Bragg Creek Flood: reaction to eye witness reactions

You know people are desensitized to destruction and the pain/loss of others when they virtually cheer as a community member’s house gets destroyed in a torrent of raging water.

Yes it’s incredible to see… but my shock just does not express the same way…

The jaw certainly does drop, but the heart sinks too. Shouldn’t it? Someone has lost their home.

I don’t know, maybe I’m being to sensitive to what is probably one individual’s insensitivity. But I’m sure if it was his home, or a family member’s home… his reaction would be quite different.

My hope is that we all consider each other with similar empathy we would extend to family and friends. We’re going to need to if our communities are to survive the kind of disasters that are on the horizon.


First Solar and SunPower Surge After Receiving “Buy” Rating From CitiGroup

I’m not well versed in the stock market. I have principles that disagree with the whole structure of it. Not that investments are bad – but distant, “I just want a profit” dollar placement is wrought with ethical dilemma.

And then there is speculation. I was click-happy and stumbled upon “market news” relating to solar. The news was good for some companies, and clearly, investors will react to that.

I’m happy to see support for solar technology companies. But “solar” is just on the surface. And with the emotionally charged issue of energy, I expect rash and shortsighted decisions are more frequent than is healthy.

What I have learned is that the energy landscape is terribly complex. Terribly.

Still, I aspire to have panels on my roof someday. I hope this market news is balanced.


Thank you Sandy. Thank you Obama. Thank you Jacobson.

I really only have gratitude at the moment. When it all sinks in, I’ll probably come up with something more profound.

Let’s be fair to those who are responsible for making Canadians happy: it isn’t easy. That is probably the extent of it… yes there are a diversity of beliefs and priorities, and sometimes they conflict. But that is what they signed up for: a difficult job, in the most difficult century we may yet know as a species.

Canada has an ally in the United States. As a trading partner, among other things. So, as we all work towards transitioning our society to be low carbon and resilient towards climate change, what happens in the US (at times) will signal eventual spillover into our communities. Not to mention the fact that the Government of Canada has been explicit in its approach to align policies and approaches to climate change mitigation with the US.

So thank you, United States of America. Thank you for making it easier for the Canadians holding the levers on climate action. Thank you for sharing your stories of tragedy in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and recognizing it as a harbinger of tribulation. Thank you for leading your citizens and hopefully the world, as you usually do, this time in a direction we desperately need to go.

And finally, thank you, US Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, for spelling this out to Canada. You’ve made our job easier.

Obama’s climate change challenge meant for Canada’s ears: ambassador

Heather Scoffield and Mike Blanchfield,  Wednesday, February 13, 2013 5:55 PM
U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson delivers a speech on the impact of the U.S. election on Canadian-American relations, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 in Montreal. The U.S. ambassador to Canada says President Barack Obama's State of the Union message to act swiftly on climate change should be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

U.S. ambassador to Canada David Jacobson delivers a speech on the impact of the U.S. election on Canadian-American relations, Tuesday, December 4, 2012 in Montreal. The U.S. ambassador to Canada says President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message to act swiftly on climate change should be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa as well. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
 OTTAWA – President Barack Obama’s State of the Union message to act swiftly on climate change should be interpreted as a challenge to Ottawa as well, says the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Obama used Tuesday’s speech to present Congress with a choice: either agree to market-based solutions to climate change, or else the president will use his executive powers to achieve the same result.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Ambassador David Jacobson said the message to move more aggressively against climate change was meant as much for Canada as it was for the United States.

“We all need to do as much as we can. And that is true in your country and in mine,” Jacobson said.

“Obviously the more that the energy industry – whether it is the oilsands in Canada or the energy industry in the United States, or any place else – the more progress they can make to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to reduce their consumption of water, to other environmental consequences, the better off we all are.”

Read more on Global News: Global Edmonton | Obama’s climate change challenge meant for Canada’s ears: ambassador

Are you smugly observing China’s smog? Shame on you.

The terrifying, life threatening smog that is plaguing major centers in China is not our problem. Look at us in North America… breathing so freely. How can those people stand to live there? It’s terrible.

Is that your sentiment? Consider, that while you also chide over the “made in China” sticker on nearly EVERYTHING you own, the smog associated with those imported products might be considered an export product from us. We are trading money for avoided illness and stuff.

But that’s just one perspective. Others?

Was Ottawa built upon “Mount Stupid?” Conservative banter about the #carbontax suggests true geography of Parliament Hill

You’d think that, coming from a bloodline that includes the likes of one of the greatest Canadians of all time, I might have a little more respect for our capital and the important work that is supposed to happen there. Regardless of my patriotic ties, I’m kind of ashamed to be Canadian at the moment.

My friend and colleague that specializes in carbon taxation, particularly with relevance to British Columbia, is frankly beside herself. While I’ve had my head buried in numerous other projects, she’s been agape over the “silliness” unfolding in our Canadian Parliament regarding carbon taxation. As per twitter, people are now playing drinking games over the number of times “carbon tax” is mentioned/slandered in question and answer period.

To sum up the written lines Harper has been feeding to our MPs, I’ll quote him:

“Canadians and people across the globe know, we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20 billion carbon tax.” (I’ll get back to deciphering the importance of this phrasing in a moment.)

In BC, we have a carbon tax. It has done nothing of the sort. In fact, BC’s population has gone up. BC’s GDP growth outpaced the Canadian average. And fuel use and carbon emissions during the same period have gone down. And by the way, BC is IN CANADA. (Read the full “Progress to Targets” Report. You’ll like it. Lots of colours.) Some even call it “The Most Sensible Tax of All”… and really smart economic minds agree with that statement. Enough with the gloating…

So what is this silliness happening on Parliament Hill?

@aaronwherry wrote a great article in Maclean’s summarizing what appears to be a rash of clamouring to the top of Mount Stupid:

Mount stupid

Mount Stupid. I’m sure we’ve all been there. I know I have. But maybe we can expect a little better from our “leaders?”

Yes. I am suggesting that the really smart people we have elected may be stuck in this place where they think they know just enough to know it all, giving them gumption to speak loudly about it.

MPs are suggesting (under Harper’s firm guidance, of course) that a carbon tax of any kind is dangerous nonsense and should be avoided at all costs. They are repeating this message at every prompt from the opposition, whether it is relevant or not.  They’re simply taking a page out of psychological advertising tactics (the mere-exposure effect, to be exact) book of corruption.

I say may, because there may be more to it. Harper’s statement, though seemingly directed at the NDP, may be strategically pointed to the South. You see, right now in the US, there is a coalition building in an unsuspected place: with Republicans. This short video spells it out much more effectively than I can:

What you may not know, is that BC is being looked at closely by policy makers in the US as an example of successful deployment of a revenue neutral carbon tax. Just sayin’.

Essentially, what we have is a Canadian Government that has repeated numerous times (I worked in intergovernmental relations at the time it was most in vogue… I almost want to throw up preparing to type this…) that the Canadian Government will align its climate policies with our largest and most important trading partner, the United States of America. A strategic and seemingly effective economic strategy, to be sure.

But Harper may as well be drinking oil for breakfast. And I’ll give the guy a small break: he cares about the prosperity of Canadians (mostly the already rich ones), and deterring the production and/or sale of a major commodity (which is what taxes can do) doesn’t feel right to him.

So do the math. Any stirrings of “Carbon Tax” in the US, are to be fretted about… but not directly. That would be rude. And Harper, I assume, wants to maintain some appearance of being Canadian. Instead, he is causing a stir in Canada, home of an existing carbon tax that is working… and making it seem like there’s no way in hell that could actually be the case.

“Canadians and people across the globe know, we have a government smart enough to reject dumb ideas like a $20 billion carbon tax.” – Harper

This silliness as my friend calls it, could very well be strategic silliness… directed at people outside of Canada. Regardless, it is backfiring because the knowing Canadians that DON’T live on Mount Stupid are reacting and speaking up:

We know in BC, that carbon pricing is an essential tool in the fight against climate change… but can only be bolstered and sustained at effective $100+/tonne levels if other jurisdictions get on board. Staying at $30/tonne will surely buy us 6+ degrees of warming and associated human civilization destruction.

But I digress. Kind of.

Thank you to my social media shy friend, who shall remain nameless, for bringing this to my attention and providing some excellent links. And thank you to those authors and contributors fighting for truth.

And finally, I leave you with a song – a musical tribute if you will – to our friends on “Mount Stupid”.

Excitement, guilt, atonement: the reluctant consumer.

After finally settling on a new tool for my digital endeavors, I placed the order online, and carefully bookmarked the order status page.

Several weeks I would wait for my Lenovo Thinkpad T420s to be manufactured, tentatively checking the order status daily. It was excruciating. Rarely do I indulge in such purchases, but I had, over about 6 months, rationalized the need for a new laptop and the excitement post-decision was becoming unbearable. I was almost afraid of my own reaction to seeing that single word pop up.


I thought to myself on that fine Monday in May, “settle down now Heather, it will be at least a week, maybe two before you get it. It’s coming from China.”

And then, in addition to excitement, surprise. In just 3 short days, my prized package traveled around the world to land in my home town’s UPS shop. And when I say “around the world”, I freaking mean it.



Its as if it was hesitant to get to me. Leaving its birthplace, travelling overseas, and returning before wandering into the middle of a new continent… then fighting the jet stream, finally settling on a home with me …

Or, there was a big mess up on the original shipping order. Or UPS is highly inefficient. Or I don’t know anything about shipping and this is how it’s done all the time.

I suppose, at the end of the day, I should just be happy that I got my new toy, quicker than expected, and in one piece. But seeing the paper trail of its travels gave me a strong sense of the resources it took for me to have it. I felt guilty.

I’m typing to you on it right now, you know. It feels really good. Keys like butter.

Anyway, I suppose there was a bit of Karma involved. Today, my bike tire was flat. I found out 2 minutes before I needed to leave the house and figured, “must be a slow leak”. It held on the way to work, but not so much later on.

I had a small window of opportunity to pick up my Thinkpad from UPS after work before heading to another appointment… I pumped the flat again at the office, and raced across town, pumping it up another 2 times within 15 minutes before arriving at the depot, and another time before getting home.

Karma’s not a bitch, she’s a bootcamp instructor.

My bicycle carrying a precious package

I know cycling despite the inconvenience doesn’t atone for all my carbon spewing, consumerist sins. If Lenovo had given me the option at time of purchase, I would have paid the extra bit to make the shipment carbon neutral. Then, at least, the CO2 would be managed to zero somewhere it is possible to do so.

So yes, I rode my bike. Next, to type up a consumer satisfaction survey upon these buttery, smooth keys to Lenovo, requesting the carbon neutral option.


It’s okay to cry. I did.

Midway Albatross chick - courtesy of KK+ on flickr
Midway Albatross chick

A woman entered the conference breakout session about youth engagement. She sat next to me. Like most of us, she was probably there to hear some good, heart warming stories about how youth are stepping up to the sustainability challenge.

Emily Chartrand is one of those youth. She was about to tell her story of traveling to Midway to see first hand the pollution that is wreaking havoc on the ecosystem there. An image of a bird carcass, full off plastic Coca Cola bottle caps flashed on the screen. Immediately, the woman gasped: “Oh no, is this the bird thing? I can’t watch this…”

Yes you can.

I had the luck (or so I thought) to see the Midway film preview before it aired at the conference. It was part of a keynote presentation by Jan Vozenilek to the entire delegation. I thought “geez, good thing I watched this in the privacy of my bedroom, so I could cry without embarrassment.” And then I heard Emily speak.

Emily’s presentation was about how the message from Midway impacted her. She spoke of how she was touched by the images she saw of baby albatross – before and after they had succumbed to ingesting plastic that permeates the water column in the North Pacific.

I was fine… holding it together. Being rational yet contemplative and not crying. Until she expressed how she didn’t really feel the weight of the sadness until the morning she stood on the beach in Midway, surrounded by grown men sobbing over the carcass of a baby albatross…

Image courtesey of CornerOfArt on Flickr
Our eyes connect us to the world in powerful ways.
Our tears do too.

It’s okay to cry.

And boy did I. Again. In public and right next to the woman who felt the urge to run away from the important message from Midway.

Upon returning home, I shared the Midway Film with my parents. I wondered how they would react. Part of me was nervous about the awkwardness that comes with adults crying in the vicinity of each other, and part of me really wanted them to fully experience the grief.

I handed my father my iPhone, stood back, and let him take it in. He gasped, and made a few subdued “oh no’s”… and carefully held back tears. I only know this because anyone who watches and does not cry is holding back. Or they’re not human.

And then I cried. I cried and gave him and my mother the permission to do the same. And they did.

What followed was a conversation that went much deeper than any we previously had about sustainability or waste or climate change. The pattern had changed from the typical shallow back and forth rant on “yeah, the environment is in trouble, people suck, I recycle, there’s not much more we can do…

It went to:”wow, this really matters; lets talk about why and explore the grey areas and really dig into the how…

When we are defending against vulnerability, we often take on an adversarial mindset. Things are more black and white and we draw imaginary lines that protect our worldview. And so often we defend against vulnerability because it is hard and we are trained to respect strength.

But without grief, we cannot grow to face reality. We do not open ourselves to experience positive change and the resilience that comes with it. That leads to real strength.

Tears are an acceptance and expression of vulnerability. It is okay to cry and to give others the permission to do the same. We must feel the grief necessary for change.

Convenient meals that cause more than gastrointestinal upset

I would be lying if I claimed to never eat at fast food restaurants like Macdonalds. I have, from time to time, ingested fast, fried, nutrient poor, high calorie garbage. Mostly on road trips or when my husband is in hungry bear mode and there is no other option.

But it’s not just the terribly low quality meals that disgust me. I can live with my decision to eat something that will upset my bowels for 24 hours for the sake of convenience or in the absence of self-control when I’m really hungry and drawn in by the greasy scent. Even more difficult is the realization that most fast food is unethically produced (i.e. environmentally, humanely).  One aspect I can’t live with is the waste. And by waste, I mean trash.Not worth the waste

Needless to say, the last time I went to Macdonalds I had a  struggle with my conscience to start. I sat with my 4-year old son (who I took there primarily for the play place on a rainy day) and we snacked on a burger each and even treated ourselves to a sundae.  When done, I systematically piled up the leftovers (wrappers, plastic cup lids, waxy cups, napkins) and walked to the garbage can. But I couldn’t do it.  At home, nearly all that waste would have had a second life: napkins to the compost, cardboard to the recycle, plastic to the recycle…

When we purchase something, we become stewards of that item: Responsible for its appropriate use and eventual disposal.

If you choose to eat somewhere that makes it difficult for you to properly steward the materials that you purchase… well, sucks to be you… and hopefully, you take the time to lug the crap home and compost/recycle it… then think twice about the inconvenience of that “convenient fast food” experience… and never return.

(Oh, and maybe write a letter to the CEO on how they should have compost and recycling bins too).


Tending the urgent need in East Africa – Shelterbox Canada

The refugee camp in Dadaab, described as one of the largest refugee camps in the world, approximately 100 kilometers from the Kenya-Somalia border.

I decided to take a sick day due to an ear/nose/throat bug that got the better of me last night. Realizing that sitting in an air conditioned office at a computer all day might prolong my illness (and that no one else wants to be around a sicky), it seemed that being at home and getting some extra sleep was a good plan.

Upon stirring from my nap and getting ready to do a little catch-up from home, I found a request in my inbox that really stirred me. My mortgage broker is a Rotary member and is raising funds for Shelterbox Canada – an organization working with other relief organizations to provide much needed supplies to drought/famine refugees in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.

I just couldn’t help but feel silly for desiring the comfort of my home to ease a minor illness when HUNDREDS of thousands have no home at all (besides lacking food, water and sanitation).

I’ve copied an excerpt from his appeal below for the details. What is important to highlight is that the Government of Canada is matching donations. Please consider giving to this cause.



From Troy Alexander

Good day everyone,

As many of you are aware, in addition to being a mortgage broker, I am an avid volunteer and am involved with a number of different non-profit organizations. One of the non-profit organizations I work with is ShelterBox Canada and I have recently taken on a role with them  as an Ambassador for Southern Vancouver Island. Who is ShelterBox Canada you may ask? ShelterBox Canada is a subsidiary of ShelterBox International, a Rotary affiliated organization that specializes in providing emergency relief to victims of natural disasters worldwide.

Since its inception in 2000, ShelterBox International has distributed over 107,000 ShelterBoxes to victims of floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and tornados on every continent on earth. Each ShelterBox provides shelter, dignity and warmth to an extended family of up to 10 individuals (see picture attached). At the heart of each ShelterBox is a specially designed tent to withstand extreme temperatures, high winds and heavy rainfall. They also contain blankets and ground sheets; a basic tool kit including a hammer, saw, axe, rope and pliers; a wood burning or multi-fuel cook stove along with pots, pans, bowls, mugs and utensils; a childrens pack containing coloring books, crayons and pens; and water purification tablets. The Box itself is also tough, lightweight and waterproof and can serve many purposes from food container to cot.

Each ShelterBox costs an average of $1,000 including all materials, packing, storage and distribution to disaster relief recipients worldwide.

ShelterBox Canada is launching an appeal to raise funds designated to East Africa. The Canadian Government will match donations to the ShelterBox Canada appeal for East Africa up to September 16 by setting aside funds that will also be dedicated to humanitarian work in East Africa.  ShelterBox is working in partnership with Save the Children, UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and IOM (International Organization for Migration) to provide shelter for refugee families fostering orphans and unaccompanied minors. There are currently 1,600 ShelterBoxes on route to Ethiopia and a further 2,000 ShelterBoxes on route to Kenya to provide aid to those fleeing the drought stricken areas but much more aid is urgently needed.

I am sending this appeal to everyone of you in the hopes that you might be willing contribute some money to this worthwhile cause and help those who need our help in Africa. I personally have committed to purchasing a ShelterBox in my own name but am hoping that perhaps you may be willing to contribute to the cause as well. The more money that is raised, the more people that can helped…and don’t forget we get matched dollar for dollar by the Canadian Government. All amounts over $20 will receive a Canadian tax receipt. You can either make donations by visiting or through the Giving Page I have setup with

Here is the link for that page Please feel free to share this with friends, family or work colleagues.

If you have any questions that you would like answered, you may respond to me via this email or

Thanks so much for your support in advance – your efforts will truly make a difference to the people in East Africa that so desperately need our help.


Troy Alexander, PFP, AMP

Mortgage Consultant

Branch Manager

VERICO Select Mortgage

Do you get off on dissing plastic water bottles?

”]20110803-101912.jpg[I apologize in advance for the strong language and offensive tone of this post.]

I was going to write a blog about stupid consumer products once. And then I thought: there would be no end in sight. It would lead to ongoing personal suffering as I feel the pain of human stupidity. Plus, I might get sued.

But I couldn’t waste this opportunity.

When I saw this monstrosity sitting near the till at an office supply store I had to touch it. “Is it real?” I thought. “No… is it for people with poor eyesight?  Really big fingers?”

Nope. I’m pretty sure it would have been labelled “really accessible calculator for people with disabilities”. This is just a “Really Big Calculator”. And they won’t be undersold! … Oh good. I’m fucking glad.

This is all kinds of wrong.

There are outcries all over North America about the use of plastic water bottles when tap water is just fine to drink. In effect, they are not necessary and end up creating more waste in our land fills and their production is a waste of oil.

Water bottles are produced on such a massive scale that impacting that trend will really make a difference. Perhaps public outcry about GIANT calculators won’t have such an impact… or will it?

Think of all the random novelty junk like this that is made of plastic and requires gobs of energy and other chemicals to produce. This is not an heirloom item. The dumbass that purchases this will do it as a gag, and it won’t get passed on for the enjoyment/wellbeing of the next generation. It will get turfed. Energy and resources WASTED.

In a world where we are calculating the dangers of creeping closer and closer to economic and environmental carrying capacities, why the hell are we wasting our efforts like this?

I am seriously inclined to contact somebody that cares about the future of their company (and hopefully the planet) and explain to them how this just makes them look really bad.

But then, I think that perhaps it is just me (and a few other greenies) that thinks this looks really bad. I know I’ve bought senseless novelty items in the past – I spent my money to acquire a certain level of entertainment without considering myself a steward of the resources I was helping to consume. There are processes and places to look after that for me.

When you realize that those processes and places (landfills/solid waste management facilities) require public spending (um, my tax dollars), not to mention impacts on the environment (to produce and retire the product), I really do have a larger stake than the $20 bones I spent on a 5 minute laugh.

Is this such a difficult concept to grasp? 

This article is thoughtful in this respect and states “Get people thinking about water bottles, and the thinking tends to spread to other parts of their lives.”

I freaking hope so.


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