What a year!

We’re still here, so hopefully that means that we’re doing something right … or not at all if we look at the last year in eco news. Without getting all ‘told you so’ on your butt, let’s have a look to see what the Green Bean has brought you throughout 2010 …

Earth Day turned 40 this year!   Two days before that anniversary, the biggest accidental, and certainly most frustrating ecological disaster we’ve ever seen dominated the media for months. Yup, it’s the BP oil spill, one of the worst environmental disasters of all time, but Obama did good by banning offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico until 2017.

Remember Haiti’s earthquake? That was probably an omen for the year ahead, and those people still don’t have everything they need to move on with their lives.

Made worse by crappy environmental protection laws.
Satellite image of the border between Haiti (left) and the Dominican Republic (right) showing deforestation (source: NASA)

Orca whales get their asses protected but whales in general almost got screwed over, but the caribou are still in trouble. Instead of good, solid, ethical wildlife management, hundreds of geese were gassed to death in the U.S. Oh yeah, and 2010 was the United Nation’s year of Biodiversity.woopsie!

Climate ‘talks’ in Cancun underwhelmed us, and G20 reporters get their own ecosystem built so they can sit lake-side on Muskoka chairs while Toronto police make a big fuss. Suddenly, shale gas exploration is an important issue to Canadians, and you can voice your opinion on it, too

Inuit hunters are seeing more sunlight, they say, from climate change, and they don’t like it. He doesn’t have to hunt for his food, but Harper stalked and killed our country’s only climate bill, but that’s not gonna stop us from trying to save Canada from looking like a bunch of jerks. Take everyone working their bums off to ban bottled water from their school campuses as a fine example!

So that’s what went on in the world in a nutshell. Little things have been happening throughout the year in your own neighborhood that hopefully make you feel good about the environment, though. With each new day there are hordes of people who make it their business to make a difference, like people engrossed in the transition towns movement, and environmental businesses like the cooperative du grand orme who celebrated their second year of success, growing on a sustainable business model.

Little gardens are popping up in impromptu places in the concrete jungle thanks to other greenies like the folks at Greening Duluth and Ferme Carya, all tucked away on our metropolitan island to bring you fresh, local food.

Ramsey of Ferme Carya plays in the dirt with some volunteers

Little forests in small green pockets of Montreal we fought for in 2010. The fate of the Anse a l’Orme nature reserve received a lot of media attention this year. Let’s hope 2011 sees this parcel of land protected so Montreal’s only river can keep doing what it’s supposed to do; carry our contaminated water from one point of the island to the St. Lawrence and Ottawa waterway.

Anse a l'Orme nature reserve

Hats off to you for a new year. It would be fun to bring you some positive environmental news, so keep recycling, composting, turning your lights off, and showering with friends to save water!

~Mel Lefebvre

*Listen to Mel on CKUT 90.3 FM at 11 am every Tuesday on Ecolibrium – Montreal’s only english environmental radio show

Rob Ford, new mayor of Cal...er...Toronto

I must admit, I’m a bit confused. I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to write about here. It’s a year-in-review piece, so at least the time frame is solid, but the subject matter, hmm, that’s another story.

You see, I don’t really have a clear beat. I started off 2010 as a theatre writer, but now that’s done by others and occasionally me, at least when it comes to burlesque shows (heh heh, but seriously, check out my reviews of Blood Ballet and Glam Gam). I do write about news and politics, even in this space, but I’m not the only one, so this can’t be a year in the news piece.

I could write about the year it was for FTB. (and in fact I will, but that’s coming up New Year’s Eve, not here.) So I guess I’m just going to have to talk about the year in random things that caught my attention.

It seems somewhat appropriate that I’m confused, because 2010 sure was a year of confusing things. While Calgary took a few steps forward and elected (by all accounts) progressive lefty Naheed Nenshi, Canada’s first Muslim mayor, Toronto took about fifty steps back and basically elected Rush Limbaugh in the form of anti-homeless, anti-cyclist loudmouth Rob Ford. The City of Montreal, under the direction of Gerald Tremblay, still wants to destroy the Red Light District, at least there was some good news last week that developer Angus may throw in the towel and let the venerable Café Cleopatre continue to exist.

Meanwhile in Quebec, Jean Charest and his cronies (before facing a sham commission) banned the wearing of religious head coverings when trying to use government services and made those services, even those that are supposed to be free, a little more expensive. This drew considerable protest, but you wouldn’t know it by reading The Gazette.

People are not impressed: photo of the anti-Charest budget protest by Chris Zacchia

At least Stephen Harper’s consistently a douchebag. He did up the ante a bit this year, though, by going all police state on peaceful protesters and the City of Toronto during the G20, using tactics that would have made Homeland Security and the CIA under Cheney (er, Bush) blush.

Harper’s new nemisis the UN took a step backwards, too, by condoning the baseless executions of gays and lesbians. At least Haiti decided not to allow Wyclef Jean to run for president, though their elections didn’t go all that smooth, regardless.

The good stuff: Buffalo Infringement Festival photo by Jason C. McLean

Even closer to home, things have been strange. Despite being a fresh, new and alternative media source, we’re still following Justin Beiber on Twitter and last time I checked we’re now following Paris Hilton, too. At least it gives me the opportunity to use the Biebs, Paris, Jean Charest and Islam as keywords in the same post, which is fun.

I did have quite a bit of fun this year, actually and got to report on it, too. From checking out the Brooklyn music scene first hand and getting a sarcastic kick out of the lone tea partier in Times Square to experiencing the unique joy that is the Buffalo Infringement Festival, 2010 has been quite a ride.

I guess my New Year’s resolution (or at least my public one) will have to be focus on the positive, still write about the negative (cause it’s important) and embrace the confusion.

So Wyclef Jean wants to be the president of Haiti. This move by the singer has been praised by some and criticized by others, namely actor Sean Penn who has been working in Haiti on relief efforts and even his bandmate Pras. Is this just another celebrity attempt at politics or is there something more to it?

Waving the flag: Wyclef wants to be President of Haiti

Well, off the bat, Jean is Haitian by birth and has been involved, at least as a mouthpiece, in the Haitian political scene for a few years now, so he isn’t exactly a Schwarzenegger-style celebrity parachute candidate. He is Haiti’s ambassador-at-large to the world. He also established the Yéle Haiti Foundation in 2005, which has helped in several relief attempts over the years, though there were allegations of financial conduct when he was the head of the organization, which Penn brought up in his critique.

While it’s clearly fair for Jean to run in a Haitian election, an election in Haiti under the current conditions isn’t exactly a fair prospect. You see, there’s one party blocked from running: the Fanmi Lavalas Party of twice-deposed President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Aristide was removed from power two separate times by a coup d’Etat engineered by western countries like the US and Canada. Jean didn’t speak out against this at the time, in fact he told MTV just before the coup in 2004 that he supported the rebels who eventually overthrew him.

While there were reports earlier this month that Jean met with Aristide in exile in South Africa before announcing his run, it still doesn’t change the fact that he will be running in an election where Aristide’s party can’t. It also doesn’t change the fact that Jean produced an anti-Aristide film “The Ghosts of Cite Soleil” which ignores the kidnapping of Aristide by US forces or that his uncle, Raymond Joseph, was a high-ranking representative of the installed government, still the Haitian ambassador to the US and publisher of a right-wing newspaper in Haiti.

True, family ties are never proof of someone’s political convictions or what they are going to do, but in this case, they do lend credence to Penn’s “suspicion” that if Jean becomes president, he will simply put a friendly face on policies that keep Haitians working for next to nothing to the benefit of western companies.   Indeed, while Jean may visit Haiti quite frequently, he is more a resident of the western world and the US in particular and therefore closer to those companies whose self-interest sadly generally trumps the best interests of people in countries like Haiti.

While Wyclef Jean might not be any kind of needed change for Haiti right now, at least his proposed policies for the US still sound nice. Maybe he picked the wrong country to try and become president of.