Sunday, September 30, 2007

Seagulls Will Eat Anything.

This cracks me up. It was sent to me by a buddy. Click on the picture.

A seagull in Scotland has developed the habit of stealing chips from a neighborhood shop.

The seagull waits until the shopkeeper isn't looking, and then walks into the store and grabs a snack-size bag of cheese Doritos.

Once outside, the bag gets ripped open and shared by other birds.

The seagull's shoplifting started early this month when he first swooped into the store in Aberdeen, Scotland, and helped himself to a bag of chips. Since then, he's become a regular. He always takes the same type of chips.

Customers have begun paying for the seagull's stolen bags of chips because they think it's so funny.

Or...Procreation Day??

When I wrote the post below, I didn't anticipate coming across this other type of "day off" for a specific cause:

MOSCOW (AP) - A Russian region best known as the birthplace of Vladimir Lenin has found a novel way to fight the nation's birthrate crisis: It has declared Sept. 12 the Day of Conception and for the third year running is giving couples time off from work to procreate.

The hope is for a brood of babies exactly nine months later on Russia's national day. Couples who ``give birth to a patriot'' during the June 12 festivities win money, cars, refrigerators and other prizes.

Ulyanovsk, a region on the Volga River about 550 miles east of Moscow, has held similar contests since 2005. Since then, the number of competitors, and the number of babies born to them, has been on the rise.

Alexei Bezrukov and his wife, Yulia, won a 250,000 ruble prize - equivalent to $10,000 - in June after she gave birth to a baby boy, Andrei. Bezrukov said patriotism wasn't their motive for having a child, their third, although the money was welcome.

``It was a patriotic atmosphere, you know when everyone around is celebrating, but I wasn't thinking of anything but my son,'' he said. ``The whole thing is great, it's great to get 250,000 rubles when you have a new baby to take care of.''

Russia, with one-seventh of the Earth's land surface, has just 141.4 million citizens, making it one of the most sparsely settled countries in the world. With a low birthrate and very high death rate, the population has been shrinking since the early 1990s.

It is now falling by almost half a percent each year. Demographic experts expect the decline to accelerate, estimating that Russia's population could fall below 100 million by 2050.

Usually when I post I like to include a graphic of some kind, but in this case I don't think I should.

Humanitarian Days?

There's an election coming soon in Ontario and along with elections come...Promises!

The Green Party of Ontario is proposing six new statutory holidays, dwarfing a pledge by the governing Liberals that would see Ontarians receive one additional day off.

Under Green leadership, vacation days would be provided in March, April, August and November and municipal and provincial polling days would be holidays.

"It gives people more time to spend with family and gardening and cleaning the house and that makes people feel awful good about themselves and then they feel better at work," party leader Frank de Jong said yesterday in an interview.

I posted about something similar not too long ago. At the time, I believe it was the Federal party that was suggesting a shorter work day and/or additional vacation time. I don't recall the specifics of it.

Naturally, on the surface that sounds very appealing. But I spoke with a gentleman from Alberta (through work) recently who, while discussing an entirely different subject, brought up a different idea I like even more.

He took part in program with Habitat for Humanity which consisted of travelling to Mexico to help build homes for people in need of affordable housing.

What is Habitat for Humanity Canada?

Habitat for Humanity Canada is a national, non-profit, faith-based organization working for a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Our mission is to mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.
The organization was founded in 1985, consists of 30,000 volunteers and 70 Affiliate organizations from coast to coast, and is a member of Habitat for Humanity International which spans 100 countries, has built over 200,000 homes, and is now building a new home every 24 minutes.

I linked the above, but I'm not entirely certain that it's correct. This gentleman had explained that the organization he worked with was not a religious one, yet this clearly says that HFH is faith-based.

In any event, his idea was that companies should establish something along the lines of a Humanitarian Day (his name, not mine, but I like it). The point would be that once a year (minimum), a company could award an employee a Humanitarian Day if said employee wanted to take part in a charity event of some sort. These would be cumulative and ONLY to be used for that purpose. One would have to provide proof of participation (because you just know some people would try to treat them as an extra vacation day).

I love it. The impact on a company would likely be minimal and it may just encourage some folks to get out there and do their part.

I suggested to him that he escalate the idea to senior management and I have no idea whether or not he did, but I'll talk to him again some day (it's the nature of my work) and if he hasn't, I will. I would love for this kind of thing to become common place.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

That's My Girl!

Mrs THIT was out of town last weekend dealing with a family matter. Usually when she leaves for a spell, she calls upon arrival at her destination and before she sets off to come home.

I received a call from her at an odd time while she was away though, which always raises a question mark, right? And sure enough she was somewhat distraught. Thankfully it wasn't due to any harm coming to her or any member of her family.

While driving on the highway, they (Christine and her sisters) came upon a minivan. Its occupants, for undetermined and highly illogical reasons, had decided to keep their dog in a carrying case. That's fine, except that the case was strapped to the outside of the vehicle.

Because of high winds, particularly in a moving vehicle (and in a brewing storm, an indication in itself that the case-on-the-roof plan is not real sound), choice words that Christine had for these people were not hitting the mark.

So she called 9-1-1. :-)

She asked to speak with police, was transferred, explained to the person who took her call where she was and the situation she was looking to report. To their credit, the police took her complaint seriously and said they were sending a car out.

Out of curiosity, the ladies followed the car in question and sure enough, within minutes, a cop had pulled the minivan over for a chat.

Unfortunately, we don't know how the story ends, exactly. I suspect they were asked to remove the case and bring it inside the vehicle, but that no punishment as such was delivered. And it may well be that a couple of miles down the road, the driver returned the case to its previous position and went on his merry way, cursing the carload that ratted him out. We were hoping for a follow-up call to let us know how it was handled but this point we haven't received one.

But at least it serves as an illustration of how to go about dealing with one of these situations. For animal lovers, seeing that kind of idiocy is infuriating and the first instinct might well be to get more directly involved. Admittedly, it might be mine.

Don't. Let the professionals handle it. Even PETA, recognized for their hands-on approach, would suggest this. In an e-mail to people on the mailing lists, here's what they recommend:

Find out which agency is responsible for investigating and enforcing anti-cruelty laws in your state, county, or town. This may be a local humane society or a taxpayer-funded animal shelter. In areas without such organizations, citizens should call the police or sheriff's department.

If an animal is in a life-threatening situation, call authorities immediately. Follow up with them in a timely manner to determine their findings and their planned course of action. If they do not respond right away, call PETA at 757-622-7382.

Still, we may try to keep on top of this one. I'm wondering if there's a way to find out what the outcome was, and if so, we'll do just that.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Speaking of Poisoning Your Own...

From Voice of America:

For the first time in Japan, two elected officials are warning the Japanese public of dangerous levels of mercury in dolphin meat, and condemned its consumption, especially in school lunches. They say the public is unaware of the health problems associated with the meat, and are on a mission to educate them. Catherine Makino reports from Tokyo.

Two city assemblymen from the fishing town of Taiji in the southern prefecture (state) of Wakayama, say short-fin dolphin meat was taken from supermarkets in the city and tested for mercury over the past year. Junichiro Yamashita and Hisato Yono say it contained more than 10 to 16 times the government's limit.

Although supermarkets are removing it from their shelves, Taiji is moving ahead with plans to build a $3 million dolphin processing plant. In addition, there are plans to expand the government's program of supplying school lunches with dolphin meat.

Speaking to journalists, Yamashita strongly denounced those plans, and said the school lunches were like feeding children "toxic waste." He says the government does not warn people that eating dolphin meat is a health hazard - mercury can cause severe brain damage and potentially fatal health problems.

"I stressed to the town council that it was risky and dangerous to use the meat, and it should be destroyed," he said.

Japanese medical researchers have also voiced concern about the high levels of mercury found in dolphin meat. Sea animals pick up the mercury in polluted coastal waters.

He says the government and the fishing industry hide the information from the public.

"The mass media is not taking it up because it could threaten the economy of the small town of Taiji, and hurt major fishery industries and the hunting drives of dolphins," he said.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan warned two years ago that short-fin dolphin meat was contaminated. The groups also used the warning in a campaign to stop Japan's annual dolphin hunts.

About 2,300 dolphins are killed yearly in Taiji and 20,000 throughout the country. In Taiji, the mammals traditionally are herded into small coves, where they are speared and hacked to death. Most other countries ban dolphin hunting.

In the 1950s, the coastal waters around a small town in Japan called Minamata experienced massive mercury poisoning. About 3,000 people who ate seafood from the town's coastal waters were sickened and suffered permanent harm.

Pesticides Blamed for French Health Disaster

I'm posting this out of personal interest, since these are two places that I've been to on cruise vacations.

Aerial view of a banana field in Martinique destroyed by Hurricane Dean in August 2007. Photo:Jacques Demarthon/AFP

PARIS (AFP) - The French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique face a "health disaster" with soaring cancer and infertility rates because of the massive use of banned pesticides on banana plantations, a top cancer specialist warned Monday.

"The situation is extremely serious. The tests we carried out on pesticides show there is a health disaster in the Caribbean. The word is not too strong. Martinique and Guadeloupe have literally been poisoned," Professor Dominique Belpomme told the capital's Le Parisien newspaper.

On Tuesday Belpomme is to deliver a report commissioned by the National Assembly, which will highlight the dangers posed by the long-term use of chlordecone, also known as kepone, on banana crops.

Chlordecone, which kills weevils, was banned in France's Caribbean territories in 1993, but it was used illegally -- often sprayed by aeroplanes -- up to 2002.

"The poisoning affects both land and water. Chlordecone establishes itself in the clay and stays there for up to a century. As a result the food chain is contaminated, and especially water. In Martinique most water sources are polluted," Belpomme said.

According to the cancer specialist, the impact on health will be "more serious than the tainted blood" scandal -- in which some 4,000 French people were infected with blood contaminated with the HIV virus in the 1980s.

"The rate of prostate cancer is major. The French Caribbean is second in the world ranking. Extrapolations show that nearly one male in two will be a risk of developing prostate cancer," he said.

"In addition the rate of congenital malformation is increasing in the islands. And women are having fewer children than 15 years ago. The standard theory is that this is because of the pill, but I think it is linked to pesticides," he said.

Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier said the situation was "very serious" and promised to "treat the question of chlordecone with the greatest openness."

But Christian Choupin, head of the Martinique and Guadeloupe Banana Producers' Association said Belpomme's report was unscientific.

"One has the impression that people are dying like flies in the French Caribbean, which is far from the reality," he said.

The French islands produce 260,000 tonnes of bananas a year, worth some 220 million euros (305 million dollars). The industry also receives 130 million euros in EU aid.

In August Hurricane Dean destroyed all the crop in Martinique and some 50 percent in Guadeloupe. Barnier said this represented an opportunity to rebuild the banana plantations "with zero pesticides."

Belpomme said chlordecone does not affect the fruit itself because the contamination "is confined to the skin".

Monday, September 17, 2007

Organic Recycling on the Way?

From the Ottawa Sun.

In a report obtained by the Sun, which is expected to be released today, city staff is recommending the city start recycling your kitchen scraps by March 1, 2009.

That's about six months later than council agreed to earlier this year when it instructed staff to move ahead with the program, but is the earliest the company selected to collect the wet waste can be up and running. Staff is recommending the city's planning and environment committee award the 20-year recycling contract to Orgaworld Canada Ltd, a Netherlands-based recycling operation.

Staff is recommending the green boxes be picked up every week and residual waste every two weeks.

"Biweekly pick-up of the remaining 20% should not be problematic because the residual waste is neither bulky nor odourous, with the exception of disposable diapers," the report says.

With a $25-million start-up cost, almost half going towards purchasing the green bins, the annual operating cost for taxpayers will be $13.4 million, which equals an additional $38 on every municipal tax bill. The $25-million cost will come out of the city's waste reserve fund, but the additional cost to taxpayers won't begin until the program starts in 2009.

The city has been working on a green box program for several years in an effort to divert 60% of its waste away from area landfills. Currently, Ottawa residents generate 330,000 tonnes of waste annually, and 27% of that is kitchen waste. With its black and blue box and leaf and yard waste pickups, the city diverts 32% of waste from area dumps.

In 2001, council initiated a green box pilot project that included 5,300 households. The program yielded a 49% diversion rate -- 15% higher than the city average.

Orgaworld will be responsible for building and maintaining its processing plant and is in the process of buying a nine-hectare piece of property north of the city's Trail Rd. landfill.

The report suggests households that participate in the green, blue and black box programs will produce two or fewer bags of residual waste every two weeks.

"Jurisdictions that have moved to bi-weekly collection of residual waste tend to experience higher participation rates in their organics and recycling programs," the report says.

The city anticipates it will save money by picking up the residual waste every two weeks but first has to renegotiate with the collection companies.

The program will include all urban households and rural villages.

Alternatively, buy a weiner dog. Table scraps will be a thing of the past. Of course, you have a whole other kind of waste to deal with...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Goodsearch Expands to Goodshop!

Not that I can do any online shopping right at the moment, since my house is outside of the time/space continuum, but when I do I can take a second to check if maybe my purchase wouldn't help a charitable organization ever so slightly.

Clicky clicky!

Pretty simple. Make your way to the site through Goodsearch specifically and part of your purchase is donated. No extra charge, very little extra time, and just about any charity you can think of it included. Good plan.

Monday, September 10, 2007

I'd love to save the world more often, but...

After a number of months of leisurely seeking topics to write about, usually having to pick from a few of them and setting aside the rest for a rainy day, I've finally encountered my worst enemy.

And it is...Redneck Racing.

That's right.


I have just gone through my longest posting "dry spell" since I started this thing for kicks. And it finally hit me why I struggle with it so much now.

It used to be that in the old place, my computer was in the guestroom, well away from the TV. But now it's in the basement with 42 inches of plasma and constant Nascar programming roaring. I find it difficult to read about environmental issue and such while some guy is talking about how his car "runs good". boogity-boogity-boogity my ass, I can't concentrate. Climbing the CN Tower was easier.

I certainly haven't lost interest. Far from it. In fact, I'm going to have a long weekend this...huh...weekend, and rededicate (if that's a word) myself. I'm going to go over all of this years posts and act on the things I'd said I'd do, but haven't. I can already think of a couple off the top of my head. There are probably more. The move of course was a distraction, but it continued to be a distraction for longer than I'd anticipated.

Another roadblock; I'm having difficulty receiving things I've ordered through the mail. It didn't occur to me as I was ordering that my street, as far as Google maps and so on are concerned, does not exist yet. I found this out while trying to order a pizza one night. Raising the dead would have been easier. So if I want to order items such as the shoes in the previous post, or the CFL Fans Fight Cancer shirt, I have to think twice. God only knows how often that kind of data is updated.

Admittedly though, while hardly an expert, there are times when I feel I've covered a topic fairly thoroughly. How much more can be said about compact fluorescent light bulbs, for example?

As a result, I may change the name of this blog. I'd considered "Power of One" as a reflection that an awful lot can be accomplished if everyone just does their little part. But if I had an early concern about how Treehugger in Training abbreviates, "Power of One" is hardly better.