Monday, July 16, 2007

The Globe and Mail

Today I met with a reporter and photographer from the Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. They came with me to collect some grease which we found at a restaurant on Queen west. I'm telling you, next time I have to collect grease I am bringing two friends to pose as a reporter and photographer because people sure get a lot friendlier about it when they think it's going to result in some postive PR for their restaurant.

I tried to emphasize when I was speaking to the reporter, Rebecca, that WVO is never going to be a solution to the current fuel crisis and in fact, the only real solution to any of our environmental troubles is conservation of all resources which includes ALL petroleum products, water, trees and electricity to begin with.

I continue to be shocked by the amount of waste that human beings produce and shocked but what I feel compelled to consume. Remember those classroom experiments where they had kids carry an egg around for a week to simulate the responibility of caring for a baby? Well, I think they should make people carry around every scrap of waste that they produce for one week. Maybe then people will take unnecessary packaging and disposibility into consideration when they buy things. Try it yourself, living in a van or other small space is a great way to break those habits because honestly, if someone leaves so much as a paper coffee cup or newspaper in my van I could have a shit-fit. Yes, I mean you. Don't make me tell you to your face!

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Toronto

Toronto is fascinating.

When I got here I started making a list of the things I like and the things I don't like. Now I can't remember what I wrote but I know that I do really like the clean and quiet public transportation. I like that the recycling program includes small countertop compost containers. People are friendly, the city is clean, there are a lot of things to like here. However, like most cities it is difficult to escape exposure to rampant consumerism. It seems there are more boutiques than people in some areas. On the other hand, there are plenty of art galleries and public spaces and compared to many places it's much easier to choose locally produced goods.

I overheard a conversation on the streetcar that I found startling. Two girls about 25 years old were sitting behind me and one said "How long do you want to spend shopping?" and the other said "I don't know, I'm not really looking for anything" and her friend replied "Okay, let's get off at Spadina then." It seems that in a city like this there are so many other ways to spend a Saturday afternoon and it makes me sad that a seemingly intelligent person can't tear their self away from the lure of consumption, especially when they don't even need anything. Which brings me to the question "do any of us need to buy anything?"

I personally have made a decision which has been quietly brewing for some time, to cease buying anything new. Of course, there are some cases where it may be necessary but I can tell you with utmost certainty that I do not need to buy clothing, furniture, or most of the crap that goes along with living in North America ever again. I buy almost everything from thrift stores or find it recycled in one form or another. If I could start a revolution for any cause in the world I would do my best to incite people to STOP BUYING THINGS (and also to stop having children but I'll rant on that a bit later). There are people out there that are doing a good job of this already. Here are some links that will direct you to their information.

The Compact

No Impact Man

Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping

Yes, I do buy things I need for my van, small amounts of diesel fuel, coolant and synthetic oil but I feel that some of my consumption can be offset in other areas such as avoiding buying disposable containers and packaging. I tend to think that if we change our habits in areas that we consume greatly (daily coffee drinker? find a re-usable mug!) that individuals can make a difference in how greatly their consumption impacts the environment. I think it's important to present conservation as an attainable goal for even average consumers rather than making it seem like a target of some fringe environmentalist group.

While in Toronto I met this man who was living in an 81 Westy with a cat and living and consuming very moderately, unless you count the local beer reserves. I really like some of the modifications he had made to his van, especially the sunroof in the pop-top.

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Ontario, Again

I left for Toronto Wednesday morning and I had gone about 75 miles when I stopped at the Value Village in Cornwall, Ontario and when I started my van up again I discovered that the clutch was slipping really badly. I called Marc Amsden in Montréal and he said to have it towed to his place and he could look at it in a week. I already had an appointment for the next morning at Alpine motors in Toronto so I decided to have it towed there. I called for AAA roadside assistance and they sent Glen from Glen's towing and Glen brought his wife along so that I would feel more comfortable.

Glen informed me that I was eligible for 200 km free towing with my AAA plus membership so I had him tow me exactly that distance and then I called a second tow truck who only allowed me 160 km in keeping with the fact that I have a US membership which only allows 100 miles per tow. So, in the end, I was towed 440 km (275 miles) and paid $183. The driver left me in front of Alpine motors and I put the key through the slot in the door.

I took a taxi to my good friend Jill's house and made some linguini with tuna and olives and played with the dogs, Owen and Ahab.


On Friday Brenndan arrived in town and Alpine Motors called me to say that my van was ready. The new clutch with labor and parts cost $1300. Ouch.

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