Thursday, December 17, 2009

Riddle Fence #4

How wonderful to be asked to read for the launch of Newfoundland's literary journal Riddle Fence. So, you missed it? At the Ship Inn (um, Pub) past monday. Readings by such exuberant writer/readers as: George Murray, Craig Francis Power, Catherine Safer. A grand evening.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Fortis - the Grinch that wants to steal St. John's

Fortis - the grinch of St. John's - part 1

One day, children, Santa will not come to St. John's.

No - NO - Why?

Well see, he'll not see any chimneys, he'll not see the houses shouldering each other on steep hills, eyebrows cocked toward the harbour. Sure, he won't see the harbour, boys and girls, and neither will yee.

Sure, that's not possible. Everyone knows that St. John's is special - we're not like every other city, no. People want to come here because we're special, no?

Aye, but some people, some groups of people want to, well, get rich and shag our harbour and public views.

NO.. but who'd be such a grinch?

These days it'd be Fortis.

Fart ass?

No, Fortis, child.

What's a Fortis?

Fortis, child is a corporation is looking to abuse the city regulations.

What City regulations are they?

Regulations that were fought hard and true years ago to save a few heritage buildings for you and yours to come.

And what does this Fortis want to do?

They want to tear down a block of historic buildings - in a designated heritage zone - and build a 15-storey office block.

Nay, they can't do that, can they?

Supposedly not. But then, well, money talks.

But isn't there somewhere else they can build an office tower?

Aye, good question child. Yup, course there is. Plenty of space west of the downtown. And even out by the airport. There's space a plenty.

And if they did that, then wouldn't they get want they wanted - and wouldn't all the people that live downtown and all the people that come to work downtown and all the people that come to shop downtown and all the people that come to visit downtown and all the little stores downtown wouldn't they all be happy?

Aye, child, I think they would all be happy and prosperous.

And live happily ever after?

Aye child, they just might.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

tease me, please me

[photos: © Alison Dyer 2009]

a tease of photos from a south coast trip this summer
I’ll get there, I’ll write about it, maybe, yes, definitely,
sometime, soon, any time now. you know. I want too.
some amazing trip.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Tasting Grace; a caribou yearling in Placentia Bay

[Caribou Yearling, Placentia Bay, 2009 Alison Dyer]

Take time to taste, acknowledge Grace. Whether you are in the woods, on the water, or simply walking a piece of urban wildness. Many of us are fortunate enough to taste Grace. Beyond that we should think, just for a few moments, of how to incorporate it into our everyday and how to open it up for others. Savour Grace, then share it.



thunder rakes in like a Hells Angels convoy
under a battery of black leather clouds
fear scattering adults
trees screeching kids
sunset pastels erased, replaced
by sprays of leaden rain
grey naked outcrops reaching up as shields
until there is no room left for a mere mortal.
© Alison Dyer

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Biotech Beets, no thanks maan!

Biotech beets? No thanks, maan!

Pickled beets. Harvested from the back garden in fall when the sun takes a shorter path behind the outcrops; cut up and pickled in a toasty warm kitchen with the stove blasting enough heat to melt all of Antarctica. Pickled beets are nice with just about any meal served, from traditional Newfoundland Sunday dinner [a ‘tastyful’- as my kids would say - mix of cooked whole potatoes, carrots, cabbage, onion, salt beef] to a sushi sidekick. And then there’s sugar beets. What’d we do without them?

Here are two articles: one recent on new problems facing biotech beets, another from 10 yrs ago on the whole dang GMO thing. Enjoy! (with or without pickled beets).

Thursday, November 19, 2009
Bitter fight developing over sugar beets
Virtually the entire sugar beet crop in the United States is genetically engineered to protect it from herbicides. Now, a lawsuit claiming the biotech beets pose a risk to other varieties could threaten sugar production.
[to read rest of article:

ABC’s of the New Food:
A doubter’s guide to genetically-altered grub

Brave new world or biological catastrophe? Either way, genetic engineering (GE) is a technology that promises to jet stream us into an unchartered world. But GE food. Who’s eating the stuff? You, me and the baby next door. Our supermarket shelves are stocked with food containing GE ingredients.

Who is creating GE food? Why? Now that’s interesting. How about some of the makers of such late 20th century toxic nightmares as Agent Orange and PCBs. And if we believe some of their public relations departments, they are on a philanthropic mission to help feed the world.
But already the GE menu is serving up a dollop of controversy: from sick lab rats fed on GE potatoes, to unhealthy cattle injected with growth hormones, to a GE substance linked to several human deaths.

Developing alongside this revolutionary technology is a cryptic vocabulary, sugar-coated by its proponents, given bite by its critics, making for some indigestible fare. Here then is a short guide for the gastronomically-perplexed.

A Antibiotic Resistance marker genes, added to most GE food to indicate that it has been successfully engineered, is raising a concern - that they make animals and humans more susceptible to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

B Bacillus thurigiensis (Bt). Bt, in its natural form, has been used as a biopesticide for a half century by organic farmers. Now biotech companies are creating crops with a built-in pesticide. But research suggests that the buildup of Bt toxins in the soil, from GE Bt crops, are harming beneficial insects and will hasten the evolution of Bt-resistant insects.

C Cartagena, Columbia, where the passage of an International Biosafety Protocol Treaty was prevented earlier this year by six grain-exporting countries including Canada. Over 135 nations supported the Protocol which would have tightened regulations on the international transfer and trade of GE seeds, grains and food (see Labelling).

D Dairy Cows in the U.S. can be injected by farmers with a GE bovine growth hormone (rBGH) to increase milk production. Citing animal health problems, Canada’s Health Department recently rejected approval of rBGH for use in Canada.

E Are We the Experiment? Leading GE company Monsanto’s director of corporate communications told the New York Times last October that the company should not have to vouchsafe the safety of its biotech food. "Our interest is in selling as much of it as possible. Assuring its safety is the FDA’s [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] job."

F Frankenfood is what many Europeans call GE food, still reeling from mad cow disease that shook their faith in food regulators. Many are now calling for an EU moratorium on these foods, following the vindication of British scientist Dr. Arpad Pusztai, whose explosive research showed that GE potatoes fed to rats damaged their internal organs and immune systems.

G Genetically Modified Organisms (aka transgenic) can be plant, animal or any life form that has had its genes artificially altered by gene-splicing - or recombinant - techniques.

H Horizontal gene transfer. Transferring genes horizontally between species that do not interbreed is central to creating transgenic organisms. To do this, genetic engineers use vectors, like viruses and other infectious agents. Critics say these methods may create new viral and bacterial pathogens (see Antibiotic, and Virus).

I Introgression of genes - the flow of genes between plant species mainly through cross-pollination. Some scientists say that the same characteristics that enable GE crops to grow in marginal environments could be passed onto their wild relatives. This could upset ecosystems and result in costly weed control.

J "Just Say No to GEOs" is the message from Hain, a self-proclaimed leading U.S. natural foods company. Responding to consumer pressure, its products now have a ‘Pure Food’ label indicating they are free of GE organisms (see Labelling).

K "Keep the organic label off GE food" says the Council for Responsible Genetics, a U.S. group of scientists and public health advocates. Should the U.S. Department of Agriculture adopt a proposed regulation allowing GE foods to be sold under the organic label, consumers will be unable to choose non-GE foods.

L Labelling of GE foods is not required by current laws in North America, but consumers in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are now demanding it of their governments. Labelling advocates say consumers need the freedom to choose what they feed their families, and stress that the early detection of harmful food will be difficult or impossible without labelling (see Unexpected).

M Monsanto. Once a major chemical conglomerate who brought the world Agent Orange and PCBs, Monsanto reengineered itself in 1985 into a ‘life sciences’ company. With an estimated worth of $35 billion U.S., it is the world’s dominant biotech corporation, and uses GE in its drug, food ingredient and agricultural divisions. Monsanto will likely appeal Canada’s decision to refuse approval of the use of its bovine growth hormone on Canadian dairy cows.

N ‘Novel’ foods, the industry term for genetically modified foods.

O Organic farmers in the U.K. are concerned that their crops could be cross-pollinated and contaminated by GE crops growing nearby. Loss of their organic status and business could thus result (see Keep and Bt).

P Patents are a cornerstone of the GE industry, providing ‘intellectual property rights’ over living things. Critics claim that patents threaten biodiversity, saying that a few corporate-owned GE crops will replace natural crops. And others stress that the world’s food supply will become controlled by a few powerful GE companies or ‘gene giants’.

Q Quotable quote: "Genetic engineering is often justified as a humane technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase the sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers." - David Ehrenfield, Professor of Biology at

Rutgers University, in Resurgence magazine.
R Roundup-Ready. First Monsanto produced the herbicide Roundup. Then it created GE soybeans and canola seed tolerant of the herbicide. Farmers can spray these Roundup-Ready crops without killing them. Critics say the herbicide resistant genes could transfer to neighbouring weeds.

S Suicide Seed. When is a seed not a seed? When it’s a Kamikaze-style suicide seed (see Terminator).

T Terminator or Traitor Technology, a technique of genetically programming a plant to prevent its seeds from regerminating in a second growing season, has received wide opposition. Critics say that the technology, dominated by a handful of agro-industrial companies, may undermine the wellbeing of poor Third World farmers who depend on farm-saved seed.

U Other Unexpected effects. The death of 37 people and disabling of hundreds of others has been linked to the GE-produced food supplement Trytophan. The company was allowed to sell it in the U.S. without safety testing as they had been selling Trytophan produced with non-GE methods for years. Because the GE product was not labelled as such, the cause of the poisoning took months to discover .

V The Virus Hazard. Most GE crops contain virus genes to give the crop resistance to invading viruses. (A virus resistant squash, for use as baby food, is up for approval.) Some scientists are concerned that inserted virus genes could combine with a wild virus to produce a super, deadly virus.

W The late Dr. George Wald, Nobel Prize Laureate in Medicine, and one of the first scientists to speak out about the dangers of GE. In 1976 he wrote "Up to now, living organisms have evolved very slowly, and new forms have had plenty of time to settle in. Now whole new proteins will be transposed overnight into wholly new associations, with consequences no one can foretell...Potentially it could breed new animal and plant diseases, new sources of cancer, novel epidemics."

X A nutty Xperiment - when a gene from the brazil nut was spliced into a soy bean, strong allergic reactions in people allergic to nuts but not soy beans resulted when they ate the GE soy product.

Y - You are what you eat. Some GE foods already on our supermarket shelves are: soybeans (used in breads, baby foods and formulas - soya occurs in about 60 per cent of processed food); canola oil; corn (in corn syrup, corn starch, sweeteners, corn chips); insect resistant potatoes; transgenic tomatoes; yeast (used in bread, spreads, food supplements, pizza base, beer and other processed foods).

Z - Zeneca. Across the pond, U.K.-based Zeneca recently merged with Astra of Sweden to create another gene giant. According to the Rural Advancement Foundation International, the biotech multinational is racing to patent ‘Verminator’ which, they say, will produce "junkie plants that are physically dependent on a patented chemical cocktail."

(First published in The Telegram, Saturday May 1/99)
© Alison Dyer

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Low down on low flush - for World Toilet Day

just in time for World Toilet Day...
The Low-down on Low flush

Some of them have a dirty reputation. And while they’re the law in the U.S., stories about homeowners trickling over the border to Canada to buy elicit older and bigger brothers abound. The low-flow toilet, since its introduction in the early 1990s, has produced quite a flush of debate.

Believe it or not, there are regularly updated reports and studies on toilets that ‘exceed customer performance expectations.’ I don’t expect much from my toilet. In fact, it might well be the poster child for neglected appliances. But when some recent household plumbing highlighted the possibility of new bathroom fixtures I got eyes and face, so to speak, into the lowdown on toilets.

For example, did you know that testing the efficacy of the low flow is now done with a soybean mixture encased in latex (condom) in 50 gram specimens? Similar in density and moisture content to human waste, this may kill the soybean industry as a palatable alternative protein. But I digress.

So, what does a green need to know about going low? Well, let’s take a brief look at the histoire of the pissoir: In the home, the toilet uses the most water, accounting for about 30 per cent of indoor water use. Older model (pre-1980) toilets flush with 20 litres of water (that’s about what the average person living in Africa uses per day). Considering that over the course of a lifetime, one flushes the toilet nearly 140,000 times, using one of these hummers is akin to wasting a waterfall.

In the ‘90s, the 13 litre toilet came on the market. Then in 1996 the Ontario provincial building code required 6 litre toilets (often called ultra-low-flush) for all new homes. This all time low legislation has not been met in any other province or territory although some municipalities, like Vancouver, have decided to see how low they can go including offering rebates on low-flow toilets a program which, St. John’s does not have. (But with the increasing costs associated with the new sewage treatment system, such a program would benefit everyone by helping to reduce the amount of water being processed).

In the U.S., federal law states that toilets may not exceed 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf)—that’s about 6 litres-- and many of their High-Efficiency Toilets (HETs) go beyond that standard and use less than 1.3 gpf. This is a nice twist to prevalent thinking that everything is larger in the U.S. Seems they can still flush it with less. And in case you’re wondering, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has adopted 350 grams as a minimum performance threshold (the average male dump is 250 grams) for High-Efficiency Toilets (HETs).

Meanwhile, down under, Caroma, the dominant supplier of sanitary fixtures to the Australian and New Zealand market, tested for plumbing problems using its dual-flush (half flush for liquid waste; full flush for solid) toilet system. The manufacturer concluded that to achieve water conservation objectives the entire plumbing system should be of the highest standard. In other words, and as others have found out, low flow toilets may experience problems when installed in locations with degraded or damaged drain line systems (e.g., root intrusion, sagging or broken lines, buildup of solids, etc.).

Still, let’s say your plumbing is dandy. The thing to remember is that not all toilets are made equal. Many first generation low flow models didn’t flush properly. But over the years, flushing systems have been redesigned and improvements in glazes, for example, help ensure that the bowl is as aerodynamic as possible. A good place to look at information on low flush toilet ratings is This TV/plumber personality has produced a consumer report on toilets taking into account such concerns as gram ratings, ease and cost of repairs, sound when flushing, and how well the bowl is rinsed.

One more cautionary note. Toilets can be gravity flushed (the most common) or pressure-assisted. While the latter requires still less water it can be noisy and may be problematic in homes with older plumbing.

Fine. I’m ready to go shopping (as long as I don’t have to bounce on the bedspring, so to speak). And choices in St. John’s have improved over the past couple of years though I still can’t find my favourite—the ‘Toto’ listed on Love’s website—in St. John’s. Still, retailers like Kent and Home Hardware carry a selection of 6 litre models providing both single and dual-flush options, the former starting at $90.

Meanwhile, if you’re not quite ready to buy a new toilet, you might consider retrofitting your old one to make it less of a water hog. Several types of devices can be installed in an existing toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used in flushing that work by: water displacement (plastic bag or bottle); water retention (toilet dams); or alternative flushing (early closure or dual-flush). Local plumbing supply or hardware stores can help find out which type will work best for your toilet. But don't put rocks or bricks in your toilet tank: Over time they’ll break down and can cause damage.

And if you’re really cheap but determined to save that pure drinking water that’s flushing your bowl, consider adopting this adage: "
If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down."

(© Alison Dyer 2009 )

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Case of the Contract Killer

The Case of the Contract Killer

Violetta di Chioggia, Rosa Bianca Solanam melongena, Tom Thumb Latuca Sativa.

Recognize any of these names? Seen any of their faces around recently? No? This may come as a shock, but these are just a few of thousands who’ve gone missing. In fact, they’re on a hit list.

Oh, and did I mention they’re vegetables. Does that make a difference? It shouldn’t.

You see, we humans are accomplices in what could very well be our own demise. We’ve (if not knowingly) allowed a few corporations to whittle down our variety of food crops from thousands to a handful. I can see the mugshot of that herbicide-burping superbug now, chomping down and wiping another crop from our increasing paltry list. No, really, come back to the table and listen – you eat? Then this affects you.

We humans have eaten some 80,000 plant species over time. Now, three-quarters of all our produce comes from just eight species and, as biologist, author and locavore Barbara Kingsolver tells it, the field is “quickly narrowing down to genetically modified corn, soy, and canola.” Our food crops, Kingsolver says, could well make an endangered species list. We are, quite simply, undermining the security of our very own food system.

With genetically modified foods, we’re further undermining the security of that system with crop species being held against their will by a handful of powerful corporations intent on fooling around with their genes. Splicing together traits that aren’t even nodding acquaintances in nature can produce a vigorous plant for one generation, but the next generation is likely unpredictable and has no staying power.

But let’s back up and see how and why these disappearances started. Well, it has to do with the craving for tomatoes (or raspberries) at a time when even songbirds are sucking on dried up dogberries. And it also has to do with advances in long distance trucking. You see, up until the middle of last century, most North Americans were still eating fruits and vegetables that came from nearby farms, which also meant eating in season. Then marketers realized a market for out-of-season produce, like those tomatoes (or raspberries) titillating the taste buds of a society that was getting used to instant gratification. And then those tomatoes (or raspberries) needed larger and refrigerated trucks, and a super highway system to get these aliens to market.

Enter agribusiness into the contract. New breeds of produce were bred so that those tomatoes (or look at any produce at your local grocery retailer) could stand up to mechanized picking, packing, shipping and displaying on supermarket shelves. This uber tomato proved it could go the distance, but a few things got lost in the meantime: like flavour, often pest resistance and, no surprise, genetic diversity. There can, after all, only be one uber tomato, so uniformity and blandness became the trade-off signatures. Long distance travel, says Kingsolver, lies at the heart of the plot to murder flavourful fruits and veggies. Then the agribusiness breeding of indestructible produce ensured a market for tennis ball-like tomatoes. Farmers had little choice but grow what people (thought they) wanted, and seed catalogue offerings dropped more and more old-time trusted varieties. Today, not only plant varieties but whole species have been lost while six companies—Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Mitsui, Aventis, and Dow—now control 98 percent of the world’s seed sales.

There’s a few organizations that are on the look out for Violetta and friends. Slow Food International promotes agricultural biodiversity and has a twist on the save-the-endangered species line. Eat it. To save those rare species, the seed must be grown, plant harvested and eaten. Ditto that heirloom pig.

Closer to home, groups such as FEASt (Food Education Action – St. John’s), Farmers’ Markets and community gardens are springing up across the province, putting local food back on the menu and in the minds of residents.

Bottom line? Come clean. Don’t continue to be an accomplice to contract killing. Eat local. Reject uniformity. Check out grandma’s garden. Dissent. And have a flavourful day.

© Alison Dyer 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

paddling with spirits and titans

Coming sometime in September.... photographs of my latest trip this summer in Bay Despair (bay d'espoir, or as originally called, bay of spirits). A visual, auditory and emotional feast. I will post some photographs of this enthralling coast. Until then, paddle well. Alison

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer arrived in May

Yeh, summer arrived in May this year. Every single tree is out strutting its foliage. We are in the midst of a glut of green. It is gorgeous. And I've been out paddling, and kayak camping, even swimming in the North Atlantic... in June!

Will post some photos of trips soon. If I'm not out on the water. Alison

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Music in all its forms

When: Today
Where: Outside
What: New Philip Glass composition performed by a northwest breeze and a million ice-encrusted branches
Audience: A skeleton flock of herring gulls chipped off a grey sky
Blue-sky performance piece encore: A pack of silver foxes storms the hills; the City retreats.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Snowstorm and sedentary kayaks

Second day of spring. A snowstorm swirling, a sky full of whirling dervishes, an ecstasy of snow. My white kayak would probably join in but for the tie-downs keeping it horizontal on my roofrack. Beginning to forget the feel of pulling through saltwater. These days, kayaking is roll practise in chlorine.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The Abstraction of Nature

"In some sense, the physical world is no longer as real to us as the economic world - we cosset and succor the economy; our politicians gear every decision to speeding its further growth. So if someone says, 'Ending our reliance on fossil fuels will harm the economy,' that settles the issue. By contrast, if someone says, 'Relying on fossil fuels is wrecking the planet,' it seems an almost irrelevant objection - the Earth has become abstract, and the economy concrete, to us."

Bill McKibben, The End of Nature

I came across these words jotted down in an old journal of mine. And with them my thoughts: It's as though we treat Earth as our mother. And like a mother, we expect unconditional love, and unconditional forgiveness. Everything will be rectified, if we screw up, by mother earth.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Coming to a backyard near you...HENZILLA

Vancouver city council votes to allow residents to keep chickens in backyards (Chicken-Bylaw)The Canadian Press Mar 05 23:58 EST

VANCOUVER _ The B.C. SPCA is crying ``fowl'' after Vancouver city council voted in favour of a bylaw that makes it legal to keep chickens in backyards.

SPCA spokesman Shawn Eccles says he's concerned that people who never would have considered having a chicken of their own will now give it a try because of the attention the bylaw has received.

Eccles says those individuals might not have the knowledge or experience to deal with chickens, meaning it's the animals who will suffer in the end.

He says there's much more to taking care of chickens than most people realize, including the fact that the birds can attract rodents.

Vancouver will not be the first Lower Mainland municipality that allows residents to raise chickens outdoors, as Burnaby and New Westminster already do.

Residents in New York, Seattle and Portland are also permitted to keep the birds. (CKNW, CBC, The Canadian Press)

I love it. Chickens can attract rodents. So can cats, dogs and particularly people who barbque & leave stuff out in their yards. But getting closer to our food source? Ooh, scary.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Seed bombing and Canning swaps

Came across two neat ideas that have definitely found their time.

The newest weapon of the guerilla gardener: making a seed bomb for hard to reach places:

Want to keep it local but add some diversity? This is one type of party you'll want to go to: the canning swap party.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Tasting Grace in Wild Spaces

[Photo: Chance Cove, Trinity Bay. Copyright: Lewis Greenland]

"People need wild places... We need to be able to taste grace and know once again that we desire it. We need to experience a landscape that is timeless, whose agenda moves at the pace of speciation and glaciers. To be surrounded by a singing, mating, howling commotion of other species, all of which love their lives as much as we do ours, and none of which could possibly care less about our economic status or our running day calendar. Wildness puts us in our place. It reminds us that our plans are small and somewhat absurd. It reminds us why, in those cases in which our plans might influence many future generations, we ought to choose carefully."

Barbara Kingsolver

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wind: a love - hate relationship

Wind (by Ted Hughes)

This house has been far out at sea all night,

The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills,
Winds stampeding the fields under the window
Floundering black astride and blinding wet.

Till day rose; then under an orange sky
The hills had new places, and wind wielded
Blade-light, luminous black and emerald,
Flexing like the lens of a mad eye.

At noon I scaled along the house-side as far as
The coal-house door. Once I looked up -
Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope,

The fields quivering, the skyline a grimace,
At any second to bang and vanish with a flap;
The wind flung a magpie away and a black-
Back gull bent like an iron bar slowly. The house

Rang like some fine green goblet in the note
That any second would shatter it. Now deep
In chairs, in front of the great fire, we grip
Our hearts and cannot entertain book, thought,

Or each other. We watch the fire blazing,
And feel the roots of the house move, but sit on,
Seeing the window tremble to come in,
Hearing the stones cry out under the horizons.
* * * *
In January, February, March my heart pounds more, because
I'm sure
the westerlies, northerlies and otherlies bang on my door.
no. in fact they like to raise my bed,
in my balloon-frame house they shake every darn piece
of furniture. Not just shake but rattle and unhinge.
And that goes for my nerves too.
Only heavy wool blankets stay on my bed in these months.
Even the foster cat finds the rocking chair preferable,
a pleasant counter-action, like a hammock on a ship, to the
plundering wind.
When we lived in Port au Port
(and the axe blew over one blustery winter day)
I joked that my kids were growing on an angle.
Like tuckamore. Resilient.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Storm-bound days on kayaking trips can drive you batty. I like to think they offer opportunities for creativity. Take one day last August. Our group of 3 were 'stuck' on an island, thickly wooded (think knitted wood) on either side of our football-sized meadow. Steep but navigable cliffs to beaches on either side. I wandered down to the south-facing beach and started on one of my ongoing little projects: documenting the garbage that had made its way to and back from the ocean. But this time I saw new potential. Grabbing J (an artist), I explained our afternoon activity: arranging as many different colours and hues of garbage into a Rainbow. At one point I thought I might be on to a new grant possibility for environmental art! Imagine creating Garbage Rainbows at remote beaches to draw attention to the problem of using our oceans as dumping grounds. May still do it.
Meanwhile, some stats:
Did you know?
Time taken for objects to dissolve at sea
Paper bus ticket 2-4 weeks
Cotton cloth 1-5 months
Rope 3-14 months
Woolen cloth 1 year
Painted wood 13 years
Tin can 100 years
Aluminum can 200-500 years
Plastic bottle 450 years
(Source: Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Boxing Up a River

[Photo: Manuel's River, Alison Dyer]

Boxing Day usually means a hike somewhere. This year, that is, last year, it was a hike up Manuel's River. (I always want to say a 'short walk' a la Eric Newby. A hike sounds too grand.) And it's mainly an excuse to take some Christmas leftovers for a picnic. At least, that's what I always tell the kids. Darn cold but some lovely tinkling sounds of frozen grasses at the river bed. Manuel's River is known internationally for its fossilized trilobites. We've been coming for years to this river-park. And this year, that is, last year, son #1 actually found part of a trilobite in one of the rocks.