Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Cob Versus Earthship (Round 1)

So for those of you who follow my blogging and life activities, you would know Julie and I are trying to decide on an environmentally friendly housing situation. So far the issue has pretty much entirely revolved around Cob houses. As of late another contender has come into the running again: the Earthship! Perhaps some of my friends and readers have some insight into either of these two building methods. I'm going to make a pro/con list abut the two techniques and I would very much appreciate additions or corrections where warranted.

- Inexpensive
- Readily available materials (sand, water, straw, clay)
- Sturdy (some have been around for hundreds of years and survived multiple earthquakes)

- Takes a long time to complete
- May not be suited for a colder climate for insulation

- Uses mostly reclaimed or reused materials
- Minimal costs
- Well insulated
- Quick to build

- Seems more costly than Cob
- Some claims of tire off-gassing (most likely untrue but it turned Julie off it for awhile)
- Newer building technique and therefore possible unforeseen complications

Monday, December 13, 2010

Things Are Starting To Look Up

For those of you who keep up to date with the goings-on in my life (and the life of my immediate family), you know things kind of hit a rough spot. It culminated in our next door neighbour, who has been blaring his music on a daily occurrence - and apparently didn't like the fact we complained about this - coming over and threatening us, harassing me in the street, and even cutting our phone line. After the phone line incident we contacted the police for the umpteenth time and left it in their hands while Julie and I went on a vacation to Portland, Maine for a few days. Since our return, things have significantly improved. In the three weeks since our get-away, we have only heard him and/or his music once. This has greatly improved our overall mood while being at home to the point where we don't feel the immediate urge to move.

Speaking of moving, Julie and I have been bouncing around the idea of a more nomadic lifestyle. While we would have a permanent settlement somewhere yet to be determined, we have been contemplating purchasing an R.V.. This would be a staged process, while we would use the R.V. as a temporary home while we built a house of our own (most likely a cob house based on permacultural principles), and could also be a means of vacationing as well. It would also help us live a more minimalistic lifestyle.

In my work-life, things are - hopefully - looking up. My friend, Chris, helped me get an interview at Q1 Labs. This seems like a great place to work. The money seems really good (and not that I'm overly motivated by the money itself, but the "freedom" it can provide), the people there seem to enjoy what they do, and their attrition rate is unheard of at only 5%! I've already had one interview and was told I would be scheduled another early this week so please wish me luck!

As for my running regime, I completed my first half marathon event (The "Not the Honolulu" fun run). I think I did rather while given weather conditions were not the most conducive for speed, and the leisurely nature of the run prompted several conversations throughout the run. While it was not a timed event I estimate I completed the run in approximately two hours. The next stage in my training is a full marathon and I intend to run in the Fredericton Marathon next May.

During the run, I also saw a very large coyote (thankfully not interested in me as a meal) which actually kind of saddened me. I actually took a couple moments to watch the creature and collect my thoughts. The coyote was in an area that had formerly been a forest and was now a gravel pit slated for the construction of some unnecessary building. Seems like there are constant reminders of the slight of "civil"ized humanity against creatures of all types.

I think that about covers all the bases. I would like to wish everyone "season's greetings" and all the best for the upcoming year. I suppose I will have to make another blog stating what my New Year's Resolution is. I'm contemplating either going raw vegan or giving up alcohol (for the year or permanently; I have not decided yet if that is even going to be the resolution), or even something else altogether. I'm nearing the end of my current New Year's resolution with only a couple slips (not climbing a couple trees until after midnight; which to me institutional time is irrelevant, the new day doesn't start until the sun rises!). I should have more reflections on this also. Until next time...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Mothman Prophesies...Or Something Like That

So while at work today, contemplating how I was essentially going to tell my employer I wasn't going to take the new "supervisor" position since all it entails is the same money, worse hours and a horrid seating arrangement, I noticed a moth on the wall. My first instinct was to save this creature before any of the other ignoramuses I work with may have killed or harmed it. So I gently coaxed him/her onto my finger so I could release him/her outside.

Upon getting a few weird looks (which essentially confirmed my initial assumption about many of my coworkers) and getting my newly found friend outside, I dropped him/her off far enough away from the door that I felt s/he would be safe from any of the detriments of my place of work. So again I tried to gently coax him/her from my finger. I don't know if it somehow felt attached to me for removing her/him from the hellhole that is my work, but several times s/he simply flew right back onto my finger after I tried to prod her/him away. Which in a way made my day to think perhaps I meant that much to this small creature after such a brief encounter.

The other thing this incident provoked was a decision I have already started contemplating greatly over the past several weeks and months. While being vegan is great, all it simply does is not kill lives (which don't get me wrong is still a wonderful thing!). It doesn't actively save lives per se. Which is why I am trying to make it a personal practice to actively save as many lives from harm/danger as possible. Be they worms on the road, or moths in a building, these creatures clearly have a preference and end up suffering as a result of civilization if somebody doesn't do something. I'm sure many of the people I correspond with will understand this revelation.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Monkey Found, Among Other Deaths...

While I may have mislead readers by the title of this blog entry, this is actually just a general rant against "civilized" government as a whole. I read the following article (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=11977239) with the same feeling I get when I read about the discovery of any "new" species: absolute fear for the species' safety. Even in the article it mentions that the species is in the hands of a government that barely cares about its own people, let alone the environment or other animals. To any person this leaves little doubt as to the fate of the animal especially when hunted for meat...

Among other depressing news (http://www.globaltvedmonton.com/birds+dead+after+toxic+landing/3728942/story.html), several hundred more ducks have met their untimely and horrific deaths in the tailing ponds of Alberta's oilsands. This coming just days after they received a fine for $3,000,000 for 1,600 ducks having died last year! Clearly they have not learned their lesson, and how would they when $3,000,000 is a miniscule fraction of the profits they make on a daily basis.

What further grinds my gears is that the Alberta government (while they issue a lot of strong rhetoric) is completely inept and fails to see the gravity of the situation when all they can think of is their pockets being lined with oil-drenched money. They fail to see that the health of the entire environment is at stake, and focus on more trivial concerns like the health of smokers who control their own fates (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2010/10/25/edmonton-alberta-tobacco-lawsuit.html). Yet they ignore the suffering of those who have done nothing but been the victims of living in the shithole that is "civilized" society.

Just on a note to end, if people think I'm "angry" then I just have to retort that if they are NOT angry, they clearly aren't looking hard enough or just do not give a damn.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Greetings from a Chipmunk

The following is a short story of my encounter with a Chipmunk on Saturday, September 25, 2010.


Two creatures meet at the site of a deep, gaping wound in the Earth.

I set down my bike, first intending to lash out at those who had done the damage to the forest. This is when a chipmunk came scurrying onto my bike and the felled trees my bike was propped against.

Forgetting the bag of peanuts normally in my lunch bag, I offered the only thing I could think of to quickly show the creature I meant no harm: a fragment of the sucker from my mouth.

The chipmunk seemed interested but hesistant. I offered my candy freely, not even knowing whether such a sophisticated creature would take such a paltry peace offering.

I don't blame the chipmunk for its reluctance to simply take what I offered as usually humans only offer non-humans death. But in this case, friendship seemed freely offered and freely received.

However, this exchange was fleeting. A human and his canine companion were walking towards us on the trail, which was enough to send my new friend back to his home. I can only hope for the day we meet again; and when this day comes I will be better prepared to offer him/her and any other new friends something more wholesome in exchange for their companionship.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Veganism for the Environment

Many of you might already have known I wrote an article for the Brock Press several months about about the reasons to go vegan for environmental concerns. I decided (better late then never) to add it to my blog.


Veganism for the Environment

Anthropogenic climate change, mass extinctions, and environmental degradation, has more people in Canada than ever citing environmental issues their greatest concern. Many organisations have provided guidelines for reducing our ecological footprint. Most have fallen short on THE most effective way of helping the environment: a transition to a plant-based lifestyle.

Reports, such as the United Nation’s, “Livestock’s Long Shadow,” often get ignored, instead favoring reducing pollution from other industries. This document details the effect of meat production on the environment. It found that 18% of anthropogenic greenhouse gases are created from animal agriculture. This makes animal usage a greater threat to climate change than the entire automotive industry. So why all the hype about capping industrial sources when one need look no further than their plate to reduce their personal emissions is beyond me. Don’t get me wrong; I am for reducing any source of pollution to the best of our abilities. A Vegan lifestyle is the most effective way to do this.

That just entails the emission impact of terrestrial animal exploitation. Many consume fish as a ‘healthier’ meat alternative. This also has negative consequences. All bony fish sequester carbon by secreting calcium carbonate. Therefore, over-fishing removes a major source of carbon sequestration. The removal of plankton eating fish doubly impacts climate change. Instead of carbon being consumed by these fish, it goes to the ocean floor, decomposes and then erupts into the atmosphere as methane gas. This affects the coastal environment by creating dead-zones and contributes vastly to atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Climate change is not the sole concern when we consume animal products. ~60-70% of corn and soybeans go to feeding livestock. The energy input-output is only that high because factory-farmed animals aren’t even given enough space to perform simple bodily functions. According to natural energy pyramid economics, only ~10% of plant matter’s energy makes it to the average meat consumer’s body, making it an enormously inefficient farming practice. This requires more land, and greater energy input for extraction. With over 1/3 of Earth’s arable land used for agriculture, ~30% of the Earth’s arable land going to use for animal agriculture. This has lead to mass desertization, deforestation, soil erosion, etc.

With ~50 billion animals slaughtered annually to satiate human demand, meat production requires copious amounts of resources. The amount of water required to produce the pound of meat versus a pound of vegetables is enormously higher. Clean water being scarce for many, this is a huge waste of water.

Dealing with farm animal waste environmentally prudently is nearly impossible. Especially when you’re injecting hormones and antibiotics into the animals, waste run-off and the use of manure leads to water contamination, outbreaks of bacterial infections, and ecological dead-zones.

Hunting also creates environmental detriments. While natural predation contributes to evolutionary adaptation, human hunting diminishes wildlife populations (sometimes causing extinction). Fishing tends to target stronger animals, as they lunge at lures. This leaves fewer, less aggressive fish to mate – if they are able. This is paralleled in land-based hunting, where the strongest animals would be the ones to venture closest to human encampments. Trap-’hunting’ and long-lining for animals is also ecologically destructive by its haphazard approach, sometimes even killing endangered species. All of these have serious and irreversible ecological consequences.

This isn’t an extensive list of environmental devastations from animal usage, just the more consequential ones. This ultimately begs the question, ‘Can a person even be an animal-utilising environmentalist?’

Friday, May 7, 2010

Lots of News

Sorry to anyone who has been disappointed in my lack of postings in the past several months. I have been very busy completely my university semester and planning a rather extensive move.

For those of you who haven't already heard, I have relocated from Hamilton, ON, to Fredericton, NB. This was to accompany my wife so that she could transfer within her company and be closer to her parents and immediate family.

So far I am enjoying it here, even though I am relatively bored. The weather hasn't been the best - having rained almost every day. Although on the opportunities I have been able to venture outside, the scenery is absolutely lovely. We live on a hill overlooking the St. John River, and are surrounded by forests. We just discovered a walking trail that used to be an old apple orchard. All the trees are covered in moss and lichens, mushrooms and animal life abound. This already seems to be a much more bio-diverse region than that practically dead-zone of Hamilton.

So far I am looking for jobs to supplement our income. While we forecasted our living expenses on my wife's income alone, having more income can't necessarily hurt (even if it does contribute to a capitalist society). However, I am still trying to maintain some semblance of my ethics, only applying for positions that would not require the use of animals or animal products. I also figure, even though I am taking a substantial pay decrease, I will probably enjoy a job here more than my former work, and also see it as an opportunity to stop supporting the government; since my income will most likely be too low to require paying taxes. I am applying at health food stores that cater to vegans and organic foods, used clothing and electronic stores, produce departments of grocery stores and garden departments of hardware stores.

I am continuing my degree in Biology at UNB, and have a feeling I will have a lot less problems than I am currently having with Brock. I have received drastically lower grades in one course in particular that has resulted in a overall mark of 65%. This is a good 10+% lower than all my other courses, and have a feeling that unfair marking may have influenced this. I am currently appealing the grade. However, I am pleased with all the other marks I have received so far. 80% in Plant Physiology, 80% in Bioethics, 78% in Fungal Biology (which meant I received a 90+% on the final exam!), 78% in Chemistry, and have yet to hear about my Ecology grade yet.

I will keep everyone apprised of further life-changing or informative events as they should arise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A letter to the Fur Council, Re: Their "Fur is Green" Campaign

I take a strong contention to your campaign trying greenwash your
product. First and foremost you make contradictory claims regarding
your product. On one hand you claim the product is "natural" and
biodegradable. On the other you make claims that your product is
long-lasting and can be handed down generations. Which is it exactly?

Secondly, you associate yourself with animal agribusiness by using byproducts of the animal agriculture industry (while being an animal agriculture industry yourself). In case you aren't aware, animal agriculture contributes
more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire automotive industry
combined (18% vs 15% respectively). Not only is greenhouse gas
emissions an environmental concern, but there is almost inevitable
waste run-off into ground water, streams, rivers, etc. These create
ecological cesspools and dead zones.

The other point of contention is the chemicals used in your products.
Many are known carcinogens, poisons and environmental toxins designed
to prevent an animal's body from doing what it naturally does when it
dies: decay. Once again, counter-intuitive to the claims you produce a
"natural" product.

The amount of petroleum used to produce a synthetic "fur" is actually
vastly less than producing a real fur product, when you take into
account all the chemicals, transporting, food import, waste export,
etc. of your industry.

Trapping, too, has environmental detriments. While you would like
think you're "helping" populations by extracting them unnecessarily
from their habitats, fur-trapping is a haphazard method of extracting
animal "resources". They can trap creatures that were unintended to be
trapped - including endangered species. Overall, hunting and trapping
practices tend to weaken animal populations as a whole, by targeting
"fitter" animals. Most recreational and commercial hunting practices
result in this as we have seen with many hunting based extinctions and species hunted to the point of having nonviable populations.

These are just the refutations of the claims your product is
environmentally friendly. It doesn't even address the inherent animal
cruelty of using animals unnecessarily to make money. I would be very
surprised if you actually published this. You claim that you don't
post hateful messages, but you posted a rant from an individual who
goes on [i]ad nauseum[/i] about people more compassionate than herself
in a derogatory tone. She also claims to be an animal lover. That's
like a pedophile claiming to love children. Both go on to exploit and
harm them.

Although, if you have any interest in objective and open dialogue, I
suggest you do post my comment and/or send feedback. Not doing so only
proves my point that you aren't interested in absolute disclosure of
your product.


Stephen Grant


P.S. For more information on this false advertising campaign check out their website:

Knowing your enemy is the first step in neutralizing them.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

St Catharines Transit

The transit commission in St. Catharines, ON, recently decided to ban advertisements promoting veganism. In response I sent a strongly worded email. I suggest everyone do the same. Feel free to use any part of mine if you wish. For more background on the issue here is a link the St. Catharines Standard:


I am extremely disappointed that you decided to ban the advertisements
that were submitted by Niagara Action for Animals promoting veganism.
They were not graphic in any way (unlike some other ads you put on
your buses). In fact, they are quite cutesy!

You put advertisements of a sexual nature, for other advocacy groups,
religious advertisements, etc. yet you disallow this one? Maybe the
message in the ads you banned is something you should think more about (i.e. cognitive dissonance). I'm guessing some of you own - or have
close relationships with people who own - animal exploiting
industries? I mean, good grief! Talk about absolute prejudice and

I'm a Brock student and if it wasn't mandatory to pay for the bus
pass, I would not pay to use your service based on your ignorance
displayed over this incident!


Stephen Grant