How green are Edmonton’s festivals? (Blog Action Day 2009)

Today is Blog Action Day, which means that bloggers around the world are writing about the same issue – climate change. The purpose of the initiative is to create a discussion. For my post, I’m hoping to stimulate a little discussion about how “green” Edmonton’s festivals are.

I first wrote about this topic back in December, when I noted a number of the changes BrightNights had made to become more environmentally friendly:

The City of Edmonton hopes to have a number of events operating green within three years, and BrightNights is just the first. I hope more festivals and events in Edmonton follow suit.

One of the big local stories this week is that BrightNights will no longer be taking place due to rising costs. I’m not at all sad to see the event go (the food bank and hot lunch program will be impacted in the short-term but will be fine I think). Even if they managed to make the event carbon-neutral (primarily by purchasing carbon credits, it should be noted) it still encouraged people to sit in a running car for an who knows how long. That’s not very green!

What about the rest of Edmonton’s festivals? What are they doing to be more environmentally friendly? If you have any links or other information, please post them in the comments!

As Canada’s Festival City, I think we have an opportunity (maybe even a responsibility) to lead the way in ensuring our events are green and sustainable. Let’s set the bar high and encourage others to follow suit!

Upcoming Climate Change Events

October 24th is the International Day of Climate Action. People all over the world are holding events pledging action on the science of 350:

350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.

We’re currently at 387 parts per million, and rising (check out the Pew Center’s Global Warming Facts & Figures for more). There are six actions listed for Edmonton so far.

Of course, the main event this year is the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), which takes place from December 7th to 18th in Copenhagen.

Edmonton's 8th Homeless Count

blog action day 2008 poverty How many people are homeless in Edmonton? The last count, completed back in October 2006, found 2618 Edmontonians were homeless (the report is available in PDF). A lot has changed in the last two years however, so we need an updated number. Homeward Trust has scheduled Edmonton’s 8th Homeless Count for Tuesday, October 21st.

These counts provide information regarding our overall homeless population that organizations, agencies, and governments can use to determine best solutions for aiding the homeless and eventually ending homelessness.

The Wikipedia entry on Homelessness says that in 2005, an estimated 100 million people worldwide were homeless. The number in Canada is about 150,000, though the Government of Canada admits that “to date, no reliable method for counting the number of people who are homeless [has been] identified.” Even with less than accurate numbers, it’s clear that homelessness is a major problem.

Approximately 200 volunteers are required to conduct the Homeless Count here in Edmonton. Working in teams, some volunteers will participate in the street count, while others will work at drop-in centres, libraries, temporary employment agencies, and bottle depots. If you’d like to volunteer, you’ll need to attend a training session tomorrow:

A Volunteer Orientation Session will be held from 5:00 – 7:30 on Thursday, October 16, 2008, at the Stanley A. Milner Library theatre. A light supper will be provided and volunteers will receive all information necessary to complete their activities on the day of the count. Each volunteer will be asked to sign a waiver of liability form.

If you have any questions, contact Wendy Myshak at 780.944.5697 or via email.

I will be attending the session tomorrow and volunteering for the count on the 21st. Like most people who live or work downtown, my anecdotal experience suggests that homelessness has increased in Edmonton in recent years.

This post is my contribution to Blog Action Day 2008, an effort to raise awareness and initiate action on the topic of poverty. I also participated last year, when the topic was the environment.

Make elections greener – Internet voting!

Today is election day here in Edmonton. Today is also Blog Action Day. Better together? Let’s find out! It should be pretty clear that election day means we’re voting for our city mayor, councillors, and school board trustees, but what is Blog Action Day all about? From the website:

On October 15th, bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind – the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

This is my entry for Blog Action Day, and as you may have guessed by now, I am going to talk about the election in relation to the environment. I just heard on the news that the turnout for this election is expected to be an abysmal 20%. Are people really not interested, or is it just too difficult to vote? Maybe a bit of both, but the process can certainly be made simpler. Not to mention more environmentally friendly or green.

There are two major problems with the way we vote now:

  1. So much paper is wasted. There are forms to organize the volunteers. There are forms to register you. The ballot you fill out. The second ballot you fill out because you screwed up on the first one. The documents with results. You get the idea. Voting today is really not an environmentally friendly thing to do. And don’t forget the campaigns either – thousands and thousands of flyers, posters, signs, etc.
  2. It’s too difficult. I worked from 9 to 5 today, and it took me until 6 PM to get back to the area of the city I live in to vote. So I didn’t have much time at all considering the polls close at 8 PM. Not only that, but once you get to the voting station you have to deal with three dinosaurs before you even get a ballot. Seriously, why do three individuals have to look at my drivers license in order to let me vote? Isn’t one person good enough? I’m not kidding about the dinosaurs part either. I was easily the youngest person in the room by about 35 years. It’s great that they are helping out, but they move slowly, have to squint at the fine print on the drivers license, and worst of all they look at me like they’ve never seen someone under 40 going to vote (and of course they must comment on that too). Just let me get in and get out!

It doesn’t have to be this way! We could make elections more environmentally friendly and efficient by getting rid of the archaic system we use now and adopting Internet voting. There are of course examples of successes with Internet voting and concern over potential problems that may arise. I won’t get into any of that here, but you can read the very complete Wikipedia entry if you’re interested. I simply look at it this way:

  • Is the Internet good enough for Revenue Canada and the banks? Yes.
  • Would voting over the Internet have a positive impact on the environment? Yes.
  • Would voting over the Internet be faster and easier for voters than the current process? Yes.

Good enough for me. I think it’s time we moved one of our society’s most important institutions into the 21st century. I think it’s time we started voting over the Internet!