Organic farmers call for ban of chemical linked to decline in bee population

Courtesy Sam Marlow

Courtesy Sam Marlow

Farmers and advocacy groups across Ontario concerned with the alarming decrease in the bee population are calling for a neonicotinoid ban by spring 2014.

Nathan Carey, a farmer in Neustadt, Ontario, is one of them.

Carey and his wife, Tarrah, have been running Green Being Farm, an organic farm, for six years. They raise sheep, pigs, chickens and cattle on the farm. The pair run a community shared agriculture (CSA) program for those looking for locally and organically grown vegetables.

Their farm depends on pollinators such as bees and when Carey started noticing the lack of them around his farm, he started to worry.

“When I noticed a lack of pollinators around the farm, I started asking neighbours and people who stopped by if they had similar experience and the majority of people did,” Carey said during a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

So he began to make a plan to save a creature so crucial to our ecosystem: ban the use of neonicotinoid in Ontario by next year.

Neonicotinoid is the chemical linked by scientists to the alarming decrease of the bee population.

Some farmers use the harmful chemical to prevent pests from eating their crop. They are applied to the soil and absorbed by the whole plant. The plant becomes toxic from the roots to the leaves, stems and pollen.

A review by The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife, found the following:

  • “Honey bees exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoid can experience problems with flying and navigation, reduced taste sensitivity, and slower learning of new tastes, which all impact foraging ability.
  • “Bumble bees exposed to sublethal levels of neonicotinoid exhibit reduced food consumption, reproduction, worker survival rates, and foraging activity.”

In the 40-page review, the organization recommends that legislators, regulators and municipal leaders across the country should consider banning the use of neonicotinoid for “cosmetic purposes on ornamental and landscape plants.”

To move forward with his goal of implementing a neonicotinoid ban by next spring, Carey meets with community members passionate about the issue, sends out messages to a mailing list of 80-100 people and works with organizations such as National Farmers Union, organization of Canadian farmers, Sierra Club, a national environment organization, and other advocacy groups.

“One of the things I’ve done in our local group is encouraged people to write to their MPs. I’m really encouraged that Kathleen Wynne took action on this. I don’t see that type of action coming from the federal government,” said Carey.

Premier Wynne, who is also Ontario’s Agriculture Minister, has asked the federal government to speed up its review of neonicotinoid seed treatments.

And it might not come fast enough.

Carey says the bee population has experienced a drop of 35 per cent in the past three years.

A petition started by the Ontario Beekeepers Association that is addressed to Wynne calls for the immediate ban of the use of neonicotinoid in Ontario. The petition has accumulated over 18,000 signatures to date.

“We are undermining the stability of our food system. The risk of losing those bees is pretty devastating. This issue isn’t just about farmers and beekeepers, it’s about everyone. We are all dependent on these natural systems,” said Carey.

To put it in context, Carey says to picture any business losing 35 per cent of their production.

“Beekeepers are losing livestock. It’s pretty devastating emotionally and economically,” Carey said.

He also hopes that organic farmers will provide insight for mainstream agriculture. Carey says that organic farmers have proven there is consistent crop with pollinator health.

“The issue with bees touches people. The way I haven’t seen an agriculture issue touch people,” said Carey.


Courage My Love – Attracting tourists and Torontonians for decades

The bright, sky blue exterior, flanked by naked mannequins is one of the busiest vintage shops in the heart of Kensington market. Courage my love has been open since 1975, relocating from Cecil Street to Kensington. Owner, Stewart Scriver attributes the success of the store to the location saying that people love shopping in Kensington because it’s comfortable.

For Stewart and co., his daughter, Felice and wife, Patricia it was never about the money, “I had done my civic duty as a teacher, so I wanted to do something else. I love shopping, I like people and I like traveling. It just works.”

Courage My Love sees customers from all over the world walk through the doors; Stewart says they have tourists from Iceland, Ireland and Tunisia, “places where you wouldn’t imagine tourists coming from,” he says.

Not only do they get tourists from all over the world but Stewart and his family also travel just about everywhere to buy stock for the shop. Every item in Courage speaks to a different culture, whether it’s something from Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, Guatemala or Turkey.

The shop has never taken the advertising revenue to promote their goods. Stewart has relied on word of mouth and thinks that most businesses have got it wrong, “most stores are trying to run a business by offering low quality, high-pressure sales and uninteresting stuff, this uniform stuff, stores that advertise that they are different, mostly aren’t.” The family is so unfamiliar with advertising that Felice jokes that she wouldn’t know what or how to advertise.

The shop is described as a gem, filled with heaps of unique jewelry, buttons, scarfs and belts. Not to mention cashmere sweaters for affordable prices (I didn’t see anything that was above $50). Courage has something for the gentlemen too, suits, dress shirts and top hats. Felice says that the affordable prices is something their customers can trust they will stick to, “Its nice to have stuff no one else has and at a good price. Anything you see in our store, we probably sell for $40 cheaper then any other thrift shop.” Felice has always trusted her instincts when it comes to spotting trends, “it’s the one thing I’m good at. If I feel like I want to wear it to the point where I get really excited about it, then I know its going to work.”

One thing that is quite evident when you speak to the Scriver family is that, they love what they are doing and promise that when you walk into the store, you’ll see something you have never seen before and will love it too.

This piece was for Ef Magazine, story and rest of the photos here.

#Gadhafi dead – another bad guy gone in the Arab world

(via Google images)

The Arab Spring has come full circle in Tunisia, residents just voted for the very first time on Sunday. Tunisia was where it all started in December when street vendor, Mohamed Bouziz, ended his life by lighting himself on fire. That sparked uprisings, and when the neighboring countries witnessed Tunisia’s success after ousting their President — Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria followed suit.

Hosni Mubarak stepped down after 18 days of protests but Egypt is still experiences conflicts with the interim government and the state military. There are still demonstrations that turn violent from time to time. With the death of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya just reached a milestone of their own. While celebrations are still lively in Libya, the question looming in the background is one that Libyans do not want to think about.

What comes next for a nation that has been lead with their hands tied behind their backs for 42 years?

Just yesterday, The National Transitional Council (NTC) declared liberation and that eight months from now, there will be a democratic election.

History is being re-written in the Middle East. Zine el Abidine Ben Ali, Hosni Mubarak and Moammar Gadhafi are all gone, after months of fighting and rallies, the people of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia can rejoice in some of their success. With another bad guy in the Arab world gone, it is up to the citizens to decide their fate, it is on their shoulders to elect a democratic government to better the nation in years to come.

NYT: In His Last Days, Qaddafi Wearied of Fugitive’s Life
Guardian: Gadaffi Dead: the front pages – in pictures
Al Jazeera English: In Pictures: A look back at Gadaffi’s reign 

Recent Work

I currently contribute to an online magazine about sustainable fashion. Contributing to Ef has made me think differently about the clothes I wear. I spend a lot more time in thrift stores then I do in H&M now.

I’ve also had the opportunity to speak to innovators trying to make a difference within the fashion industry. Toronto-based artists, Interim, are trying to change the way people think about thrift stores. They set up pop-up boutiques every five to six months around the city. Their next pop-up shop is going to be in New York this September! Check out my interview with them back in April, here.

Along side photographer, Sam Marlow, we are covering the best thrift shops in Toronto. We chatted with Gadabout Vintage owner, Victoria Dinnick, about how she came to amass her large collection for her shop. Seriously, if you are in Toronto, you need to check out this store to believe the collection Dinnick has. Check out our multi-media package for Ef.

This week we are visiting t-shirt haven, Black Market. Eventually, we want to put together a map of where Torontonians can find the best vintage shops.

Redefining thrift

Young artists develop boutique style second hand shopping

Courtesy of Othello Grey

Interim offers an experience like no other thrift store can. Clean, well designed and inviting, this Toronto pop up boutique circulates the city in five to six month intervals, presenting clean and high-quality pieces in a familiar boutique aesthetic. You wouldn’t know you were buying thrift store finds if it wasn’t for the thrift store price (nothing costs more than $50.00). The Interim concept was developed by a collaboration of young Torontonian artists known as The Art of Reuse, who took their passion for fashion and art to a new level.

Read the rest of the article here (via Ef Magazine).

#Libyan woman tells story of rape

Recent footage has surfaced of Iman Al-Obaidi in the presence of international journalists saying she had been raped and beaten by the Libyan Military. She is surrounded by the foreign press and is pleading and screaming for help, she gets taken away by these men who forcefully drag her away from the hotel and at one point put a bag over her head then take her away in a vehicle. As you can see in the video the journalists are asking where she is being taken to yet they get pushed out of the way and are left helpless as they watch this woman be manhandled.

This happened Saturday at Rixos hotel, Obaidi showed foreign journalists visible rope burns on her wrists and ankles and bruises on her body. She was picked up at a government check point, claims she was tied, beaten, raped and abused. She said she had been held for two days and gang raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s men.

Obaidi struggled for nearly an hour since journalists were trying to stop what was going on, camera equipment was smashed to prevent video footage of this being seen. Libyan state TV is also claiming this woman is a prostitute but the relatives that were interviewed say that she is a lawyer in Libya. CNN offers videos & first hand accounts from the journalists that were there.

The unrest in the Middle East continues as Libyans face foreign military intervention and the violence in Bahrain and Yemen erupts.

The Saturday that just passed brought out demonstrators to Dundas Square in downtown Toronto that showed their support for the Arab nations fighting for freedom.

Hundreds of people chanted slogans like “the world must know, Gadaffi has to go” and “down, down Gadaffi”. This peaceful rally occurred just an hour or so after Western military began invading Libya. Many demonstrators had mixed feelings about the invasion, Mahmaud Elaradi who has family in Tripoli expressed that the foreign intervention may be a good thing but it is a little too late, “The international community knows who Gadaffi is and what he is capable of. He is a criminal and a terrorist. He has been killing innocent people for over 40 years.”

In the middle of interviewing Elaradi a friend approached him and shared that a relative had just been killed in Tripoli.

Elaradi went on to say that he feels helpless for his country but definitely thinks it is a wake up call for the Arab nation, “We are saying no more to dictators, we are saying yes to democracy, to freedom, to justice. Those dictators have been there for too long, it is time for a change.” Elaradi’s frustrations rippled through the crowds of people chanting for freedom.

Mariam Yousif helped plan the pro-democracy rally with the Arab Solidarity Campaign – which supports the growing movements for freedom throughout the Arab world. Yousif, who was at the rally with her two young daughters, said that the protestors are pleading for freedom and for the country’s Sunni monarchy to step down, “the people of Bahrain have been oppressed for decades and now they are finally speaking out.” Yousif also made it clear that the Saudi troops need to leave Bahrain and the massacre of innocent civilians needs to come to an end.

Regardless of the mixed reactions to the foreign military intervention in Libya, the one thing that is clear and agreed on amongst the large crowd is: the people of Yemen, Bahrain and Libya having been waiting far too long for democracy.

Click here for more photos.

Bow ties and all, the Strokes are back with their new video for Undercover of Darkness. While they are dressed in their prom-night best they fall short of entertaining us. The video consists of a band performing around a dinner table and on a large stage. At least the guys chose a gorgeous theater to shoot the video at, enough to redeem themselves or will we have to wait until the next video?

While being on the topic of new music videos, Ke$ha graces us with her new video Blow. All I can say is that the video consists of unicorn heads, former Dawson Creek star James Van Der Beek trying to make a come back and Ke$ha’s acting skills shining through. Enough said?

Domino effect: one starts, the rest follow

The anti-government protests in the Middle East continue as residents realize that social change is possible and achievable after Tunisia and Egypt succeed in their fight for democracy.


The beginning of this revolution can be traced back to a brave street vendor who burned himself to death in December. The rest of the protesters rallied over social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook discussing the over throw of their former president.

People gathered on the streets to protest and bring attention to social and political issues. Residents of Tunisia were ruled with an iron fist by Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali for 23 years. Activists in the country were determined to bring democracy and justice to the Arab world.

On January 14th, former president Mr. Ben Ali left the country stepping down from his long reign as dictator.


Protests erupted in Egypt in January as tens of thousands of people demanded that Hosni Mubarak step down after ruling the country for 30 years.

Following in Tunisia’s footsteps protestors made plans over Facebook and Twitter. After the government caught wind of this, they had the country in a communication lockdown cutting off their Internet connection in an attempt to stop the protests.

Sick and tired of living under a repression of social exclusion, little to no jobs for the youth and rigged elections, Egyptians continued protesting for 18 days demanding change. On February 11th, Mubarak stepped down handing control to the Supreme Military Council.


Protestors in Bahrain are demanding for King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah to be removed from power and for Prime Minster Khalifah bin Sulman al-Khalifah to step down.

There has been growing tension between the Shiite population and the al-Khalifah family who is Sunni for some time now with religion and political injustice coming into play.

On February 16th, the people of Bahrain took it to the streets in Pearl Square to rally against the government. Riot police officers responded violently by firing shots, grenades and tear gas into the large crowds.

Protests continue with their demands for the monarchy government to resign and political prisoners to be released.


President Ali Abdullah Saleh who has been in power for 32 years said he would not run for re-election in 2013 but protestors are still demanding change. They say that the corruption of the government stunts the country’s attempt to advance their economy and social standings.

Police have attempted to disperse the large crowds by firing gunshots but that has only resulted in the deaths of numerous civilians.

Despite the ten-day protest Saleh is refusing to give in to the demands set out by his people.


In various cities in southern Iraq people followed suit and protested but instead of asking their government to step down, they are demanding changes. Growing frustrations amoung residents include the lack of unemployment and public services available. To this day people in Iraq are living without constant electricity and qualified water resources.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki addressed the protests blaming some of the problems that Iraq is still experiencing on the previous regime.

He is encouraging Iraqis to stay away from violence and to express their demands in a civilized manner. Maliki is asking residents for time to recover from the war and former dictator government.


Perhaps the most violent of all protests erupted in Libya on February 16 when a crowd armed with gasoline bombs protested outside a government office. Protestors are demanding the release of a human rights advocate in the capital, Tripoli. They also called for Muammar Gaddafi to step down after ruling as a dictator for 41 years.

Foreign journalists cannot enter and the government shut down the Internet after finding out the use of social networks played a huge role in the demonstrations.

The Human Rights Watch has reported that at least 233 civilians have been killed (if not more) with as many as 200 people injured and 800 wounded after Gaddafi called on the army to take extreme violent measures to stop the protests.

Rumours went around today that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela but he appeared on state TV reassuring the world that he is in Tripoli.

Online Dating: Friend or Foe?

Finding a spouse, flirting and settling down with the right person – all made easier with just a click of a button.

Online dating websites, eHarmony, Lavalife and Plenty of fish, seem to be replacing the club scene of singles mingling.

We’ve all seen the commercials with the happy couples that claim they would have never found each other if it wasn’t for them joining a particular dating website. The online dating pool is growing and there seems to be something out there for everyone. Some are geared towards singles looking for marriage while other sites are just for casual dating.

There are still those optimistic singles that claim that they will find love the “old-fashioned way” but think about it, when was the last time a guy asked you out on a date in person? Perhaps this question only applies to my non-existent dating life but guys usually opt for I’ll-add-you-to-Facebook-and-ask-you-out-online instead of the face-to-face interaction.

The appeal?…

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