporters will thwart that plan. Two groups, WildStands and Island Stance, are promising spirited protests if the logging goes ahead. On January 14, Ken Wu of Ancient Forest Alliance released a report on groves of rare old-growth trees on Cortes Island.

On January 12, 2012 activists Tzeporah Berman and Carrie Saxifrage delivered 6200 petition signatures to Brookfield’s corporate offices in London, New York, Hong Kong, Sydney and Toronto, the Vancouver Observerreports.

The battle is just beginning, but the troops are gathering and many thousands of people are standing together in solidarity against the destruction of the Cortes Island forests.

Zoe Blunt is a well-known Canadian activist and writer and we hope to include more of her blogs in the future to keep people updated on the increasingly heated battle on Cortes Island to protect the forests.


January 18, 2012