The Real Energy Crisis

By Khaled Fawal

Within all wealthy nations around the globe, governments and social activists are focused more than ever on what is perceived to be an ever-growing energy crisis. The glaring depletion of resources, the rise of oil prices on a global scale and the pressing need to address rapid climate change have suddenly made energy the central dilemma of our generation. The real energy crisis, however, lies well beyond the skyscrapers and the eternal traffic congestions.

Billions of men, women and children around the world are condemned to live in poverty with virtually no access to modern energy services. With the simple flip of a switch, an American or Frenchman can dazzle the mind of a young boy in Kenya. Indeed, around 1.6 billion of those in third world countries live without the grace of electricity. That means nights in complete darkness, very limited access to modern communications, inefficient educational institutions, and substandard health facilities. These are, in our eyes, perceived as essential to social and economic growth. Yet, all these things we take for granted are well and truly absent from their everyday lives.

These men and women are also forced to rely on polluted and harmful substances to meet the most basic of their needs. They cook food for themselves and for their children with biomass. Let that sink in for a minute. Institutions, foundations and governments around the world recognize the numerous basic rights of a human being. From the right to water to the right to gain a living, they are all essential. In 2014, that basic standard of living is still not provided to these people, simply because they are not equipped with energy.

As we all know, most African countries were colonized by European heavyweights in the not too distant past. It seems as though, however, that armies were simply replaced with corporations. Because the majority of the population has no capital or influence, private energy companies refuse to lend a hand.  If poverty is to be eradicated, foundations and governments must implement an efficient system that would facilitate access to energy for these people.

With the rise of capitalism, energy is now not only a privilege, but a necessity.  Access to it must become a right in itself.


Windmills are chill.

We recently watched a video in-class which was shot in documentary style, and was about the city in Denmark, Copenhagen. In this city they were able to reduce their carbon emissions significantly. They did this through several methods, although the two I want to discuss are making the restrictions of no-car areas, and windmill energy, and how we can incorporate them in a North American setting.

They started no-car areas in Copenhagen. Basically, big areas of the city are prohibited to have any vehicles on them, with the exception of bikes which are emission-free. Banning the use of cars in a busy area can seem unreasonable, but it has worked very well for people in Copenhagen. They all ride their bikes around, and there is always something happening on the streets covered with people now that there are no cars.No cars in a certain area means that you’re cutting carbon emissions, but that’s not the only benefit. People are getting the chance to socialize with each other again and interviews from people on the street show that they are quite happy with the changes. Now imagine if Montreal did this. The amount of cars we have on the streets is outrageous, and by cutting cars’ access to certain areas downtown for example, we could cut our emissions and become more social while doing so. Not to mention, obesity is one of the biggest health issues in North America right now, and the extra calorie burn from walking to that art museum you want to see downtown can help fight obesity and let you shed the pounds. Lower emissions, a better social life, and a better body, all brought to you by no-car zones.

Second, a step Copenhagen has taken is to make farms that run purely on windmill energy. This saves a lot of energy, and it works just as well as oil powered mechanisms. We could easily do the same with the farms around Montreal as they almost all have ridiculous amounts of land, and surely have enough room for a few windmills. Farms use a ton of energy, and if we could get them to run on windmill energy, it wouldn’t solve our problem, but it would be a firm step forward. Even though I don’t believe a city as large as Montreal could run purely on windmill energy, i think we can make a significant reduction in our emissions by incorporating it in our city. It doesn’t pollute, it doesn’t make much noise and it gives free energy. There is no reason for the Canadian government not to push the windmill idea forward. Besides the millions of dollars oil companies are paying them to keep their mouths quiet that is.

In conclusion, the benefits we could reap from no-car areas and windmills are great and many. They can both be easily incorporated into North American society, and can help us lower our carbon footprint. The problem is that the big oil companies don’t want this to happen, and will pay off all the right people to make sure it doesn’t. Also, the difficult part of doing something like this is the first steps. Using windmills and getting no-car areas would be difficult for people at first, but can be adapted to quite easily, and can make a healthier and happier population if incorporated.


small steps to big savings

By Monique Ruiz

The world needs our help. The energy consumed by individuals has harmed the planet’s environment in many ways possible. In the article ‘’ Confessions of a Straphanger’’ by Teras Grescoe, he lists numerous reasons why people should be a straphanger by definition: ‘’ somebody who, by choice or necessity, relies on public transportation’’ (p.8).  One of them was that society has used almost half of its oil reserve and it is causing global warming. Another argument was that certain countries have been investing money on huge amount of fuel and water.

If people decided to walk, biked or used public transportation instead of using their car to get to their destination, the amount of energy would be reduced. Also, it means that the use of oil would decrease as well. If we don’t put a stop to this, our society would have no choice but to take what remains in our oil reserve. Grescoe mentioned that in order to receive the oil, it would require ‘’enormous amounts of water and natural gas’’ (p.11) to take the oil out from its ground.  With this intention, he argues that ‘’ it would release three trillion tons of carbon dioxide’’ and would result to global warming. It goes to show that people, who decide to use their car, would risk their planet to climate change than adapt a habit of a straphanger.

In the long run, people who decide to take their car instead of using public transportation,  would pay more on fuel than they are now. ‘’ The average American household owns 1.9 cars, and spends $16,700 a year […] more than it spends on food and health care combined’’ (p.10). In Montreal, gas price is at $1.35 and in some countries it is twice of what we pay. People of our society are becoming dependable on oil, which will result to an increase price rate of sources. Some economists anticipated that ‘’ a barrel of crude could cost $200 by midecade, meaning $10 a gallon gas at the pumps’’ (p.12). The question remains; when will we say enough is enough?

Considering that the use of cars would cause global warming and take a great amount of our money, it would be best to start changing our habits. It is impossible to take away all the cars in the street. However, if each individual would walk to school instead of taking the bus, it would save a great amount of energy. Then, if people decide to take the public transportation to get to far destinations, the risk of global warming would decline, as well as our expenses. Eventually, people will have newly and improve habits that could save the environment and the future of our next generation.



The irony of cars

With cars, trains and airplanes around us, it is very tempting to minimize our walking in order to get somewhere. It is true that using these transports might be practical for us, but ironically it might also be harmful for us. In the text “Confessions of a straphanger” by Taras Grescoe, suggests that we should rather use the public transport over private cars, as these two are already harmful as a part of our lifestyle, one might just be more sustainable than the other.

Of course, many of us would chose to own a private car, especially if one could afford it. A car always seems more comfortable and cosier, if compared to a public transport which seems more uncomfortable and irritating. However, public transport is a more sustainable way of using transits. Public transport allows the society to have less cars on its roads, which means that it allows to cut down the emission of Co2 produced by cars. For any transit to work, it needs a lot of oil; a natural resource that we are exploiting to the max. This invisible loop that has been created between exploiting, polluting and fixing has gone too far. As citizens, the majority of us are concerned that the emission of co2 has impacted our environment, but despised that we still continue using the transit – either is the public transport or a privately owned car.  In the text “Confessions of a Straphanger”, Taras Grescoe points out that: “Nine out of ten American commuters get to work by car, and more than three-quarters of these car commuters drive to work alone.” See, if these cars were up be replaced with buses, not only traffic caused due to high car congestions would be reduced, the emission of the Co2 caused by cars would also be reduced. So using the public transport might not be completely ecological, but it might in fact be more sustainable than using private cars.

 As I said before, how ironic it might be, people would always favor cars over the public transit. For the simple reasons of not wanting to wait for the bus on a cold day, or not wanting to stand in the transit because there is no seat, a private car will always seem as the ideal way of transport. However, this “coziness” which is more of a “laziness” would need to become a concern. As our environment is being strongly impacted, we should all think more about the sustainability of our energy resources.

By: Karina vakhroucheva

Word: 418

Topic: Energy 

Wish To Eat More Fish

In Bottomfeeder, by Taras Grescoe, the author brings up some interesting ideas. He talks about how we’ve hunted all the largest of the sea predators, and that the smaller fish and organisms at the bottom of the ocean have exploded in number. He also tells us that in order to try to restore this balance, we have to start eating more of the “bottom feeders”. I agree with his view on us eating more of the ocean’s bottom feeders, as he has a lot of evidence; however, I disagree with some of the arguments he uses to push his idea of a seafood-rich diet forward, specifically his stating that humans grew bigger, more complex brains because of a seafood-rich diet.

Firstly, he makes a good point in his stating we should eat the fish that live at the bottom of the ocean. He says that 90% of the world’s big sea-predators have already been hunted. That is an obvious sign we’ve over-consumed these large predators, and that we should start to eat other seafood sources. It is our job as inhabitants of this earth to take care of it; after all, it’s the only one we have. Not to mention, seafood found at the bottom of the sea is just as nutrient dense as the larger sea-predators, so it’s not like you’ll be missing anything from your diet. They’re full of protein and vitamins just like all other seafood. So not only will you be helping to maintain large-sea predator populations and the ecosystem, you’ll be healthy as a seahorse as well.

He does make very logical points; however, I believe a lot of the facts he tells us to convince us to eat seafood do come from his personal love for seafood and decision to be a pescatarian, and are slightly biased. Specifically, his stating that increased brain size in early humans, and our eventual evolution into modern homo sapiens, was caused by incorporating seafood into our diet. Christopher Wanjek, a columnist on http://www.livescience,com, states that it was man becoming carnivorous that led to their growth in brain size, not Omega-3’s from fish. He is not the first person I’ve seen speaking of this, this concept is quite common. Taras Grescoe puts up many strong points, but the evolution of our brains being caused by fish is nonsense. Even though Omega-3’s are healthy, it was an increase in early man’s caloric intake which led to an increased brain size. This was caused by eating meat, not oysters and caesar salads.

To conclude, I believe Taras Grescoe has an obviously valid argument and strong points to back himself up. However, he tries too hard to push his opinions of seafood onto the reader with a few nonsense facts. “Bottomfeeder” is great, and with a few trimmings here and there, could be a book that you just can’t argue against.

– Stamatis D.

Victorious In Defeat

By Khaled Fawal

Los Angeles has, for quite some time now, been renowned around the continent for its multicultural foundations. After the tragic L.A. riots, the city of Los Angeles advocated the opening of a 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles; a decision that has only brought hope and unity to a neighbourhood ravaged by violence and poverty.

The documentary “The Garden” depicts the inspirational efforts of a Latino-dominant population to preserve what was at the time the largest community garden in the country. A barren, wasted chunk of land in the middle of the city quickly became one of the brightest landmarks in South Central L.A., largely due to the tenacity of the Hispanic community. A little over a decade after its inauguration, a powerful entrepreneur rises out of the shadows and demands that they be evicted. Some shady discussions behind closed doors had controversially brought Horowitz ownership of the land for the same price he had previously sold it.

However, the farmers are not willing to go down without a fight. Several local leaders admirably lead a fight against City Hall, but their efforts bring them little more than sympathy. Fortunately for them, their spirit and unwillingness to leave the garden has made noise around the country, and a fund-raiser is swiftly put in place to raise the money asked by the landowner. Thousands of people around the country, even celebrities such as Willy Nelson and Joan Baez show their support. Against all odds, with the intervention of environmental foundations, the community had finally reached their goal of $16.3 million.

Over the duration of their dispute for the land, however, Horowitz had shown absolutely no compassion for their cause. He quickly becomes a vicious nemesis who lacks both empathy and awareness, an individual whose despicable pursuit of revenge becomes more pressing to him than financial gain. After deliberately demanding a practically unachievable figure for low-income farmers, he turns his back on them at the very end, and the evictions begin.

What happens over the course of the movie is appalling, and the nature of the conflict is extremely aggravating. Serious questions about the justice system in what is supposedly one of the most enlightened countries around the world begin to scratch the surface. The filmmaker profiles a cultural group admirable for their fighting spirit and for their passionate desire to raise food for themselves and their family. “The Garden” is a poignant yet inspiring film that perfectly illustrates the bitterness of defeat and the triumph of a community rising up against all odds to make its voice heard.

YES to Prop 37!

By Monique Ruiz

Michael Pollan’s article Vote for the Dinner Party suggests that Food Companies should label GMO nutrients. Don’t we all have the right to know where our food comes from and what does it contain? By labeling our food, we will gain confident and knowledge to what we eat every day. This also gives the people a choice to eat healthier food that contain non-genetically modified organism and develop a better lifestyle.

We often ask ourselves where most of the food we eat comes from and what it contains. Most people will overact and will refuse to buy food in supermarkets. Numerous media broadcast stories concerning food that contain certain chemicals. This created a big issue on whether people should trust what they eat. If we start labeling GMO food, industries will gain people’s trust back. This also prevents false information to spread. Instead of leading people to false beliefs, it is better to tell them in person by labeling GMO food. We will no longer have the fear to eat the food we purchase. In addition, we are well informed to what we eat. In that case, we have the likelihood to develop a healthier lifestyle.

Before reading Michael Pollan’s article Vote for the Dinner Part, most of us probably didn’t know that food industries put massive amount of pesticides on the food we eat. We are not longer talking about food and its labeling. We are talking about a more important issue; our health. It is hard to convince people on putting GMO labels on food. We adapted a lifestyle that we eat whatever we want regardless what it contains. But it is never too late! If companies put GMO labels on food, there is a possible chance that people would start buying non-GMO nutrients. If this occurs, farmers will no longer have the authority on how they should process food and people would eat less non-GMO food.

Polland tells us that we have the right to know what is in our food. We depend so much on food industries that we forget that we have rights as well. We will gain trust by educating ourselves. We will decide for our own and develop a newly improve lifestyle. If there is nothing wrong with GMO labels, then why numerous companies are against it? This tells me that they have something to hide, and we have the right to know about it.

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