Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

Flood Warnings!

June 25, 2012

Recent flood alerts along the Fraser River feel like deja vu. This year’s delayed mountain snow melt combined with extra rain have made for conditions similar to those in spring 1948, when my new chapter book, Flood Warning, takes place. But, while the story might be too close to reality for some communities this week, the worse threats seems to be over in most locations –at least for now. You can read flood news here.

If you’re interested in sharing this story with kids, please ask for the book at your local bookstore, or order from these or links (thanks!). You can find info about my other books for kids on my website.

Remembering frogs

May 30, 2008

Pacific tree frog (from BC FrogWatch)I’ve always liked frogs and other amphibians –especially the tiny and delicate green tree frogs that sometimes turn up on walks in the forest where I grew up on Vancouver Island.  One frog memory that stands out in my mind was from the summer I was about ten. My family spent a day at Ten Mile Lake near Quesnel in the BC interior. It was the Day of the Frogs. Hundreds of tiny brown frogs were everywhere! We kids collected them in whatever we had on hand — pails, pop cans, our hands. Most, we let go after watching them for awhile, but I do remember trying to bring a few unlucky ones home in a pop can (I think my dad returned the survivors to the lake).

I don’t know what it was about that year (around 1970), but I’ve talked to other people who have similar memories of the amazing abundance of frogs that summer. I never saw numbers of frogs like that again and probably never will — now that frogs are disappearing all over the globe.

Frogs, salamanders and other amphibians are in trouble. That’s why 2008 is not just the Year of the Rat, it’s the Year of the Frog. Scientists and other frog-watchers are calling for raised awareness and action to help save frogs and their relatives.

Frogs are cool. The jump, they croak (when I was in Japan I spent about an hour hunting for a glimpse of the loudest frog I’d ever heard — it sounded huge, but in fact, it was tiny and very good at hiding), and they come in a variety of colours. They play an important role in their ecosystems, eating hundreds and even thousands of bugs a year. The protective chemicals produced by some frogs have also been refined by scientists for use as life-saving medicines.

Frogs and other amphibians have thin semi-permeable skin that helps them drink and breathe, but that also makes them vulnerable to environmental contaminants (like pesticides and herbicides sprayed on farmers’ fields). Amphibians are often the first creatures to be effected by carcinogens and hormone-altering chemicals in the environment, which is why they’re considered an indicator species. When they’re in trouble, we’re in trouble.

Frogs are effected by habitat loss, climate change, disease, introduced predators, pollution, pesticides, etc., so anything we can do to help reduce these will help save frogs. As Kermit the frog says, “It’s not easy being green.” So, think green: remember the frogs.

If you’ve got a frog encounter story, please share it here.

frog awareness poster

(Awareness poster from the Vancouver Aquarium’s frog conservation project.)


And back to snow again…

April 21, 2008

Okay, this weather is really wierd. I’ve heard several people make comments along the lines of “where is that global warming we’ve been promised?” Snow on the west coast in April might seem funny (especially to everyone in the east who normally have to endure long winters and the bragging of west coast relatives enjoying early spring), but global Climate Change is no laughing matter. Flooding, drought, loss of some species and the spread of others like malaria carrying mosquitos…..

I’ve always thought a story can have more of impact than a bunch of statistics or dry facts, so in honour of Earth Day, I’ve posted a list of some of my favourite eco novels on the Chapters/Indigo website. Click here for the list.

One book, which didn’t make it on the list, because it doesn’t seem to be in print anymore (or at least isn’t available from Chapters/Indigo) is Secret in the Stalakum Wild by Christie Harris. I loved this novel when I read it as a kid in the 1970s. It was the first novel I’d read that drew on West Coast First Nations’ mythology and suggested the forest I loved was in need of protection (plus it was a riveting fantasy adventure — I thought it was a bit dated and didactic when I read it over again as an adult, but it still deserves a place on my personal list of influencial novels).

Are there any novels you’d like to see added to the list?

Countdown to Earth Hour

March 6, 2008

On March 29, 2008 people and cities around the world will be switching off their lights for one hour to reduce energy consumption and draw attention to climate change.

Last year 2.2 million people and 2100 businesses in Sydney Australia turned off their lights for the first Earth Hour. This massive collective effort reduced Sydney’s energy consumption by 10.2% for one hour, which is the equivalent effect of taking 48,000 cars off the road for a year (wow, just think of the difference people could make if we switched off lights more than one hour one day –and switched off our cars as well!). The action drew attention from the world. This year, millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities, including Copenhagen, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tel Aviv, will unite and switch off for Earth Hour, 8pm March 29.

If everyone switches off at 8pm, viewed from space, spots of light will be going dark in a wave moving across the globe as the Earth turns. It would be great if all the lights in Vanouver were turned off, and we could actually see the stars!

starry sky

Dances with Fabric

November 18, 2007

Today I headed down to the Grandview Legion Hall on Commerical Drive for Swap-O-Rama-Rama, a clothes swap and re-fashion extravaganza.

Commercial Drive

A great day to get out on “The Drive” and do something creative (and environmentally positive)!


Participants pay a small fee and contribute a bag of clothes, then help themselves to clothes up for grabs on several tables. Take the clothing as is, alter items at stenciling, collage, sewing and other creative work stations, or just dance to the music….


The stenciling and stamping stations were my favourite:


Here’s a glimpse of something I worked on (which will remain secret until after Christmas):


I’ve had a bunch of old t-shirts at home that I’ve been wanting to renovate for quite awhile, but I never seem ready to take scissors or paint to them. What was fun about Swap-o-rama-rama today is I didn’t stop to think and plan, I just picked up some pieces of clothing that caught my eye and went with what they suggested to me. Working quickly and without worrying about achieving perfection was freeing, playful, empowering. Now, if I can just keep that inspiration going now that I’m back home…..

Note: To find out more about Swap-o-rama-rama or to find one coming to your area, click here.

Action springs from the belief that you can make a difference

August 17, 2007

This quote from a fellow blogger struck a cord with me today:

“I’ve been both an idealistic child and a realistic grownup, and I think I was a better person when I was an idealistic child…..Realism does little but protect the status quo. Being optimistic, on the other hand, is the most radical political act there is.”

No Impact Man, August 19, 2007

EPA Warns Human Beings No Longer Biodegradable

August 13, 2007

I couldn’t resist posting this article, which is both funny and disturbing:

img_8888_large.jpg DC—The Environmental Protection Agency issued a bulletin Tuesday warning the bodies of American citizens, with their large concentrations of artificial, synthetic, and often toxic substances, have been reclassified as industrial waste.

“The average human body is now only 35 percent organic,” EPA chief Ralph Johnson said. “Due to changes brought about by modern detergents, silicone implants, and processed cheese food product, it is no longer safe to allow human tissue to come into contact with our nation’s topsoil.”
Read the full article at

Blogging for global change

July 30, 2007

I’ve just been nominated for a “Blogging for Global Change” award by fellow blogger, CraftyGreenPoet of Edinburgh Scotland. The award originates at Climate of Our Future, a blog dedicated to discussing climate change and how it can be prevented. The “award” is a way for individuals to acknowledge and ecourage eachother’s efforts and make links with others. This is how it’s described on the site:

This award goes out to all of the Bloggers for Positive Global Change. It’s not limited to any specific ideologies, religions or philosophies. It puts a premium on human compassion and the desire to make the world a better place for all of us, without exception.

The participation rules are simple:
1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way.
2. In your post, make sure you link back to Climate of our Future.
3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme
[“Meme” is a new word for me. It’s dictionary meaning is “a system through which behaviour is passed on from one individual to another” — kind of like a chain of people, I guess.].
4. Optional: Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

Wow! Well, I’m honored to be nominated. I like the idea of making connections and supporting people who are concerned about the world and want to make a positive difference. I hope I can live up to the nomination.

I’d like to nominate True Stitches, the blog of my friend Heather, who believes in making the world a better place one stitch at a time (and in other ways as well).

I’d also like to nominate author Diane Haynes and her Wildlife Rescue Series blog in which she talks about her wildlife-rescue-mystery-themed YA novels, the writing life and her concern for nature and animals.

Here are a few more intriguing web logs written by people who care about people, animals and the natural environment (a couple of them have already been nominated for the Blogging for Global Change award):

Green Girls Global

World Changing

Teaching Environmental Sustainability

Whorled Leaves

Wardrobe Refashion

Bee Creative

Sew Green


Olympia Dumster Divers

No Impact Man

(some of my latest “green” one-inch buttons)

Disappearing song birds

June 16, 2007

Wilson's WarblerEvery year in mid May small yellow birds (which I’ve figured out are at least two kinds of warblers) make a brief appearance in my backyard. Their bright feathers and musical song contrast with the modest browns and plane chirps of the usual backyard crowd. I always enjoy seeing them, and somewhere in the back of my mind I knew they may have migrated a long way to get here, but the epic quality of their journey never really hit me until I heard bird researcher Bridget Strutchbury speak last month.

Strutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds, spoke about the double life of songbirds who winter in Central and South America and breed in the north, the huge “storms” of birds migrating north each year (flying mostly at night), and the alarming decline in the numbers of breeding birds (a drop of 30-50% since 1965).yellow-rumped warbler

That little yellow bird passing through my backyard has faced loss of its tropical forest winter home, been forced to survive in scrubby left-over habitat, dodged toxic agricultural pesticides (often pesticides restricted or banned in the north), then flown the long gruelling route north with fewer places to stop and city lights disrupting night-time navigation, then arrived in the north to find breeding forests and grasslands smaller and closer to cities and farms where predators such as crows, jays and feral cats lurk.

Put in this light, the fact that these little yellow birds have even made it to my yard at all is pretty amazing. I find it really distrubing to think that one spring they might not. If this happens it wont just mean the disappearance of birdsong from our neighbourhoods. Strutchbury points out: “If a species goes extinct or its  population drops to very low numbers, the ecological roles that it played in nature are lost. Some species are so specialized that their services can no be replaced by other animals, so their loss creates a ripple effect. . . . Their jobs as pollinators, fruit-eaters, insect-eaters, scavengers and nutrient recyclers will not get done, and this will disrupt ecosystems and affect everyone on the planet.”

Things we can do to help save the songbirds:

– drink shade-grown coffee

– buy organic produce (especially from Latin America)

– create backyard habitats

– keep lawns pesticide-free

– turn city lights out at night

– keep cats indoors

– buy recycled paper products

– buy wood products certified by the Forest Stewardship Council

– pressure companies manufacturing pesticides to meet international standards

What happens after you flush?

April 27, 2007

If you want to know the answer to the above question (or just want a laugh), you might want to check out:

It’s refreshing (if I can use that word in this context) to see activism use humour to get its message out.