I realize that, at this point, bringing up the climate crisis is like beating a dead horse. But at the end of the day, I always like to take this opportunity to talk about the issues that are closest to my mind and heart at the moment, and after the summer we've had it'd be impossible not to circle back to this topic.
A devastating heat wave in England, a country so accustomed to mild weather that homes aren't properly insulated and air conditioned to protect from soaring temperatures.
Severe flooding throughout the entirety of Midwestern United States, after St. Louis broke its 1915 record for the most rainfall in a 24-hour span.
Even to the most casual observer, climate change is no longer a theoretical phenomenon—it is a lived reality.
Now, more than ever, we must truly think about what it means to take personal responsibility for this crisis. Yes, I realize that the environmental impact of your average individual pales in comparison to the average corporation (and those corporations should absolutely be held accountable), but our response to climate change should address every level of our existence, both the personal and the political.
I've tried my best over the years to practice what I preach in this regard. I live, and have lived for many decades, on a 500-acre nature preserve, a place where natural resources are constantly recovered (this means that the wood furnace that heats my home only uses sustainable resources). I also have a well for drinking water, generate our electricity with solar panels, and continue to live in a 170-year-old log house.
To me, these are all simply prerequisites for being a climate leader in my community and throughout Canada. I feel that it is my responsibility to use my personal experiences with sustainability to help make Plenty Canada even more carbon negative, and to position our organization as a leader among similar groups.
Almost all of our new programs further these goals, our various food sovereignty projects, our initiatives helping species at risk, the studies we have conducted on the American Eel, etc. They contribute to our overall vision for sustainability: the notion that carbon neutrality and environmental advocacy should be the norm for every organization going into these next few decades—not just NGOs (non-governmental organizations), but for profit-making businesses as well! On the local, national, and international levels we should all pool our knowledge and create new modes of living that prioritize every living being on Earth.
This two-pronged approach, combining personal responsibility with social cooperation, absolutely cannot wait for some arbitrary time in the future. The time to act is now. But you don't need me to tell you that, do you? This summer, the evidence is more undeniable than ever. Let's just hope that the people who continue to deny the worrying effects of climate change finally wake up and join us in our efforts.
Chi Miigwech. Niá:wen. Merci. Thank you.
The New Classroom project at the Tsundzukani Daycare Center is now successfully complete. Ms. Nyango and staff are delighted with their new building and can't wait to have it soon filled with approximately 30 students to attend their classes. This is a great project for the Mashangaan and Bapedi community of Acornoek and the village's elders are very pleased with the development taking place at the Daycare Center where a lot of their children attend their first years of school.
The technical implementation was carried out successfully once more by the Vulavula Construction team as it went smoothly and on schedule despite the out-of-season rain falls this year, which interrupted our work several times. We also brought in two local friends for assisting the construction team with basic labor such as digging foundations, moving of building materials, etc. This is also part of our on-the-job training program through which we offer an opportunity to these local potential artisans to advance their building skills and earn much needed cash. These Mashangaan and Bapedi youngsters, men and women, are starved of opportunities and therefore are highly motivated to work hard and learn more skills. According to the latest official Labor Force Survey in 2022, the unemployment rate is around 32.6 percent. Approximately 55.5 percent (30.3 million people) of the population is living in poverty while a total of 13.8 million people (25 percent) are experiencing food poverty. As of 2021, an individual living in South Africa with less than R 890 Rands per month (roughly) is considered poor. Consumer prices are up 9 percent in June 2022, the largest increase in 40 years and fuel prices rose by 33.2 percent in twelve months.
In conclusion Nyango and all Tsundzukani staff are again very grateful to Plenty Canada and the Canadian donors for the financial and technical assistance provided so far to the Center. Plenty Canada has funded its entire water and sanitation systems, irrigation to its vegetable garden and orchard, the complete upgrade of the Center's kitchen, and now the new classroom. The next important development project of the Center will be the construction of a resource center, and we are currently busy pricing it so that we can provide Plenty Canada with a detailed project proposal.
— Mwana Bermudes
Plenty Canada is currently developing an innovative water and waste management system at its head office location in Lanark, Ontario. We are seeking to incorporate and integrate methods and technologies into the renovation of our “Makwa Inn” multipurpose space that will reduce consumption of potable water, reuse both water and nutrients, as well as release the used water in both a sanitary and ecologically sound way. We are viewing both water and nutrients as part of a cycle that should be cared for and designed to be resilient.
As mentioned in a previous installment of this water and wastewater management series, heavily populated rural areas experience many of the same concerns around nutrification of natural water courses as urban populations do. The minimum standards for home-scale sewage systems such as septic fields or buried trenches do not remove most nutrients from the water we are releasing, and these nutrients end up in our waterways. Cottage country around lakes release large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus into groundwater and when this filters into lakes it creates algae blooms and habitat loss for marine life by starving the water of oxygen. The alternative to septic fields is storing water and having a truck come pump it out.
There are a variety of advanced on-site wastewater treatment products available, such as the Waterloo Biofilter, Ecoflo, and SystemO)) Enviro-Septic which can reduce the footprint of a septic system as well as convert and remove nutrients from our wastes. There are also alternative methods such as constructed wetlands which use the natural processes of wetland plants to absorb contaminants and treat water. All these systems rely on creating aerobic (or oxygen rich) environments that encourage the proliferation of aerobic bacteria which (similar to composting which also relies on aerobic bacteria) convert ammonia to nitrates and starve out harmful bacteria.
There are also new water recycling technologies which reuse greywater (all of a home’s water other than from toilets). Systems such as the Hydraloop and Greyter greywater recycling systems collect and treat water from showers and laundry to be used as water to flush toilets, wash laundry, irrigate gardens, or fill pools. The Hydraloop uses no filters and relies on alternative physical methods and biological processes to treat the water through a series of steps, finally passing through a UV light. The use of one of these systems reduce a home’s water consumption by up to 50% (depending on use) and avoids using potable water to flush our wastes.
Plenty Canada will be incorporating greywater recycling to reduce water demand as well as explore the potential of constructed wetlands or another advanced treatment system to treat the water coming from the “Makwa Inn.”
The combination of rainwater collection, efficient faucets and appliances, greywater recycling and reuse, composting systems, and ecologically sound release of used water into the environment integrate to create a circular system that does not take from the land but in fact creates value to the surrounding environment. Taken as a whole, these methods and technologies create a long lasting and resilient system that works together with natural processes. Resiliency is the ability to adapt and rely on oneself through a changing world.
Plenty Canada is incorporating these technologies to educate the public on issues surround human water use, as well as to create a template or inspiration for other buildings and communities to copy our plans. We will make the plans available to the public and encourage anyone who wishes to incorporate similar technologies to share freely.
— Garrett Johnson
Along with the Country Foods Workshop written about in our last newsletter, Plenty Canada has been hard at work over the past year hosting a series of Indigenous language and cultural workshops targeted at people from a wide range of backgrounds. These events have been quite varied in scope, but are united in their concern with reconciliation and respect for the natural world, two topics that are deeply intertwined within this country.
Earlier in the year, on January 9, we held a virtual workshop on traditional methods of transportation, which included a canoe-building workshop with master traditional birch bark canoe builder Chuck Commanda, where participants were able to make their own mini birch bark canoes! (For an account of our first birch bark canoe making workshop from last winter, please see our website blog). We were also joined by Tauni Sheldon and her son Aalpi (Nunavik Inuit) for a presentation on Inuit methods of transportation, and by Tehahenteh Frank Miller (Mohawk, Six Nations of the Grand River) for a discussion of traditional water teachings. Along with this successful update on an old workshop format, we've also crafted a few new workshops that discuss Indigenous culture from a wide variety of approaches.
Hide tanning is a cornerstone of many Indigenous communities across the entire continent, with a surprising number of uses. In order to give just a few of these cultures a chance to tell their own story, on March 14, Plenty invited Larry McDermott (Algonquin, Shabot Obaadjiwan First Nation), along with Derek Lee and Kayla Sunday (Mohawks of Akwesasne), and Tauni and Aalpi Sheldon to share their knowledge of various hunting and hide tanning practices. This process was discussed from a multitude of angles; for example, Derek and Kayla talked about the process of fur trapping and preparing furs and hides (the tools used, the history, etc.), while Tauni and Aalpi talked about the modern state of Inuit seal hunting. Given that the entire presentation lasted less than three hours, the presenters were able to get through a dizzying amount of information, exploring the issues surrounding hide tanning with all the seriousness and comprehensiveness they deserve.
A month earlier, on February 2, Kayla Sunday, Gary Pritchard, and Tauni and Aalpi joined us for a panel-type discussion on conservation and natural law; natural law being, as Kayla put it, the unwritten laws that “dictate the actions, reactions, and specific requirements of living in harmony of all creation.” After an introduction from Larry McDermott, the presenters once again moved through a number of topics related to the history and modern state of conservation, including painful topics surrounding the ways that Indigenous perspectives and practices surrounding conservation have been marginalized and silenced over the years. As with the hide tanning workshop, the powerful and varied topics being discussed went over very well with the online audience. Plenty Canada looks forward to hosting similarly exciting seminars throughout the rest of the year.
Even though COVID restrictions have lately been largely lifted, Plenty Canada will continue to value online webinars as a format for some of our workshops. After all, an organization dedicated to social justice shouldn't forget about the unifying and motivating power of digital media in the Internet age. In general, Plenty Canada’s online activities can be thought of as a remedy for the rapid spread of misinformation regarding climate and Indigenous issues that has become commonplace on social media these days. Within a sea of lies and division, Plenty Canada continues to provide a platform for truth and reconciliation.
— Breton Campbell and Emily Morris