My neighborhood and Eliza Gilkyson, bridged

One of the things that I enjoy about living next to Riding Mountain National Park is the exposure to nature’s wildlife, daily rhythms of hoarfrost, sunshine, winds, and moisture conditions. They are the local weather sensors that I use to monitor what it’s like “in my neighborhood” each day. I use these sensors in addition to the weather report.

As I drive into the park, up to Dauphin, or out to Erickson, I regularly see muskrat, deer, moose, coyotes, and sometimes elk and the odd Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, or Great Gray Owl (Manitoba’s bird). This video is one that I recently shot of muskrats over a couple of days. Their area of swimming and movement was being reduced daily by colder temperatures and the formation of ice.

This is an important two-week window in 2010, when over 15,000 people are gathered in Cancun, Mexico for COP16 (The Conference of Parties and Climate Change) to discuss, develop policies, and share new information about the impacts of human activities that are creating climate changes at an unprecedented rate.

I was looking for a music track to fit to the muskrat behaviour captured in the video. Eliza Gilkyson recently offered up a CD of rare quality called Beautiful World, about our planet. I used her song Unsustainable, as the background track for this video. I hope that you enjoy the bridging of my neighborhood with that of Eliza Gilkyson’s song, the planet. She muses about our pathway to “unsustainability”, and wonders how we go back to the drawing board to engage humans in making our communities, economy and life support systems truly sustainable. I have reproduced the lyrics to her song below.

Unsustainable, by Eliza Gilkyson

unsustainable, unmaintainable
we’ve gone too far and now it’s uncontainable
let’s tear it down and start all over again
reprehensible, indefensible
the way we are is truly incomprehensible
back to the drawing board
start all over again
madly, we loved you madly
we would have gladly maintained the status quo
badly, we’ve behaved badly
and now, sadly, we’ll have to let you go
you’re so
unforgivable, results unriddable
to make a perfect garden so unlivable
back to the drawing board
start all over again
madly, we loved you madly
we would have gladly maintained the status quo
badly, we’ve behaved badly
and now, sadly, we’ll have to let you go
you’re so
unsustainable, unrestrainable
our rationale is simply unexplainable
let’s tear it down and start all over
back to the drawing board
start all over
let’s tear it down and start all over again

An Austin, Texas songwriter, I invite you to listen to Eliza’s songs.

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A Manitoba perspective on governance and the state of our nation

Interesting Times
We are living in interesting times… I am watching two governments (one national, one provincial) mirroring each other in their current tactics to reduce the public service, reduce departmental budgets, and and ultimately reduce services to Canadians or Albertans, depending on which government we are talking about…

Here are some things that I am noticing:

1. Our Canadian parliament was prorogued when there was no requirement to do so, other than the Prime Minister was not willing to take the heat of the day. A waste of $48 million is estimated for having to pay parliamentarians for not being in the House for the 22 days that Parliament is prorogued.  In my view, this is irresponsible, as elected representatives accountable to the people of Canada.  Proroguing was to be used for very special circumstances.  It has now been used twice by Prime Minister Harper, both times when the heat became unbearable.

2. Stockwell Day as the new head of the Treasury Board is going to launch a spending review, promising years of spending scrutiny to find cuts to slay the deficit, reduce government budgets, government services and government expenditures.  Unfair and un-necessary.  The current government cut GST twice – with no requirement to do so – we have now encountered a major deficit as a country, which Mr. Day is going to try to recover by reducing government spending, public servants, and public services. GST should never have been cut – as a value-added tax, GST is paid by those who spend, not those who do not spend (in other words, it taxes discretionary spending.)  We could have fared much better in this economic downturn had we not trimmed GST.  When the budget comes up for a vote in March 2010, I dearly hope that it will not be passed.  This is not playing fair ball.  Yes, that means an election – but the present government has had its chance, actually several chances.  They fumbled, badly.  The irony right now is that the government has promised to balance the books without raising the taxes.  If they had not cut the GST in the first place, we would not be having to “shrink the public service”, chop grants for valuable social investments, or reduce support businesses or non-profits.

3. Instead of investing in the new and emerging hot green economy like Ontario has done and the US administration and several European countries (solar, wind, other  alternative energy technologies, and new manufacturing in green technologies), the current government chose to use “bailouts” instead of investments into growing a sustainable economy for the future.  Their support to “big oil” is both short-sighted and unsustainable.  Even Shell sees the larger global economic pattern and is pulling out of big investments and planned expansions in the Oil Sands and moving to other countries.  Read…Shell to slow expansion in Canadian tar sands.

Now, to Alberta
The provincial government is, by all reports, set to bring down a budget that will include significant cuts to Alberta’s public service. Just like in the 90’s when Ralph Klein made hurtful cuts that Alberta is still reeling from, Ed Stelmach is set to do exactly the same.

Calgary news release: Albertans join together for public services

Last Updated: January 15, 2010 Print Comments (0)New campaign challenges government not to cut fabric of our communities…

It’s interesting to note citizen responses to these parallel national and Alberta initiatives:

The Conservative government has tumbled in the polls this January 2010, as Canadians begin to understand the deep irony in what is taking place, and as the present government carefully tries to filter out what it does not want us to know.  Fortunately, with social and alternative media, we are learning about what is taking place through other means that are both credible and helpful.

In Alberta, an amazing movement is taking place…While the Alberta government swears in a new cabinet, representatives from community human service organizations, teachers, parent groups, health professionals, students, faculty and labour organizations launched a new campaign in Calgary and Edmonton to get Albertans to join together for public services…..To help mobilize citizens and bring together people from various sectors, we are organizing 22 town hall events across the province.

The town hall meetings will start January 25 and will go to a number of cities and towns before the final two large events in Calgary (February 16th) and Edmonton (February 17th). “We are building an extensive movement to challenge the plan to cut $2 billion out of the provincial budget,” says Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “People need to deliver a very loud message to the government – deep cuts to public services are going to hurt people and our communities, and they are completely unnecessary given the continued growth of our economy and our billions in savings.”

This is not honorable
When a government makes bad decisions, invests in short-term tactics primarily for political gain, and does not respect some of the basic principles of sustainable economics, and then turns around and attacks the public service, reduces government services and budgets, expecting Canadians to support them, the people have to speak out.

This type of approach is not appropriate, not warranted, and definitely not honorable.  We, the people, will be the ones affected by reduced government budgets and services.  It is important to remember that public servants serve the people, but work for the government.  They are not in a position to object – their masters are the governing party.  It’s time to say… “enough is enough”.  We need both a more caring and economically savvy government.

For the record, this is a Manitoba perspective on the state of our nation!!

Clear Lake Golf Course – A vision about sustainability as “just doing the right thing”

These are ordinary folks doing extra-0rdinary things.  Ian Sarna, General Manager and Greg Holden, Superintendent of the Clear Lake Golf Course in Onanole, Manitoba are disappointed, yet happy to be in Saint John.  They were one of the finalists in the Parks Canada-sponsored Sustainable Tourism Award.   They have just witnessed 350 guests from all across Canada learn about the Clear Lake Golf Course during the Tourism Industry Association of Canada’s national gala dinner and presentation of awards of excellence.  As Ian and Greg would say, “sustainability is not something separate from what they do”.  It’s just part of doing business right.   And, they’ve been doing it right for 16 years.

TIAC - Canadian Tourism Summit Gala dinner and National Tourism Awards of Excellence

IAC - Canadian Tourism Summit Gala dinner and National Tourism Awards of Excellence

Two other Manitoba tourism partners went away with the coveted Nova Scotian crystal trophies – The Air Canada Business of the Year to Wa’Chee Lodge from Churchill;  and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre Event of the Year award to Folklorama.

The Clear Lake Golf Course had a vision 16 years ago of managing a golf course that exemplified and enriched the national park mandate.  They have delivered on that, in piles of compost, 300,000 litres of water saved annually with their composting toilet systems, recycling of all wastes and garbage, and use of bio-diesel.  As Greg says, “we’ve learned to turn what we used to call a waste stream – daily garbage from the restaurant and clippings from the golf course – into a resource stream”.  This has saved on annual financial expenses for purchase of inputs, and helped to establish a low carbon golfing experience at Riding Mountain National Park that is the best in Canada for demonstrating environmental leadership, giving back to community, and maintaining a very profitable business model.

I, too, am disappointed that they did not bring back crystal to Manitoba.  But, Greg and Ian both experienced the passion and pride that is part of Canada’s tourism industry….it was alive and tangible all evening long, as various tourism businesses were acknowledged, won crystal awards, or students won sustainable tourism scholarships, or we heard stories of excellence.

My sense is that the story of the Clear Lake Golf Course and golfing may not be completely understood, as a significant contributor to tourism.  The scale of the Clear Lake Golf Course’s annual revenues, re-investments, the work of their charitable foundation, and the leadership role that the golf course has taken from an environmental management perspective is world class.   No other golf course in Canada has taken the remarkable steps that this golf course has.  You will see the Clear Lake Golf Course nominated for other provincial and national awards.  Stay tuned!

Congratulations to the entire team at the Clear Lake Golf Course for having made it as a finalist in the TIAC annual tourism awards.   Well done!