Archive | Environment

An Environment of Change: Small Steps to Sustainability

Posted on 07 December 2011 by admin

The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether.

In an ideal world, there would be infinite freshwater and food to feed the entire population. There would be unlimited oil and coal supply so we could continue powering our vehicles and other countless dependable machines without harming the environment. Unfortunately, this is not the reality we live in. Resources are limited, and the population is growing at an accelerating pace. The world’s population just touched the seven billion mark last month, forcing us to rethink our interaction with the natural environment. John Bongaarts, Vice President of the Population Council reacted to this news by saying that this is “both good and bad news…while the world has proved it can accommodate so many without a complete breakdown, it is also experiencing environmental stress like climate change and growing agricultural needs.”

Our affinity for non-renewable resources is an unhealthy relationship waiting to crumble. Exploitation of natural resources, especially oil, has been a driving force behind the global political agenda since the last fifty years, having largely influenced foreign relations. Fossil fuel extraction and processing results in large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic chemical emissions, which, in turn contribute to global warming and also cause air and water pollution.  The need to switch to renewable energy sources has thus become almost necessary.

Climate change is 21st century’s most pressing environmental issue, the effect of which has become evident through rising sea-levels and melting of the polar ice caps. Scientific research has shown that climate change can have dire consequences impacting agricultural productivity and water availability.

Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations projects that by 2025, 1,800 million people will face absolute water scarcity. Currently, 98% of the 925 million people that don’t have adequate amount of food live in developing nations. Such astounding statistics help paint a picture of the state of the world. As residents of a developed nation with abundant natural resources, it is very easy for us to take what we have for granted and have a blurred view of conditions in developing nations. It is important for us as global citizens to be aware that our actions have a greater impact.

Environmental problems like deforestation and water contamination may seem distant and irrelevant just because they are not happening in our backyards, but distance should not impede our ability to view the bigger environmental picture as an interconnected system. For example, if a company releases large amounts of toxic chemicals into water, it does not only hurt aquatic life, but can eventually land up on our plates as it makes its way through the food chain. Human health is inextricably linked to environmental conditions. We don’t have to look any further than Lake Ontario to look for evidence of environmental harm. Of all the Great Lakes, it is the most polluted, with deteriorating water quality and marine life health. The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether. It should not be necessary to always make a human case, when convincing each other to take care of the environment; we, humans, are as much a part of the environment as trees and mountains. As residents of this planet, we have a moral duty to protect it.

What we should be aiming towards is the sustenance of our economic, social and environmental future, because all of these are inevitably linked. Businesses need to improve their practices to become more environmentally considerate, and governmental regulations must become more stringent. We can’t just rest our hopes on technological advancements to relieve us from changing our lifestyles.  As a society of consumers, we are defined by the type of phone we use or the brand of shoes we wear. Technology may have made refrigerators more energy efficient, but the number of refrigerators sold has remarkably increased too, undermining the intended effect.

What we need is a complete overhaul of behaviours and habits.  Recycling that piece of paper, that pop can, switching off the lights when we leave the room, not keeping appliances on stand-by when they are not in use, fighting the urge to buy the stack of plastic water bottles, using public transportation as often as possible—these are some easy, practical steps we can all take to reduce our collective carbon footprint. By getting involved in our community, opening up dialogue, buying locally, and ensuring that our homes are energy efficient, we can get started to move into a direction of building local sustainable communities.

Puninda Thind


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A Sinking Nation, a Beacon of Innovation

Posted on 11 May 2011 by admin

While developed countries are scratching their heads over how to reverse climate change or how to deal with it, Bangladesh already has a head start. From growing rice in saline waters to creating mobile homes, the people of this nation are calling upon every innovative idea to assist in survival.

Canada is a nation that is greatly responsible for rising levels of carbon emissions that has resulted in the flooding of Bangladesh. But rather than play the blame game, steps that Canada takes to stop or reduce climate will benefit Bangladeshis and indirectly avert the very severe effects of climate change on Canada itself in the long run.

Enjoying my coffee as I sit at my desk in Canada, the thought of a sinking landmass and of millions of people being uprooted seems rather far-fetched. The 10 to 30 million Bangladeshis who will become climate refugees by the year 2100 due to rises in sea level would argue otherwise. What’s more is that by 2050, a sizable portion of Bangladesh’s landmass will be submerged. So what does all this mean for such a small nation with such a large population (164 million to be exact)?

Climate refugees are people who must leave their homes due to an environmental issue. In Bangladesh this “issue” manifests itself in cyclones, hurricanes and flooding. Of course, Bangladesh is a country prone to chronic flooding but coupled with the effects of global climate change, this habitual flooding results in catastrophic events of nature that leave many without roofs over their heads. In fact, in 2009, Cyclone Aila unleashed its fury on Munshiganj, a village of approximately 35,000 people who are primarily rice farmers and fishermen. Not only did it destroy homes, and killed hundreds of people, in the long run it salinated the rice fields, destroying the crop and contaminating drinking water. It is very clear that a cyclone of this level is only a glimpse of what is to come if the deteriorating effects of climate change continue to take their toll on this small nation. Areas of Bangladesh that are most at-risk are the coastal villages bordering the major rivers Padma, Meghna and Jamuna.

In Western countries, climate change is still a hazy idea, something that we can worry about later. Our plates are already full with financial meltdowns, global terrorism, international revolutions etc. But looking at Bangladesh should tell Western countries that they need to make some more room on their plate for climate refugees. Of course, a majority of people of Bangladesh will cross the border over to India but a global surge in number of refugees will surely affect all countries. While the Western industrialized countries have been giving funds to Bangladesh and its various NGOs that are trying to adapt to climate change, money will not be enough. Especially, not when industrialized nations are the ones largely responsible for rise in carbon emissions leading to global warming.

However, in Bangladesh, while money is definitely helpful, it is ideas that are truly getting at the heart of the solution. Bangladeshis accept climate change and many understand that the land they are living on will probably be submerged in the not so distant future, but they are also doing everything possible to brace themselves, adapt and go with the flow (no pun intended).

While developed countries are scratching their heads over how to reverse climate change or how to deal with it, Bangladesh already has a head start. From growing rice in saline waters to creating mobile homes, the people of this nation are calling upon every innovative idea to assist in survival. If anything, the most terribly affected place has become a “thinkbowl” for solutions to climate change. Prone to natural disasters from what seems like the beginning of time, Bangladesh has become very good at dealing with all that Mother Nature decides to throw at her, bending like bamboo but never breaking.

The effects of climate change are not limited to sinking landmasses; there is an array of related problems. The top priority in Bangladesh is food security- having 164 million mouths to feed is hardly an easy task. The International Union for Conservation of Nature predicts that crop yield could decrease by 30 percent by 2050 due to damage to rice fields and loss of land. But all hope is not lost, for the answer to the woes could lie in “salt-resistant rice”. Recall the destroyed crops due to salination of rice fields by Cyclone Aila; well this could be avoided if salt resistant rice came to replace the normal kind. Also, cyclone warnings transmitted directly to cell phones (which are widespread, even in rural areas) continue to prepare more Bangladeshis for the nuances of the weather.

But what does all of this have anything to do with you and me? What does a submerged nation with bright ideas mean to Canadians like us who do not feel the effects of climate change as they do? The answer is that it has everything to do with you and me.

First, we live in a nation that is a part of a world undergoing climate change. Like Bangladeshis, it will not be long before Canadians, too, have to worry about flood dykes and food security.

Next, climate change whether or not it yields anything else, is sure to yield refugees, and Canada undoubtedly will receive many of them. To address such a mass migration will require global cooperation and Canada will have to take initiative to assist the people.

Third, Canada is a nation that is greatly responsible for rising levels of carbon emissions that has resulted in the flooding of Bangladesh. But rather than play the blame game, steps that Canada takes to stop or reduce climate will benefit Bangladeshis and indirectly avert the very severe effects of climate change on Canada itself in the long run. Finally, Canadians can assist Bangladesh in the face of impending disaster by supporting programs such as population control and education for rural people, things that will increase the chances of survival and adaptation to climate change. Whether it is donations or volunteering, every helping hand counts.

Cyclones and floods may ravage the nation almost predictably, but the spirit of the Bangladeshi people is one that is unwilling to give in. From the farmer who builds a home that can be easily disassembled and reassembled in a different place, to the NGOs that educate families about nutrition and birth control, Bangladesh is a place where hope is anything but lost. Catastrophes that would destroy other nations have only made Bangladesh stronger and more able to face the challenges of climate change. Thus, while this seemingly doomed nation is a wake-up call for world, it is also an example to be learned from. The resilience, not of the flood dams, but of the Bangladeshi people will soon be needed by Western nations and so we should learn from them. Here are a people who are, literally, doing everything to keep their heads above water.


Jute farmers harvest unripe stalks due to early flooding from rise in sea levels. Photo from National Geographic (

By Nazifa Islam

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Home Care Services for Seniors

Posted on 20 January 2011 by admin

Ontario Quality Care Alliance is organizing a town hall to draw on the insights of clients who receive home care, the experience of frontline caregivers, and the knowledge of experts in the sector to provide a comprehensive picture of the benefits and challenges of sustaining quality home care. The town hall will be an opportunity to discuss how well home care services are meeting the needs of the people of Brampton and how we can continue to drive improvements in quality. Ontario’s senior population is expected to double over the next decade and care providers and policymakers are all looking for ways to cope with the pressure this is putting on our health care system. A recent survey by the Canadian Medical Association indicates Canadians are increasingly worried about the impact of demographic trends on our health care system. In this environment, home and community based care is increasingly being seen by policymakers as a way of sustaining our entire health care system. Most people also prefer to stay independent and receive care at home, with 88% of Ontarians polled saying their preference is home care.
Yet there are a lot of challenges that come with accessing and delivering quality home care, and a growing need for improved awareness round conditions like dementia and elder abuse and modern standards for training and support of Personal Support Workers and family caregivers.
The Quality Care Alliance was formed as a way to promote dialogue and understanding between home care clients, families, frontline caregivers, policymakers, and the wider community.
This community town hall will include an open forum with home care clients, caregivers, researchers, and community groups. Together we can work together to rejuvenate home care and make sure clients can age comfortably in their own homes with the support they need. We are looking forward to promoting dialogue and constructive discussion about the importance of home care services and the steps needed to make home care work for our senior and disabled population. The town hall will be held in Brampton on Saturday, February 5th at the Snelgrove Recreation Centre, 11692 Hurontario, West Side of Hurontario, South of Mayfield. The day’s events will begin at 1pm and conclude at 4pm.
If you wish to attend,

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Sorting the Garbage

Posted on 20 January 2011 by admin

By Priyanka Jain, Toronto

“As a Canadian child, I think it’s important that we educate our parents, aunts and uncles about what we are learning in school, or learning from our friends, so they can be more aware and have an appreciation for the environment,” Ahmad said.

We see them in the newspapers, at the grocery store, and in most public places; advertisements encouraging environmentally friendly actions are everywhere. This includes recycling, eco-friendly grocery bags, conserving electricity, carpooling etc. Although most Canadians have been habituated to things like recycling and re-using grocery bags as it has gradually become society’s norm, the question is whether or not immigrants and their families are able to grow into such habits.
Most native Canadians understand the effect pollution, excessive use of electricity, petroleum etc. has on the environment; therefore, they actively participate in these environmentally friendly actions. However, for a newcomer to Canada who has never recycled before, or used any other type of transport asides from their four-wheeler, getting used to this new conserved way of living could be an instant culture shock.
Some immigrants are not used to the routine of recycling, or keeping eco-friendly grocery bags in the car, and as a result these conservational actions are not of importance to them.
Sonal Sachdev, 21, a university student who moved to Canada five years ago from Dubai said that her upbringing was much different, in terms of being environmentally friendly. “In Dubai everything went in one garbage bin; when you’ve been brought up for 16 years, why bother to change your habits now,” she said.
Sheela Menon, a mother of two who has been living in Canada for the past 20 years, says that she is the one who has to encourage her two teenagers to recycle at home.
“They follow my lead; kids, teenagers don’t really give enough thought about being environmentally friendly,” Menon said.
Although Menon had no knowledge of the eco-friendly way of life when she first came to Canada, because her neighbours and peers were enforcing it in their families, she says “the truth all makes sense and you start encouraging it”.
For immigrants coming to Canada today, it is extremely important that today’s young generation educate their parents about the eco-friendly way of life, and how to help the environment in every way possible. Parents and grandparents who are settling in Canada have most likely never been exposed to alternative methods of transportation, or recycling, so it is important to promote environmentally friendly actions at home, and tell them why It is significant.
Farishta Ahmad, 19, along with her two younger siblings were born and raised in Canada. Its Ahmad’s 10-year-old sister who encourages recycling and re-using bags in their household.
“My sister tells us all the time what she’s been learning in school, and slowly my parents catch on as to why we’re doing all this,” Ahmad said.
Ahmad admits that before, they recycled solely out of habit, without knowing exactly why they were doing it. Although her parents knew to separate the recyclable garbage from ordinary garbage, they only did it because it was the routine thing to do. Now with the knowledge passed on by their youngest daughter, Ahmad and her family are more aware as to why they are taking certain actions.
“As a Canadian child, I think it’s important that we educate our parents, aunts and uncles about what we are learning in school, or learning from our friends, so they can be more aware and have an appreciation for the environment,” Ahmad said.

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March 14th: Sikh Environment Day

Posted on 10 March 2010 by .

The Sikh Council on Religion and Education would like to invite all Sikhs to celebrate Gurgaddi Diwas of the 7th Guru, Guru Har Rai ji, as a Sikh Environment Day. Guru Har Rai Ji, who became Guru in the year 1644, preached that Sikhs must come to the defense of all that is vulnerable and protect the well being of plants and animals. It will provide an opportunity to reflect upon our relationship with nature and mark a day on which we commit to environmental activism as followers of Guru Har Rai ji. (The New Year also begins on March 14th according to Nanakshahi Calender.)

In July 2009, in collaboration with the United Nations, SCORE organized a EcoSikh conclave in New Delhi in which Sikh organizations and leaders declared a five year plan as a Sikh response and commitment to save earth against the threat of global warming. This plan was presented to the UN chief Ban Ki Moon in December at the Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s residence which hosted an international conference of all religions on global warming. Sikh plan includes creating a one particular environmentally focused celebration from Sikh history and theology and it focuses on five key areas — assets, education, media/advocacy, eco-twinning ( pairing gurdwaras across globe for collaborative work), and celebration.

Under this Sikh plan, we propose to coordinate an annual EcoSikh holiday season corresponding with Gur Har Rai ji Gurgaddi Diwas.  Guru Har Rai Ji’s* legacy provides one of the most inspiring models for our ecological consciousness. While commemorating and celebrating the important points of his life each year, meditating on our own environmental habits is a profound way to gain spiritual renewal.

During this observance, we can focus on ecological tips and encourage ragis to perform environmentally themed shabads. A number of shabads extol the relationship between Sikhi and the environment and we can focus on their message during this celebration.   Each community can create their own theme or follow one suggested by the EcoSikh initiative organized through the website. We hope that this particular day will be celebrated and the entire Sikh community will do something in solidarity around the world.

Various celebrations will take place in Punjab and in other parts of India. In North America, various Gurdwaras have committed to celebrating this day as a Sikh Environment day. Sikh youth is also getting excited in planning and executing ideas to celebrate this occasion.

Avtar Singh Makkar, President of SGPC, has agreed to send announcements to all educational institutions and Gurdwaras in Punjab to mark March 14th as the Sikh Environment day. He also pledged to plant 100,000 trees in SGPC run schools and colleges.  In addition, SCORE has requested him to direct all ragis to sing shabads with environment theme from the Golden Temple during the TV broadcasts to encourage Sikhs all across the globe to dedicate this Sunday for environment.

In honour of this day, we propose that all communities participate in a tree planting ceremony or various other activities listed below or in the EcoSikh plan at   In addition, we propose that all communities participate in a local environmental cleanup.

Sikh Youth in Washington has drawn up a plan to make presentations on Sikh environmental teachings on March 14th at the Guru Gobind Singh Foundation. Youth will sing shabads focusing on nature. In addition, they plan to collect funds to support planting of 100 trees on a Kilometer of road leading to Khadoor Sahib in Punjab, India and other parts of India. Baba Sewa Singh, a Sikh environmental hero based in Khadoor Sahib, who has planted and nurtured over 100,000 trees in last ten years, has agreed to plant trees to kick start this celebration. To plant a tree and to water it for four years, the cost is $25 dollars.

*The story of Guru Har Rai Ji and the Trampled Rose expresses a profound call to ecological consciousness. When the Sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Har Gobind Ji explains to his grandson and future7th Guru,  Baba Har Rai Ji that the Sikhs must come to the defense of all that is vulnerable and protect the well being of plants and animals, he plants the seeds in young Baba Har Rai Ji that would lead him to become an eternal defender and caretaker of our natural world. The beauty of this moment and the importance of these teachings may inspire us to celebrate our own relationship with the environment.


What Can You Do?

Several suggestions that can be followed by individuals/families, Gurdwaras/Sikh organizations, and the wider community:


  • Plant an EcoSikh garden or tree
  • Visit your local parks monthly as time for spiritual reflection and renewal


  • Ragis sing shabads with environmental themes
  • Distribute tree saplings
  • Organize a tree planting ceremony or plant saplings of plants in the Gurdwara complex.

Wider Community:

  • Become an active part of Earth Day celebrations (April 22nd)
  • Join interfaith environmental work camps and celebrations

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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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