Sunday, March 22, 2009
If there is grass in heaven, does it have a warning sign on it?...and more
The role of President of CCME rotates among the 14 ministers of
environment on an annual basis. The Honourable John Gerretsen,
Minister of the Environment for Ontario, currently leads the Council.
Incoming President's Message (February 2009)
Incoming President’s Message
I am pleased to take on the role of president of the Canadian Council
of Ministers of the
Environment for 2009. We face a number of pressing environmental
challenges in Canada, from climate change to reducing waste and
packaging, from preventing pollution to helping clean the air we
breathe and ensuring clean water for generations to come.
We are also facing pressing economic challenges as a country. My own
philosophy is that it’s no longer the environment versus the economy
but the environment and the economy. A healthy environment and
healthy, prosperous communities are inextricably linked. Our success
as a country will depend on our ability to grow and thrive in a
greener economy. I believe that we have a real opportunity, right
across this country, to work together to foster that green economy and
put Canada at the forefront of the development of eco-friendly
products and technology.
I look forward to working with my fellow Ministers of this Council,
and improving our
environment for all Canadians.
The Honourable John Gerretsen
Minister of the Environment
Outgoing President's Message (February 2009)
Outgoing President’s Message
Environmental issues by their nature cross a variety of boundaries.
Given the shared
responsibility for environmental management set out in the Canadian
constitution, it is essential governments work together in a
collaborative and coordinated manner to address environmental issues
of importance. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment
(CCME) provides a necessary forum for dialogue as well as joint action
on those key intergovernmental, environmental issues.
I am pleased to have served as CCME President, during which time
ministers have engaged on fundamental issues concerning our changing
climate, the state and quality of our water resources, and effective
means to collaborate in the management of air quality across Canada.
Despite our differences in how we as governments have moved to reduce
greenhouse gases, we have found opportunities to work together
including a structured approach to the development of Canada’s next
international climate change discussions both here in North America
and more globally, post-Kyoto. Likewise, we are continuing work on
water priorities such as water monitoring needs in the face of climate
change; common tools for valuing water in policy making; and more
integrated approaches to groundwater management. We are continuing
work with stakeholder representatives to define a comprehensive and
collaborative system of air quality management and are working to
develop specific actions that will guide sustainable packaging in
I would especially like to recognize the work on environmental risk,
economics, and technical feasibility by technical, scientific, and
policy staff which enabled most governments to begin implementing a
Canada-wide strategy for the management of municipal wastewater. A
first in Canada, the strategy establishes national performance
standards for the management and regulation of municipal wastewater,
contributing to the health and well-being of Canadians and the
environment which we live in. It sets a timetable for implementation
that recognizes the need for infrastructure upgrades and initiates
action with priority for those facilities that pose the greatest risk.
Recognizing the challenges posed by the breadth and cost of
implementing the strategy over its lifetime, it is a testament to the
vision of ministers around the table who found a way to make it a
reality. CCME is also undertaking new science in order to provide a
sound foundation for future policy development. Research, for example,
is being undertaken in western Canada on critical loads for forest
soils and on the role of nitrogen in acidification that will assist in
defining critical thresholds for acid precipitation. New research is
also underway to look at contaminants found in sewage biosolids from a
variety of locations and treatment systems to set the stage for an
informed dialogue on appropriate management options.
CCME is also pleased to support a number of long-term activities
including maintaining the annual Pollution Prevention Awards in
partnership with the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention. In
addition, our guidelines-development groups continue to provide
technical guidance documents used on a regular basis by environmental
managers in their day-to-day assessment and regulatory roles. Recent
examples include: a revised national classification system for
contaminated sites; new environmental quality guidelines for a number
of pesticides, nutrients, uranium, and polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons; and indices for assessing soil and sediment quality.
I would like to thank my ministerial colleagues for their
contributions and guidance, officials in Yukon’s department of
Environment that contributed to our success in our year in the CCME
Chair, staff from environment departments across the country who
provided their energy and insight in developing workable solutions to
our common challenges, and to the CCME
Secretariat for its ongoing support.
While my term as Chair has now passed, I look forward to furthering
the work of the Council together with my colleagues in addressing the
challenges as well as the opportunities of today and tomorrow.
Minister of Environment for Yukon
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment
123 Main Street, Suite 360
March 18, 2009
Some overdue congratulations to Minister Gerretsen
by Dianne Saxe
We are glad to congratulate Minister Gerretson on proclaiming the
cosmetic pesticides ban, and on becoming the new president of the
Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. Well-done and best
March 21, 2009
Pembroke Daily Observer
The Earth gets greener
If there is grass in heaven, does it have a warning sign on it?
On Earth Day this year (April 22), we will all have more to think
about than cleaning up the garbage that has accumulated over the
winter. The new Regulation G3/09 will become law in Ontario -this is
the ban on cosmetic use of pesticides. No pesticides will be put on
lawns for the protection of the public. Some of us believe we need
protection, some of us do not.
What are we being protected from? Pollution from coming upon
pesticides themselves, or the unwanted effects of pesticides, such as
smells in the air. This pollution is being taken seriously by many,
many people who have chosen not to have pesticides in their world.
I remember a chemistry teacher from England. He told the class how, as
a child, he could smell the fish and chips "molecules" in the air as
he played and walked around in the country moors.
The molecules in the air. The smell. All chemicals are elements held
together by bonds that can be impacted by other elements surrounding
In our environment are many pollutants. All these elements changing
and rearranging, creating new compounds perhaps. When our windows are
open and the smells come in, and then we close them into our airtight
houses. They are closer than we want them. They become an
uncomfortable added burden of pollution to our hard-pressed world.
Many people are saying "Enough!" No pollution if we can help it! On
Earth Day, we can think about this positively. The banned ingredients
are listed in Class 9; I suggest we all obtain this list of products
that contain these ingredients with registration numbers beside each
This ban happened last June (Bill 64). Now it will be law. That means
any product on the Class 9 list will be prohibited from use on grass
after April 22, 2009. So if you are stocking up on turf-building weed-
and-feed or grub-killing products, you will be breaking the law if you
apply these to your lawn after that date.
There is no clause any more in the new regulation for any exceptions.
Word had it that we would be able to get an inspector in to assess
destruction to our lawn and then get an extermination by a landscaper
or other professional. Not any more.
Beneficial Nematodes are exempt and will be used for grubs with notice
to the public of their use if a landscaper is spraying them.
Not just anyone can buy products listed for farmers. Only farmers with
a licence can purchase these products and use them.
The ministry website is www.ene.gov. on.ca.The phone number is
1-800-565-4923. State you are calling about 63/09 if you want more
Oct 2005. Vol. 115, Iss. 10; pg. 5, 5 pgs
Croplife Canada v. City of Toronto: Ontario Court of Appeal upholds
Toronto's Pesticide By-law
by Graham Rempe, Susan Ungar, Mark Siboni.
The Supreme Court of Canada has noted, "The protection of the
environment has become one of the major challenges of our time. To
respond to this challenge, governments and international organizations
have been engaged in the creation of a wide variety of legislative
schemes and administrative structures."2
Similarly, that court has observed, "Everyone is aware that
individually and collectively, we are responsible for preserving the
natural environment ... environmental protection [has] emerged as a
fundamental value in Canadian society."3
It is not always easy for governments to meet this responsibility,
however. While environment may be one of the major challenges today,
it was not on the minds of the framers of the Canadian Constitution in
1867, and was not enumerated as a head of power at that time. The
jurisdiction to take environmental action has to be found within the
existing constitutional framework. As a result, environmental
regulation is often met with jurisdictional challenge. Fortunately for
the environment in Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada has
consistently ruled in favour of legislation that protects the
environment whether that legislation is at the federal, provincial, or
even municipal level.4
This empowering approach was specifically extended to municipalities
in the Supreme Court decision in 114957 Canada Ltée. v. Hudson (Town)
(Spraytech),5 a case which upheld a pesticide by-law enacted by the
Town of Hudson. The Spraytech decision follows a line of cases in
which municipalities have been given greater legislative latitude, as
The authors are in-house counsel with the City of Toronto and
represented the city before the Court of Appeal. The views expressed
in this article are their own.
Taken in conjunction, increased deference to municipal authority and
the consistent support of environmental protection measures may give
municipalities a new and logical role in environmental regulation. It
may indeed give municipalities a role as, to use the language of the
Court of Appeal, a "trustee of the environment."6
Practically, how easy will it be for municipalities to regulate the
environment? One recent example of the obstacles to be expected can be
seen with the City of Toronto's pesticide by-law, and the legal
challenge that followed. Although the pesticide by-law is primarily
driven by health-related concerns, the environmental overlap is
obvious. It was made an issue in the course of legal proceedings,
which recently culminated with the Ontario Court of Appeal confirming
the validity of the City's by-law.7
As first reported in Municipal World's March 2004 edition,8 the
pesticide by-law was challenged by Croplife Canada, a trade
association that includes pesticide producers. One might have
supposed, post-Spraytech, that a pesticide by-law would be almost a
"given." As in the Spraytech case, the by-law was health-related, and
enacted under a general welfare power, in the absence of any specific
powers dealing with pesticide use reduction; however, Croplife argued
that the by-law was illegally enacted, attempting to distinguish the
On May 23, 2003, the City of Toronto enacted By-law 456-2003, which
restricts the non-essential use of pesticides within its territorial
jurisdiction. The by-law was scheduled to come into force on April 1,
2004. In June 2003, Croplife Canada challenged the by-law on the basis
that it was not a valid enactment under section130 of Ontario's new
Municipal Act, 2001.
Croplife's application was heard by the Superior Court of Justice on
November 10, 2003. On the application, Croplife's principal argument
was an attack on municipal environmental power. Croplife's position
was that the pesticide by-law was an environmental law, which is the
subject of specific provisions within the Municipal Act and the
Environmental Protection Act. The court rejected these arguments,
probably because the provisions within the Municipal Act deal only
with trees and the provisions within the Environmental Protection Act
deal only with a permissive ability to enter agreements with other
governments in respect of administering environmental matters. Quite
clearly, neither one has anything to do with pesticides. The
application was dismissed on December 8, 2003.
The appeal was heard on November 4, 2004 by Appeal Justices Goudge,
Feldman and Lang. The decision of the Court of Appeal was released on
May 13, 2005.
A number of intervenors represented by the Canadian Environmental Law
Association and the Sierra Legal Defence Fund made submissions in
support of the by-law on both the application and the appeal.
Issues Before Court of Appeal
1) Proper Approach to Interpretation of Non-Sphere Powers
Croplife submitted that the general welfare power contained in section
130 of the Municipal Act, 2001 should be interpreted narrowly.
Croplife argued that because subsection 9(1) states that the Part II
sphere powers of the Act are to be interpreted broadly, the Part III
powers, including section 130, are to be interpreted narrowly.
Feldman J.A., who wrote the unanimous decision of the court, did not
agree. She rejected the more restrictive approach set out in "Dillon's
Rule" and in older cases, which held that municipalities must frame
their by-laws strictly within the scope delegated to them by the
legislature. She stated:
In light of the development of the jurisprudence in this area over the
last twelve years and the clear adoption by the Supreme Court of a
generous approach that accords deference to municipal governments, it
would take clear legislative language to return to Dillon's Rule when
interpreting those parts of the new Act not contained in Part II.
She also noted that it would be a "retrograde step" to interpret the
non-sphere powers restrictively, when the goal of modernizing the Act,
as stated by the Minister of Municipal Affairs at the time, was to
give municipalities in Ontario "the tools they need to tackle the
challenges of governing in the 21st century."
Feldman J.A. referred to the recent Supreme Court decision in the case
of United Taxi Drivers ' Fellowship of Southern Alberta v. Calgary
(City).9 In that case, Bastarache J. confirmed that "the evolution of
the modern municipality has produced a shift in the proper approach to
the interpretation of statutes empowering municipalities" such that "a
broad and purposive approach to the interpretation of municipal powers
has been embraced.10 Feldman J.A. also made reference to the
concurring reasons of Lebel J. in the Spraytech case11 where he stated
that restrictive interpretation would have made the general welfare
section nothing more than "an empty shell."
On this issue, Feldman J.A. concluded:
[A]bsent an express direction to the contrary in the Municipal Act,
2001, which is not there, the jurisprudence from the Supreme Court is
clear that municipal powers, including general welfare powers, are to
be interpreted broadly and generously within their context and
statutory limits, to achieve the legitimate interests of the
municipality and its inhabitants.
2) Interpretation of Limiting Language in Section 130 Section 130 of
the Municipal Act, 2001 authorizes the regulation of matters "not
specifically provided for by this Act or any other Act." It differs
from the former general welfare power,12 which referred only to "this
Act." Croplife argued that the addition of the words "any other Act"
precluded the city from regulating pesticides under section 130.
Croplife took the position that the regulation of pesticides was a
matter that was "specifically provided for" in the provincial
Pesticides Act and in the federal Pest Control Products Act (PCPA).
They argued that the words "specifically provided for" mean that the
subject matter could not be dealt with elsewhere. The city's position
was that these limiting words refer to by-law making powers provided
in the Municipal Act, 2001 or other legislation.
Feldman J.A. confirmed that the limiting language in section 130
refers to by-law making powers, and not merely the subject matter in
question. She noted that the predecessor language in section 102 had
been interpreted as a "rule against circumvention."13 In other words,
a municipality could not circumvent a specific but limited by-law
making power by using the general welfare power. In Croplife, Feldman
J.A. concluded that the addition of "any other Act" was simply an
extension of this rule to prevent circumvention of specific by-law
making powers contained in legislation other than the Municipal Act.
The key, however, remains the existence of a specific municipal power.
If no specific municipal power exists, then the rule has no
application. In this case, Feldman J.A. concluded that there is no
specific power provided to municipalities to pass the pesticide by-law
in either the Municipal Act or elsewhere (including the Pesticides
Act). Therefore, the rule against circumvention has no application,
and the by-law is a valid enactment under section 130.
3) Conflict with Other Legislation
Having found that circumvention was not an issue, the court then
considered whether there was any conflict with federal or provincial
legislation. This question had been fully canvassed by the Supreme
Court of Canada in Spray tech, where the court concluded that there
was no conflict. Feldman J.A. followed Spray tech. She also considered
the recent conflict test provided by the Supreme Court of Canada in
Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc. v. Saskatchewan.14 Using that test, the
(a) Is it possible to comply simultaneously with the pesticide by-law
and with the PCPA or the Pesticides Act? and
(b) Does the pesticide by-law frustrate the purpose of parliament or
the legislature in enacting those laws?
Feldman J.A. determined that the answer to both of these questions was
"no." She thus held that the city's pesticide by-law did not conflict
with federal or provincial legislation.
Finally, Feldman J.A. considered the application of the precautionary
principle to the interpretation of the by-law making power in section
130. The precautionary principle is a rule of international law, which
states that, where there are grounds for believing that an activity or
a product is likely to threaten public health or the environment, lack
of full scientific certainty should not be used as a reason for
postponing measures that may prevent the materialization of these
types of risks.
The court did not address the precautionary principle in detail
because the motion judge did not refer to it. Feldman J. A. did note,
however, that if there was no credible research basis for enacting the
by-law and if the municipality didn't otherwise have the power to
enact the by-law (which it did in Croplife), the municipality would
not be able to use the precautionary principle as authority for
upholding the by-law.
The court appears to have sent a message that although the
precautionary principle is available, it must be based on credible
research. Presumably, credible research would be of the type conducted
by Toronto Public Health; that is, an extensive review of a
recognized, peer-reviewed research.
The Court of Appeal decision is important for municipalities for a
number of reasons. It clarifies municipal authority respecting
pesticide by-laws in Ontario. It also provides analysis of the
"general welfare section" - section 130 of the Municipal Act, 2001.
Finally, it provides further guidance on the manner in which municipal
powers are to be interpreted, particularly in light of the recent
overhaul of Ontario's Municipal Act, 2001.
In upholding the City of Toronto's pesticide by-law, the Court of
Appeal followed the jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of Canada
recognizing that municipal enabling legislation should be construed in
a generous and benevolent manner. The court confirmed that this rule
of interpretation should be applied with respect to any municipal by-
law making powers, not simply sphere powers in the new Municipal Act,
2001. In so doing, the Court of Appeal has added its voice to the
consensus among Canadian legislators and the courts that the modern
municipality requires effective legislative tools in order to "tackle
the challenges of governing in the 21st century." In so doing, the
court has also reinforced the notion that environmental laws are tools
available to municipalities to meet that challenge.
2 Friends of the Oldman River v. Canada (Minister of Transport),
 1 S.C.R. 3 at pp. 16-17.
3 Ontario v. Canadian Pacific Ltd.,  2 S.C.R. 1031 at p. 1075.
4 Friends of the Oldman River, supra; Ontario v. Canadian Pacific
Ltd., supra; R. v. Hydro Quebec,  3 S.C.R. 213; 114957 Canada
Ltee. v. Hudson (Town),  2 S.C.R. 241 (Spraytech).
5 supra, footnote 4.
6 See Scarborough v. REF Homes Ltd. ( 1979), 9 M.P.L.R. 255 (O.C.A.),
at p. 257; see also British Columbia v. Canadian Forest Products Ltd.,
 S.C.J. No. 33 at par. 73, and Spraytech at par. 27.
7 A further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is possible, but
would require leave. As at the date of writing, leave has not been
8 Croplife v. City of Toronto: Ontario Superior Court breathes life
into Toronto's Pesticide By-law. Municipal World, March 2004, p. 25.
9  1 S.C.R. 485.
10 Ibid, at par. 6.
11 114957 Canada Ltée v. Hudson (Town),  2 S.C.R. 241. The
Supreme Court held that the Town of Hudson in Quebec had authority
under its general welfare power to enact a similar pesticide by-law.
12 Municipal Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M.45, s. 102.
13 See for example, Greenbaum v. City of Toronto,  1 S.C.R. 674.
14  S.C.J. No. 1.
Graham Rempe, Susan Ungar and Mark Siboni1
1 The authors were counsel for the City of Toronto at the Court of
Appeal. The opinions they express are their own.
Copyright Municipal World Oct 2005
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Lawns could become passé
LANDSCAPING: People are attached to their water-guzzling grass but
could find it a financial drain in the future.
By JANET ZIMMERMAN
Video: Saying goodbye to an American icon: the lawn
Water conservation expert Tim Barr dreams of a day when houses with
lawns -- not drought-tolerant landscapes -- are the ones that stick
out in a neighborhood.
But he knows he's got a long way to go convincing homeowners to ditch
their water-guzzling grass.
"This is the land of palm trees and turf and I guess that's the
Hollywood image that has been portrayed," said Barr, water-use
efficiency expert for Western Municipal Water District, based in
Riverside. "Change is hard."
It's not just the attitude that turf is an entitlement, but also a
fear of being different from the neighbors that keeps many people from
making the switch to more water-efficient landscaping, Barr said.
Grass also has a valuable place in the world. It provides cooling
effects, both measurable and perceived, and a soft spot for children
and dogs to play, said Stephen Cockerham, superintendent of
agricultural operations at UC Riverside.
He has been developing drought-resistant turf with the hopes that
eventually there will be green living turf that doesn't need water.
"If there wasn't any green grass anywhere, it would be a real shock to
your system," Cockerham said. "I'm not willing to give that up."
But people who want to keep their lush green landscapes will have to
pay. Such a movement already is under way, with the increasing
popularity of tiered rate systems that charge more for the biggest
Story continues below
Ed Crisostomo / The Press-Enterprise
Michael Hoff's lawn is a thing of the past as he prepares his home for
more desert-appropriate landscaping. Hoff, left, and helper Jorge
Munoz muscle out the grass.
More than 60 percent of water use is outdoors, largely because people
overwater their lawns.
Shedding turf would stretch water supplies and make Southern
California less dependent on expensive imported water. It also would
improve water quality in streams and tributaries by reducing runoff of
pesticides and fertilizers, Barr said.
Ellen Hanak, who researches water for the Public Policy Institute of
California in San Francisco, doesn't think grass will ever be
outlawed, but it will have to be planted judiciously.
Small swaths of green for kids and dogs are good; rolling acres of
grass are not, she said.
The water district in Las Vegas no longer allows front lawns for newly
constructed homes and offers incentives for older homes to convert to
plants that thrive in hot, dry Mediterranean climates, Hanak said.
In the Mojave Desert town of Yucca Valley, the switch to water-wise
landscapes started in the 1980s, after officials realized the town was
overpumping its aquifer. The community adopted higher rates and
instituted a temporary moratorium on new meters, said Jennifer Cusack,
a Yucca Valley native and spokeswoman for the High Desert Water
At first, it was hard to see the suburban-style lawns and grassy
medians be replaced by mesquite, lantana and other desert plants, she
said. Then, Cusack said, she found the desert landscape had its own
"It has a great beauty with flowering purples, pinks and yellow
instead of a flat green lawn," she said.
Staff writer Kimberly Pierceall contributed to this report.
Reach Janet Zimmerman at 951-368-9586 or jzimmerman@PE.com
ANNUAL WATER USE
Turf vs. climate-appropriate landscape*:
Moderate water-using plants
54,000 gallons, 49 percent less
Low-water use plants
33,000 gallons, 69 percent less
*Based on 2,500 square feet of landscaping on a typical residential
lot with a well-functioning irrigation system free of leaks.
Source: Western Municipal Water District
A Press-Enterprise special report on the water crisis in California.
March 22, 2009
From The Sunday Times
Killing with kindness
You don’t need chemical weapons to defeat slugs and snails. The
natural approach is better
by Annie Gatti
The Victorians are to blame for our habit of using pesticides and
chemicals in the garden: the old-school reaction to spotting a slug on
your lettuce leaf or black spot on your roses was to blast them with
nasties such as arsenic and nicotine.
One by one, these chemicals are being banned as scientists study their
effect on the environment. DDT, widely used after the second world
war, was one of the first to go, in 1984; and an EU directive, due to
come into force next year, will place more restrictions on
agricultural chemicals. Although it is not yet clear which of those
used in the garden will be affected, glufosinate, used in some
weedkillers, and thiacloprid, used against glasshouse whitefly, may be
Organic gardeners will be sitting pretty – and perhaps a little
smugly. They already know that you don’t need these quick fixes to
have a gorgeous and productive garden, and that, in many cases,
chemical pesticides kill beneficial insects, such as hoverflies and
ladybirds, that would otherwise be doing an excellent job controlling
the annoying ones. So, what can we do to keep a happy and healthy
balance in the garden without resorting to chemicals?
Slugs and snails are the creatures that cause gardeners most grief.
Last year, they headed the Royal Horticultural Society’s list of
Britain’s top 10 garden pests for the second year running. The first
line of defence against any pest is to know your enemy, so here are
some relevant mollusc facts.
* Flash bulbs
* Garden cuttings
* Wormald’s week
There are about 40 species of slug in Britain, but only four of them
are found in gardens. Some lurk in damp, shady places and some live in
the soil, which makes them a challenge to get at. This is why it makes
sense to rotavate soil in early spring, to bring them and their eggs
to the surface to dry out.
Like snails, slugs move along self-produced slime paths. They get the
moisture they need to make this slime by munching their way, mostly at
night, through plants both dead and alive (as well as fungi) with up
to 27,000 tooth-like rasps. Dry surfaces are more tricky for them to
move across, so they tend to avoid them. Their trails contain their
own scent, which means they can find their way back to their starting
point in the dark. Snails are dormant in winter; slugs are active all
RHS advisers point out that you will never eliminate slugs from your
garden, so your aim should be to keep them off vulnerable seedlings
and young plants, as well as fleshy-leaved species such as hostas,
which they seem to consider gourmet fodder. The organic guide Banish
Slugs (Impact Publishing £3.99) offers countless control methods,
including rings of mussel shells, coffee grounds or paste made from
crushed garlic. Try one or two of the following:
- Make a night patrol with a torch and a bucket of hot water in hand,
pick off the munchers and put the carcasses on the bird table. Hand-
picking is also the best method to get rid of lily beetles – a pest
that is spreading from the southeast to the rest of the country.
- Copper gives slugs and snails an electric shock, so stick a ring of
copper tape around pots (renew it each year and make sure no leaves
bridge the tape) or push a copper ring into the ground around key
- Use slug pellets that are based onferric phosphate (Growing Success
Advanced Slug Killer, example), as these are harmless to humans, pets
- For slugs only, try Nemaslug, a biological control that contains
nematodes (microscopic predators) that come in powder form and are
watered into the soil when the temperature is at least 5C. This is not
the cheapest option, but it gives protection for up to six weeks and,
according to Garden Organic, is the only effective slug control for
potatoes. Other biological controls work against garden pests such as
vine weevils, chafer grubs, and leatherjackets; these are invaluable
in the greenhouse against aphids, whitefly, mealybugs, red spider
mites and fungus flies. Try the suppliers below.
- Nonchemical sprays, based on fatty acids, plant oils or extracts,
suffocate small insects but leave larger, beneficial ones such as bees
and ladybirds unharmed. Look for the words “natural” or “organic” on
the label. There’s also a range of traps and barriers, from sticky
tapes for greenhouses to Enviromesh, a fabric hooped over vegetables
to prevent flying pests such as cabbage root fly and onion fly getting
to the leaves.
- Plant a decoy close to the plants you want to protect. This can
protect pungent or aromatic plants that either repel the insects –
chives and French marigolds, for example, seem to keep aphids away –
or confuse pests that are drawn to a particular plant by its smell,
but then cannot find it because of the mixed olfactory signals. It
also seems to work with bright flowers such nasturtiums and calendula,
which lure insects away from their intended meal.
A final bit of advice is to choose your plants with pests and diseases
in mind – look for roses that are resistant to blackspot and stick to
first and second early potatoes to avoid blight. Give them a good
start by planting them in the right kind of soil: well fertilised with
compost and leaf mould for vegetables, gritty and well drained for
most herbs and Mediterranean species. The stronger they are, the more
chance they have of resisting attack.
Suppliers: organiccatalogue.com; greengardener.co.uk; agralan.co.uk;
The Big Green Apple: Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York
by Ben Jervey
Plenty of New Yorkers want to lessen their share of environmental
burden, but simply don't know where to begin. The Big Green Apple:
Your Guide to Eco-Friendly Living in New York City provides simple
ways you can make a difference. With it, you'll discover a
comprehensive set of tips and strategies of how to adopt a lower-
impact life without compromising your comfortable and cool urban
lifestyle. You'll also find profiles of organizations, businesses, and
individuals around the city committed to bringing NYC a brighter shade
of green, as well as a comprehensive directory of green goods and
services throughout the five boroughs.
"By most accounts, New York is already America's greenest city, simply
because people live in smaller homes and rely on public transit. But
with the help of Ben Jervey's comprehensive guide, New Yorkers can now
take that unconcious environmentalism and extend it with a few
powerful modifications of their ways of life. If they do, then someday
Gotham will join places like Oslo and Stockholm as truly ecological
metropolises." -Bill McKibben, author The End of Nature
Covering energy consumption, food, household products, transportation,
events, clothing, recycling, recreation, and much more, The Big Green
Apple presents easy-to-understand information about the environmental
implications of typical city life, and offers pratical advice for
improving one's own relationship with the city's greater ecology.
March 21, 2009
Travel - The Big (green) Apple
John the Bee Man, kayaking, hybrids help New York City go eco
by Leslie Garrett
Special to the Star
NEW YORK–We generally think of ecotourism as travel that takes us out
of the urban and into the rural. Trekking through Costa Rican
rainforests, feasting with villagers in the Andes, or biking through
the Outback. But New York City?
Well ... yes.
For one thing, it's close enough to Toronto to get to via car, bus or
train – all friendlier travel choices (to the Earth and the wallet)
than air. And though skyscrapers and end-to-end cabs don't exactly
constitute nature, as cities go, it's greener than most.
Wendy Brawer of Green Maps enterprise is one New Yorker who confirms
her city's eco-offerings – such things as amazing bike trails (and
plenty of places offering rentals, such as Bike Central Park, which
offers two-wheels by the hour or day), the biomass-powered Liberty
Island, community gardens and progressive initiatives such as
Sustainable South Bronx.
You'll find eco-offerings – and much more – on New York City's Green
Map (you can preview the first of the "open maps" by visiting
www.opengreenmap.org/en/greenmap/nycs-green-apple-map#).Such as? A
ride – day or night – on the Staten Island Ferry, says Brawer.
You'll see a working harbour and both ends have "green" terminal
buildings – buildings that subscribe to sustainable building
principles. What's more, the ferry is free.
If you get to Staten Island, visit Everything Goes, a collection of
four thrift shops on the North Shore. It's owned and operated by a
group that lives and works together – sharing in the proceeds and
offering up goods that are recycled, restored or reclaimed.
Peter Greenberg, NBC Today Show travel editor and author of Tough
Times, Great Travels: The Travel Detective's Guide to Hidden Deals,
Unadvertised Bargains and Great Experiences, is a native New Yorker
and another cheerleader for New York's eco-initiatives.
"New York City has been making great strides in the environmental
movement," Greenberg says, "particularly in the travel sector. For
starters, New York is so easy to get around in on foot and by public
transportation that you can literally spend a week there without ever
hailing a cab."
If you do fly into New York, Greenberg points out that you can hire an
Ozocar, an airport shuttle that uses only hybrid vehicles, and its
prices are comparable to a regular taxi. And if you do find yourself
flagging down a cab, the city is ripe with hybrid offerings.
And new regulations introduced in October 2008 will have greened the
entire fleet by 2012. The city has also put 850 hybrid-electric buses
on the streets.
But it's boating that Greenberg particularly loves, particularly
kayaking on the Hudson River. (www.downtownboathouse.org/
programs.html). "There are three piers along the Hudson from which you
can set out," he explains, "and best of all, it's entirely free."
The waterfront is often overlooked by visitors to the city, yet it's
bustling with plenty of activity. Depending on the time of year, you
can choose from movies on the pier, concerts, community picnics or
shore cleanups – or simply enjoy New York's beaches. "They're not the
most pristine," Brawer admits, "but they're much-loved."
To find out more about waterfront events, click on waterwire.net and
look up its calendar of events.
If Coney Island beach is on your to-do list, make sure you check out
the New York Aquarium. While the fuel cells that power the aquarium
aren't too exciting to watch, the creatures inside – including Kulu
and her son, known as "Brooklyn's biggest baby" – will fascinate.
New York is also famous for its restaurants – more and more of which
are greening their ways. While it's fairly easy to find local and
organic offerings, Brooklyn-based Habana Outpost, offering Mexican
cuisine with a Cuban flair, has taken green to the extreme.
The indoor-outdoor establishment, which is open from Earth Day through
Halloween, boasts solar panels (the first restaurant in NYC to be
solar-powered), a kitchen that was formerly a U.S. postal truck,
recycled picnic tables (they used to be plastic bottles) and a "green
gutter" for rainwater reclamation. "We're very community-based," says
Leslie Meenan, who, with her brother Sean, owns Habana Outpost and its
sister restaurant in Manhattan, Café Habana.
Children are invited to join in at workshops, getting dirty in the
gardens, learning about composting and meeting local resident John the
Bee Man, who teaches kids about his beehive.
If you're childless, you might be lured to either location by promises
of organic frozen mojitos.
But be prepared to wait.
"It's first-come, first-served," says Meenan, who notes that
restaurants operate on a conviction that no one guest is better than
Even Tom Hanks had to wait an hour for a table.
"He was so lovely about it," says Meenan.
To burn off those eco-calories, try a walk to Battery Park (those
seeking out Ground Zero will be at the north end of the park) and
Battery Park City.
Travellers will discover an area that has no pesticides, all native
plants, site-specific artwork and solar buildings.
Even those who choose the concrete jungle can appreciate its greener
side. More than 11,000 traffic lights and "walk" signals have been
switched to light-emitting diodes that use 90 per cent less energy
than conventional lights.
And, at day's end, rest your head in a "green" hotel, such as The
Benjamin in Manhattan, New York's only ECOTEL-certified hotel.
Or consider one of Greenberg's favourites, Kimpton's 70 Park Avenue,
which converts its kitchen oil into biodiesel and has an "eco-
concierge" on staff to help your stay be as green as possible.
Whether you take a big bite of the green apple or just a nibble,
you'll undoubtedly taste a different side of the city that never
Leslie Garrett is a Toronto-based freelance writer.
March 21, 2009
The border’s “Agent Orange” controversy
by Frontera NorteSur
In the Vietnam War, the United States sprayed vast tracts of land with
the chemical defoliant Agent Orange as part of a counter-insurgency
strategy aimed at removing forest cover for Viet Cong and North
Vietnamese forces. Although the toxic dioxin released by Agent Orange
was later blamed by US veterans’ groups and Vietnamese officials for
illnesses and diseases that struck thousands of former US soldiers and
upwards of four million Vietnamese citizens, the US Supreme Court
recently refused to consider a case by pursued by Vietnamese
plaintiffs against the manufacturers of Agent Orange.
Four decades later, on the US-Mexico border, the US Border Patrol
intends to employ a chemical herbicide in order to eradicate stands of
the Carrizo cane, an invasive plant that grows as tall as 30 feet and
provides convenient cover for undocumented border crossers and
smugglers. The variety of Carrizo cane that is common in the Laredo-
Del Rio borderlands is from the region of Valencia, Spain.
Possibly beginning next week, the US Border Patrol could commence
aerial herbicide spraying along a slice of the Rio Grande between the
twin cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas. The
experimental spraying would cover an area that stretches 1.1 miles
between the Laredo Railroad Bridge and Laredo Community College
directly across from Mexico, said Roque Sarinana, public affairs
officer for the Border Patrol’s Laredo sector.
In addition to aerial spraying of the herbicide imazapyr, the Border
Patrol will employ hand-cutting and mechanical methods that involve
applying the killer chemical at ground-level, Sarinana told Frontera
NorteSur in an a phone interview. Getting rid of Carrizo cane should
improve the Border Patrol’s “line of sight up and down the river,”
Depending on weather conditions, the first dustings of imazapyr could
begin March 25, Sarinana confirmed. “As of now, that’s the plan,” he
Concerned about risks to public health from possible herbicide spray
drift, runoff and leaching, officials from the city government of
neighboring Nuevo Laredo are steadfastly opposed to aerial spraying.
“I’ve always been respectful of the law and sovereignty,” said Nuevo
Laredo Mayor Ramon Garza Barrios. “But herbicides that affect health
in both countries can’t be sprayed.”
Mayor Garza’s stance is supported by other elected and appointed
officials in Mexico. On Thursday, March 19, the Tamaulipas State
Legislature issued a statement requesting information about the
proposed spraying from the Mexican and US sections of the
International Boundary and Water Commission as well as Mexican federal
The zone targeted for spraying is across the Rio Grande from Nuevo
Laredo’s Hidalgo neighborhood and only hundreds of yards from the
Mexican city’s public water intake system.
Carlos Montiel Saeb, general manager for Nuevo Laredo’s water utility,
said the Border Patrol advised his office to turn off water pumps a
few hours prior to spraying. “If there is no problem, why are they
asking us to do this?” Montiel questioned.
Border Patrol spokesman Sarinana said he had not seen a written
objection from Mayor Garza, but stressed it did not mean other US
officials had not received a letter. “This is all in the works, so
we’ll see what happens,” Sarinana said, adding the Border Patrol plans
on releasing a more detailed statement about the future of the Carrizo
Opposition to the Border Patrol’s aerial spraying plans is likewise
growing in Laredo, Texas. The two sides turned out to a March 16
meeting of the Laredo City Council in which elected officials narrowly
approved by a controversial 5-4 vote an easement for the US government
on city property targeted for spraying.
Jay J. Johnson Castro, Sr., executive director of the Rio Grande
International Studies Center at Laredo Community College told Frontera
NorteSur the planned aerial spraying caught residents off guard. The
aerial applications could threaten more than 1,000 bird and other
species at a time when spring hatchings begin and migratory birds are
still in the area, Johnson said by phone from his office. The Border
Patrol’s Carrizo Cane Eradication Project abuts a nature trail running
near the community college, Johnson lamented.
“Nobody knows the impact of imazapyr,” Johnson contended. “It’s no
different than Agent Orange.” Citing the program’s environmental
assessment, Johnson said aerial spraying could eventually extend along
a strip of river bank 16 miles upriver from the pilot project zone.
Despite the potential magnitude of the project, the Border Patrol did
not gather local input as required by the National Environmental
Policy Act, Johnson charged.
Like virtually all chemical pest control agents, lack of complete
public information and multiple, contradictory reports surround the
history of imazapyr, a substance first registered in 1984 and
currently manufactured under the trade name Habitat by the
multinational BASF corporation.
A fact sheet prepared by the Washington State Department of
Agriculture reported imazapyr was “low in toxicity to invertebrates
and practically non-toxic to fish, birds and mammals.” Still, the fact
sheet reported imazapyr was highly mobile and persistent in soils.
In 2007, BASF spokesman Joel Vollmer told the press his company’s
imazapyr product was widely used in wildlife refuges across the US and
along the Pecos River and its tributaries to control salt cedar,
troublesome, invasive plant species afflicting the US Southwest.
Public controversies over imazapyr applications have previously
erupted in Alaska, California and Colombia, where experimental use of
the herbicide to control illegal coca plantings was approved in 2000.
A report on the chemical’s history developed for the non-governmental
group Alaska Community Action on Toxics said evidence existed that
identified imazapyr as a contaminant of soil, groundwater and surface
water. Imazapyr also contains an acid that can irritate the eyes, skin
and respiratory system, the report stated. According to the report’s
authors, additional evidence linked the herbicide to Parkinson’s
In developing its Carrizo cane aerial spraying project, the Border
Patrol ignored studies by Laredo Community College researchers that
examined different means of killing off the invasive species, Johnson
“We are not opposed to the eradication of Carrizo,” he affirmed. “We
think it has to go because it consumes about 500 gallons of water per
chokes out native vegetation.”
At the federal level, Department of Homeland Security-sponsored
researchers earlier explored using biological controls, including
wasps, to control Carrizo cane.
US officials have been urging a Carrizo cane eradication program for
some time. In 2007, US Representative Henry J. Cuellar (D-Tx) called
the tall, thirsty plant a national security issue. Quoted in the news
media, Rep. Cuellar said then-Homeland Security Secretary Michael
Chertoff had been to the border to get a first-hand look at the
Carrizo cane foe. The Laredo Congressman assured the press officials
were “looking at what is the fastest, safest way to address the
effectiveness of addressing this issue of Carrizo.”
With the clock ticking, Johnson and a growing network of activists on
both sides of the border are lobbying high officials to prevent aerial
spraying before it occurs. In an e-mail, longtime border environmental
advocate and Sierra Club activist Bill Addington contended spraying
would violate the 1983 La Paz accord between the United States and
Mexico that requires mutual notification in the event of projects
impacting the environment within a 60 mile radius on either side of
“We considering all democratic options-court actions, political
protests, media attention,” Johnson added. “We expect our message to
be heard by the environmentally-friendly Obama administration. This is
too unprecedented to aerially spray a toxic chemical in a densely-
Meanwhile, word of the planned herbicide spraying is spreading fast in
the two Laredos. Interviewed on the banks of the Rio Grande, a 26-year-
old Honduran migrant told the Mexican press he intended to cross into
the US without papers before spraying commenced. “They say they will
put poison into the river,” said Walter Hernandez. “That’s why I want
to cross before then.”
Mario Garcia, a Mexican national who frequents the Rio Grande on the
Nuevo Laredo side with his sons, also expressed concern to a Mexican
reporter. “I frequently come to fish in the area,” Garcia said. “With
what degree of confidence are we going to eat a fish if we know it is
In response to an article about the imazapyr controversy in the Laredo
Morning Times, several readers sent pointed e-mails to the news
publication that proposed solutions to the Carrizo cane issue or, as
is increasingly the case with border news web sites, used the
immediate topic at hand to vent ideological broadsides on issues of
race, the environment and US-Mexico relations.
-- Enlineadirecta.info, March 19, 20 and 21, 2009.
Articles by Gaston Monge and Hugo Reyna.
-- Laredo Morning Times, March 19, 2009. Article by Miguel
-- Lider Informativo (Nuevo Laredo), March 17, 2009. Article by Ericka
-- El Diario de Juarez, March 16, 2009.
-- Commondreams.org/Inter Press Service, March 16, 2009. Article by
-- La Jornada, March 8 and 11, 2009. Articles by Carlos Figueroa and
-- Rio Grande Guardian, November 8, 2007.
-- Homelandsecurity.org/journal/, April 2007. Article by Gail Cleere.
-- Panna.org (Pesticide Action Network) August 1, 2000 and April 11,
-- Akaction.net (Alaska Community Action on Toxics.)
Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for
Latin American and Border Studies New Mexico State University Las
Cruces, New Mexico. For a free electronic subscription email
Warning Industry Propaganda Below
March 22, 2009
The Montreal Gazette
Here's another 'miracle elixir' for you: Bleach
By JOE SCHWARCZ,
Whenever I hear the word "miracle" being used to describe a product,
my scam detector activates. That's because over the years I've looked
into my share of "miraculous" weight loss schemes, rejuvenating
creams, gasoline performance boosters, dietary supplements, exotic
juices, stain removers and cures for every disease under the sun. And
I have yet to witness a miracle.
So you can appreciate that a headline I came across in the Los Angeles
Times - Simple elixir called 'miracle liquid' - aroused my curiosity
and skepticism. Oh oh, I figured, someone has thought of yet another
scam to lighten consumers' wallets with harebrained promises of
enhanced beauty or longevity.
As it turned out, this elixir wasn't promising to miraculously clean
our colon or degrease our arteries. It was, however, promising to
clean our windows and degrease our kitchens. And it was going to do
this without "toxic chemicals." So, what was this cleaning agent that
hotel workers had dubbed "miracle liquid?" Well, the Times article
described it as a "simple mixture of table salt and tap water whose
ions have been scrambled by an electric current." Not a particularly
scientific explanation, but enough to put me on the right track. They
may have called it "electrolyzed water," but this "miracle liquid" was
none other than good old bleach! Of course, "electrolyzed water"
sounds more appealing, conjuring up an image of water that has been
supercharged, but which nevertheless is still just water. No need to
worry about any of those nasty chemicals found in other cleaning
products. Right? Wrong!
Time here for a little lesson about chlorine. Just mention the word,
and people think of chemical warfare or the smell of swimming pools.
(Incidentally, that smell isn't chlorine, it is mostly due to
chloramines that form when people pee in the water. But that's another
story.) While chlorine is a nasty substance, it also happens to be one
of the most useful chemicals in the world. Since it was introduced as
a water disinfectant in 1908, chlorine has saved millions of people
from succumbing to such waterborne bacterial or viral diseases as
cholera, typhoid, meningitis and dysentery. It is also used to make
pesticides, pharmaceuticals and a variety of solvents, as well as
polyvinyl chloride, a plastic with a myriad applications. And of
course, it is used to make sodium hypochlorite, better known as
As you can imagine, with all these uses, chlorine has to be produced
on a gigantic scale. From what? From good old salt! And luckily there
is plenty of that in salt mines and in sea water. Turning sodium
chloride into chlorine is quite straight forward. Just pass a direct
current through a salt solution. In other words, perform electrolysis.
The negative chloride ions are attracted to the positive electrode
(anode), where they are converted to chlorine gas, which can be
collected. Meanwhile at the negative electrode (cathode), water is
decomposed to hydrogen gas and hydroxide ions, which then attract the
sodium ions and form a sodium hydroxide solution. This can be drawn
off. Sodium hydroxide solutions are excellent at breaking down grease;
they form the basis of many household cleaners.
Now, if instead of being collected, the chlorine gas is allowed to
dissolve in the water, it undergoes a reaction to form hypochlorous
acid. This can also be drawn off and used as a disinfectant. If the
sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid are not removed, they react
with each other to form sodium hypochlorite, or bleach. So, depending
on the design of the electrolysis equipment, the setup can produce
solutions of sodium hydroxide, hypochlorous acid or sodium
Industrially, the traditional method has been to collect the chlorine
gas, apply pressure to convert it to a liquid, and then ship it around
in railway tank cars or trucks. At the water purification facility,
the gas is directly dissolved in water to yield hypochlorous acid,
which is the actual disinfectant. But there are issues of safety here.
Chlorine is a toxic substance, and will kill people as readily as
bacteria, which can happen if a tanker's contents are released through
an accident or an act of terrorism. Given that 15 million tons of
chlorine are transported around North America every year, accidents
In 2005, a train with three tanker cars each loaded with 90 tons of
chlorine slammed into a parked locomotive in Graniteville, S.C.,
killing eight people and sending more than 500 to the hospital.
With the spectre of terrorism always present, there is a movement to
either transport chlorine in the form of bleach, or to produce it on
site through electrolysis. Many municipal water treatment plants are
installing electrolysis equipment to generate chlorine from salt. And
smaller units are available for hotels, hospitals and restaurants to
produce the flamboyantly dubbed "miracle elixir." Depending on the
design, these units can produce three miracle elixirs. A sodium
hydroxide solution for cleaning, a hypochlorous acid solution for
disinfecting, or a solution of sodium hypochlorite, which cleans and
These "elixirs" can be generated on demand, instead of having to be
stored. Production on site is cheaper and safer than transportation.
But there is no miracle involved here. Just some clever chemistry. By
the way, another claim being made for the miracle elixir is that it
"kills athlete's foot." True. But so does any chlorine solution,
whether carted home from the store or produced in the basement through
© Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette
William H. Gathercole (Guelph,Ontario)
Letter to the editor from William H. Gathercole.
According to a recent letter, written by Mr. Forman, Ontario's new
pesticide ban will be a benefit to the Ontario economy. The ban will
boost business and and create jobs. T
Furthermore, there is, allegedly, a major expansion of the lawn care
industry resulting from bans from across Canada.
I must remind the readers that Mr. Forman is not an expert in matters
concerning the green space industry, nor pesticides. He merely
represents a small group of physicians who wish to impose their life-
style choices upon an unsuspecting public.
The so-called growth of the green space industry is a clever means of
convincing the public that pesticide bans are a good thing for
everybody, including those who apply them.
Also according to Mr. Forman, scientists have allegedly told us that
pesticides are associated with cancer, neurological illness, and birth
defects. Yet again, I must underline that neither Mr. Foreman, nor his
associates, have any recognized expertise in the matter of pesticides
All of this must sound very confusing to the reader. The reader must
understand that going pesticide-free does not really make good
economic sense, except perhaps for groups, such as Mr. Forman's, who
have attracted vast amounts of money for their anti-pesticide causes.
I ask that the reader keep a balanced view on this pesticide debate,
and listen to both sides very carefully.
William H. Gathercole
http://www.simcoereformer.ca/feedback1/Display.aspx Blog Gadgets
St. John's Daily Spray Advisory
My Past Articles
More enforcement needed for pesticide spray regulations
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Province lagging behind in pesticide control
The Telegram (
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DEANA STOKES SULLIVAN - of trees. The live spores can be inhaled by humans and animals exposed to BT. Judie Squires, secretary of the Northeast Avalon Group of the Sierra Club, says despite claims that…
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Above Articles available through Trancontinental Newsnet
Time for provincial lawn pesticide regulation
The Telegram (
pesticides. Please join me in lobbying our province for a pesticide ban Judie Squires Portugal Cove...