Getting Inspired

Image from 'Twelve Little Girls,' another book still sitting on my back burner, getting slightly singed.

An image from ‘Twelve Little Girls,’ another book still sitting on my back burner,
getting slightly singed.

After the success of our Moose in a Maple Tree Series, I was supercharged by the idea of doing my own book. I knew a bit about the industry now, and had a pretty good grasp on what would sell and how to do it. It suddenly seemed more viable, less daunting. But what would I write about first?

The obvious choice was a book I’d been working on for some time, a true passion project for me. A few years ago I walked into a clothing shop belonging to a friend of a friend, and discovered a series of gorgeously-rendered paintings of  young girls tangled up in a dark forest. Each painting featured a single girl who had somehow become integrated into the woods around her. One was sitting high in the crook of a black, bent tree bough, looking angrily down at some unseen thing below her. Another sat on a carven throne atop a ‘tree ladder,’ in a forest hung with tiny mirrors, the largest of which she had fixed with a rapt gaze .

Vain

The ‘Forest of Mirrors’ image from ‘Twelve Little Girls.’

Another showed a claw foot bathtub, supported by ascending roots, gauzy bath curtains hanging from the tree-branches above, blowing in the wind. Half-submerged in the bathtub lay a beautiful girl with greyish skin, hair hanging lankly over the tub’s rim, her thin, frail limbs dangling corspe-like over the edges. Yet another depicted a girl whose hair had grown into tree branches, and intertwined with the boughs above her, that had reached down and dragged he up off of her feet so that she dangled in the wind like and uprooted weed. Another showed a tall, bent girl carrying a treehouse on her shoulders, with branch-like hair that grew up through the porch and chimney.

Drain Forest Bath

‘Drain Forest,’ another image from ‘Twelve Little Girls.’

This images screamed at me, demanded my attention. I asked the store owner, Gabrielle, who was also the artist, if she had ever considered making this series into a children’s book. She hadn’t, but she loved the idea, and I offered to write stories for the illustration. She was thrilled by this, so I got to work. Soon a new book concept was born, ‘Twelve Little Girls.’ It was told in rhyming couplets, a cautionary tale about 12 young girls who enter a dark forest as friends, and end up separating, straying from the path and becoming entwined in separate fates of their own making. It was dark, it was mysterious, and it rhymed. Gabrielle loved it, and offered to create new artwork to flesh out the full twelve stories (she only had eight paintings to start with). Together we came up with four new girls to add to the mix, and the story became an exciting project. The trouble was Gabrielle had a day job, and these paintings had been done over several years, so it was not a quick process. Again, the back-burner loomed.

And then I heard about the Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal.

When I first discovered that an oil pipeline was being planned by a major oil company to run through an old-growth rainforest in Northern BC, I was pretty stunned. Was this real? Could our government seriously be considering this? They were talking about the Great Bear Rainforest. From what I understand, this area is pretty famous for being a bit of an ecological relic–a true old-growth forest that has never been logged or developed. A place where biodiversity has been allowed to flourish to the point where a unique subspecies of bear has emerged–one that sports a coat of pure white. Where else on earth could you find that? Nowhere, it turned out.

I think that I, like most Canadians, harbour a sense of pride in the natural, often pristine beauty of our country, and have always felt as though Canada had its head and heart in the right place in terms of conservation. It turns out that it just seems that way because we have such a tiny population in relation to our land mass, so we’ve always had so darned MUCH wilderness that destroying it all hadn’t really become a viable option as of yet. But now, it seemed, things were changing.

Grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest

Grizzlies in the Great Bear Rainforest

In the wake of this new, unsettling information, I began to educate myself. I leaned about Enbridge, the corporation that wanted to build the Northern Gateway Pipeline. I read about the Tar Sands, with their massive tailings ponds filled with toxic leftovers from the oil extraction process. I learned what bitumen was. Dirty. Sludgy. Super-carcinogenic. Oh, and in order to make it fluid, it’s cut with super-toxic solvents before it enters the pipelines, so that in the event of a spill, you’ll have a caustic mix of chemicals injected into your water supply that will give otherwise healthy people migraines, seizures, and over the long term, cancer. Not the best news I’d heard all day.

I read about the Enbridge bitumen spill down in Michigan. How the Kalamazoo River had more than a million gallons of this stuff pumped into it over a weekend. How it took eighteen hours before a Michigan utilities employee noticed the spill and reported it to Enbridge, who had yet to detect a problem. I watched documentaries about people suffering the after-effects of having a 40KM stretch of river contaminated with this ‘black gold.’ I saw a video made by an ex-Enbridge employee who had been a part of the ‘cleanup effort,’ and had decided to come forth and tell the truth about what had really happened. Cover-ups. Threats. Complete extinction of all life in the river. Rocks and sand poured over oil they knew they couldn’t remove from the environment (or didn’t want to spend the money to do so). Canvas and grass seeds thrown over top. The appearance of a complete and total renewal of the waterway. But dig down a foot or two, and dark, glistening bitumen oil blooms to the surface. The river was ruined. Lifeless.

This terrified me. Could our government actually be considering running a substance this dangerous through an ancient BC rainforest??

In my years at Uni we had made trips up to Carmanah Valley and Clayoquot Sound to study these old-growth forest systems. I had seen them. I knew how they worked.  How precious, rare, unique and invaluable they are to life on Earth. How everything in the system is connected with every other thing, and how losing even one element would compromise the entire system. How these places were precious jewels, the lungs of the planet. And they wanted to bring this deadly, life-extinguishing oil into one of these places?

Surely this was not possible. It seemed like madness.

Potential devastation from a spill by tankers for proposed Northern Gateway project.

Potential devastation from a spill by tankers from the proposed Northern Gateway project.

There was talk of jobs. Of new safety standards. Of the importance of Tar Sands oil in the new economy, of its importance to Canada. And of tankers longer than the Empire State Building navigating treacherous waterways inhabited by humpback whales, orcas, spawning salmon, and this crazy white bear that no one seemed to have heard of before, even though it was one of the mascots for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver. And there were more spills. And more cover-ups.

And there were outright lies. Like when Enbridge created a map for their website that showed  tankers gracefully cruising through a wide bay to alight in Kitimat, undeterred by the pesky network of islands that the map illustrator had conveniently chosen to erase.  Surely this was a joke.

It wasn’t. They believed that people really were stupid enough to swallow all of this propaganda, and shrug their shoulders and look away, as they far too often do.

My first instinct was to DO SOMETHING. This hit me hard. I lived in Toronto now, but I grew up in Vancouver, and BC’s wilderness had been my childhood playground. It was in my blood. I wasn’t going to let anyone spill oil all over my nice, white bears and pretty rainforest.

My first thought was to write a children’s book. It was the one thing I knew how to do (sort of) that might have a little impact. I envisioned a story that took place in the Great Bear Rainforest after an oil spill had hit the area. I was serious about it. I discussed it and workshopped ideas. And then, as so often I have done in my life, I lost faith in my own idea. ‘Who’s going to listen to me?’ I thought. ‘What impact could my book possibly have? It won’t make a difference.’ And with that, I dropped the whole plan.

Months passed and the issue didn’t disappear. My guilt gnawed at me, but my negativity was far stronger. ‘What good can one person do? No one will care about what I have to say,’ I told myself.

That summer I went camping with some friends on a long weekend. We discovered this pristine little lake a few hours North of Toronto, with no buildings or boats, and very few people. Walk-in campsites near the lake, no cars. It was heaven. As we lay on the smooth rocks on the water’s edge looking up at the stars one evening, we began pontificating on the virtues of wilderness. How important it is to the soul. How it’s strange that something so natural, so wonderful, should be so difficult to find and have access to. And something clicked in my head. I brought up the pipeline issue and the rainforest in BC. Everyone agreed it was a horrible plan. Disgusting. Ruinous. How could our government be so greedy, so corrupt?

‘I have to do something,’ I said that night.

‘I have to write this book.’

An inspirational moment.

The actual night that I decided to write ‘Spirit Bear.’

Suddenly it dawned on me that if everyone took the attitude I had been taking, we would certainly fail as a species. Evil would run rampant, since good people preferred to remain silent and feel powerless. I wasn’t going to go down that path. Not anymore. I was going to do whatever I could do, as ONE person. If only a handful of kids read my book and got inspired, I knew it would be worth it. If every person in the world decided to do SOMETHING–whatever that something was–to make the world a better place, then we’d have a better world. Simple. So I wasn’t going to worry about what other people thought. Or whether or not I was ‘good enough’ to put an idea into print. I was going to do this. Because this issue was bigger than me. And it needed my attention.

No more shrugging, shuffling and looking away. That night I decided to write Spirit Bear.

Next Blog: The Birth of a Little White Bear

El Hierro: The First Totally Wind Powered Island!

Just off the coast of Africa, the smallest country of the Canary Island – El Hierro – became 100% wind powered. With May 2014 as their first month with total reliance on their new wind system, El Hierro has made history. The project includes five wind turbines on the North Eastern tip of the Island for a capacity of 11.5 megawatts, and two hydroelectric back up systems. Comparing the energy generated from these projects, El Hierro makes enough energy to service their 2003 population; this makes them completely energy self-sufficient.
el hierro
For a full write up on their energy system, visit Eco People LTD. Feel free to peruse the remainder of their site for regular updates on global eco news, and information on renewable energy technology.

Eco-Friendly, Natural and Organic Products for Fitness Enthusiasts

Going green does not have to end where the gym mats begin. Follow Green Fitness for product reviews, and step by step check lists for better skincare, work outs, and health foods tailored for the athletes of a sustainable tomorrow!

Seafood Watch: Do You Eat Sustainable Seafood?

jensera:

Food sources are an important aspect of  a sustainable future for our planet. Seafood Watch is a guide for consumers when purchasing their fish — is it sustainable seafood? Authors recommend not buying fish without knowing if it is sustainable, and eating a diversity of fish to prevent one species being over fished or farmed.

Check out It’s Not Easy To Be Green for more guidance on going green!

Originally posted on It's Not Easy To Be Green:

California Leopard Sharks

Leopard Sharks. Credit: MoonSoleil

I admired the jellyfish, the octopus, and the nudibranchs, but in the end, it was the California leopard sharks that won me over. They cuddled up against the diver and nudged their heads against her arm, taking squid gently from her hand. It was the first time ever a shark had elicited an involuntary “Aww” reaction from me.

I’ve been going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since I was eleven. (Honor roll field trips FTW!) There are arguments against keeping animals in captivity, but for me, getting up close and personal with a leafy sea dragon reminds me why I care about this planet and inspires me to keep caring.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium earnestly promotes ocean conservation, particularly through its Seafood Watch program. Overfishing is one of the most critical issues facing our ocean ecosystems, and the MBA’s Seafood Watch Pocket Guide distills…

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Going Green One Week at a Time

Meet Joanna, a 23 year old environment enthusiast. She is dedicated to making one green change to her life every week, and documents it on her blog. She offers a diverse array of categories like packaging, cleaning, food, and clothing in order to improve life in many areas. She is also mindful to stay within her current means, and be critical about the products she buys. Follow her blog for tested-out tips on ways to go greener, one week at a time!

Just a ‘Teaspoon’ At a Time

The enormity of our environmental issues can be halting to many people. This is one blog to follow if this is you. Teaspoons of Change is a blog dedicated to enacting small, palatable changes in our every day lives in order to overcome the fear of insurmountably. “Through the sharing of ideas and experiences, Teaspoons of Change aims to promote small changes in our choices, decisions and actions that have a positive impact on people and the planet.” Choices made daily to minimise negative impact on the environment is a major focus for this blogger; however the biggest effort lies in his 1500km walk through Japan spanning two months. He plans to think of teaspoons of change along the way, and share them  on his blog! his experiences with whomever he meets.

Green Mommy Guide to Lead, PVC and BPA Free Lunchboxes

jensera:

It may be a little earlier than we’d all like to think about this, but school will be starting up again in just over a month! This green mommy blogger gives us the scoop on the toxicity of lunch boxes. The use of lead, PVC and BPA in lunchboxes is dangerous because children hold them in their hands just moments before taking out their food and eating it. To prevent the ingestion of these harmful chemicals, check out her list of safe lunchboxes!

Originally posted on greener, healthier living:

Lead as you know is toxic, which makes it surprising that it is in lunchboxes and backpacks. PVCis toxic as it contains phthalates and lead so it’s important for lunchboxes to be lead-free. And BPA is the hormone disrupting chemical found in plastics whose toxic effects have been hitting the news and blogs for the last several years. Kids are going to be touching the lunch box with their hands, then eat their food with their hands, so it is important for your child’s lunchbox to be free of these nasty chemicals.

Before purchasing a lunch box for your child, read the label. Make sure it is not made of PVC. Stainless steel, nylon, polypropelyne or cloth are much safer materials. Look for tags that say PVC-free (NOTE: PVC-free means the lead levels are below the amount deemed “safe” by a government agency). You also want to avoid BPA…

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Here chicky chicky chicky…

Coop_Base plate with apron

jensera:

So much work for an already busy woman! This Vancouver mother, and urban homesteader begins work on her very own chicken coop, while managing a full time job! Kudos for all your efforts to reach self-sustainability; a project we all can take inspiration from.

Originally posted on Wolf and Finch Urban Homestead:

I’ve started the coop! I cleared a big area, levelled it, dug in foundation blocks, made a level and square base plate that I doubled, sandwiching 2 layers hardware cloth in between. One piece to make an apron and one piece that will run up the outside where it will cover the run. The apron will run horizontally for 30″ and be covered with pavers with planters on top. This apron and run will keep out digging animals – raccoons, coyotes and dogs. The coop and run will have a peaked roof to keep out hawks, eagles and the rain. This much work took 3 full days. I assume the framing will take 2 full days, the roof trusses 2 full days and then finishing the house structure itself another 6-10 days. Given that I only have weekends this may take a while! I’m hoping to take off 3 days…

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Going Green in the Burbs

Follow this blog if your interested in hearing about one family in the suburbs strives to decrease their carbon footprint. Blogger Green Mom in the Burbs, covers DIY, gardening, and plenty of recipes, while chronicling the green alternatives she tries to implement along the way. Her crock pots are always on overdrive, with amazing looking food! Try her Crock Pot Chicken Curry here!

Burgers, Cafeterias and Food Waste!

jensera:

Too often we consider the true cost of a cheeseburger to be the calories we ingest by eating it. The first article you’ve posted shows an unexpected, but interesting and important side of our ‘Cheeseburger Culture’!

Originally posted on Food (Policy) For Thought:

¡Hola, amig@s! Anybody grilling now at the height of summer? Then the first article might be interesting for you. In fact, all of today’s haul is extremely interesting – there doesn’t seem to be any lag in food news due to summer/vacation time!

This is what I was reading today:

Mark Bittman (or rather, his student intern, as it seems) has been trying for a year to estimate the true cost of a cheeseburger. Why is that so difficult, if every single fastfood restaurant has a well-established menu and price list? Because, to arrive at the true cost, you also need to take those costs into account that the firm doesn’t consider, but society still bears, so-called externalities:

Whatever the product, some costs are borne by producers, but others, called external costs — “externalities,” as economists call them — are not; nor are they represented in the price. Take…

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Cradle to Cradle, a Benchmark of Social Fairness

jensera:

The Cradle to Cradle Certification is just one way to begin revolutionizing how we as a society harvest materials, manufacture products, and most importantly, what we do with them once they are not longer needed. Product Design must play a factor in a more sustainable future! For more information on the current environmental choices being made, stop by What’s New in Eco-Materials.

Originally posted on What's New in Eco-Materials:

I’m not really a big fan of “certification”. I understand the reasons for it and I know that many who offer it are morally ethical with only the highest intentions but it is also based on distrust and buying integrity with dollars. Still, I really like the Cradle to Cradle Products Institute video I’ve shared above. Certainly, I do believe that product designers, architects and ordinary consumers should take such considerations into account, when creating a new product, conceptualizing a new structure or purchasing a product. And I believe it is both important for NOW and for our future generations, already alive and growing up on this planet.

The thing is that “certification” has been recognized as a definite revenue generator, so that now there are so many possible systems to validate one’s self with, that it would cost a small fortune to sign on with all of them. This…

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