Archive | Environment

Making a Difference on the Environment

Posted on 18 November 2009 by .

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark (Cop15) this December is a great opportunity for Canada to show the rest of the world how serious we are about climate change and what we are prepared to do in order to reverse its devastating impact on our ecosystems.

There is a great deal of concern from scientists and other policy experts, however, that Canada is not pulling its weight to stop climate change.  A recent study by German insurance company Allianz SE and the global conservation group WWF puts Canada at the bottom of the list for having one of the world’s largest per capita emissions and failing to implement any program to change this. 

In fact, Angela Anderson, Program Director of the US Climate Action Network, refers to Canada, along with Russia, as “the bullies of the climate change process.”  Much of this comes from the development of the Tar Sands in Northern Alberta, a process which consumes far more energy than normal oil exploration.  But Albertans are not solely to blame here – Canada’s lacklustre record on environmental sustainability also results from our willingness to consume large amounts of energy. 

b1I am afraid that this kind of inaction will damage Canada’s reputation as a forward-thinking and progressive country.  The fact is that we are better than this.  We have a highly-educated workforce and a strong entrepreneurial spirit that can help move us away from fossil fuels and towards more environmentally-friendly forms of energy.  Not only will this create tens of thousands of new jobs, but will put Canada on track to reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

b2At Cop15 this December, Canada has the opportunity to lead the world and show how environmental sustainability and economic strength can go hand in hand.  We can work with other countries around the world and make serious plans that will clean our air and fight climate change.  But this won’t happen unless we let our elected leaders know how we really feel about this most important issue.

That is why we have to take action.  I am urging each and every one of you to write letters to your members of parliament (MPs) today and tell them to step up, take action on the environment, and make an impact at the Copenhagen Conference in December.  I wrote to several MPs already and even members of the Ontario Provincial Parliament.  It takes very little time, and it’s a lot of fun too.  Don’t forget to write to Prime Minister Harper as well.

Please speak to as many friends and family as possible so they can get involved.  Time on the environment is running short.  But if we send enough letters, it will force our elected officials to act on climate change.  As U2 lead singer Bono once said, “the world is waiting for you to hammer it into shape.”  So let’s get the hammer out and start writing!    

And again, thank you for making a difference.



  Author: Bilaal Rajan

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Climate Change: From Cause to Politics!

Posted on 04 November 2009 by .

On Tuesday October 20th, Bollywood Star and Oxfam Ambassador Rahul Bose and Cristina Ora gave a presentation during their ‘Voices for Climate Justice Tour’ at University of Toronto organized by Indian Students Society UofT and Climate Action Network. Rahul and Christina gave 5 speeches in Toronto and visited Vancouver as well as Surrey in Canada to make the Canadian population aware of the role being played by Canadian government and it’s policies in global warming. 


Rahul Bose, a Bollywood Star, former captain of the Indian rugby team, and Oxfam Ambassador spoke of how climate change is affecting South Asia where the Himalayan glaciers are set to be reduced in size by 80% in 30 years, threatening the drinking and irrigation water supplies for the 1/6th of humanity that depends on this water flow. Also, Christina Ora a young award winning public speaker from the Solomon Islands shed some light on how rising sea levels brought about by climate change are threatening drinking water and food production on many small island states.

DSC01082Both South Asia and islands in the South Pacific are suffering from the effects of climate change worst and first. If we do not take action the effects of climate change will worsen.

Their presentation also outlined the Canadian Government’s weak position on climate change, the policies that the Canadian Government should adopt, and what we can do to move Canada from environmental laggard to environmental leader.

The international governments are meeting on December 7th in Copenhagen to agree upon a new international climate change treaty. Unfortunately, the Canadian government has been reluctant to commit to a binding, fair and just treaty that significantly reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and helps poorer countries adopt to climate change and transition into a green economy. 

During his presentation Rahul said that we live in a time when terms like global warming, greenhouse gases, and climate change have become common topics of discussion in everyday talk. But what does global warming really mean to you and why should you care?

Ignoring problems like these won’t make them go away but make them even worse. 

You normally hear people saying that the planet is in great danger, we have to do something before its too late, but to me it has never meant anything. 

What do you mean by ‘great danger’ or ‘too late’?

 7 out of 10 Indians depend directly on the climate for their money, food and welfare of their families. They are fisher folks, farmers and foresters. How will climate change affect them? If they mean temperature rise by a mere 1 degree in India, 10% of the wheat crops will be lost. That means 10% of farming families, round about 55-60 million people will have no food and no money. These 60 million people will vanish into deepest sadness. 

Sardines in the Arabian Sea have stopped swimming there and are only found at the Bay of Bengal because of the rising pollution levels. Because of the rise in sea levels, two Islands in Sundurban have submerged and 6000 people have lost their homes. 

Climate change is a huge problem and its here and now. 840 million Indians are depending on the weather conditions praying for the right amount of rain, so many lives are hanging by this thin thread.

But what can you do about this?

During his interview with Generation Next, he said that students can get into more joint efforts to convince the Canadian Government by signing a petition, “They can start by their own individual efforts and being more politically aware about where Canada stands and they can speak to their political representatives.”

Rahul Bose with members of Indian Student Federation at University of Toronto

Rahul Bose with members of Indian Student Federation at University of Toronto

When it was brought to his attention that Canadians on individual level are environmentally responsible as Green bins and recycling efforts indicate, he replied, “I think Canadians are environmentally friendly, I think your Canadian government is not environmentally friendly when it comes to the world’s environment. Individually Canadians are extremely environmentally friendly, you have Hybrid cars, you separate your garbage, you recycle your trash.”

He further elaborated, “At individual level you are saving electricity and water, but at the collective level you have to tell your government to be active at an international level. You have to petition and protest at grass root level, you have to speak to your political representatives, write to your government, you have to get your voice heard at the media.”

Finally he addressed the South Asian Youth, “South Asians form a very key voting block in certain areas of Canada, South Asian students can focus on making their leaders understand just how they want those leaders to think on climate change. So, it’s very important that South Asian Youth form this bridge in conveying how climate change is affecting South Asia and that Canadian government should be more active on an international level.”

 Author: Saniya Zahid

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My Arctic Journey

Posted on 25 September 2009 by .

I just returned from an Arctic expedition to learn about the people, habitat and environment of our Great White North.  All I can say is “amazing!”


The Students on Ice ( expedition consisted of 75 bright, enthusiastic students and 30 scientists from around the world.  I was fortunate enough to be awarded a Filter For Good grant by Brita (  Filter for Good is a program designed to educate Canadians on the impacts of bottled water waste.  The people on the team that accompanied me on this expedition are some of the most incredible people I’ve met.

The Arctic and Antarctic Polar Regions are a window into the environmental future of our planet.  In these areas, scientists can study ice sheets and better understand the future of climate change on Earth.  With Students on Ice, we not only discussed these and other environmental problems, but also worked towards solutions that will guarantee future generations a greener, cleaner planet.  We also worked with local Inuit and learned how the region is shaping Canadian identity. 

The diverse animal life we enco


untered was so awe-inspiring and magnetic, we all wanted to see them at close range.  On one particular Zodiac boat ride, after exploring the sea for about 10 minutes, we spotted a huge group of walruses just sitting on a very small piece of ice.  As we slowly drifted towards them, we eventually ended up just 100 feet away.

The next highlight was the so-called “King of the Arctic,” a giant white polar bear.  As it consumed the remaining carcass of an unfortunate seal, I just sat there for a long time and admired the majestic presence of such an amazing animal in its natural habitat.  It then dawned on me how fragile life of any kind really is on our planet.  Not many of us realize that the world around us is not just a place for us humans, it’s our ONLY home and one that also belongs to animals as well.  By destroying it, we put our lives and those of future living generations in grave danger.  I compare it to setting one’s house on fire and slowly watching it

burn down.  The only difference is that we are still in the house and there is nowhere else to go.  If the house goes, so do we all.


On an average day during the expedition, we were woken up at 7:30 am, had breakfast and began our trek.  The most important thing to realize about the Arctic zone is almost too obvious: the cold.  Even in the middle of summer, it can freeze if you don’t dress warmly, especially at night, and many of my colleagues were bundled up to keep warm.  I love the cold, so this was just perfect weather

 for me.

Besides the treks, lectures, zodiac boat trips, and the participation in the lives of the people of the northern communities, what else can one do in the chilly summer weather?  Go swimming, of course.  Yes, you read correctly.  We went swimming.  I am justifiably proud to say that I was the second person on the expedition to go into the frigid water but the first to get my entire body underwater.  Of course, the water was freezing.  It was so cold that when I surfaced, I could barely breathe.  After a while, my body got used to the temperature and it actually became a lot of fun.  I went in three times at intervals because if you stay in too long, you can actually get

hypothermia.  We all screamed with both outright excitement and downright pain from the numbness in our bones.

Culturally, I was most impressed with the towns and communities we visited throughout the expedition.  We stopped in a village called Kimmirut in the eastern part of Nunavut Territory, north of Quebec.  Inhabited by about 450 people, it has two convenience stores, one school, one daycare, one souvenir shop and a few othe

r buildings on the town’s main street.

As we were walking back to shore, we saw a local hunter with a seal he had caught, cutting and sharing the meat with the entire community.  He told me that every time someone catches an animal, the entire village shares it to symbolize the importance of unity.  The hunter explained that it was a long-standing tradition that existed for as long as he could remember.  If we could apply that philosophy with the rest of the world, we could eradicate a lot of suffering and injustices at the moment.  T

hat was an unexpected but real

 learning experience for all of us.

Over the course of the expedition, the participants really bonded and became very close.  We truly became a family and I will definitely miss Geoff Green, our expedition leader, waking us up every morning over the intercom with, “Good Morning, Students Ooooon Ice!”  I will also miss Travis’ funny wisecracks, Vino’s crazy impressions, and everyone’s willingness to help.  The expedition staff was incredibly supportive, very knowledgeable and always there to answer any question you had.

But as they say, all good things must come to an end.  I learned so much on this trip, about myself and my surroundings and specifically the interplay of our actions on the environment.  Being able to experience such raw beauty is inspiring and really makes you think about how important it is to protect our planet and not take it for granted.  I am sincere when saying that I want to take even greater action in my endeavours to include environmental causes with my commitment to other social issues.  I strongly believe they are not independent of each other, but very much interconnected.

This expedition has been an eye, soul, and mind opening experience for me and I will remember it for the rest of my life.  I would sincerely like to thank Brita and Students On Ice for enabling me to participate and hopefully contribute to this remarkable journey and enlightening experience.  As they say in Inuktitut, the Aboriginal language of the region, “Qujannamiik” (Koo – Ya – Na – Meek).

Bilaal copy 

Author: Bilaal Rajan

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Want to Save the Environment? Start at Your Own Home

Posted on 31 August 2009 by admin

There is no question that the environment is one of the most important issues in the world today.  Our planet is truly at crossroads, and what we do in the next ten years alone will have significant consequences, either good or bad, for future generations.

The problem is that sometimes we feel so overwhelmed with the challenges at hand; we feel that we can’t do anything to solve the problem.  Yet the environment is one area where we actually can make a difference and have an impact almost immediately.  There’s no need to wait for government treaties, revolutionary new forms of energy, or miracles cures.  We can start right now and right here in our own homes and our own communities.  So what are we waiting for?

They say home is where the heart is, and when it comes to our ecosystems, it is also where the solutions are as well.  There are literally hundreds of things we can do in our everyday lives that will make a difference.  To begin, we can simply consume less energy.  This means, for example, shutting off the computer when you’re finished using it.  Common lore says that we can just leave our computers running for hours and hours.  Unknown to many is that a fan running on a standard desktop computer uses as much energy as a light bulb.  Would you leave a lamp on in your living room for no reason?  I would hope not.  Why would you do the same for your computer?

We can also take shorter showers, use florescent light bulbs that use less energy with the same amount of light, ensuring that your home is insulated properly (which will also radically cut down on heating bills in the winter since as much as 35% of heat loss occurs though an un-insulated ceiling alone), buying appliances that use less energy, and using fans in summer instead of air conditioning.

Stepping outside the home, we can also walk and bike more instead of driving all the time.  This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are increasing global temperatures and threatening thousands of species around the world.  It would also cut down on costly gas bills.  If walking or biking is impractical, take public transportation.  It’s still cheaper than driving a car, and it’s better for the environment.  If you have to drive or are thinking about buying a car, purchase an environmentally-friendly hybrid vehicle or one that has good gas mileage.  Also, make sure your tires are properly inflated.  This will mean paying less at the pump, and it will make a real difference in air quality over the long run.

These are just few of the things you can do each and every day.  What is most surprising is how really easy they are to do – and how much money they’ll save you.  We can’t wait any longer to turn the tide and clean up our environment.  We can do so right in our very own homes, starting today.

Bilaal Rajan

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