The Ice Bear Project

This polar bear ice sculpture slowly melts as we stand back and watch and do nothing. It’s a strong environmental statement by animal sculptor, Mark Coreth.

So far Coreth has installed two ice sculptures, one in London’s Trafalgar Square and one in the Nytorv Square in Copenhagen during the Copenhagen Climate Summit. He calls it the Bear in the Square and plans to erect similar sculptures in several cities across the world, including Oslo, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Moscow, New York, Toronto, Beijing and Sydney.

It takes about 10 days for the bear to melt and with each drop, we’re reminded of our delicate environment and the rate at which it is changing.

If you want to learn more about the Ice Bear Project or how you can help, visit The Ice Bear Project.

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How Many Carbon Emissions Have You Had Today?

The story is the same, but the picture has changed. Instead of swashbuckling adverturers scouring the seas for countries to rape and pillage, we have Mr. Affluent White-Guy killing the planet with his excessive globe-trotting and expensive taste in cars.

This video is one of three winners of the Germanwatch screenplay competition about Climate Justice. Since 1991, Germanwatch has been actively promoting North-South equity, focusing on the politics and economics of the North and its worldwide consequences. It lobbies for fair trade relations, responsible financial markets, compliance with human rights, and the prevention of dangerous climate change.

What this video does is makes you stop and think. Our actions affect everyone on this planet and right now the scales of justice are imbalanced. If we don’t all start making changes to the way we live today, it may be too late. In twenty years’ time, it’s going to be a very different landscape.

Inspired by: Earth Hour’s Video of the Week

Toronto the Retrofit Capital of North America

Reskinning in process
Toronto is in an exciting position of turning the city around and becoming the retrofit capital of North America. If we get this right, we will lead the way in bringing cities and obsolete office towers into the 21st eco-friendly century.

Using a technology called “reskinning,” office towers will be given a new, energy-saving outer layer — a thermal barrier composed of new materials like solar panels and media walls.

On May 11, Zerofootprint — a nonprofit organization working with companies to reduce their carbon footprint — will launch an international re-skinning competition to dramatically re-skin one of Toronto’s aging high-rises. For more information, please see CBC Radio’s Green Grows Up series.

  • 2/3 of total waste is generated from workplaces
  • 54% of all CO2 emissions come from buildings
  • Toronto has 250M square feet of office space

This is an exciting project during a time of financial crisis and will bring many jobs to Toronto and the GTA. To learn more, download Greening Greater Toronto from the Toronto City Summit Alliance.

Astroturfing, PR and Kyoto

Back in 2002, Canada’s largest PR firm National Public Relations was hired by “a coalition of those that stood to lose the most from Kyoto — automakers, mining companies and, of course, oil companies, according to Zoe Cormier in This Magazine September/October 2006. They gave themselves “a progressive-sounding name — the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions — and lobbied against provincial leaders, the media and the public.”

Cormier goes on to say that “CCRES didn’t refute the existence of global warmng itself, but argued instead that Kyoto was simply the wrong solution to the problem. Appealing to Canadian’s common sense and nationalism. NPR’s fly-by-night coalition asked them to reject a one-size-fits-all solution in favour of one ‘made in Canada.'”

The Coalition didn’t last long — only five months from its inception in September 2002 to its last media release in February 2003. But it was around long enough to sway public opinion and gain favour with certain cabinet ministers. Cormer says that “the phrase ‘made in Canada’ caught on, and it is now experiencing a renaissance. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister Rona Ambrose, (with the co-operation of major news organizations) have resurrected the phrase to describe new plans to deal with climate change, which involve cutting 80 per cent of the budget for Kyoto, axing almost all of the Liberal’s global-warming programs, and shutting down the federal climate change site.”

Now that’s progressive!

The National PR lobbyist in charge of this campaign was “Guy Giorno, Mike Harris’s old chief of staff and ultimate Tory party insider,” says Now magazine’s Josh Matlow, who wrote an article in October 2002 entitled Big Oil’s Kyoto Party, Harris Whiz Kid Pulls Strings at Wine and Shrimp Fete. This article gave a detailed account of an event organized by Giorno:

Some of Ernie Eves’s top cabinet ministers partied last week with Kyoto-bashers the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions, a lobby group with close ties to both Ralph Klein and the energy industry.And through a combo of stealth and strategy, I managed to crash the soiree.

It took place in the Queen’s Park dining hall and was a very chummy shrimp-and-wine gathering, a chance for members of the coalition — the Canadian Association of Oil Well Drilling Contractors, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Landmen, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, etc — to schmooze Tory heavies.

There were speeches by coalition organizers, and a particularly passionate Ontario energy minister, John Baird, made his anti-Kyoto rallying cry. Needless to say, the audience was very receptive. Baird’s parliamentary assistant, Scarborough MPP Steve Gilchrist, who at one time helped block developers’ plans for the Oak Ridges Moraine, was busy propping open doors with chairs to give relief to a very hot and stuffy room.

I couldn’t help remarking to him that perhaps the room was so unbearably hot because of climate change. He was not amused.

Two days after the meeting, Giorno sent every MPP at Queen’s Park an e-mail suggesting what they might say in op-ed news pieces or letters to their constituents about Kyoto.

Kind of puts Event Planning into a whole different light.

National PR is affiliated with one of the “world’s biggest — and most notorious — PR firms, Burson-Marsteller,” says Cormier. “It has purportedly worked for some of the most infamous governments of the twentieth century, including the military junta in Argentina in the 1970s, Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship in Romania, the government of Indonesia (following the massacre in East Timor) and the Nigerian government (to discredit reports of genocide). It has also reportedly worked for many years with Monsanto (in particular to push for approval of synthetic hormones to force cows to produce more milk,  and to lobby against mandatory labeling of milk from treated cows in the US) and for Dow Corning to fight legislation to limit the use of silicon implants.”

But it’s not all bad news. Thankfully there are PR practitioners out there like James Hoggan, who owns Vancouver’s largest PR firm, James Hoggan and Associates. He says, “PR companies have been out there defending corporations, and now they are doing it with climate change — and it’s a far worse problem than all the other ones.”

Hoggan created desmogblog.com, a domain where bloggers keep readers up to date on PR spin and climate change and scientific evidence of global warming.

Hoggan says, “To create understanding with [public relations], there’s nothing wrong with that, but when the goal of our communications is actually to confuse people, to create doubt about existing science — that says you are up to something unethical right from the start . . . . An ethical approach to PR involves creating a dialogue with the public that is transparent and open — relationship building — rather than advertising or manipulating your way out of problems.

“Being against climate change is pretty stupid from a PR point of view. If you don’t want to end up looking like those cigarette executives standing in front of Congress a few years ago, telling us that there is no evidence that cigarettes cause cancer, don’t fight something that you are inevitably going to lose.”

Flick Off, Canada

Earth Hour has gone global this year, reaching out to more than 17 cities across six continents. Toronto is representing the house Saturday, March 29 between 8 and 9 p.m. and needs one million people to make a difference. Will you turn your lights out?

In fact, Toronto is the only Canadian city to partake. Whaaat? Perhaps other Canadian cities share the belief that this is nothing more than a cheap media stunt, an empty gesture that will amount to nothing. But the World Wildlife Fund suggests that it is a global action that involves people from many continents who share a dream — to stop global warming. It is a sign of recognition that change needs to happen. It is a sign to the world to listen up.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia, last year. The WWF reports that 2.2 million people turned off their lights that night. Sydney targeted for a 5 per cent quota in energy savings, but the city exceeded expectations and rose the needle to 10.2 per cent. This amounted to a savings of 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide or 48,000 cars off the road.

Ryerson Professor Randy Boyagoda, who appears on CBC Radio’s Think Tank Thursday mornings on Sounds Like Canada, thinks these numbers don’t tell us anything. “This is no different from reading in my newspaper that if I buy this washing machine, it will save 25 hectares of rain forest.” What he wants to know is, once we turn out the lights, “how much of  this is offset by the cost of turning everything back on again?”

What do you think? Is this merely a photo opp. for Mayor David Miller, who will be pulling the plug on the CN Tower? Or is it the kind of campaign that will change how people think? Change consumers’ attitudes and behaviours? Will it kick start the government into action? Will it stop them from fannying about with “we need more information” excuses? How will you spend the hour?

I’m having a fondue night with a few friends. One of us will play some music on an acoustic and it’ll be well past the hour before we’re into the chocolat. But isn’t that the point of this campaign? To think past the hour. Isn’t this hour in darkness a time to reflect on how we’re going to reduce our footprint on the planet? The longest journey begins with a single step — Lao Tzu.

Find out how you can make a difference.