Sunday, September 30, 2012

No More Baked Alaska

... that was an Irish Rovers reference. 
♪ "There was green alligators and long-necked geese,
some humpty backed camels and some chimpanzees.
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you're born,
The loveliest of all was the unicorn."  
I jammed to this so hard when I was a child, back in the days of CD's.

I love my sustainability class because this is what I am assigned to read:

This is an excerpt from an New York Times article written by Michael Pollan titled, "Farmer in Chief".

"It will be argued that moving animals off feedlots and back onto farms will raise the price of meat. It probably will — as it should. You will need to make the case that paying the real cost of meat, and therefore eating less of it, is a good thing for our health, for the environment, for our dwindling reserves of fresh water and for the welfare of the animals. Meat and milk production represent the food industry’s greatest burden on the environment; a recent U.N. study estimated that the world’s livestock alone account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gases, more than all forms of transportation combined. (According to one study, a pound of feedlot beef also takes 5,000 gallons of water to produce.) And while animals living on farms will still emit their share of greenhouse gases, grazing them on grass and returning their waste to the soil will substantially offset their carbon hoof prints, as will getting ruminant animals off grain. A bushel of grain takes approximately a half gallon of oil to produce; grass can be grown with little more than sunshine."

It was as I was reading through this, and as I think about this awesome girl, Zoë, who I met here, that I decided I am going to try to further reduce my food-generated carbon footprint. Mondays and Wednesdays will, from now on, be Lisa's vegan days. No milk, no cheese, no yogurt, no eggs, no dairy what-so-ever. It's probably easier said than done, but it is going to be done. It's easy while I'm here at school because they have a readily-available vegan option at any time throughout the day; venturing away from campus may prove to be a little more difficult. I am up for the challenge. 

Now I've got myself really thinking... tomorrow, my breakfast will probably consist of cereal with soy milk, a bagel with peanut butter, and a banana or an orange. And of course a glass of orange juice.

Back to my sustainability class... another reason I love the course is because one lecture we discussed this photo [The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1834) by Thomas Cole] and the concept of "a life of contemplation". 

Another lecture, we had "The Spirit of John Muir" come in, and for an hour and a half we simply listened to the tales of John's adventures in the wilderness of the Sierra Nevada mountains. We heard things like, "I decided then, that as long as I lived, I'd hear the birds sing", "I never saw a discontented tree, did you?" and "hiking is a vile word; one should saunter though the wilderness".

The last lecture I sat through for this class was all about civic engagement, tearing down fences, and the antidote to apathy.  Dave Meslin had lots to say about Canadian "democracy", in quotation marks. Anyone who has spoken at a TEDx event gets my attention; take a look...

And that is why I love this class... not because of the upcoming test.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Four hundred and eighty days ago, my thoughts on Halifax.

Four hundred and eighty days ago I sat on top of Citadel Hill listening to Counting Crows, my favourite musical group at the time. Blake and I relaxed there on the lush grass and gazed out at a foreign and fascinating city. Throughout that short trip I remember marching around the quiet streets of Nova Scotia's capital, having my first experience with biscuits and molasses, visiting the Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, and sauntering along the boardwalk at the picturesque waterfront. During that vacation, my mind was fixed on the 5-week French immersion program that lay ahead of me, and I was completely oblivious to the fact that in about 15 months I would be back in this city, and not just for another short visit. Little did I know...

Yesterday I arose earlier than my habitual weekend routine to go meet Jesse and Emma at the infamous Halifax farmers' market. Not only was I anxious to see my Trois-Pistoles friends, but also I was looking forward to chatting with someone who knows Halifax to some degree more than my friends living in residence. After visiting both the new farmers' market on the harbour front, and the historic farmers' market located in the building of an old brewery, I felt a great deal more in tune to the Halifax ways of life. Jesse was a great person to wander the markets with because his network within the farming community was vast. It was nearly impossible to walk more than a few meters without sparking a conversation with the next vendor. I've always heard that East-Coasters are some of the friendliest people out there; yesterday proved that to be true. My purchases of the day were limited to a pint of cherry tomatoes and three fresh carrots, but let me tell you, hitting up the farmers market with a wallet full of cash may not be the best idea. Local paintings, jewellery, knitting, ethnic food vendors, Christmas decorations, clothing, photographs... there is no absence of creativity and brilliance within the four walls of that Seaport building.

Later that day, after meeting some friends for a sushi date (and thoroughly enjoying the break from cafeteria food), I found myself reunited with that very place I sat four hundred and eighty days prior. I couldn't be certain because of the density of the fog covering Halifax, but my instincts told me it was the spot. So although the fog prevented any view of the city like I had enjoyed a year before, the moment reminded me very much of sitting there with Blake, listening to Counting Crows, weaving red and white bracelets. This time; however, I was not sitting there with my little brother, the sun was not shining upon our backs, but most importantly the city is no longer a foreign place to me. As I relaxed there on Citadel Hill, I felt this amazing and indescribable sense of belonging... like somehow along the course of my life I made the right decision; I am supposed to be in Halifax.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"no such thing as a setting sun"

Aside from the giant stack of readings that remain unread and the position paper that needs to be converted into APA formatting, my Monday is drawing to a close. A visit to the post office this morning to send the blow-up flamingo to the second destination of his cross-Canada journey. A few hours spent in the Killam library, a trip to the writing centre, three meals in the Howe Hall cafeteria and things are starting to become routine.

Marking the end of Joseph's stay in Halifax. It's been a slice buddy, safe travels.

I asked my roommate today, "Does it feel to you like we've been here for 15 days?" In my mind, I've been here in Halifax for a few months, at least. By no means is this home to me, yet, but it is beginning to feel comfortable.

This weekend was spent clapping and jiving and fist pumping on the grass of the Quad as we enjoyed the sounds of Paper Lions, Yukon Blonde, Jeremy Fisher and Shad. How refreshing is it to attend a music festival composed entirely of Canadian artists? Some of them I enjoyed more than others... and as I told my friend as we migrated back to residence after Shad, "I did more fist-pumping tonight than I ever needed to do." None the less, music and a whole whack of university students on a Friday or Saturday night is a recipe for a good time. I thoroughly enjoyed dancing with my friends during Paper Lions, and even more-so enjoyed hearing Jeremy Fisher's voice of an angel, watching him strum on the guitar so seamlessly (despite string breaking mid-opening-song), listening to the stories from his bike-tour travels, and observing him play that harmonica like no-one else I've seen before... all this while a clear blue sky lingers overhead, while the sun beats down upon my back and the light breeze keeps the air feeling crisp. Although rap is not my genre of choice, I could appreciate, without question, the lyrics spewing out of Shad's mouth:

"It's funny how words like consciousness and positive music
can somehow start to feel hollow.
it's become too synonymous.
We're polishing soft collagen lips, on the face of grace politics,
Well you can't be everything to everyone, so lemme be anything to anyone. 
The world turns and their's clouds sometimes but there's no such thing as a setting sun.
It always keeps shining."

Paper Lions
Jeremy Fisher

Sunday morning consisted of the standard weekend brunch with my beloved, hungover floor-mates, and then up the four flights of stairs to throw on my runners and pull on a sports bra. At 1 o'clock, Doug, Monique and I (team Blue Shoes), participated in Dalhousie's first ever "Terry's Cause on Campus". Essentially, a Terry Fox run on a university campus. The atmosphere was unbelievable; from the warm up Zumba dance to the cool down yoga, and the 5k run in between. Any event put on to raise money or awareness for such a horrible disease is sure to bring out the best of people. High fives from the Dal cross country team as they marked the route and encouraged runners, and finished off with a giant hug from the Tiger as I reached the finish line. If only the atmosphere all around us, at every moment, could be at par with that of a cancer research fundraiser, what a wonderful world we'd inhabit!

Someone asked me today if I missed Vancouver. The short answer is yes; I miss the mountains, I miss my family, I miss the hiking trails, I miss my friends. Then again, when I return back home in a short few months from now, I'm sure I'll be able to say that I miss Halifax just the same.

I apologize for the lack of sunshine, clear blue skies and wind against your faces; but please do enjoy Jeremy Fisher as much as I did that evening at Dalfest.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Growing is Forever

Peachland, British Columbia is currently being savaged by the Trepanier forest fire; 1134 people have been evacuated from their homes. Way on the other side of this beautiful country, in St.Johns Newfoundland, hurricane (or "tropical storm") Leslie is leaving people without power, tearing down fences and ripping siding off of houses. With torrential rain and wind like there's no tomorrow, it's a polar opposite from what those in the interior of BC are facing. It seems ironic that the girl I ate breakfast with this morning was on her way to her Natural Disasters class.

On the brighter side, I'm about to head off to Sustainability 1000. This is a course with 300 (mostly first-year) students, coming from sciences, history, commerce, arts, literature, computer sciences, engineering, you-name-it... No matter what the area of interest, people generally have a desire to sustain. As a guy I was chatting with on the weekend pointed out, "I think it should be mandatory for everyone to take sustainability, because if we aren't sustaining our world, then what really are we doing?" Good point.

With all the natural commotion going on throughout Canada and across the globe right now, we might just need a reminder about how incredible our natural world is:


It's September of 2012, the month I begin my university career. My objective in studying ESS (Environment, Sustainability and Society), is be a part- no matter how big, or how small- in assuring that we never see Dr.Suess' quote from the Lorax come true.

"Way back in the days when the grass was still green 
and the pond was still wet 
and the clouds were still clean, 
and the song of the Swomee-Swans rang out in space ... 
one morning, I came to this glorious place. 
And I first saw the trees!" 

So as September rolls into full swing; with assignments and readings piling up and stress levels beginning to soar, I am challenging myself -as I am challenging you- to take time to get outside. Not only taking time for yourself; but taking time to enjoy a greenspace, get some fresh air, watch birds sing their songs, get your hands dirty in the cabbage patch, observe the waves of the Atlantic ocean, or take a stroll through the public gardens. Whatever it is; I've made a promise to myself, that if I am ever in need, I will not neglect my desire to get outside... in fact, I will make it a conscious effort. Nature, after all, is what makes us humane.