This is why we study history…

Actually, it’s an even better example of why interdisciplinary studies is so essential – a nexus of history, geography, geology, history and chemistry. Perhaps ‘archeaogeochemistry’.

From the World Economic Forum:

Now, Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, may have something to say about it but, either way, this article and its revelations highlight the necessity of teaching history.

I always introduce history to my Grade 7s with, amongst others, the variation on George Santayana‘s quote, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” (The original is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)

Sadly, our current society is the product of many failed learnings and memories. But there is still hope…


Plastics, Grocery Stores and Farmers’ Markets – Argggghhh, don’t get me started…

The trigger for this blog post was a recent CBC Marketplace episode about how Canadian grocery stores can reduce or eliminate plastics by adopting the methods and means of a UK grocery store:

We really MUST begin eliminating single-use disposable plastics from our daily routines. If there is one product of the industrial era (besides fossil fuels themselves) that can be targeted to help clean up Earth, it’s plastic. When I look at my family’s ‘garbage’ bin – the stuff that is not compostable nor recyclable – at least 90% is composed of single-use disposable plastic: bread bags, cereal bags, cheese wrappers, milk bags (yes, I’m in Stone Age Ontario!).

There is no escaping it – or is there.

We have all been bombarded with the problem and are continuously reminded we need to do something. Unfortunately, we as individuals, are somewhat limited in our choices to effect real change without having business and industry on-side as well.

With grocery stores having moved almost entirely to plastic-wrapped everything, we are somewhat handcuffed in our choices. Yes, we could shop at farmers markets, but there are limitations there that don’t really make them the best choice from a carbon footprint perspective.

But our grocery stores could be doing a lot more to combat our love affair with plastics, as proven by an Amsterdam store that is moving towards ‘plastic-free’ shopping:

…and a UK store – the one discussed in the CBC Marketplace piece – that has gone (completely?) plastic-free:

However, it is important to note that all is not rosy in the plastic-free zone, as many bio-degradable plastics are not the green alternative they are touted as being:

The trouble is, we need a paradigm shift; we need to change the ways we do things. Some of that change means trading in decades of convenience created by plastics.

So, where do we go from here?

Well, here are a few ideas to get us started and t show us that at least some jurisdictions and corporations are beginning t take their first few ‘baby steps’ towards tackling the global problem of plastics:

Overtourism: One Solution

Mass Tourism is plaguing the planet. With a burgeoning world middle class, more and more people want to take advantage of cheaper flights (yes, Canada! 🙂 ) and accommodations to see the vast and varied world around them. Iceland is being over-run, citizens of Barcelona and Venice are fed-up with tourists and the same can be said for countless other places, like the Louvre in Paris with its famous Mona Lisa.

Well, some places are doing something about it. Differential pricing helps, to some extent, as does timed-entry tickets, to move more patrons from the peak to shoulder seasons and times. Other places invoke strict quotas. Here’s what the Azores are doing. The irony is, it’s being reported by Condé Nast Travel, one of the very reasons why popular places are so over-run in the first place…

How the Azores Will Hold Off the Crowds and Stay a Natural Wonder

Brilliant essay: This World is enough

John Quiggin, professor of Economics at the University of Queensland states, 

For the first time in history we could end poverty while protecting the global environment. But do we have the will?

This world is enough is a must-read essay from Aeon for every teacher and student of IB DP Geography, A Level Geography and Ontario’s World Issues (CGW-4U) course, not to mention many university courses on geography, economics and resources.

Quiggan covers every major topic in these courses, from population changes, Malthusian and anti-Malthusian views and disparity to changing resource consumption, industrial agriculture, GMOs, global climate change and basic economics. Students may need to have the article broken down into sections to fully understand all he is saying, but it is worth the time spent analyzing Quiggan’s arguments.

Canada’s intact forests: world’s largest!

Canadian Geographic has just released a short article that certainly begs the half-full-half-empty glass question, or, this case, forests. Over 90% of Canada’s intact* forest is boreal forest, making it, at 300 million hectares, the largest intact forest in the world. However, the same can’t be said for some the species-rich southern forests which have almost eliminated. And, sadly, Alberta has only 16% of it’s intact boreal forestremaining. So, much to celebrate, but also much to consider.

*intact = a forest area of 50 000ha or larger.