Friday, March 27, 2009

do your part in the dark for earth hour local time, wherever you live on planet earth. Saturday 28 March 2009
Lights out, Canadians!
Did you know Canada outranks the United States in number of cities participating? Canada has 258 cities pledging to observe Earth Day this year by asking their citizens to turn out the lights for one hour - the United States has 187. Third-highest number of cities participating! Go Canada!
Impressive! This year, the lights will go out on the Sphinx, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Empire State Building, Wembley Stadium, Ottawa's Peace Tower, the Coliseum, The Golden Gate Bridge, and many other monuments and landmark buildings. Even Niagara Falls will be suspending their light show for that time! Toronto Hydro is having a contest where people guess how much electricity demand will be lowered during that hour, with real-time updates.
All of this, of course, is to see what we can do as individuals to lower our casual power and resource consumption. The goal of Earth Hour (sign up here) is to cut electricity consumption by a measly five per cent for an hour. While admittedly that's not much in terms of real climate change (some estimates state we need to lower everyday consumption as much as eighty-five percent) it's a real, visible event where you can see your effort helping. Last year, more than 49 per cent of our nation chose to turn off their lights and other unnecessary power supplies. That's an incredible number of people concerned enough to flounder in the dark for an hour.
So what to do during an hour unplugged? I'm not so much the guitar and Kumbaya type.  Luckily, there are events planned for everywhere - Halifax has a free outdoor concert in the park and Astronomy Nova Scotia will be mixing with the crowd, giving impromptu talks about star-gazing and setting up their telescopes so we can all peek at the heavens. Tim Horton's will even be providing hot drinks (although you need to bring a reusable mug!)
It sounds like a great time. Music and things to do and helping the world, all at the same time.
Maybe I am a Kumbaya-type girl after all.
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post.  Jessica thinks about other stuff at daysgoby.
photo credit: The Shopping Sherpa

Friday, March 20, 2009

drink your water. it's good for you. well, kinda Or maybe.....not.
Health Canada is now seeking a contractor to do a limited sampling from water-supply plants, testing for substances such as bisphenol A, known or suspected carcinogens, and pharmaceutical products washed down drains, many of which have never been tested for before.
Some of the most common by-products of water purification in water treatment plants occur when the disinfectants used react with things that occur naturally - like rotting leaves or vegetation - forming hundreds of the more universal compounds like trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, bromate and chlorite.
Other substances are of a scarier sort.

The discovery of new byproducts "challenges the basis of our current mitigating strategies," says a request for proposals issued Tuesday "They migrate into drinking water sources and may not be eliminated by current water treatment processes. Some substances in this category have been identified as either known or suspected carcinogens and endocrine or reproductive disruptors. Limited surveys have shown that many of these compounds, thought to have significant health effects, can be present in Canadian drinking water."
Remember Walkerton, Ontario? It took one of the worst public-health disasters in Canadian history to prompt changes to laws and practices surrounding municipal drinking water. After seven residents died and over 2,500 were sickened in 2000 by tap water contaminated with E. coli, water purification processes were tightened up and improved. Still, water run through purification plants does not get rid of all impurities - last year there were an estimated 1,760 boil-water advisories across the country.
That's a lot of water deemed unsafe to drink out of the tap or bathe with.
Now, I'm not naive enough to think that my drinking water is crystal pure. I am naive enough to assume that my drinking water doesn't have something in it that might give my children cancer. Or MS. Or make them sterile. So I hope against hope that these new tests don't turn up something dreadful.
Because finding out the high levels of chronic disease throughout Canada is due to 'something in the water'? The water that we drink daily and urge our children to drink more of? Would be unthinkable.
photo by yoppy
This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica blogs about her life and worries about stuff at daysgoby.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

role model

We all have women we look up to – whether relatives or not. Women we nudge our daughters and point to, saying proudly ‘You can do that too’.  Trailblazers. Role models.
Theresa Helen McNeil was one of those women.-8
An extraordinary woman died this week, and all of Canada is poorer for it.
Theresa McNeil, the first woman in Canada to serve as High Sheriff, died Monday of pancreatic cancer at the age of  81.

Suddenly widowed in 1973, Mrs. McNeil went out to work, supporting her large family (17 children! A single mom!) while continuing to volunteer for a variety of causes and organizations, most notably Meals on Wheels. She saw no reason why earning a living would mean that she would abandon those in her hometown that she felt needed her. Four years later, she became High Sheriff of Annapolis County – the first woman in Canadian history to hold a sheriff's rank.
Her children grew up knowing the power of place and of helping others - of being one person, working for change. Her contributions to the province earned her the Order of Nova Scotia in 2005 and Confederation and Queen’s Golden Jubilee medals for volunteer service. But when asked about her achievements, she would brush praise off, saying that lots of people in small communities volunteer their time for others.
“She was a person who thought of the blessings she had, as opposed to the things she didn't have," Janice McNeil, her 13th child and youngest daughter, said today. "I was six years old at the time (of her father's death). I don't remember my mother ever being sorry for herself or saying, 'What am I going to do?"'
Four of her children grew up to be police officers - the rest are teachers, a school administrator, an executive assistant, five public servants, two small-business owners, a communications professional and one MLA, all serving their towns and cities and working to change things for the better.
Many people will remember Theresa McNeil only as the first Canadian female to serve as High Sheriff or as a role model for women facing adversity. But if you asked her, her proudest accomplishment was raising her 17 children.
"I didn’t do anything that anyone else, thousands of mothers and fathers, (doesn’t) do — get up in the morning and go and do the best you can," she said. "That’s all I did, and it worked out OK, so thank God for that."
Stephen McNeil spoke movingly of his mother, saying "My mother is the one who taught me about liberalism, about the belief in family, about the support of community and respect for all people," he said. "It is because of her that I am standing here today."
 Women like Mrs. McNeil make it easy to show our children what you can do if you put your mind to it. That it will take hard work, but you can do anything. Anything.
I think it’s a great lesson to learn. Theresa would be so proud.

This is an original Canada Moms Blog post. Jessica talks about other things at daysgoby.
photo credit: Eric Wynne,

Saturday, March 7, 2009

making the grade

-23It was report card time this week.
Now, we were pretty excited anyway - my kids like school and do well in it, but we're even more thrilled this year.  Nova Scotia has been steadily improving their elementary reading program for the last few years, and the first provincial literacy assessment test results are in.
And wow, are these kids smart.

84% of the English program Grade 3 students met expectations for expository writing when they wrote the Early Language Literacy Assessment last September, compared with only 66 per cent the year before.
That's like getting a B when you've had nothing but a string of Ds.
Or having long, lovely paragraphs when you're used to a few stuttering sentences.
The beginnings of story-telling are difficult, elusive things to teach. My son's teachers are working hard, using all the props and rewards they can think of, testing different approaches, deciding how to make their curriculum resonate best with the current crop of youngsters. My daughter has been in a pre-school program where they've been starting the little ones tracing letters and using colorful pictures to explain story concepts once they hit three. Results? She loves to make letters. Recite them. Pick them out of books. It's thrilling.
Much of the latest test-scores are credited to a new and more intensive regimen. Elementary students in the province receive at least ninety minutes of language arts learning every day, while students in Grades 7 and 8 get at least an hour of daily instruction in the subject. This, of course, has required both years of study and a large money infusion into our school systems. The fear now is that now that test scores are up, funding will taper off in favor of the next big 'problem area', something we as parents can't allow to happen.
Because whatever they're doing - it works. Cass's report card (and subsequent parent-teacher conference) couldn't be better. He's interested in things, and his teachers are encouraging him to take that interest and delve deeper into his current faves, and then write about them. (And all hail that poor teacher - you have to know she's getting 'Transformer' and 'Star Wars' stories  - and (shudder) Dora -
But whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to raise someone who loves language and words and telling stories.
Who knows? He might start a blog one day......

This is an original Canada Moms Blog Post  -  Jessica babbles on about everything at daysgoby