Heather Conn Blogs

spoutin’ about by the sea

Green Drinks on the Sunshine Coast: a new hit

                                                                                           — Donna McMahon photo

About 30 energetic voices at last night’s Green Drinks event in Roberts Creek, BC created an audible – and symbolic — buzz and hum of successful community cross-pollination.


Locals of many generations packed into The Gumboot Café for the first Green Drinks event on the Coast in several years. This eco-gathering, co-hosted by Deer Crossing The Art Farm and One Straw Society, created much passionate discussion and a long list of suggestions for future topics and presentations. These ranged from the more obscure (palm-forest logging and destruction caused by a demand for labels made of palm oil) to a request for short, verbal reviews of “green” books.


Besides the shared animated talk, Art Farm resident and puppeteer Sandy Buck explained in an informal presentation how inspired she felt by creative collaboration in public spaces, community-based activism, and the power of a group to create change. She praised the book series A Community Lover’s Guide to the Galaxy. As only one global example, A Community’s Lover’s Guide to Rotterdam offers initiatives for creating communities and stronger bonds through “empty spaces, shops,  kids, food, greenery, sand, books, stories, art, and symbols in new and old ways.”


As social scientist Duane Elgin says in Voluntary Simplicity: “Who we are, as a society, is the synergistic accumulation of who we are as individuals . . .Small changes that seem insignificant in isolation can be great contributions when they are simultaneously undertaken by many others.”


Attendees ranged from local politicos Donna Shugar, Sunshine Coast Regional District director, Lorne Lewis, and Lee Ann Johnson to Food Action Network reps; Bernard, the owner of a bio-diesel vehicle; author David Roche; Scott Avery of Huckleberry Vardo Designs, who builds and advocates for low-impact small living spaces; and “green” authors Christina Symons and John Gillespie.


During the event, I thought of how pleased the late Robin Wheeler, founder of One Straw Society, would have been to see such group enthusiasm, one of the many legacies of her community work and dedication. Thank you, Art Farm, and One Straw for re-launching Green Drinks on the Sunshine Coast. I’ve attended Green Drinks in Vancouver over several years and have always met intriguing and inspirational people. I hope that this event will become a focal point for progressive change and action on the Coast.

Green Drinks on the Sunshine Coast will be held on the last Thursday of every month, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Gumboot Cafe. You can become a friend on FaceBook.

To find out more about the origin of Green Drinks and related events around the world, see Green Drinks.

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April 27, 2012 at 10:21 am Comments (0)

Does Harper leave us room for hope?

Rachel Carson

If Rachel Carson, a biologist and author of Silent Spring, were alive today, she’d likely be one of those people that federal natural resources minister Joe Oliver would condemn as a “radical environmentalist” with “a radical ideological agenda.”


In her compelling book, published in 1962 by Houghton Mifflin, Carson warned of the deadly impact that DDT and other chemicals had on the food chain, from insects and birds to fish, the earth, and humanity itself. Her book produced a firestorm of contempt and anger from scientists, academics, and politicians. She was dismissed as an ignorant female, a fear mongerer, and someone guilty of misguided science. Yet, her vision of how toxins affect the interconnectedness of life – a concept rarely mentioned in public at the time – proved prescient and correct. Her book helped lead to the banning of DDT in North America.


A half-century later, today’s environmentalists face similar vicious bite-back and dismissal for their concern about the Northern Gateway pipeline and the potential impact of oil supertankers on the B.C. coast. How truly insulting to have politicians such as Oliver and prime minister Harper, who are supposed to be looking after the people’s interests,  demonize those who simply care about the planet’s future, fish and wildlife, and the livelihood of those who depend on both. Shame on them both.


Even our local Tory MP, John Weston, dismissed local Sunshine Coast residents who criticized the policies of Harper and the Conservative party at his recent public meeting in Sechelt. He said that these meetings attract “negative elements.” In that statement, he has shown that he holds little interest in truly listening to his voters, the community that he is supposed to represent. He has minimized the voices of concerned seniors, teens, and those of all ages in between. Shame on him.


Harper’s government repeatedly demonstrates what little value it places on the power of democracy and the value of a healthy environment. Oliver has said that only those directly affected by the Enbridge pipeline should be allowed to speak at the current National Energy Board hearings. That eliminates the voices of hundreds of citizens (and voters). He might as well say: The vote of person A is worth more than the vote of person B.


Oliver continues to strive to speed up the hearings and strip the federal Fisheries Act of regulatory teeth while Harper nuzzles closer to more oil and trade deals with China and Japan. They both make heroes of those who care about oil profits, and villains of those who want to ensure a healthy, sustainable planet. (Like the F.B.I., who harassed anti-war groups in the 1960s and 1970s, Harper is investigating environmental groups for their “foreign” support. Yet he seeks and extols the “foreign support” of Chinese investors and oil companies in Alberta’s tar sands.)


Life, the earth, and its people are far more multi-layered than the prime minister’s simplistic, dualistic model of good versus evil. Overall, Harper is a threat to democratic principles and needs to be removed from office through a vote of non-confidence.


Two days ago, at Earth Day celebrations in Roberts Creek, Donna Shugar, director of the Sunshine Coast Regional District, mentioned how challenging it is to feel hopeful in today’s environmental climate. I agree. Yet as long as people continue to speak out, protest collectively, choose to consume less and grow more organic food, exercise their vote, and support groups that work to protect our planet, we still have room for hope.

We need to take back the right to choose what is in B.C.’s public interest. Take action by writing a letter to Premier Clark (premier@gov.bc.ca), with a cc to your MLA, asking for her to take Northern Gateway off the list of projects under the Equivalency Agreement.  Once the National Energy Board submits its findings, we will have bound ourselves to it. We already know what the federal government has decided.

(Kudos to the students at Windermere High School in east Vancouver who hosted an interactive program on Earth Day.  They set up a 3-D walking course, made to scale in the same representation as some of B.C.’s coastline, and had participants, who “wore” boxes as if they were oil tankers, try to navigate the route. What a great way to bring home a message!)

For more on this subject, I heartily recommend reading Open Letter to Premier Christy Clark by Robyn Allan, posted on April 19, 2012. Allan is a former CEO and president of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.


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April 24, 2012 at 9:19 am Comments (0)

How do we nab a cute little critter?

A few days ago, my husband heard some loud gnawing behind our stove. He said that it sounded like something was trying to chew its way into the house from outside. We suspected a rat.


My hubby pulled the stove away from the wall and shone his flashlight down to the floor. There was no hole and no rat. Only a tiny mouse with shiny black eyes and big ears stared up at him, then resumed chewing on a large hunk of discarded cheese. My husband thought it looked adorable.


The cheese is now gone. The mouse isn’t.


I went to Canadian Tire and bought a product called Mouse Inn, which ensures “a gentle catch.” On the box, it shows a smiling mouse lounging in an easy chair, with feet up on a stool and a lamp in the corner. I liked this image; it’s better than seeing a mouse convulsing under the bar of a mousetrap before it dies.


I promote the notion of a peaceful death – or preferably, no death at all. The Mouse Inn, a small, rectangular plastic compartment with a one-way trap door, comes with some valerian pills, an herbal sedative that is supposed to put the mouse to sleep. One pill, one dozing mouse, which you can then relocate.


We tried it. It didn’t work.


The mouse got into our bottom shelf of seedlings indoors, devouring sweet pea seeds in a dozen peat disks. My husband considered this a travesty. This meant war on mice. . . well, maybe just a minor skirmish.


He has now baited the Mouse Inn with not only a valerian pill, but a giant piece of Black Diamond yellow cheddar. I will keep you posted . . . The two stray cats we’ve been feeding outdoors have not yet caught the little critter. Hopefully, we won’t have to resort to the extreme methods demonstrated by Christopher Walken and Nathan Lane in the 1997 movie Mousehunt.


In other mouse news, while in a dollar store recently on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC, I saw a mouse scurry across the floor in front of me, then make a sharp turn down one of the aisles. It was going so fast that it lost traction on the linoleum floor and skidded, just like in a cartoon. I laughed to myself, grateful that the two young boys near me hadn’t seen it.

An afterthought: I lived in the country for more than 10 years before having a mouse indoors. I find that ironic since almost every place I lived in Vancouver over a 30-year-period had mice. I have lots of mice stories. Maybe I’ll make this a series.

Got a mouse story? Why not share it here?






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April 14, 2012 at 2:38 pm Comment (1)

Are you helping to shape Roberts Creek’s future?

This past weekend, Global TV highlighted Roberts Creek on its weekly Saturday morning news feature Small Town BC. The station shared photos sent in by Creekers, showcasing some of what makes our community such a glorious place to live: the beach at sunset; the mandala and pier; the Gumboot Café; the Hall; the Roberts Creek Daze parade; and creative ingenuity, like the person who filled a local pothole with wood chips, daffodils, and other flowers.


Yet, we don’t need to see the Creek celebrated on television to know what a special place this is – all you have to do is live here. A friend who’s writing a feature on Roberts Creek for a newspaper in Germany told me this morning: “Doing this article has reinforced all the more to me what a great place this is.”


For me, the attraction of our community lies in its outstanding beauty and social/cultural values: tolerance; honouring the earth with organic gardens and markets and food security; private and public creativity; a laid-back lifestyle; independence and self-sufficiency; political and environmental activism; and the talent and expertise of our residents.


We need to protect these values to prevent the Creek from becoming an over-crowded, over-extended place without sufficient infrastructure and agricultural land to maintain a high quality of life for its current and future residents. That’s why I was glad to attend the recent open house regarding the Roberts Creek Official Community Plan (OCP) review. (An OCP, drafted by volunteer residents, uses a long-term view to outline goals and policies for the community, to guide decisions on planning and land-use management.)


The Sunshine Coast Regional District invited local residents to provide feedback on various aspects of the OCP vision, including transportation, the town core, density, and agricultural land. Many people shared passionate comments, criticisms, and suggestions at the microphone while others wrote feedback on large sheets at a series of display tables.


Such public process is a vital part of community participation, democracy, and collaborative decision-making. If you don’t share your views with those who have the power to effect change, then don’t complain if and when your vision never happens. Act now. Be part of the future you want to create.


Send your comments to David Rafael, Senior Planner at the Sunshine Coast Regional District: 604-885-6804, ext. 4 or david.rafael@scrd.ca.

April 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm Comments (0)

How much do you fear death?

I recently added a folder on death and dying to my filing cabinet. It’s not that I’m morbid, but I’ve faced the subject a lot in recent months through a variety of workshops, presentations, and the death of people I know. And I’ve learned about the Sage-ing® Guild, a group for whom I facilitated several workshops at a conference. They positively affirm the elder years and encourage creating piece of mind by making “legal, medical, fiscal and spiritual preparation as a way of facing one’s mortality.”


By not fearing death, I believe that we make a conscious choice to live life to the utmost, not shrinking from the reality of a demise that we will all share.


Someone recently sent me a list of the top five regrets of the dying, based on a book written by Bronnie Ware, who worked in palliative care. These are the most frequent comments she heard from people who were in the last three to twelve weeks of their life:


  • I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. Ware says: “It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way.” I agree completely.


  • I wish I didn’t work so hard. In Ware’s words: “By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.” Again, I wholeheartedly agree.


  • I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. How many people suppress their feelings to keep peace with others? This can result in bitterness, resentment, and even illness.


  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Ware says: “It all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks.”


  • I wish that I had let myself be happier. “Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice,” says Ware. “When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.


“Life is a choice. It is your life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.”


A woman on Orcas Island, Wa. named Alana chose to die on her own terms. She died in the woods on a bed created by her friends, who sang to her as she was dying. She wrote a prose death poem, which includes the following: “How can we know how to live if we don’t know how to die? . . .[M]aybe we could find a little appreciation for the miracle that eventually the spirit and the body separate. Is that so awful? How is it that we get so attached to all of this gross matter? . . . .


“If we are not feeling love and gratitude for who we are and what we have, then we are not living, we’re merely existing. If we do not live with love and joy, I am certain death will not contain them either. So now is your chance, here is the secret: Live every moment as if there was nothing more important than joy, than gratitude, than love. Put these wonders into everything you do . . .your finances, your chores, your work, your friends and family. And I promise you will never fear death or anything else and your love will be returned a thousandfold.” Amen.


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April 1, 2012 at 4:32 pm Comments (2)