It's gettin' hot in here
Holey moley of heatwaves here. Today in Montreal it was around 30C, and it felt like 40C with humidity. It has made my apartment almost unbearable, and the thought of turning on the stove to make something for supper sounds about as appealing as taking a hot bath in summer. I managed to make a quick supper with mostly raw ingredients, and collapsed on my futon with a big glass of iced tea to watch the news.
Today the news, besides the multiple corruption scandals and a serial killer, had a theme. First up: this crazy heatwave (technically not a heatwave since this is only day 2; a heatwave is 3). Record breaking temperatures. Next: there is a gigantic sinkhole downtown because of unusual flooding from a few weeks ago. The road just gave way, and they don't know how deep the hole is. Last: a warning to check yourself for ticks, since there has been an invasion of the parasites and lyme disease coming up from the states.
At first, these just seem like random, crappy luck. Bad weather. Bad ecology. But I'm 1/3 into reading Bill McKibbin's book Eaarth, which at this point is a narrative of all of the terrible, expensive, crappy luck that has happened because of climate change. Islands disappearing from rising sea levels. Droughts in Africa. Polar bears. We know these big, iconic results of climate change, but it's getting worse. We used to just be able to say "oh yeah, the polar bears might one day die from climate change". Ice caps, or something. It used to be somewhere else, someone else, someone else's problem. But flooding (lookin' at you, Burlington), super warm winters (lookin' at you, skiiers), weird temperatures (remember wearing a tshirt on St Patrick's day?), abnormal temperatures that affect agriculture production (lookin' at my dad, who had a terrible maple syrup season), and now this heat wave is making it hit home. Literally. My apartment is sweltering, and we're not even July yet.
The news tonight had at least three stories about the effects of climate change. Was "global warming" or "climate change" even mentioned? Even "changing" and "climate" kinda maybe in the same sentence? Nope. They didn't even explain why the Ontario government now has to spend money for public service announcements to tell people about increased lyme disease: The ticks are getting more up north because it's linked to warmer temperatures, since normally they can't survive our winters.
I come from a science background, so I tend to be very cautious when saying something is definitely caused by something else. I'm a skeptic, of everything. I don't want to say that something is for sure until I've seen pretty good proof of it. I understand why a mainstream reporter wouldn't say that this is because of climate change. The blog comments and editorials would come out: we don't even know if climate change is real, the scientists are wrong, there isn't much proof of all this stuff anyway. I did my Master's research on behaviour change related to saving energy. I know the psychology behind all of this. Climate change is scary. It's too crazy to be real.
But it's happening. Right now.
My two new hives!
About two weeks ago, I got two new bee colonies! Last year, I had a beehive at the Macdonald Campus with their McGill Apicultural Association. But in winter, I realized that they had died from colony collapse disorder. When I opened the hive, there were only about five dead bees, and lots of honey and brood left. They seemed to have just...disappeared. It was extremely weird and characteristic of colony collapse disorder, so I started reading a lot of scientific papers. I'm still working on a literature review, but personally, I think the science is pretty clear: corn coated in pesticides are poisoning bees at sublethal levels, weakening their immune system. This article in the New York Times sums up two scientific studies that were released at the end of March: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/30/science/neocotinoid-pesticides-play-a-role-in-bees-decline-2-studies-find.html
When I stared into my dead hive in late January, I felt angry. I felt determined. I was going to help change this.
I was pretty torn in the spring. I wanted to move my hive to somewhere without pesticides, but I thought that I wouldn't have as much say in the bee club, since I would no longer have a hive there. I wouldn't really be a stakeholder anymore. So I've continued to work on the literature review, and it is somehow taking me forever to complete. But I'm getting there. And I moved my bees to the cottage.
The cottage! My parents have given me half the field (I am now a landowner! Well...unofficially.), so that's where my garden, an old apple tree, a meadow, and now my bees live. I love my garden, but the poor thing is so neglected since I can only go once every two weeks. Bees, luckily, only need to be visited once every two weeks.
So far the two hives are doing well. It's interesting to have two this year instead of one, so that I can compare which one is doing better. I'm not sure if they like me yet, but I love them.
I'm definitely failing this challenge. After doing research about the link of colony collapse disorder to systemic pesticides used on the majority of corn, I have been trying to avoid everything with high fructose corn syrup. At first I thought it wouldn't be too hard, because I don't eat many processed foods. However, anytime I want a snack or a condiment, I have to check the labels. Lately, I've just been avoiding anything with sugar in the ingredients, since I'm not sure where this "sugar" comes from. Beets? Sugar cane? Corn? Who knows. So I'm trying to avoid it all.
I haven't been totally sugar-free, and have consented to the occasional ice cream or ketchup. I have definitely reduced my normal consumption, though, and I don't get those gross feelings after you eat too much sugar.
However, I'm feeling like a person on a diet who has intense cravings where I want to eat all the ice cream in the world! I've been trying to make a lot more snacks myself, to avoid getting antsy during the day and caving. I have two ideas for you, if you'd like to try something new:
Banana ice cream and candied pumpkin seeds.
I had heard about making ice cream from just frozen bananas before, but I thought that there's no way it could taste that great, since I'm not crazy about just eating a banana. Wrong. I chopped up two frozen bananas and threw it in with half a peach, a half cup of milk and a drop of peppermint extract. I blended it together, and stuck it in the freezer for a bit. And... AMAZING. It really does taste like ice cream, and the best part was after my second bowl, I knew that I had only eaten a banana and a quarter cup of milk.
The maple pumpkin seeds are almost just as easy. I found this recipe here:
Since my dad makes maple syrup, I have plenty of it at home. I mixed a cup and a bit of pumpkin and sunflower seeds with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon paprika. I put the mix on a baking sheet, and roasted it at 425F. I watched them really carefully and stirred halfway through, but it probably was only in there for about five minutes before they were ready. And then I ate them. Lots of them. The sweetness of the maple syrup, the saltiness, the spices...MMMM.
If you got any more corn-syrup free snack recipes, keep 'em coming!
I'll bee free from HFCS
For the month of May, I told myself (and all of you) that I would avoid meat unless it was ethically and locally raised. I ate some super delicious, organic local sausages from a friend's farm. But I did eat normal meat twice, somewhat accidentally. Once, I went to someone's house for a barbecue, and it would have been rude to refuse meat. I also thought that May only had 30 days, so at midnight on the 30th, I had an amazing sausage, thinking that I had just finished my challenge. I realized the next day that it was actually May 31st.
So I didn't quite make it the whole month without factory farmed meat, but I was fairly close. I've been trying to figure out what my next challenge is, and I decided on it last night: No high fructose corn syrup!
Why did I choose this? It's summer, which to me means Tim Horton's ice caps, cold soda, popsicles, and anything else cool and sugary. However, I've been researching more about the impact that systemic pesticides that are used on corn have on bees. My own bees died over the winter, seemingly from colony collapse disorder. Although colony collapse seemed like a mystery for a few years, the scientific evidence now points to neonicotinoids, a type of pesticides that is used on 99% of corn. Bees can be exposed to this when they get corn pollen, or when the water droplets catch the pesticides. The pesticide has sublethal effects, but over time it can weaken and kill them, leaving basically no trace that the pesticide was the cause. I believe the corn grown on Mac Campus, at McGill where I had my bees, poisoned my bees. So I've been compiling the scientific literature about how this pesticide on the corn has been killing bees.
I just installed two new colonies of bees at my cottage. As I was reading the scientific articles, I thought - how can I possibly support products made from corn, when I have been so upset and frustrated that this corn killed my bees, and pollinators in general?
So that's when I decided- I can't eat high fructose corn syrup.
I'm an eco-conscious girl from Montreal, Quebec. I'm currently an adjunct science professor at Champlain College of Vermont (Montreal Campus). I'm interested in any opportunities to expand my experience with grassroots activism, climate change legislation, or environmental education.