Mankind’s Worst Nightmare

If you want to be scared, I mean really scared, you don’t need to watch the latest sequel to Nightmare on Elm Street or read the latest Stephen King horror classic.

No sir re, real terror can be found by simply firing up Google Earth, the computer program that allows users to look at satellite pictures of any place on the planet. By mousing over and zooming in, you can see what Alberta’s tar sands look like from space.

It’s not a pretty sight, in facts it’s pretty darn scary to say the least.

The scale of the Alberta tar sands project is unprecedented in mankind’s history. The oil industry elite stand to make billions of dollars carving up the pristine boreal forest and wetlands of Northern Alberta in order to meet the insatiable oil demands of our southern neighbor’s. But these oil dollars pale in comparison to the environmental price that we will all eventually pay.

The tar sands consist of a mixture of silica sand, minerals, clay, water, and most importantly, crude bitumen. The process of converting bitumen so that we can use it to power our cars, heat our homes, and transport our food is not easy and very carbon intensive.

In fact it is so carbon intensive that converting tar sands to bitumen produces 3 times more climate changing CO2 than conventional oil extraction.

It’s estimated that two tons of earth must be excavated to produce one barrel of thick tar-like bitumen. And it requires as much as three barrels of fresh water from the Athabasca River to make one barrel of bitumen. It also takes a huge amount of energy to extract the oil from the sands.

Now think about this: each day Canada exports 1.4 million barrels of bitumen to the United States and that number is expected to triple in the next decade as the world’s dirty oil replaces the diminishing easy, cheap oil.

We live in a world of peak oil, every year demand grows by 2 percent, but our global oil reserves are shrinking by 7 percent, with this scenario it’s no wonder that the oil sands are becoming harder to ignore.

Because of cheap oil, for over 100 years we have been committed to exponential growth and the only reason is because oil has allowed us to.

Oil has given us tunnel vision in terms of short term thinking and short term gains while ignoring the long term downside that’s all around us.

We are beggaring the future, by not only destroying other cultures and species, but beggaring our future generations by indulging in this oil fuel binge and burning up all of our carbon based fuels in a little over a hundred years or so.

We know that our lifestyles must change. We know that burning fossil fuels such as oil and gas creates smog that harms our health and creates global warming. We know that global warming poses an incredible threat to humanity.

With all the money being made from the tar sands, very little of it seems to be reinvested in renewable energy that comes from wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal sources. If anything, we could be investing this money in low-carbon projects so that we won’t have to pull every bit of bitumen from the ground.

Maybe the bogeyman is simply a man in a suit trying to satisfy his shareholders, make a profit, and cozy up to federal politicians so he can continue doing his work without having to answer to his environmental crimes.

Or maybe there’s something more frightening to consider. Perhaps the bogeyman is us—the public that places the short-term economic value of the tar sands above the priceless value of our environment and our health.

Is this the price of progress? Or is progress measured by using up the rightful legacy of our future generations and ruining the biosphere?

I think the nightmare has just begun.

By: Master Tim Bell


From The Couch to the Grave

Anyone have a good couch for sale? It seems that our number one activity in Canada other than eating too much is sitting on our couches, and if I’m going to join the status quo I want to put my butt on a primo piece of furniture, preferably one of those king size lazy boys. Yes sir re, that’s the ticket.

In all seriousness this is one activity that will only lead us to one thing, an earlier trip to see the reaper.

Recently a report was released on the amount of exercise that Canadians were getting, or should I say lacking. The report was supposed to be an early wakeup call, or to be honest, more like a big ol’ mallet to the head.

As the researchers stated, we are a nation that shuns physical activity, a nation of slugs. Hold it now, everyone I know has a Nintendo Wii, doesn’t that count? I guess you still need to get up off the couch don’t ya.

Now before I talk about how bad things really are, you better sit down and take a load off, or better yet stand up and do a few jumping jacks.

Here it goes…

Appalling statistic number 1…

Just 15 percent of adults and 7 percent of children and teens get the minimum amount of exercise needed to benefit there health.

Appalling statistic number 2…

Adults are sedentary 9.5 waking hours, while 6 to 19 year olds are sedentary 8.6 waking hours.

Appalling statistic number 3…

Only 53 percent of adults accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity one or more days a week.

Here’s something even scarier…

Only 29 percent of boys and 21 percent of girls get 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 6 days per week, and 83 percent of boys and 73 percent of girls get 30 minutes at least 3 days per week.

Appalling statistic number 4…

In Nova Scotia the vast majority of children in grade 3 meet targets for physical activity, but that percentage drops off exponentially in grade 7 and even further by grade 11.

Appalling statistic number 5…

The percentage of Nova Scotia girls in grade 11 who were getting at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least 5 days per week dropped to 0.3 percent in 2005 from 6.9 percent in 2001.

Now as appalling as these statistics are, what will it take to move us from a society headed for a world of hurt to one of health and happiness?

For starters we need to find a balance, with ourselves and with the world around us, we need a paradigm shift.

Instead of always looking for convenience, instant pleasure and the easy way out we need to be more responsible to ourselves.

We only have one body, a finite amount of time and very few chances to get it right.

As the old saying goes “Move it or lose it”.

Well in this case, It couldn’t be more true.

By: Master Tim Bell

My Eco-Confession

It’s time for me to come clean, no, I don’t mean I need a shower or anything like that, at least I think I don’t? No it’s time I confessed my sins, here goes nothing…”I’m an eco-sinner”, there I said it “I’ve been an eco-sinner all of my life.”  And my guess is, so have you.

I’ve always been concerned about environmental issues, but I never really understood the real causes and effects, especially my own impact on the planet.

I don’t know about you, but over the last couple of years I’ve noticed differences in the environment, our biosphere has changed significantly, both in appearance and its composition.  The seasons seem to overlap each other instead of going smoothly from one to the other, the sun is becoming much hotter and deadlier, storms are becoming more frequent and much more deadly and to top it off we are running out of non-renewable resources.

How much of this is due to man’s actions? How much of this is due to mine? Over the last year I decided to find out the answers myself.

Like most people, I watched Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” but I wanted to learn more, so I read, watched and listened to anything remotely related to the environment and the global warming problem, I needed to find the truth, I needed answers, damn it!

“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad.”  ~Aldous Huxley

Well in this case the truth did make me mad, really, really mad. Everyone from the scientists to the environmentalists we’re singing the same ol song, and no it wasn’t kumbaya.

We were on the precibus of a crisis like no other in our history… We we’re too many people on too little a planet using up too many finite resources, way too fast. We we’re in Overshoot!

To be precise, we were heating up the planet and it was because of our actions, or to be even more precise our inactions.

How did this happen? Growing up in the 6o’s, 70’s, 80’s we we’re led to believe that consumption and growth we’re a good thing, not bad.  In those decades there we’re between 3 to 4 billion people on the planet, today we are hovering close to 7 billion and growing by 2.6 people per second (that increase includes deaths factored in).

Now I’m not a rocket scientist or will I ever profess to be, but when you have 7 billion people, polluting and consuming, on a planet that in reality can only sustain 2 billion, well, as the saying goes “Houston I think we have a problem.”

But what was my own personal contribution to the problem? Here’s what I discovered in my quest.

  1. I produce 726 kilograms of garbage a year, most of it being plastic, which goes straight to the HRM landfill and will never decompose, at least not for a bazillion year’s or so.
  2. I use 466 liters of clean drinkable water a day, for other than drinking (showering, shaving, brushing my teeth, flushing the toilet, washing the dojang floor).
  3. Just Driving from my home to the dojang and around town in my Jeep (10,000 km per year), puts over 3,665 kilograms of global warming CO2 into the atmosphere. If I fly from Halifax to Vancouver during the year, that’s and extra 1,000 kg’s. 😦
  4. I eat approximately 30 kg’s of beef in a year, other than CO2 methane from beef production is the other major cause of global warming.

We all realize that there is a problem, but how many of us realize how much of it is caused on a personal level by us, and those around us.

If you think there is nothing you can do about, that’s where you’re wrong. Even though we are the ones who caused the problem, we are the ones who can choose to fix it.

We can start by thinking locally, looking at our personal contribution and doing something about that, you’ll be amazed how differently you’ll look at the biosphere and your role in it, once you realize the rewards and consequences of your actions and inactions.

Individually or collectively we can continue on the same path, that will surely lead us to our demise or we can choose a path that will help us build a sustainable future.

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” – Buddha

What is your path?

By: Master Tim Bell

From the Inside Out

What determines how we see things? How much is enough or too much? Is there a real factor that determines these things? Is it taught, in our DNA and can it really be identified or changed? This is all truly a perspective. How we view the glass determines the way we act as well as what emotions we experience and how we express them.

What is it that causes us to change our perspective, our belief system, how we view ourselves and our planet? Is it the external things that we are bombarded with on a daily basis? Advertisers like to think so, why else would they spend so much time and effort telling us how much our lives suck, and how much we need this or that product to make our lives better.

To the status quo, consumption and the attainment of stuff is the key to our happiness, but with 2 times more stuff than we had 30 years ago, are we really twice as happy? According to statistics, NOT!

For most of us today, the glass is half empty. So how do we move from half empty (pessimistic) to half full (optimistic)?

Well it definitely won’t happen from buying more stuff, or updating to the newest gadget.  Real change happens from the inside out.

The beginning of a New Year is a traditional time for change and improvement. Most of us attempt to make some sort of change for the better. Quitting smoking, losing weight, saving the planet are all common examples.

Unfortunately, many people fail in their attempt at change. They don’t realize that before any tangible and visible change can happen, less visible and harder to articulate changes must first take place. Their mindset needs to shift.

There is growing awareness of the damage we are doing to the planet and the natural resources on which we depend, yet we still carry on along the same track regardless, refusing to make much-needed changes to our behavior.

The Earth’s natural systems provide many essential goods and services that ensure our survival and enhance our lifestyles and well-being – such as food, medicines, building materials, climate regulation, flood defense and leisure opportunities.

The ecosystems that provide these services are rapidly decaying to the point of collapse. Human-induced climate change, infrastructure development, the loss of forests and agricultural production are primary drivers of these losses.

The prevailing economic model that exacerbates these problems, rather than counteracts them, is fundamentally flawed.

At the same time, changing patterns of behavior and consumption need to happen at an individual, local level.

Knowing this, why is it so difficult for us to change our ways, the problem is many of us either don’t believe it’s become such a dyer issue or our glasses are still half empty, we don’t believe that changing will really matter.

Whether we want to lose weight, get fit or do something about global warming we won’t happen until we change from the inside out. It’s only then that the glass becomes half full.

So the next time the status quo tells you that your life sucks, buy this, ask yourself…will this really make my life better?

If you said yes, it’s time you had a hard look at your own glass.

Be the change you want to see – Ghandhi

By Master Tim Bell


Watch out! Goal Sabotage: The 7 Words that Block Your Dreams

It’s easy to blame others for getting in the way of our success. But in 2011, how about we take responsibility of our goals and our outcomes? As we are creating our vision boards and writing down our goals (have you done this yet?), check your language and your self talk. Are you the one saying “no” to your dreams and to yourself? Are you coming up with excuses of why you can’t succeed this year?

Looking in the mirror can be painful but when it comes to goal-setting and goal-getting it’s the only way to keep things real. Why aren’t you as successful as you believe you should be? Why does full success elude you? Perhaps you begin but don’t commit. Perhaps you try but get sidetracked. Perhaps you go through the motions but lack belief. Of course, it’s not enough to create the vision, we must initiate consistent action as well.

“The vision must be followed by venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps– we must step up the stairs.” –Vance Havner

Sometimes we don’t see the success of action as a two-sided coin—on the one hand we must initiate action, and on the other, we must remove barricades. Some are placed by others while others are placed by our own volition, even if not consciously intended.

Here  are the 7 words I revisit at the beginning of each year to ensure that I am fully invested in my own goals and am not quietly sabotaging them:

(1) No: Such a small word but like an ant, powerful for its size. It’s arguably one of the most powerful words in the English dictionary. Definitive by nature, it requires no other explanation for what it means. When planning and taking action on our goals, it’s the enemy of progress and the dasher of dreams. While we must say no to some things to say yes to others, saying no to our own dreams not only shuts out possibilities, it kills something within us.

(2) Can’t: This word is a mind-trick. “Can’t” is the little voice inside our heads that tells us what we are not able to do. It’s our own private Gremlin. Even if we’ve never tried it or attempted to do this thing this particular way before, “can’t” has already decided the outcome.  Tacking on a simple apostrophe and that one little letter “t” to the end takes this word from emphatic and positive to pathetic and negative. How can we make progress if we’ve already told ourselves it can’t be done?

(3) Won’t: Won’t is our inner child throwing the proverbial tantrum. “Won’t” is bratty and uppity, immature and insistent in getting its way. With folded arms, nose up in the air, and a smug look, “won’t” will easily cut off its nose to spite its face. Of course, in our own stubborn stupor, we deny ourselves the ability to achieve our dreams.

(4) Never: “Never” is infinite permanence. “Never” robs us of our power of choice for the future. What feels impossible today is assumed to be insurmountable in the future despite changes in circumstance, wisdom, and guts. “Never” tells us that we shouldn’t even try because nothing will we do will make us successful goal-getters.

(5) Maybe: This word is just plain wishy-washy. It means nothing. Neither gutsy enough to say yes or direct enough to say no, “maybe” provides little hope for progress when there has been no definitive commitment. Will I try? Maybe.  Will I give up? Maybe. You know what happens when we stand in the middle of the street.  Our dreams get squashed.

(6) If: This tiny word is full of it. Projection, that is. “If” blames others when things don’t go its way. “If” takes the onus off of itself and lays it like a monkey on someone else’s back. It has the power of negating everything said before it with just one small insertion. It whines and begs for someone else to do the work or just simply, make it happen.

(7) Someday: While this word seems genteel enough, the reality is, it ‘s a snake-oil salesman. It wants to sell you a bill of goods. “Someday” is procrastination in action-there is no commitment, no follow-through, and no progress. “Someday” might trick someone into believing that a day of reckoning will come when it has no real intention. There is no power in someday until someday becomes today.

Many say that actions speak louder than words- but these words defy the rule.  They, in themselves, rob people of the action necessary to achieve their goals and realize their potential.  It’s time to say “yes,” “can,” “will,” and “now” to your hopes and aspirations. It’s time to go the extra mile. Take charge and you will surely see progress and success in 2011. Make this year…the year of achieving your dreams!

By: Dr. Robyn Silverman