Tuesday, August 28, 2007

International Sustainability

The Chinese government is being pressured by the international community to reduce its GHG emissions and adopt cleaner technologies for manufacturing and energy production, specifically pressured by North America. However, many North American companies like Proctor and Gamble have manufacturing plants in China to produce their products which are sold in North America. Since there is a strong consumerist market in North America (especially in Canada and USA) these companies can make a consistently large profit by producing their products in China where labour is cheap and selling them at inflated prices in North America.

But we cannot solely blame North American companies and consumerist North Americans because this process is exacerbated by the Chinese government and people who support cheap labour. The Chinese government supports its fast-growing economy even though it is at the cost of public health and the environment. Their take is that the US and other developed countries have had their chance in the past to strengthen their economies and now it is China's turn.
This is somewhat of a valid point but we have now entered into the 21st century when cleaner and efficient technologies are being developed and utilized.
Although we must respect the timeline for development in developing countries it is important to for them to adopt sustainable practices that are widely accepted and promoted worldwide in order to transition and transform the common view of 'it's not in my backyard' to total respect for the environment and public health. With growing knowledge about human existence and about our universe we cannot dismiss such strong concepts that consider the sensitivity of our environment and human existence.

The international community must work together to protect public health and the environment and encourage sustainable development within developing and underdeveloped countries. Developed countries must do their part to set a good example for the protection of public health and the environment rather than focus so strongly on an overpowering economy. Otherwise, the standpoint of 'you had your chance, now it's ours' will dominate around the world and overpower the standpoint of sustainable development.

It is important to note that we must start realizing that what we buy at the store has a history of production and distribution which has a strong impact on public health and the environment. Much of what we buy is lower in cost only because of how cheaply these products can be made and distributed. This solely benefits large corporations and governments around the world. Environment and public health lose consistently.

It is also important to understand that the strength of an economy does not solely depend on how much people spend. Economies can do just as well from manufacturing and production that do not harm the environment and public health. This way our future generations are protected and the environment is further preserved and an economy can remain stable and be strengthened by doing things right the first time around and not at the expense of the environment, public health, and future generations.

We must all learn to understand the consequences of our actions on a daily basis in order to truly have respect for human beings and our earth. What ever happened to the saying "Old is Gold". Let's bring that back for the sake of our health and our environment!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Public Healthcare in Canada

Canadians are having to wait in long waiting lines to get surgery for a particluar problem like hip or knee. Rather than cater to patients' needs, the system (doctors, pharmaceutical, hospitals) offers patients drug treatment or therapy to alleviate their pains while they wait in line. The result: patients that are waiting for mere surgery are getting addicted to the drugs they are on that their doctor has prescribed to them. They become a patient that is waiting in a long line for knee surgery and has an addiction to a pharmaceutical drug that they now will need treatment for. Isn't this a breach in the trust between the medical professional and the taxpaying patient? In many cases, Canadians needing medical help are resorting to leaving the country for immediate help and paying double the cost. But are Canadians realizing that on top of their foreign medical costs they are paying much more into the healthcare system and not getting any benefit? Some of these Canadians going oversees have even tried to get some compensation from the government for their travel and medical costs oversees, however, they've been denied any kind of compensation. Furthermore, new companies are now emerging to help Canadian patients purchase a package for oversees treatment which is especially helpful for elderly patients that can easily be scammed. So in turn the Canadian government has fostered a healthcare system that forces people to go oversees for medial help at their own risk and expense and get help from ppl that could be scamming them. If you ask a doctor how he/she feels about the long waiting lines the most likely answer will be that they support the public healthcare system because it offers care to all Canadians, rich and poor and if there were private clinics that offered care to patients waiting in line then many of the doctors in the public system would leave to enter the private system and then there would be a lack of doctors in the public system.

What if Canadians would rather pay more for immediate treatment in the private sector, then the lineups wouldn't be so large and care would be given to everyone in a reasonable amount of time right? But then some may say that the depletion of doctors in the public sector may cause problems for ppl in the lower income brackets that cannot afford private healthcare. However, i think that there would still be enough doctors in the public sector to cater to the needs of patients and those that can afford immediate private sector care have an alternative so they are not trapped!! This way all groups of income earners have some advantage. Isn't this fair?? Couldn't the government open up more seats in medical schools for the purpose of training medical students to enter the public sector? Why isnt' the Canadian government allowing more people the opportunity to become a medical doctor in Canada?

It is much easier to become a medical doctor in the US. Why? There is both a private and public sector for healthcare in the US. Can we not learn from our neighbour? Although doctors in the US are more vulnerable to being sued, isn't this a more free system for the citizens? I think so!

One more point is that people may think that Canadian healthcare is exceptional compared to medical care in other parts of the world. I think not! There are exceptional facilities for medical care and exceptional doctors all over the world including in India and China. There are medical facilities in Indian and CHina that offer stem cell therapy for cancer patients. This is not even offered to patients in Canada unless you have a couple of hundred thousand dollars on top of your tax money.

Driving Nation

Today the international community is discussing ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the planet to address the issue of global warming. Canada is one country that is involved in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions over time. But, what are local communities encouraged to do besides separate garbage and conserve electricity to reduce their impact on the environment? Are Canadians being encouraged to rely less on their cars and more on public transportation? I think not! It seems that much of our tax money goes towards road construction and repair to specifically cater to commuters in urban regions and long-distance transport of goods. Is this a good thing for Canadian tax payers?

Well, due to the strong focus by the provincial and federal governments on road maintenance the Canadian Transnational Railroad, an important historical structure, is no longer being maintained. In turn, the trains that use the rail are not being maintained. Instead, goods are being transported by trucks that use the Canadian roads which the government regularly spends tax dollars on for repairs and construction. The roads are the primary source of transport for all goods in Canada.
Due to the lack of maintenance of the Canadian railroad and trains, Canadians living in rural parts of Canada, that depend on rail travel, now have limited access to urban regions and services because the railroad is not safe and the trains regularly break down. For example, it takes 16 hours by Canadian rail to travel to Kapuskasing, Ontario because the railroad can only handle a train traveling at the speed of 40km/hour. It used to take 14 hours to travel to the north by train two years ago and 11 hours 5 years ago. It used to cost $300 round trip to fly to Northern Ontario in 1.5 hours which was a good alternative to taking the train, however, prices have increased to about $800 round trip for a 1.5 hour flight. Now, the only alternative is to take the 16 hour train ride or 10 hour drive of which half of the drive is on a one lane highway. This shows that the government wants Canadians to rely on the roads. Flying to the north is hardly an options.
Canadians are forced to drive on roads alongside massive transport trucks sometimes on one lane highways and due to the large number of trucks on the road there is more damage and volume meaning that the government must allocate more tax dollars to regularly repairing and expanding the roads. Since it is forced to do this, it is in turn forcing Canadian tax payers to depend more often on the roads since much of their tax dollars are going towards road maintenance and less towards other services like public transportation and city services.

If you notice, there is much road construction and expansion going on north of the City of Toronto all the way up to North Bay. There is massive expansion going on just south of North Bay. Highways 400 and 11 north of Toronto are being expanded and repaired while road maintenance and construction on highway 401, where volume is quickly growing, is slow to non-existent. The TTC subway system in Toronto, even with increased user fees, has not seen any upgrades or expansions in more than a decade. It is clear that the government is very focused on road construction for the transport of goods and for commuters to drive into Toronto for work. Moreover, the expanded and repaired roads north of Toronto are being used by Torontonians and GTAers for long-distance vacation travel. But now that millions of people are now using the 400 and 11 there is an excessive volume of cars on these highways during holidays. Why are so many people traveling by car on their holidays?

The government is not currently encouraging Canadians to drive less but rather it is focused on condo/housing/road development north of Toronto and transport of goods. In turn, this has encouraged Canadians to regularly depend on the roads. I now understand why millions of Canadians will use the same highway on the same day on their vacation and spend hours to days to get to Niagara Falls by car. It is because there is no other moderate means to 'get away'.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sustainable Living

What can community members do to create change in their own communities that fosters respect for the environment and public health?

People can go green. They can change their lifestyles to better suit the environment around them by reducing their household consumption of electricity and reducing waste therefore reducing their footprint on the environment. This can have a positive impact on family and in the community. Maintaining an eco-friendly home can have benefits on the health and financial well-being of a family as well as on the environment. There are many ways to transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle and it can start at home.

As a homeowner that cares for the environment I am encouraged to maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle because it has so many benefits for the homeowner and the environment. I've recognized the importance of monitoring consumption of electricity and disposal of waste. It is easy to power your electronics and appliances as well as buy products packaged with materials that cannot be recycled because we are not always aware of the environmental consequences. The increased demand for electricity in Ontario has lead the Ontario government to implement several conservation initiatives, such as the Smart Meter program which involves the installation of smart electricity meters in 800,000 homes and businesses across Ontario by the end of 2007 to encourage consumers to shift their use of electricity or load to off-peak hours and use electricity more wisely. Furthermore, the Ontario government is in the process of shutting down all of Ontario's coal-fired plants in order to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and sulpher dioxide, gases that negatively effect public health and the environment.

At the local level, citizens can do their part to aid in the transition to a more sustainable lifestyle that directly caters to the quality of the environment and our health. This is the responsibility of the citizen and if we all embrace this transition and maintain an eco-friendly lifestyle we can set a new local long-term strategy for the safety of the environment and public health which our children can adopt and pass to their children. The following is a list of 10 ways to transition to an eco-friendly lifestyle that can be shared with your family and within your community:

10 Ways to Go Green
1) Look for items without extensive packaging. Most food packaging material uses some petroleum-based plastic. Instead purchase brands that use bio-based plastic. Recycle or reuse packaging materials you end up having to buy.

2) Bring a cloth bag to the grocery store or buy the eco-friendly bags sold at Loblaw's stores for 99 cents instead of using its plastic bags. The size of eco-friendly bags is equivalent to 2 plastic grocery bags. Disposing of plastic bags will clog landfills, create litter, choke streams and harm marine wildlife, like whales, seals and sea turtles.

3) Buy local and organic products. Buying local food drastically reduces the energy spent on food shipping. Local goods also tend to use minimal packaging, are fresher and come in more varieties.

4) Instead of regular aluminum foil or plastic wrap, purchase recycled aluminum foil. It uses just 1/20th of the energy needed to produce regular foil.

5) Reduce junkmail by posting a No Junkmail sign on or next to your mailbox. Signs can be purchased at Canadian Tire or Home Depot. Reducing junkmail dramatically reduces residential waste disposal.

6) Use environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Purchase cleaning agents that are nontoxic, perfume-free, and that are plant-based instead of petroleum-based (Method brand at Shoppers Drug Mart). Use microfiber cloths to apply the products to your furniture, counters, and sinks. These cleaning cloths are machine-washable and recyclable.

7) Use energy efficient florescent lightbulbs. GE Energy Smart bulbs use 70 to 75 percent less energy than incandescent lightbulbs and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. The Ontario government has recently sent out to electricity consumers coupons for energy-efficient products such as outdoor solar lights, compact florescent lights, and ceiling fans.

8) Use Nalgene water bottles or premium reusable bottles. These water bottles are durable, inexpensive, can be used repeatedly and are widely recyclable. In addition, this greatly helps reduce unnecessary environmental waste caused by plastic water bottles.

9) Use smart power strips. After turning off a computer, power continues to flow to computer peripherals like printers and scanners. The power strip stops the energy from being wasted.

10) Use major appliances like the dishwasher, washing machine, and dryer during off-peak hours (late at night or early in the morning). In the summer, dry your laundry outside on a clothesline to save money on dryer-operating costs.

These simple tips can help you and your family become more environmentally responsible and set a good example for your community and others. Let's all go green!!