“Green Growth” or Greenwashing?

A short but sweet video outlining some evidence that green growth may not be possible.

If you’re wondering where they got the number of 50 billion tonnes as a maximum for resource extraction, it appears the number comes from the following study for UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) and others:

Dittrich, M.; Giljum, S.; Lutter, S.; Polzin, C. Green Economies around the World? Implications of Resource Use for Development and the Environment; SERI: Vienna, Austria, 2012.


China’s National Sword – recycling

China is tightening its standards and refusing to accept as many contaminated recyclables from other countries.

Well, it does point to a problem that has to be dealt with eventually, right? We have to deal with contaminated batches of recyclable materials (hopefully through better prevention and reduced waste overall, as well as new legislation regarding how manufacturers are allowed to package their goods – maybe it’s time all disposable food containers were compostable???). Some of the problems include bales of moldy paper – which is a potential public health risk – and improperly sorted or badly soiled mixed plastics that end up needing to go in the garbage.

Nobody wants to be stuck dealing with a bunch of somebody else’s trash. If we want recyclables to actually be recycled, and to really be a resource, we have to clean up our act.


Chew on This! Canadian campaign to alleviate poverty and hunger in Canada

On Tuesday, October 17, you can easily participate in this great campaign to end hunger in Canada by targeting poverty (which is preventable and solvable, by the way!)


Basically, the campaign holds that the Canadian government should have an anti-poverty plan, instead of leaving the symptoms of poverty to be ‘addressed’ by emergency-aid-type responses led by charitable organizations and faith-based groups. While these charitable groups do some amazing work to help Canadians to cope short-term with symptoms of poverty, they can’t get at the root causes of poverty, so they’re forced to continually fight an uphill battle.

…Food Banks, for example, were supposed to be a temporary measure to help Canadians get emergency food in the 1980s during economic recession. In 2017, food banks are very much still here…and the need for them just keeps growing. It’s not a sustainable situation, and it’s not a solution to hunger. The food bank where I work does not receive any financial support from any level of government – and we aren’t asking for their support either, because the government should be focusing on poverty prevention and alleviation at the roots.

So here’s a proposed Plan to deal with root causes of poverty in Canada so that we can stop the endless uphill battle: https://dignityforall.ca/our-plan/

The map at the bottom of the page here shows where you can check out an event being hosted near you. Attending in person lets you talk to volunteers about the issues, find out more, and sign-on to the campaign in person to show your support. Also, pick up some swag to tell more people!

If you’re not able to stop by an event in person, you can also take action here (including signing-on to the campaign online): https://dignityforall.ca/take-action/

Should we stop talking about ‘decoupling’ growth from environmental impacts?

I often hear about the idea that GDP growth can be “decoupled” from environmental impacts. There are a lot of articles out there explaining how this might be achieved, and there are a also a lot of good articles explaining why it can’t be done. I wanted to share an overview of why GDP can’t keep increasing in a meaningful sense (so de-growth or steady-state might be the only options).


Using mindfulness to combat compulsive buying

So, I shop and make purchases compulsively sometimes, and it can be a problem. It’s wasteful of resources, it wastes my time and energy, the purchases are unnecessary, I don’t enjoy the process (except for a little ‘rush’ of adrenaline or dopamine or something, which is over quickly and is followed by feeling crappy) and it’s hard on the pocketbook. (I know, first world problems, right?)

Lately, I’ve been doing some ‘training’ in mindfulness meditation. I’ve been trying to use a 3-minute breathing space tool (available from a lot of pages online, youtube, etc.) to put a bit of distance between my impulse to shop and the actual behaviour of shopping. It doesn’t mean I never shop, but I have been:

1) shopping less often;

2) spending less time per shopping session (most of mine are online); and

3) making fewer purchases.

Plus when I do shop, it seems more like a conscious decision than something I can’t stop myself from doing. I remember I used to spend hours shopping online without even realizing how long it had been, and I couldn’t remember ever having started the shopping session, or having made the decision to shop in the first place.

The 3 minute breathing space goes like this (you can do it whenever you like – any time you have three minutes):

When I feel the urge to shop, I mentally press PAUSE and take a 3-minute breather. (BTW, first I had to train myself to recognize the impulse, rather than diving straight in before I even knew what I was doing.)

I don’t tell myself “NO” or insist that I mustn’t shop, and I don’t beat myself up for having the impulse. (I acknowledge fully that the habit is destructive and counterproductive, and I take responsibility for it. Nevertheless, it doesn’t help me to beat myself up or run through a laundry list of why it’s bad. I just don’t find it effective; when I’d beat myself up, I’d end up feeling bad and shopping anyways.)

An audio recording of the 3-minute breathing space is saved on my desktop so that it’s on hand right away, and I also have a little paper poster tacked to my wall, which outlines the activity.

It’s basically as follows:

Sit comfortably and close the eyes.

Step one: Awareness.

Attend broadly to one’s experience. Just silently take note of it without judgement, and without the need to change what is being observed. Especially pay attention to how the body feels. How does the skin feel? Note temperature, tingling, etc. How do the muscles in the different parts of the body feel? And so on. What are the thoughts going through the mind right now? What feelings do you find in yourself at this moment? Acknowledge whatever you happen to feel, even if the feelings are unwanted. 

Step two: Gathering.

Focus on the breath. Narrow the field of attention to focus on the breath in the body, and the various sensations associated with it. Attend to each in-breath and out-breath. If you forget to notice a breath, just congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring attention back to the breathing.

Step three: Expanding.

Attend to the body. Widen your attention again to include the body as a whole and any sensations that are present. 


It sounds hokey, but if you try it and don’t like it, you will have only lost 3 minutes, so who cares?

Some sensations and thoughts I’ve noticed in myself right before I was about to shop have included sensations of tightness in the shoulders, a knot in the belly, and thoughts like “I need a pick-me-up,” or “I can’t focus on this deadline, it’s too stressful.” Just realizing that I’m having these kinds of thoughts and feelings helps re-orient me to the reality that my urge to shop usually has nothing to do with actually needing or wanting to buy something. (Usually I’m avoiding something.) Taking a moment to attend to the breath and the body serves to ‘anchor’ me in the real world and helps me deal with stressful or overly-dramatic feelings and thoughts, like “I can’t finish this task in time! I’m DOOMED!”


Also, when I do end up shopping, I do a 3 minute breathing space right after I’m done. It helps me, I think, to be more honest with myself and more realistic about how I really feel after having shopped. I usually assume shopping will make me feel better, but to be honest, it basically never does.

Again, it’s not about beating yourself up for having done something foolish. It’s just a way of being aware and mindful of what you’re really feeling, and about the types of thoughts you’re having. With practice, you can start to notice yourself having certain thought biases that basically everyone engages in at some time or other. It’s normal to have these kinds of thought patterns, but it’s also helpful to recognize them for what they are when they occur, so that you can react to them intentionally (rather than automatically and without even realizing how you arrived at a particular outcome).