From our inbox to you from David Suzuki Foundation on: Black Earth:

Dark earth could herald a bright future for agriculture and climate

hands in rich soil

(Credit: Eden Graham via Flickr)


Feeding more than seven billion people with minimal environmental and climate impacts is no small feat. That parts of the world are plagued by obesity while starvation is rampant elsewhere shows part of the problem revolves around distribution and social equity. But agricultural methods pose some of the biggest challenges.

Over the past half century, the world has moved increasingly to industrial agriculture— attempting to maximize efficiency through massive, often inhumane livestock operations; turning huge swaths of land over to monocrops requiring liberal use of fertilizers, pesticides and genetic modification; and reliance on fossil fuel-consuming machinery and underpaid migrant workers. This has contributed to increased greenhouse gas emissions; loss of forests and wetlands that prevent climate change by storing carbon; pollution from runoff and pesticides; antibiotic and pesticide resistance; reduced biodiversity; and soil degradation, erosion and loss.

The “solution” offered by many experts is to double down on industrial agriculture and genetic modification. But doing so ignores how natural systems function and interact and assumes we can do better. History shows such hubris often leads to unexpected negative results. Others are attempting to understand how to work within nature’s systems, using agroecological methods.

One promising development is the renewed interest in a soil-building method from the distant past called “dark earth” or “terra preta,” which involves mixing biochar with organic materials to create humus-rich soil that stores large amounts of carbon. In the book Terra Preta: How the World’s Most Fertile Soil Can Help Reverse Climate Change and Reduce World Hunger, Ute Scheub and co-authors claim increasing the humus content of soils worldwide by 10 per cent within the next 50 years could reduce atmospheric CO2 concentrations to pre-industrial levels.

Dark earth’s benefit to climate is just one of its many exciting possibilities. It also enhances soils so they produce higher yields, helps retain water and prevents erosion. It’s more alive with biodiverse micro-organisms, making it easier for crops to adapt to changing conditions. And it’s a good way to recycle nutrient-rich food scraps, plants wastes and even human and animal urine and feces, rather than allowing them to pollute soil, water and air through burning and runoff.

Biochar is a form of charcoal made via pyrolysis — heating organic wastes in a low-oxygen environment. According to Scheub, “If you pyrolyze organic wastes, up to 50 percent of the carbon, which plants have extracted from the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide, is converted into highly stable carbon, which can persist in soils for thousands of years.” As well as carbon, biochar retains nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous, and because it’s porous, adding it to soils and compost helps them store nutrients and water.

Western scientists first studied terra preta in 1874 when Canadian-born Cornell University professor Charles Hartt and his team found patches of dark, fertile soils, several metres deep, along parts of South America’s Amazon River where earth is normally low in nutrients and organic matter. Later archeological research determined the soils were created by human communities up to 5,000 years ago.

Scientists have since shed more light on the technique. Because the ancient practice is still employed in Liberia and Ghana, Africa, scientists from Sussex, Cornell and other universities were recently able to compare dark earth to soils nearby where the technique isn’t used. They found dark earth contained 200 to 300 per cent more organic carbon and can support “far more intensive farming.”

Cornell University lead author Dawit Solomon was surprised that “isolated indigenous communities living far apart in distance and time” achieved similar results unknown to modern agriculturalists. “This valuable strategy to improve soil fertility while also contributing to climate-change mitigation and adaptation in Africa could become an important component of the global climate-smart agricultural management strategy to achieve food security,” he said.

Scheub and her co-authors say the technique can be used on any scale, from home and community gardens to large farms. Terra Preta includes instructions for creating biochar and enhanced soils, but cautions that organic wastes should be used rather than valuable forest products.

Dark earth won’t solve all our climate problems, but combined with reducing fossil fuel use, it could make a huge difference while addressing many agriculture, food security and hunger issues.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

SGC Admin: From our inbox to you from: David Suzuki Foundation on; “Geothermal: Tapping Earth’s abundant energy”

Geothermal: Tapping Earth’s abundant energy

Geothermal borehole house

(Credit: Lydur Skulason via Flickr).

In the midst of controversy over B.C.’s Peace River Site C dam project, the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association released a study showing the province could get the same amount of energy more affordably from geothermal sources for about half the construction costs. Unlike Site C, geothermal wouldn’t require massive transmission upgrades, would be less environmentally disruptive and would create more jobs throughout the province rather than just in one area.

Despite the many benefits of geothermal, Canada is the only “Pacific Ring of Fire” country that doesn’t use it for commercial-scale energy. According to Desmog Blog, “New Zealand, Indonesia, the Philippines, the United States and Mexico all have commercial geothermal plants.” Iceland heats up to 90 per cent of its homes, and supplies 25 per cent of its electricity, with geothermal.

Geothermal energy is generated by heat from Earth’s rocks, liquids and steam. It can come from shallow ground, where the temperature is a steady 10 to 16 C, hot water and rocks deeper in the ground, or possibly very hot molten rock (magma) deep below Earth’s surface. As with clean-energy sources like solar, geothermal energy systems vary, from those that use hot water from the ground directly to heat buildings, greenhouses and water, to those that pump underground hot water or steam to drive turbines. The David Suzuki Foundation’s Vancouver and Montreal offices use geothermal.

According to National Geographic, geothermal power plants use three methods to produce electricity: dry steam, flash steam and binary cycle. Dry steam uses steam from fractures in the ground. “Flash plants pull deep, high-pressure hot water into cooler, low-pressure water,” which creates steam. In binary plants, which produce no greenhouse gas emissions and will likely become dominant, “hot water is passed by a secondary fluid with a much lower boiling point,” which turns the secondary fluid into vapour.

Unlike wind and solar, geothermal provides steady energy and can serve as a more cost-effective and less environmentally damaging form of baseload power than fossil fuels or nuclear. It’s not entirely without environmental impacts, but most are minor and can be overcome with good planning and siting. Geothermal fluids can contain gases and heavy metals, but most new systems recycle them back into the ground. Operations should also be located to avoid mixing geothermal liquids with groundwater and to eliminate impacts on nearby natural features like hot springs. Some geothermal plants can produce small amounts of CO2, but binary systems are emissions-free. In some cases, resources that provide heat can become depleted over time.Although geothermal potential has been constrained by the need to locate operations in areas with high volcanic activity, geysers or hot springs, new developments are making it more widely viable. One controversial method being tested is similar to “fracking” for oil and gas. Water is injected into a well with enough pressure to break rock and release heat to produce hot water and steam to generate power through a turbine or binary system.

Researchers have also been studying urban “heat islands” as sources of geothermal energy. Urban areas are warmer than their rural surroundings, both above and below ground, because of the effects of buildings, basements and sewage and water systems. Geothermal pumps could make the underground energy available to heat buildings in winter and cool them in summer.

New methods of getting energy from the ground could also give geothermal a boost. Entrepreneur Manoj Bhargava is working with researchers to bring heat to the surface using graphene cords rather than steam or hot water. Graphene is stronger than steel and conducts heat well. Bhargava says the technology would be simple to develop and could be integrated with existing power grids.

Unfortunately, geothermal hasn’t received the same level of government support as other sources of energy, including fossil fuels and nuclear. That’s partly because upfront costs are high and, as with oil and gas exploration, geothermal sources aren’t always located where developers hope they’ll be. As Desmog notes, resources are often found in areas that already have access to inexpensive hydro power.

Rapid advancements in renewable-energy and power-grid technologies could put the world on track to a mix of clean sources fairly quickly — which is absolutely necessary to curtail global warming. Geothermal energy should be part of that mix.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Dayle’s Switch to a Vegan Diet… come share the journey… :)

SGC Admin: Dayle Lovely, (yes that is her name) 🙂 and she is a very lovely person inside and out … is a long time follower and supporter of SGC, having been a part of the SGC family from the get go, we are so happy to share Dayle’s present journey with you, our readers… 🙂
Dayle, was recently diagnosed with Arthritis, she is a young, vibrant woman, devoted wife and outstanding mum so the news wasn’t very welcome 😦  At first Dayle took the “regular” route of prescribed medication from her doctor to help alleviate the pain so she could move about her day with relative ease. However, after doing her own research and with the guidance of a family member who “suffers” with the same affliction, Dayle decided to change-up her diet.
“We are what we eat” is how the saying goes, which makes sense, seeing as what we eat repairs and builds our cells, muscle, tissue and bone…. and it also makes sense that sometimes, the food we are ingesting can have a negative impact on the whole of our body, (such as in the spread of Cancerous cells) or on specific parts of our bodily makeup.. (such as the make up our blood cells, our muscle strength and bones).
When arthritis attacks the body, it attacks the joint bones and the surrounding tissue… over time the joints become painful and swollen making movement a challenge and sometimes impossible. Arthritis takes away the strength in the affected area’s (such as the gripping motion used to pick up or hold things), along with making the person tired, it causes frustrations and interrupts the regular daily flow of the “victims” life.
Due to her research and her aunt’s guidance, Dayle has embarked upon a “Whole food plant-based diet”… Giving up the meat wasn’t an issue for Dayle, but the other animal products such as cream, eggs and cheese presented another challenge…..
We thought Dayle’s journey may be interesting and helpful for any other folks out there thinking of giving this diet a try, and we asked Dayle if she would share her journey with SGC 🙂 We are happy to report that she is more than happy to share to help others…

Please feel free to comment with your own experiences and to share your own favorite “Whole food, plant-based” recipes in the comments section or send us an email to:


We introduce to you ..

Dayle’s Vegan Journey… 🙂 1st post: April 28 2016

This is the first lunch recipe shared by Dayle with our readers… it is early on in the switch, so as of yet there aren’t    any physical (joint condition and energy levels) changes to report…

 A few people have been wondering what I eat on a whole food, plant-based diet. Here’s today’s lunch.

  • humus,
  • Avocado,
  • Baby spinach,
  • Cilantro,
  • Kale
  • Cucumber
  • on whole grain bread, done Panini style.

I don’t have a Panini pan, so I just used a frying pan, no oil or butter, and toasted the bread with a 5 lb weight on a smaller pan to press it down. (Who knew I could use my weights in the kitchen?!).

The heat makes the humus all melty, giving it a melted cheese consistency. I’ve paired with some cherry tomatoes and baby carrots. I’m still feeling a little peckish, so I’ll follow it up with a couple clementines. That will fill me up nicely.

Prep and cooking time:

It took me about 5 minutes to make this, including the time in the pan. It was delicious!

Dayle… 🙂

Dayles Vegan Diet
copyright: Dale Lovely Photo’s
Disclaimer: SGC staff & Dayle Lovely are not responsible for any outcome regarding this diet or recipes given. SGC blog readers are encouraged to do their own research and/or contact their own health care provider regarding any drastic or long term changes to their present diets.

From our inbox to you from: Blue Dot Movement on Nova Scotia Introduces Environmental bill of rights…


recycling sign with images of nature - eco concept Stock Photo - 7132060 Copyright : Vladimir Voronin

Nova Scotia leads with an environmental bill of rights. Help spread the word!


Hi 🙂
Last Thursday, Nova Scotia took a historic step toward greater environmental rights in Canada — and we couldn’t be prouder of our supporters in Nova Scotia.
A member of the Nova Scotia legislature introduced Bill 178 — an environmental bill of rights — which we hope will recognize the right of all Nova Scotians to clean air and water, safe food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their health and well-being.
We want to see the bill become law, so let’s rally behind the thousands of supporters in Nova Scotia who have paved the way for this legislation to be introduced.
Help give our supporters in Nova Scotia the boost they need. Share this news with your friends on Facebook:
Nova Scotia environmental bill of rights

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Nova Scotia’s proposed environmental bill of rights is evidence of the incredible groundswell of support for environmental rights, which has ignited a movement throughout the country.
But the hard work isn’t over yet.
Thursday’s exciting announcement in Nova Scotia comes on the heels of an Environmental Rights Act introduced in Manitoba in March. However, that legislation did not become law before the province’s April election.
That’s why it’s critical for us to come together to support Nova Scotia’s environmental bill of rights. Together, we can convince the government to enact strong legislation to protect the right to a healthy environment, and compel other provinces — and our federal government — to follow.
Alaya Boisvert
Manager, Blue Dot Government and Partner RelationsThe David Suzuki Foundation and Ecojustice are partners in the Blue Dot movement, a national grassroots campaign to advance the legal protection of all Canadians’ right to live in a healthy environment.
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From our inbox to you From: The David Suzuki Foundation on: “Tell us your Climate Solutions”

SGC Admin: Happy Earth Day Folks… there are so many ways to help clean up and keep our environment healthy… The David Suzuki Foundation wants your input… 🙂 You may also like to check out the following link on Top 10 ways you can stop climate change

Typographic design poster for Earth Day Stock Vector - 27419500 Copyright : IvetaAleksandrovaAngelova


Tell us your climate solutions

Dear DSF Community,

With an international agreement on climate action and so many new opportunities arising in Canada at the federal level, change is in the air.

At the David Suzuki Foundation, we’re evaluating where we can have the most impact.

Since the success of our work relies on you — to make your lifestyle more sustainable, to influence decision-makers and to organize in your communities — we want to know what would most inspire you.

Tell us your climate solutions

We’re considering focusing on better transit, renewable energy or electric vehicles — or something else you recommend. Of course, all these things (and more) are necessary for a stable climate and a more secure future for all of us. But if we focus, we can have more impact.

Yes — I’ll give my opinion on climate solutions!

We’re curious to know what you think — and grateful for your time and continued support.


Reilly Yeo, Director of Communications and Public Engagement
David Suzuki Foundation


The Town of Whitby Celebrates Earth Week 2016..

When will it grow? Curious little boy helping his father to plant the tree while working together in the garden Stock Photo - 45234716 Copyright : gstockstudio

Pitch in Brooklin:

  • Date: Saturday April 23 2016:
  • Time: 9:00 am to 11:00 am

Location: Join your neighbours at every park in Brooklin to help clean up your parks for the 10th annual Pitch-In-Brooklin: 

Down Town Whitby Spring Clean-up: 

  • Date: April 23 2016:
  • Time: 10:00 am to Noon
  • Join in with everyone at the Old Fire Hall, 201 Brock Street South, Supplies are available.

Project Property Sweep: 

  • Date(s): April 22-25
  • Help Keep your town clean and green… help your neighbours clean up your local parks and property: Supplies available.. Find information on proper sorting and disposal here:

Whitby Scout Tree Planting:

  • Date: April 30
  • Time: 9:00 am to 11:00 pm
  • Location: Cullen Central Park, 300 Taunton Rd. W. Whitby
  • Come on out and help clean up the planting area so these guys can plant some cedar and pine trees. 

Whitby In Bloom School Program:

  • Date: April 18 to April 22: 9:00 am to 3:00 pm:

This program, initiated by Whitby In Bloom, invites students to clean up their school yard. Students are also encouraged to participate in other activities such as litter-less lunch, school material recycling or book/toy swaps. Participating Schools receive Earth Day Certificates as well as environmentally themed book for their libraries to recognize their efforts. 

Please contact: 905 430 4303 ext 7415 or email with your questions and suggestions.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and willingness to help our communities stay clean… 🙂 

Earth Day April 22 2016 Events: 

April Showers bring May flowers: 

  • Location: Brooklin Community Centre and Library
  • Time: 11:30 am to 12:30 pm
  • What’s There: Craft for children 30 months to 5 years. Free Supplies
  • To Register:

Free Lights Out Glow Stick Party: 

  • Location: Brooklin Youth Room
  • Time: 6:00 – 7:00 pm 
  • What’s it about: Whitby youth 12-18 years are invited to a lights out glow stick party

Free Yoga in the Park: 

  • Location: Whitby Civic Recreation Complex
  • Time: 7:30 pm to 8:30 pm
  • Registration: Not required
  • Age limit: None, this even is open to all ages
  • Note: This is an outdoor event and will proceed “rain or shine” 🙂

source: Whitby This Week: April 14 2016 Edition.

From our inbox to you, from The David Suzuki Foundation on “Cap and Trade”(Re: emissions)

SGC Admin: We were happy to see this article regarding the proposed “cap and trade” coming to Ontario in 2017. We, like many folk didn’t really understand what “cap and trade” meant, and how it’s implementation is supposed to assist in reducing the negative impacts our present way of life has on climate change.

David Suzuki’s explanation is clear and easy to understand… (unlike the gobble gabble we get from our politicians), and helps the SGC team to see the possible positive affects of such a system. However, we remain adamant in our belief that adding more tax on at the gas pump is not necessary and smacks of an easy tax grab. Until cars are produced that run on alternative energy sources, (such as electric and water) are affordable for the general public, charging/refilling stations are conveniently in place, along with affordable and reliable transit; the public’s choices of transportation are limited. In this respect, the general public should not be subjected to another tax.

Please feel free to add your comments… 🙂 

Will cap-and-trade slow climate change?

The principle that polluters should pay for the waste they create has led many experts to urge governments to put a price on carbon emissions. One method is the sometimes controversial cap-and-trade. Quebec, California and the European Union have already adopted cap-and-trade, andOntario will join Quebec and California’s system in January 2017. But is it a good way to address climate change?

The program sets an overall limit — a cap — on the amount of greenhouse gas emissions a province can emit. It then tells polluters, such as heavy industry and electricity generators, how many tonnes of carbon each can release. For every tonne, polluters need a permit or “allowance.” So, if a company’s annual limit is 25,000 tonnes, it would require 25,000 allowances. If a company exceeds its limit, it can purchase additional allowances from another firm that, because of its greater efficiency, has more allowances than it needs. This is the “trade” part of the equation.

Although an individual company can exceed its greenhouse gas limit by purchasing credits, the province as a whole can’t. The overall limit is reduced every year, so if the law is followed, cap-and-trade guarantees annual emissions reductions. The declining cap is the system’s great strength and the way it protects the environment.

How effective is it? Although the answer isn’t straightforward, there’s evidence cap-and-trade played a key role in reducing acid rain in the United States. The 1990 Clean Air Act allowed power plants to buy and sell the right to emit sulphur dioxide. Since then, U.S. sulphur dioxide concentrations have gone down by more than 75 per cent. As Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times, “Acid rain did not disappear as a problem, but it was significantly mitigated.”

Despite this and other successes, some experts are skeptical, arguing that cap-and-trade amounts to little more than a cash grab by government, a tax in everything but name. Others say it’s a mistake to expect climate change can be addressed through markets, when the problem actually requires changing our entire approach to economics, with a commitment to a steady-state economy and an end to the commodification of nature.

Some experts have also noted that the emissions reductions it brings are often modest. A2015 paper in Canadian Public Policy claimed Quebec’s system “is still too weak to meaningfully address the environmental imperatives as outlined in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2014 Fifth Assessment Synthesis Report, in which fully eliminating carbon emissions is the benchmark for long-term policy goals.” From 2013 to 2014, California’s allowance cap went from 162.8 to 159.7 megatonnes, a drop of less than two per cent.

Ontario’s proposed legislation indicates its program will have some great strengths and a number of shortcomings. It will likely have wide coverage, applying limits on most of the province’s emissions, including those from transportation fuels. (California’s system did not initially include these fuels.)

Ontario is expected to reduce emissions by over four per cent a year — about twice the initial rate of California — and generate $1.9 billion annually from the plan. That money will be invested in “green” projects throughout the province with the goal of reducing carbon emissions even further.

Ontario’s proposal to give away many allowances to big emitters is less encouraging. The government says it will eventually phase out this free disbursement, but in the meantime millions of dollars in government revenue that could be used to support renewable energy and public transit will be lost.

To keep the bulk of fossil fuels in the ground — as scientific evidence says we must — we need a variety of strategies. Cap-and-trade helps reduce emissions and generates billions of dollars for other strategies to address climate change. It also embodies the polluter pays principle. But it’s not enough on its own.

The David Suzuki Foundation and others have long argued that provinces and the federal government should put a price on carbon, through carbon taxes, cap-and-trade or a combination of both. The urgent need to address global warming means provinces that have adopted cap-and-trade need to strengthen it by ensuring emissions drop faster and polluters pay a price that truly reflects the damage caused by carbon pollution.

Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Climate Change and Transportation Policy Analyst Gideon Forman.

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