Tuesday, May 22, 2018

You want MY vote?

( a bit of a ramble - but follow the threads…)

There is an election underway in Ontario.
I strongly believe that a Citizen has Responsibility. One Duty is to exercise ‘the Right to Franchise’ - to make careful consideration, and vote wisely. This requires some research by the Citizen, some effort in actually attending to cast a ballot. 
The ideal would be supporting an individual candidate who could be depended on to accurately represent the overall wishes of the combined constituents who had elected that individual. Of course, within a Democracy, this means representing the majority view.
With the increasing dominance of a rigid ‘party’ system here in Canada, what actually happens is any candidate is constrained from actually representing the aggregate viewpoint of the riding population, but instead is virtually forced into expressing the platform view of the Party they are associated with. (1)

Now the modern world is considerably more complex today. Clearly gone are the days of ‘single issue’ candidates (if such even realistically ever existed). Obviously, any individual voter will end up having to prioritize their own personal opinions, against the many issues under consideration at a given election date.
Economy? Taxation? Environment? Education? Healthcare? Social Policy?
And especially, in the current Ontario Election - Leadership? (2)

This all a consideration that backgrounds the following:

I had reported on this blog earlier that I personally consider the looming Environmental Crisis of extreme importance. (3)
I personally consume fossil fuels (coal and propane) in my daily operations as an Artisan Blacksmith. The nature of my museum and education work involves considerable travel (so gasoline and aviation fuel).
(7/7/2008) Carbon and the Forge
(12/4/2015) Carbon Loading
(3/8/2018) Carbon Loading at Wareham https://warehamforgeblog.blogspot.ca/2018/03/carbon-loading-at-wareham.html

Given my own personal interest in environmental impact (and the related feeling of responsibility), I had made several attempts to question the major Canadian political Parties related *specifically* about Carbon Tax.
Again reported on an earlier blog post:
(3/12/2018) Don’t Call Us… 

As (more) background :
An initial open letter was send (via e-mail) to both Federal and Provincial levels of the four main Parties (Liberal / PC / NDP / Green) on February 26, 2018. Other than an 'auto reply' responses (ie: 'Thank you for your inquiry') back that same day from: National NDP / Ontario NDP / Ontario PC - there was no actual answer supplied.
The Ontario election is now formally underway (writ May 9 / vote June 7). I sent an additional copy out on May 15, one to the each of four Ontario Party offices, additionally to the four individual candidates listed for my own riding (Grey-Bruce).

The initial response to this was to start getting ‘junk’ mail notices from the Ontario Green Party (starting the following day).
On May 20, I received a reply from Karen Gventer, my local NDP candidate:

The real issues to do with carbon are from the large-scale use, such as larger factories and our dependence on gas-operated cars.  If all we had were artisan uses of fossil fuels, we wouldn't have such a big problem.

The Ontario NDP would keep the cap-and-trade system, but would dedicate at least 25% of the revenues to support communities and individuals with disproportionate burdens (such as rural Ontarians).

We don't have anything in our platform that indicates a higher carbon tax. My understanding is that such a tax would have to be through the roof to actually make a difference in people's habits - which is unfair when alternatives are not readily available. The NDP is founded on principles of fairness, so if any carbon tax were investigated in the future, it would only be implemented along with the ability to for people to make affordable, alternative choices.

We definitely need to make a significant change in our greenhouse gas emissions, as a society. However, we also need to keep in mind "Just Transition" - which to ensure that we are not harming the most vulnerable people during our change.

I don't think I specifically answered your question, but that is because I don't have a specific answer. Please feel free to email me again if you would like clarification or have further questions.

Karen Gventer
NDP Candidate, 2018 Provincial Election
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
226-664-2990 (Campaign Office)

(from personal e-mail, 5/20 & 5/21/2018 : quoted with kind permission)

A) The election would have been 18 days away. At point of writing, now 16 days.
Not one of the other 7 other e-mail letters have yet to be replied to.

B) Monday May 20. Victoria Day holiday. Normally a day that might have been spent with family (traditionally). I consider this ‘working overtime’.

C) Obviously a personal reply - NOT an ‘auto reply’.
Karen obviously read the entire (long) original letter I sent.
Further, Karen has specifically attempted to address my two, quite specific, questions, referring to the highly individual framework I presented.

D) I had sent a return to Karen’s first reply, asking permission to quote her reply with a commentary I was intending to reply. She responded to that second message promptly, asking for a slight addition / clarification - as quoted above (which did not change the message, just improved the context).

E) I note quite specifically that Karen is willing to freely admit to the limit of her knowledge. And goes further to offer further, personal, communications to better attempt to provide the best information she can.

So - I have to ask : Who is it that really wants my vote - and is willing to work for it?

Thanks Karen.
I think this alone might make my own personal choice with my individual vote clearer.

1) This was not always the case. Within my own lifetime of voting, I have seen the dramatic shift from ‘represent the population’ to ‘represent the Party’. My own first vote would have been the Canadian Federal election of 1974.

2) In the current Ontario election, I personally consider the personal character of the individual Party Leaders of critical importance.
For the sake of this commentary, I am specifically addressing (or even mentioning) the individual Leaders.

3) At this point, it is clearly impossible not to see the huge changes in the Earth’s climate. That human activity is responsible is also not realistically to be denied. I have been personally involved in levels of ‘environmental activism’ since I was in high school in the early 1970’s. The concern then was primarily pollution - water and air, and the impact of accumulating garbage. It was clearly obvious to many willing to observe, that human activity was impacting the environment of the planet.
Given my own birth date, I personally am unlikely to remain alive long enough to personnaly experience the worst effects of the current climate changes.
I do believe much of this climate shift has been caused by the actions of my own generation group (Baby Boomers) who have  been *knowingly blind*, and self absorbed, and self indulgent.
We most certainly DID know.
We most certainly did LITTLE.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


This years contribution to the Elora Sculpture Project, Legacy, has been installed.

Original Design
Initial Installation - view to NW
This first image shows how the sculpture appeared just after Kelly Probyn-Smith and I completed installing the metal pyramid framework, and attaching all the bottles - Friday May 4.
The location is at the SW end of the main bridge in Elora, across from the LCBO. (This location is where a number of my earlier contributions have been mounted.)

The completed (mark 1 version) sculpture used over 160 disposable water bottles. The gathering process, and observations from that, would influence the selection and attachment. (This described in some detail in an early commentary - 'Water, Water, Everywhere...)

1) 25 % of the bottles used were from Nestle 'Pure Life' brand.
These proved easy to spot, as Nestle uses a distinctive bottle shape, with a slight pinching in the centre. Of the bottles gathered, Nestle made a clear 25% of the total as well. One face of the pyramid was covered with just this type. This face is the one that faces the main viewing angle - towards the sidewalk (right side in the image above).

2) The remaining 75 % / three sides are covered with bottles that were found to be all from the Feversham source. Again this bottle shape proved distinctive (a corrugated cylinder).

3) Off all the bottles collected, only three were found of the 'Ice River Green' brand (also from Feversham). These were placed at the apex of those three faces of the pyramid.

There were a few more bottles collected than needed to fill the framework.
About three times as many.

Friday, May 4? Remember that massive wind storm?
Plastic bags full of almost weightless plastic bottles?
We ended up, several times, chasing bottles downwind, across the road and down the embankment at the base of the bridge.

While gathering up our wayward bottles, we found a few more strewn as garbage.
A good dozen.
Over an area about twice the size of our living room at Wareham.
One, Nestle brand, was still full, with the cap still sealed, when it was tossed.

Kelly's initial suggestion was to string up lines of the remaining bottles and loop them into the inside of the pyramid. (We had lots more, remember!)
I took the two aspects experienced above, and instead made up a total of six more long strings.
These were tied into the top, inside of the pyramid, but left to run free along the ground at the base. The length was random, but none can extend more than about 18 inches beyond the lower base diameter. (So none long enough to actually trail outwards on to the sidewalk.)
This will both 'fill' the inside of the pyramid, but also create a kind of visual 'mess' around the base of the sculpture :
Modified - view to SE

Modified - view towards NW
This also provides a motion dynamic to the sculpture.
The bottles hanging inside twist and turn with even a slight breeze.
More wind will push the longer strung lines around, shifting their overall position over time. Likely over the installation, these will become a bit of tangled mess, but again this contributes, rather than detracts, to the overall concept.

As it turns out, this also adds a sonic aspect to the piece, again as the strung bottles shift and knock against each other. 

I also liked the new format for the label plaque:

'Amy Corner & Burke Maidlow' - listed as sponsors

So - out of a little adversity can come Inspiration.
I think the final version is a stronger statement than the original concept.

The Elora Sculpture Project includes a total of a dozen individual works, set onto fixed bases around downtown. Individual artists / designs were chosen by competition. The contributing artists *loan* these works for the period of the ESP, May through end of October (although some may be offered for sale by the artists).
The concept has been picked up by nearby Fergus, and starting this year, Haliburton.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Water, Water, everywhere...

...But from where is it you drink?

Related to this year's Elora Sculpture Project contribution : 'Legacy'

Design Rough
For a fuller description of Legacy, see an earlier blog post.

As you can see above, Legacy consists of a light metal framework, shaped in a pyramid, with plastic water bottles attached over the outside.
Quite a few bottles as it turns out.
About 200.

Thanks to my local dump, I was allowed to pull clear plastic 500 ml bottles out of those deposited into the recycle bins. It took a number of weekly trips to accumulate enough.
Thanks also goes to Vandy Simpson, who gathered water bottles from the re-cycle at Theatre Orangeville.

The ideal to back up the original concept for Legacy would have been to gather all the bottles as trash. As you might guess, the large number needed over the relatively short time frame for the creation of the piece made this unlikely.

As it turned out, there was some interesting cultural indications that came out of my collection method:
1) 'Disposable' water bottles were most commonly found collected up with other re-cycleables inside those blue transparent bags. (rather than found loose, which would have been collected in a 'blue box'.
This shows something about the mind set of those most likely to either purchase or at least collect up, water bottles.
2) Almost without exception, any bag that had water bottles, had a dozen or more water bottles.
This indicates that those who purchased / collected water bottles bought them in case lots as regular practice.
3) Most commonly, those bags holding water bottles also held a considerable collection of either wine or craft beer bottles / cans.
This interesting because those individuals may have undertaking re-cycling, but not bothered with the more effective 'return for deposit' method on alcohol containers (long in force in Ontario!).

I had always intended to pull off the individual maker's labels from the bottles to be attached to the sculpture. As it turns out, Nestle uses a distinctive bottle shape, so even just as the clear plastic, it is easy to tell which are from that company - so also the water well source. Remember that Elora resident concern about Nestle's planned expansion with increased local extraction is part of the point to Legacy.

Just where did all those bottles, and more importantly the water contained in them, come from?
One of the problems is that most company brands are very cagey about exactly where the actual well pipe is physically located.

Of the roughly 250 bottles I have gathered, here are some indications:

In terms of raw numbers, the largest number were 'Real Canadian' followed by 'Compliments' and 'Great Value'.

'President's Choice' (two different labels), and 'Real Canadian' are both brands for Loblaw's.
'Compliments' is the brand for Sobeys.
'Great Value' is the brand for Walmart

All of the above indicate 'Feversham' as the source location.
The 'Selection' brand, of which there were a smaller sample, lists 'Grey Highlands' - which is where Feversham is physically located.
'Ice River Green' is one of the actual house brands for the Ice River Springs operation. Out of the roughly 250 bottles collected, these accounted for only three.
However : fully 75% of the bottles collected indicate 'Feversham' as the source. This is the Ice River Springs extraction / bottling operation. *

I made a brief and casual survey by a few friends located around Ontario. It appears that in their local stores, those same brands all still give Feversham as the source. 

Nestle's 'Pure Life' made up roughly 25% of the total.
The source is given as 'Aberfoyle'
The small sample of the 'Kirkland' brand (from Costco) is given as 'Wellington County'.
Note that Aberfoyle is in Wellington County

I've included 'Aquafina', although there were only a very small number of these - and all were included in the same bag of recycles.
I consider this almost amusing, since if you read the source information on that label, you find 'Aquafina' is actually municipal *tap water* that has been additionally filtered. 

The original intention of 'Legacy' is to illustrate the extreme longevity of plastic bottles in the environment. Those bottles so casually purchased - and thoughtlessly tossed away - will endure for 400 - 500 years.
This is longer than European settlement in North America.

Clearly however, just as an important a consideration is the actual water those bottles contained - the reason for their existence, at all.

The overall environmental impact - and cultural implications, of the 'fad' of bottled water, even a concept of 'needed water consumption', in current Ontario is almost staggering.

* 1) A look through the Ice River Springs web site contains much information about their use of re-cycled plastics.
I could find nothing at all about what volume of water they actually extract.
2) The extraction / bottling plant is located roughly 7.5 km from my home at Wareham. 
3) This summery was included on my original blog posting describing 'Legacy'
When the Ice River Springs industrial bottling plant was put into operations at near by Feversham in 2002, I started having heavy levels of clay silt in my own well water. A filled glass coffee pot, if left for 10 minutes, would have a deposit settle out which completely covered the bottom. This problem persisted for about six months. I have a deep well (about 150 - 175 feet), so drawing water out of the limestone of the Niagara Escarpment. This is well below a thick red clay layer about 20 - 30 feet thick laying about 30 feet down here. That effectively seals that ancient water from any surface effects (contamination) - or modern replacement of the aquifer. 
It is illustrative that on the Ice River Springs web site - there is no mention of exactly how much of this ancient water is being pulled out, bottled, and shipped away to consumers.

February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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