Art Opening @MillsHardware, Hamilton

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Pondering parking lot potential

This is my latest piece in the spec.com:

In all things, do the math. What is the return on investment (ROI) of the thing, how much energy goes in it, and to what end? When it comes to parking lots, the ROI for cities is dismal.

It’s estimated that, in America, there are eight parking spots for every car, covering up to 30 per cent of U.S. cities, and collectively taking up about as much space as the state of West Virginia. As well, the average parking space requires over 300 square feet to store a car while the car is not being used.

That’s an awful lot of underutilized space that could be going to housing, for instance. But parking requirements are mandatory for downtown areas, so the more parking allowed, the more encouraged we are to drive, giving us urban landscapes in support of driving (although, this is beginning to change, with bike-only condos coming in cities like Toronto).

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Take Care

This piece appeared in the spec.com under the title As a Society, We’re still in the Adolescent Phase.

A nation is formed by the willingness of each of us to share in the responsibility for upholding the common good.

— Barbara Jordan

We were wishing we had more lives to live on this planet. “It isn’t fair that we only get one life,” my daughter said. “One life is not enough to do and to be and to experience.”

Perhaps there is a parallel universe or two that we will one day be able to access and “know” that we are experiencing at the same time as our earth-life. But currently, this is it, and how do we want to live it? Also, we only get one world, but what a world!

And since it is spring, a time of renewal, and we’ve been celebrating the Earth throughout April, caring is something that has been on my mind — to care for this one life, for this one world, to care for other lives.

“Most people don’t care, as long as they get to do their favourite thing,” the cynical comedian Louis C.K. jests, in all seriousness.

“They won’t even do their second favourite thing.”

Louis goes on to describe a driver in the right lane who wants to make a left turn and “just shoves his car through everybody’s life,” cutting everyone else off. “What else could I do?” Going another route is “not my favourite way though. That only meets 99 per cent of my criteria.”

That is to say, our “favourite things” often end up causing others harm.

Why don’t we care more? For others. For our planet?

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Grow your kids Interest in Nature with a butterfly Garden

Here’s my latest piece in ParentsCanada Magazine about a family that breeds monarch butterflies and plants for nature.

butterfly_garden-2For Sunila and Devin Melanson, the adage “a family that plays together, stays together” is truer still when it comes to connecting in nature.

The Ancaster, Ont., couple consistently make it a priority to expose their children, Calvin, 12, and Sean, 10, to the natural world. “We have always tried to nurture the kids’ sense of wonder,” says Devin. “Even as toddlers, we encouraged them to see what native flowers they could find.”

Five years ago, concerned about the plight of the declining monarch butterfly, Devin and Sunila started trying to encourage pollinators on their property by planting 36 common milkweed plants. The family visited the Butterfly Conservatory in Cambridge, Ont., and got a book on how to raise monarchs.

Over the last couple years, the Melansons have deepened their commitment to raising and releasing monarchs by nurturing even more of them. Devin built a system that allows the caterpillars to create their chrysalis in a safe environment; the butterflies are then moved into an outdoor dining tent (a recent addition) that contains beds of milkweed and is in the partial shade of a maple tree. They’ll linger here for a short while before they are released to join fellow monarchs on their more than 1,000-km journey to Mexico.

To date, the Melansons have released more than 500 monarchs.

Sharing Knowledge

The Melansons have welcomed people interested in learning about the project into their yard and they continue to encourage other families to raise a monarch or two – providing them with a few eggs to get them started.

They are also protective of habitat that contains the food these butterflies need in order to thrive. Sean explains how he and his mother took action on noticing that a patch of milkweed by the local swimming pool was being cut down. “We talked to the administration there and they put up a sign saying don’t cut the milkweed.” The family is currently raising Swallowtail butterflies, too. “We found them on the parsley and dill – it’s what they like best,” says Sean. “They are in the chrysalis for the whole winter.”

The family frequently offers presentations to school groups and to the broader community through the Hamilton Pollinators Paradise Project, a locally based initiative whose goal is to plant a “highway” habitat of native species for pollinators across the city’s urban landscape.

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Free Tuition in Ontario? Yes!

In the Spec.com today  (my latest column):

B822411425Z.1_20160320162535_000_GLF1L6UOR.2_ContentTo be human is to learn. And knowledge wants to be shared.

But somewhere along the line, it became the way for some kinds of people to have opportunities to gain certain skills and access certain types of knowledge or to deepen their self-understanding, while others were to be kept in the dark; subservient, inferior, ignorant — tools in aiding the privileged further along.

Knowledge was viewed as being a scarce resource — something to be hoarded by the special few. By and by, when access to some of the good stuff — like reading — became available to the masses (through the printing press and public schooling), it was to be doled out in bite sizes, controlled, managed, agenda-driven. It remains, for the most part, this way in today’s schools. We persist in thinking of “education” (that’s what we call learning within the confines of brick walls) as something to be coveted and restricted.

But everything about education and learning is changing — however much some of us would resist. Everything is pushing on — from the ways we learn and what we learn, to what being educated even means (that is, who defines what educated is)

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