Although the photo took a long time (in notably coldish temperatures of the Alberta Rockies), the Canadian Water Innovation Lab was well worth it. Being able to connect to people that are doing great things, many of which who really know their stuff.
While respecting the passionate ideology of some, the most valuable part of the “unconference” was a presentation by Top 40 under 40 venture capitalist Dave Henderson. His presentation gave major perspective on global water use and where the largest gaps exist for water sustainability.
I hope to keep in touch with many who attended, especially a select group of facilitators and participants who I’m sure I’ll see and work with down the road.
An organization called Waterlution is hosting the very first Canadian Water Innovation Lab in Exshaw, Alberta (just outside of Canmore). October 21-24 on the eastern edge of the Rockiieeeeeeees. So glad to get my big mountain fix, you need it every year or two. Vermont doesn’t count. Blue Mountain (especially) does not count.
After a lengthy application process, I was lucky to be one of 200 young Canadian leaders to be selected. It’s an “unconference” – not too fond of the word, but I like its premise. Unstructured dialogue that has a general theme, unrestrained by time and naggy moderators. We’re covering it all – discussions on a national water policy, applying systems theory with the understanding that water affects dozens of other crucial sectors – energy, agriculture, health, economics, technology, politics, you name it.
Plus I’m probably sleeping in a teepee (tipi).
I plan on bringing the ruckus. I may play devil’s advocate a lot just to give our conversations some context as I have a feeling that we are all fairly like-minded. I kind of hope I’m wrong. I will post back in a week or so utterly inspired and equipped to get my real advocacy boots on. Right. Wish me luck.
Wow. Toronto points. Actually, midtown Toronto points. Midtown doesn’t get enough love. C and I were thinking of moving to High Park area, but this place now has some big pull in the moving decision.
Evergreen Brickworks is the newly retrofitted environmental education centre that used to be home to Toronto’s brick quarrying and manufacturing. A massive geologic deposit of clay soil allowed for major brick production in the quarry stopped producing that now features an environmental education centre, modern art installations, a Saturday farmer’s market, event space, and about 8 other buildings worth of drools. The best part? Our walk involves no roads or streets or sidewalks. Through the park, through the Mud Creek ravine trail system, right to the Brickworks. They knew what to do.
Bustling market – beautiful looking prepared baked goods, hot lunches, etc. Not much produce when we got there (late), just apples + cider.
Construction is still ongoing, but most is done.
Into the art installation building. Yes, I loved that they’ve kept as much of the graffiti intact as they could. Sad to say, I’m not Rob Ford. Was impressed (with myself) that I recognized a name from one of the installations (Werner Herzog).
Forgive me and my blatant perspective photos, I’m no photog. And we did not leave empty-handed. Of all things I found some great looking tomatillos at the market. Never made Mexican salsa verde before so I went for it. That’s why I love markets – great alternative ingredients to really get something new on your Sunday dinner plate.
This place really stands at the Venn circle intersection of food, environment, and design. Let’s start our own lecture series and call it FED Talks.
I have Twitter now, so if you follow me (you probably don’t), then these links are like… so 5 minutes ago.
News and Politics
- Massachusetts school proves large classes can still mean improved student performance – [NYT]
- Drug decriminalization in Portugal – many think it’s working – [Time]
- Friedman: China is spending $25B on highspeed rail and biotech. The US spends $25B on Afghanistan – [NYT]
- A primer on the U.N.’s Millenium Development Goals – [GOOD]
- What happens if you put your hand in the Large Hadron Collider? – [YouTube]
- Why the brain doubts foreign accents – [Scientific American]
- Hand sanitizers will not keep you from getting sick – [Salon]
- The lowdown on foodie elitism
- How food writers got High Fructose Corn Syrup wrong (aka stop the fearmongering) - [Atlantic]
I wrote a piece for K/W “cultural curator” Hilary Abel and her excellent blog/zine, Qatalyst. It’s about water fluoridation. You can read it below.
Over the past decade, water quality has become a greater concern for Ontarians. The (in)famous and tragic wake-up call occurred in May 2000 in Walkerton, where the public groundwater supply became contaminated with one of the few toxic strains of E. coli (0157:H7). Farm runoff from an intense storm impacted nearby municipal wells that were known to be vulnerable to surface contamination. This event resulted in at least seven deaths and 2,500 illnesses.
Although contaminants like E. coli are of significant concern to public administrators and water users alike, other water quality issues have received their fair share of attention. A prime example is the fluoridation of municipal water. Health units, researchers, and government bodies (including Health Canada) support water fluoridation, citing that the introduction of water fluoridation has resulted in improved dental health across the world (fluoride helps to prevent tooth decay and cavities).
Ontario drinking water engineers regularly monitor the concentration of fluoride in their source water, as many parts of Ontario experience high levels of naturally-occurring fluoride in their water supply. This is due to the dissolution of local minerals in bedrock or soil where groundwater is extracted. Anthropogenic sources of fluoride contamination do exist but are less common. Other jurisdictions which have low levels of fluoride fluoridate their water at treatment plants before it is distributed to users. Both Ontario and the World Health Organization have a Maximum Acceptable Concentration of 1.5 mg/L of fluoride in drinking water.
Although large government and scientific institutions continue to support fluoridation, significant opposition from the public and members of the scientific community has formed around the issue. Comprehensive studies from Canada (Locker, 1999), the U.S. (Yiamouyiannis, 1990), and New Zealand (Colquhoun, 1998) showed no significant differences in dental health between fluoridated and non-fluoridated areas. Western European countries have vocally opposed fluoridation and have experienced the same decline in dental decay as North America. Some studies have proposed many reasons why dental decay has decreased in non-fluoridated communities since the 1930s. They include the tremendous increase in nutrition and fresh fruit and vegetable consumption assisted by the introduction of household refrigerators. Cheese consumption has also greatly increased, which is known to have anti-decay properties (Colquhoun, 1998).
Even more interestingly, where fluoridation has been discontinued in communities from Canada, Germany, Cuba and Finland, dental decay has not increased but has actually decreased (Maupome 2001; Kunzel and Fischer,1997,2000; Kunzel 2000 and Seppa 2000). Other research indicates that the benefits of fluoride are much greater if they are applied topically (using toothpaste with fluoride to brush directly on your teeth) rather than systemically (drinking fluoridated water and spread throughout the body). This could make swallowing fluoride unnecessary and potentially harmful, increasing the risk of dental and skeletal fluorosis especially in young children.
So where does this leave us?
Questioned research from the original fluoridation studies in the mid 19th century, potentially better dental health in non-fluoridated areas, increasingly mixed opinions between the medical orthodoxy and new research, continued support from U.S. and Canadian health agencies, and the likelihood that all of fluoride’s benefits could simply come from your Colgate or Crest rather than your kitchen tap.
Mind the paranoid hysteria and Orwellian politics online, but educate yourself. Even as a water nerd, there are some big flashing signs to seriously question business as usual. Get on your boots.
And some top Google Search results for your consideration:
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/environ/fluor-eng.php – Health Canada “Fluoride and Human Health” document
http://www.health.gov.on.ca/english/public/pub/ministry_reports/fluoridation/fluor.pdf – Benefits and Risks of Water Fluoridation. Please note the authors do not address topical vs systemic application of fluoride which can significantly impact its benefits and risks.
http://www.fluoride-journal.com/98-31-2/312103.htm – an article about New Zealand’s chief dental health official and why he changed his mind on water fluoridation
http://www.fluoridealert.org/50-reasons.htm – 50 reasons to oppose fluoride. At first I dismissed this “Fluoride Action Network”, but the list of researchers which are members of the network is compelling.
The United States Department of Energy estimates that the solar energy resource in a 100-square-mile (259-square-kilometer) area of Nevada could supply the United States with all its electricity.
We’re talking 800 gigawatts of power, and that’s using modestly efficient commercial PV modules. Break all that down and each state would only need to devote 17 x 17 miles (27 x 27 kilometers) of solar cells.
The estimated 5 million acres (2.02 million hectares) of abandoned industrial sites in the country on their own could supply 90 percent of U.S. electrical consumption.
- Plastic use increases, appearance in the environment decreases – [Economist]
- Correlation (not causation) with climate change and bee pollenation – [CBC]
- After loads of data, the verdict on Bisphenol-A is still out – [NYT]
- Opinion: If the world is going to hell, why are humans doing so well? – [Scientific American]
- Oilsands water toxins natural, monitor says – [CBC]
- Bjorn Lomborg – climate change is a problem after all - [New Scientist]
- $300 oil in a decade? – [Jim Harris National Post]
- Europe’s brisk energy transition – [NYT]
- Why you should be skeptical of food riots - [ChrisBlattman]
- At a dumpster diver’s feast in Brooklyn – [NYT]
- New technology needed to feed the world in 2050 – [CBC]
- Money can buy you happiness, up to $75,000 – [New Scientist]
- How pandhandlers spend money – [Star]
- Filling up prisons without fighting crime – [BoingBoing]
- What is it about 20 somethings and why are they taking so long to grow up? – [NYT]
Alright, budding cloudologists, here’s some fresh meat.
Asperatus clouds, the first cloud “discovery” since 1951. Thanks to Cloud Appreciation Society and Why Evolution is True.
- Learn more about the eco-fee – It’s not a tax, it’s run by an arms length organization, no money to government – [Globe]
- New rules threaten future of US wood waste biomass power industry – [NYTimes]
- Arid Australia turns to desalination plants for water supply, despite costs - environmentalists often seem to omit desalination from their brains when it comes to the “water crisis”- [NYTimes]
- NYC launches a large tap water promotion campaign – [NYTimes]
- How to make béarnaise sauce – Everyone has their own tricks w french sauces – [Globe]
- Take a (food) day trip to Beamsville – [TasteTO]
- Servers can now type in orders to the kitchen on their iPhones – [TorontoLife]
- David Lee from Nota Bené discusses ‘terroir’ for vegetables – [Globe]
- Linking the farmers to the foodies – [Globe]
- Learn more about your new DJ Governor General – I bet lots of Waterlooians have stories, I’ve had many solid interactions with him as a semi-official UW apologist (aka student ambassador) – [Globe]
- Learn more about why Harper deserves credit for making his Governor General search non-partisan – Canada 1 – [Globe]
- Don’t mess with the census, statisticians tell Tories – [Globe]
- The federal government is senseless on the census - [Globe ed.]
- Huffington Post’s advice to American jobless – move to Canada – [Globe]
- Tim Hudak cops out – [Globe]
- Kabul rocked by guitars – [Globe]
- The true cost of living in the city vs. the suburbs – [NYTimes]
- Wedding expenses that aren’t worth it – [NYTimes]
- The paradox of parenting – parents are less happy than non-married peers – [NYT Freakonomics Blog]
- Gen-Y’s tough choice between entrepreneurship and corporate world - [Globe]
- You can be too rich – [Globe]
- TTC Stations could get cell service – [CBC]
- City of Toronto makes an excellent road construction (interruption) map
- Bellevue Cafe – 3 guys who make crazy, disparate, but tasty sandwiches - [NOW]
- Susur Lee’s new Toronto restaurant - [Toronto Life]
- Toronto road tolls go from abhorrent to approved: how’d that happen? - [Toronto Life]
- Ideas for Toronto: Personal Rapid Transit – [Spacing]
- Laws of hurricane power discovered – [New Scientist]
- Mass transit encourages exercise and weight loss – [New Scientist aka Duh! Aficionado magazine]
- Prozac prawns, cocaine crabs, trace elements of drugs in our waste water - [New Scientist]
- Learn more about what’s
- Instant expert: general relativity – learrrrn Einstein. [New Scientist]
- Robb Fraley: Monsanto is a champion of healthy eating – [New Scientist]
- Check out the discovery wishlists of top scientists – [New Scientist]
- Why climate stumps even the brightest scientists – [New York Times]
- New desalination technique in Vancouver – a possibly massive step in solving global water issues – [Globe]
- There is no peak oil, but there is supply and demand – [Globe]
- The pros and cons of woody biomass – [NYT]
- The money gusher – The oil industry’s decommissioning costs will dwarf those of nuclear power. The money being made now should be put aside to meet them [George Monbiot]
- Intensive farming ‘massively slowed’ global warming – [New Scientist]
- Inside the temporary G20 detention centre – [blogTO]
- UW President David Johnston – Governor General rumours abound – [Globe]
- The pros and cons of a Liberal-NDP merger – [Globe]
- The ultimate southern Ontario cottage guide – [Toronto Life]
- The man behind MaRS – [Globe]
- City plans for two new soil recycling plants – [blogTO]
- 2010 Polaris Prize long list proves that Toronto is the best – [Torontoist]
- Car sharing in Toronto – a sluggish start – [Spacing]
- Has technology changed the experience of music? – [Atlantic]
- Music and speech share a code for communicating sadness in the minor third – [Scientific American]
- Interview with Sook-Yin Lee – [Torontoist]
Few but mighty this week.
- St. Lawrence Market North Building getting an amazing-looking re-design – [Spacing]
- Toronto’s transformation to Silicon Valley North – [Globe] – ummm…. Waterloo?
- More than half of Canadians support NDP-Liberal coalition, in some form – [Globe]
- Check out this year’s Top 40 under 40 – [Globe]
- How the private sector outsmarts regulators – [Newsweek]
- Margaret Atwood calls plan to close prison farms “dumb as a stump” – [Toronto Life]
- Toronto gets the swankiest 24hr diner ever in the new boutique NY-backed Thompson Hotel -
- We need to fix peer review now – [New Scientist]
- Wyoming coal plant illustrates potential and challenges of carbon capture and storage – [Scientific American]
- How livestock might revitalize degraded agricultural lands – [Scientific American]
- Night sight – our eyes scan the action in our dreams – [Scientific American]
- Gut bacteria may contribute to autism – [New Scientist]
- Walkerton led to Ontario water system cleanup – [CBC]
- Home cooking for sale – young unemployed foodies vie for precious booths at local markets to make a buck – [NYT]
- Produce in the fridge – at long last, learn what should go in your fridge, and what should stay in the dirty fruit bowl – [CHOW]
- The dangers in deli meat – let them eat steak – [Healthzone]
- Bottled water has high level of bacteria, researchers find – [Globe]
- Barbecued meat causes cancer, so learn to bbq healthy - it’s easy, just pair with some veg – [Toronto Life]
- John Tory heading back into the mayor race? – the Toronto media has been going nuts hoping John Tory enters the race. I would undoubtedly vote for this man. That may surprise the politically minded of you bunch, but he’s a pro-transit centrist conservative. He’s smart and he’s sensible and I really think he’d cut some of the city hall crazy – [Toronto Life]
- Torontoist’s guide to the G20 summit – [Torontoist]
- The Gulf oil spill superimposed on Southern Ontario – [blogTO]
- A carbon price as a nuclear incentive – [NYT]
- How many cancers are caused by the environment? – [Scientific American]
- Commuting statistics across Canada’s major cities – [Spacing]
- McMaster eyes world water problems – [Globe]
- World power = the English language – [Globe]
- We can’t afford to live in health care denial – [Globe Editorial]
- Plan B – skip college – [NYT]
- Buzz Hargrove: ‘Globalization is largely a fraud’ – [Globe]
- Wind turbine link to ill health lacks proof: report – [CBC]
- Synthetic bacteria genome takes over cell – Craig Venter goes nutbars – [NYT]
- Music listeners like harmony’s math – [Scientific American]
- Mining garbage for tomorrow’s metals – [New Scientist]
- The taste of tiny: putting nanofoods on the menu – [New Scientist]
- Eat bacteria to boost brain power – [New Scientist]
- Tacit knowledge – you don’t know how much you know – [New Scientist]
- ‘Light from sound’ could spot cancers and terrorists – [New Scientist]
- Magnetic Hill mystery solved? – [Globe]
I’ve decided my links are the best on this side of Somerset. Happy reading.
- Banksy comes to Toronto, people deface his loveliness – [Torontoist]
- Toronto the good? Try great – [Globe]
- Markham votes to build over “best farmland in Canada” – [Toronto Life]
- Bixi Toronto bike sharing program starts May 2011 – [National Post]
- TTC wants you to meet your new ride – [Spacing]
- Turning the Gardiner Expressway into a park – an idea becomes safe for Toronto when New York does it first – [Toronto Life]
- Richard Florida – 10 things I can’t live without – [Toronto Life]
- U.S. Climate bill arrives in Senate – cap and trade by 2025. Yay? – [Scientific American]
- Securing the smart grid – [Scientific American]
- Google’s energy foray: what’s up? – [New York Times]
- Cactus gum could make clean water cheap for millions – [New Scientist]
- What are dark matter and dark energy? – [HowStuffWorks]
- Southpaws – the evolution of handedness – [New Scientist]
- Water ice found on the surface of an asteroid for the first time – [Scientific American]
- CBC execs head to L.A. to poach Canadian writers – [Toronto Life]
- Watch Conan’s visit to Google Headquarters – [Gizmodo]
- The Guardian profiles Brian Eno – [Guardian]
- Liberals, Tories agree: MP expenses aren’t for the public to see – [Toronto Life]
- All the Obama 20-somethings – [New York Times]
- Electoral dysfunction: why democracy is always unfair – [New Scientist]
- Mark McEwan tapped to be head judge of Top Chef Canada – [Toronto Life]
- The rebirth of booze – [Toronto Life]