Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Free Vacuum!


Hey everyone,

The other day a friend of a friend was going to throw away his vacuum because it wouldn't suck anymore. Luckily Krystal asked to keep it instead of just letting it get chucked into the landfill for thousands of years.

When she brought it home I plugged it in and there was nothing wrong with the motor. So I took it apart and cleaned it. Sure enough it was plugged with lint, hair, dust and bits of plastic. After I cleaned it out I put it back together and...

Who-Da-Thunk!

It works fine!!!

Before now I didn't have a vacuum and it has been on my list for a while. (FYI, I only have 2 small carpeted rooms in my house so I needed one but don't worry it wasn't out of control.) So now that I have a sweet vacuum I went online to see how much it was worth. A few websites had it listed for $499! Score!

But after all this was said and done I got to thinking about how this sort of thing is exactly what is wrong with the world. We consume resources without regard and then discard without even a second thought. With all the talk about climate change and peak resources and lakes drying up and smog warnings we urgently need to change how we do things!

Sustainability is more of a media buzz word than a meaningful term these days so I feel it is fitting for the conversation to define it.

Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behaviour indefinitely. 

Well there are many things we do that we will not be able to continue to do indefinitely and throwing perfectly good repairable things away is one of them. So in my little way I feel that I am making a positive contribution. 

What are you doing to move towards the goal of more sustainability?

Cheers,

BTW, If you are in the Red Deer area and are interested in solutions to live more sustainably there is an Eco-Living fair being held March 21 at RDC. More info click here. See you there!



Sunday, 28 June 2015

Red Deer 100,000!

Hey everyone,

The population of Red Deer is now over 100,000 and it has been projected that the population of Red Deer will double in the next 18 years or so. What do you think about that? Do you think Red Deer is getting too crowded and sprawled out?

I have lived in Red Deer since the population was closer to 60,000 and I have seen a lot change. We now have rush hour traffic jams and smog on calm days. We used to brag about being able to drive anywhere in 10 minutes, now at times we're pushing 20 minutes or more! 

Growth is a hard thing to plan for. If we over shoot it then we will have problems with an over supply of housing and high capital expenses and possibly high debt payments. But if we undershoot growth then we have problems with the cost of living and housing prices spiking, utilities and services being over burdened and all that. I am grateful that the city planners in our city have been able to keep up.

Human civilization going forward is faced with monumental challenges due to climate change and population growth. Yes technology is rapidly developing but we must look beyond mere technological developments to solve our problems.

I am cautiously encouraged that Red Deer is in a position of continued growth this will be an amazing opportunity for us but there are a lot of challenges we will overcome. For example, we must balance the urge to sprawl outward by revitalizing our older neighbourhoods and our downtown. Just because our population is projected to double in 18 years doesn't mean our surface area has to double as well. 

I met some of the planners who are designing the new part of Red Deer named Timberlands. They were at the city Open House presentation about future developments north of Highway 11A. I am very encouraged by their vision and their progressive mindset.

The issue of where to build a new High School and a new Aquatic Recreation Centre came up a few times at the forum. The direction that we are currently heading in is that there will be a massive amount of growth on the north end of our city over the next 10-15 years and plans for a new high school and a recreation centre north of the river aren't part of those plans. I think this is short sighted.

Now I have been making a series of videos about what it like to be a pedestrian in Red Deer. I hope to elucidate some of the things that are serving us well and contrast them against things that aren't serving us well. If you haven't yet already, please check out my YouTube Channel and my Facebook Page.

I would love to hear your responses to some of the topics that I bring up. I believe in collaboration and I hope to be a part of the conversation as our city goes forward. 

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter and now my two YouTube channels either 16 Paces (The Story Of My Garden) or Wieler4RD.

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

Cheers,



Do you need Oilfield Safety Training or First Aid Training? 


I am the owner of Bullseye Safety, we offer H2S Alive and First Aid training in Red Deer!


Sunday, 7 June 2015

Aquatic Centre Where?

Hey everyone,

There are two topics in this post that I will be sharing.

First:

This last weekend Krystal and I were busy hosting an obstacle course for the Central Alberta Children's Festival. We have done something like this 3 times over the last 4 years because it is really a lot of FUN! We have kids of our own and our philosophy is that kids need to be able to run, jump, crawl and explore! So that is why we love designing this obstacle course for the festival!

The kids are drawn in by the vibrant colours and the interesting objects that we set out for them. The obstacle course started with a hopscotch. Then there was an army crawl, tires to jump through, hoops, balance beams and a tunnel at the end. We put a strong focus on making use of all the space we were given to create a safe and welcoming environment!

I am very grateful for all the volunteers who worked hard to make this event possible! Also I am grateful to Wrenchmasters for letting us borrow their tires!

Second:

Every year the festival is held at Rotary Recreation Park behind the downtown Recreation Centre. It is a beautiful location with many old trees that give the area picturesque feeling. Natural sites in our city; especially in our downtown will become more and more valuable as our city grows. The appraisal will be calculated in property value as well as cultural and environmental metrics.

I understand that this site will be the location of the future 50 meter pool and aquatic centre. I am very nervous that this location will be negatively impacted if the recreation centre is in fact expanded into this green space. The idea of paving large swaths of this heritage site under to make way for a parking lot and expanded recreation centre seems imprudent to me.

I am open to being persuaded that building the pool there is in fact a good thing, but I think Red Deerians would be best served if we were to select a greenfield site for this new construction and leave the recently renovated Recreation Centre as is. A good site would be somewhere on the north end, perhaps Hazlet Lake just north of highway 11A when that area becomes developed into residential as is currently being planned. It could be built right beside a new highschool that could service the town of Blackfalds too! But maybe I'm just a silly dreamer.

Now I know that building on a new site would be substantially more expensive and I know that the current outdoor pool will be shut down in a few years either way. Also I understand that there is an argument that it will be too expensive to operate the current recreation centre as well as a new centre somewhere else. So maybe this is the best solution but it is hard to keep all that in mind while walking through that wonderful park. 

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter and now YouTube (16 Paces, The Story Of My Garden).

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!







Do you need Oilfield Safety Training or First Aid Training? 


I am the owner of Bullseye Safety, we offer H2S Alive and First Aid training in Red Deer!



Saturday, 16 May 2015

16 Paces - The Story Of My Garden

Hey everyone,

I live in an average suburban city in Central Alberta and about a year ago I decided I no longer liked having a lawn because it was not really beneficial to the environment. I started watching YouTube videos about permaculture and urban farming and I was inspired! One of my favourite channels is Alberta Urban Garden!

I have also been inspired by ReThink Red Deer, an organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of the people in the community by focusing on environmental sustainability and smart urban planning. I am proud to say that I now serve as a board member for the organization!

Over the last year I have spent many days and nights imagining and planning what I am about to do. I am going to turn my yard into a beautiful, sustainable and a highly productive urban farm. As part of that I have decided that I will try my best to align my practices with sustainable designs so that my actions will cause a net positive improvement to the environment!

I have been very busy over the last few weeks building my raised garden beds and wheel-barrowing dirt around. But the process actually started last year when I built a large composter in my back yard and started UP-cycling all the organic waste that my home produced... and then some... but thats another story. Now is the time to put ideas into ACTION!

I have 4 well defined goals for this project:


1) This must look good.

- Since I live in a suburban neighbourhood and all my neighbours have perfectly manicured lawns and since I do not want to be that neighbour that nobody wants to live beside, this has to be aesthetically pleasing.

2) This must be sustainable. 

- I want my actions to cause a net positive improvement to the environment. There are many ways to do this and I have lots of ideas. I hope to learn along the way and to be an inspiration to others.

3) This must be productive.

- I do not want to waste my time growing just a small amount of stuff. So I will do what I can to maximize yield while keeping with goal #2. Part of this goal is to maximize quality as well.

4) This must be cost effective.

- Being environmentally sustainable is not something just for the rich. In fact it is something that everyone needs to take seriously as it is a necessity for all of humanity. I will up-cycle, recycle and be as creative as possible so as to save money and add value to the things that I do.



The name of this project is 16 Paces. 


- I am calling it that because it is about 16 paces from my garden to my kitchen.

A few days ago I started my new YouTube Channel and Facebook Page to promote the video blog that I will be making to document my journey. Check them out!

Please Subscribe, Like and SHARE to help spread the word!

I have already made a few video blog posts. They are linked to the bottom of this blog.

I will be writing about this topic more but the majority of the things I will be discussing about 16 Paces will be on my video blog. So please follow along! I am always open to suggestions and I am eager to learn. Also I hope to be a source of inspiration to you as well!

Cheers,

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter and now YouTube!

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!













Do you need Oilfield Safety Training or First Aid Training? 


I am the owner of Bullseye Safety, we offer H2S Alive and First Aid training in Red Deer!


Sunday, 19 April 2015

I Support The Alberta Party, Reason #3

Authentic Support For GSAs


Hey everyone,

I support the Alberta Party because they take a sincere and authentic stance in support of evidence based public policy. The evidence clearly shows that school policies are more effective at creating a safe and stable learning environment when they are specific to the needs of the students. This is why broad policies which blanket all students in general are not as good as policies which specifically lay out steps to protect students who are identified as a target of bullying and abuse.

In our democracy it is incumbent upon our leaders to zealously protect the rights or all citizens; especially those who are the most easy to disagree with. So, regardless of your opinions about the issues surrounding LGBTQ rights; there is only one fair and ethical stance to take regarding Gay - Straight Alliances (GSAs) in public schools.

  • All students have the absolute right to not be discriminated against. 
  • All students have the absolute right to a safe learning environment. 


It then follows that the students who may be the hardest to love are the ones who need protection from discrimination the most; namely LGBTQ students. *

The reason why GSAs are needed in public schools is because LGBTQ students are consistently targeted by bullies. Since bullying creates fear in the students and clearly causes them harm, we need a solution to prevent it from happening. That is precisely what GSAs do. They create and foster a safe environment so that students can go to school without fear of harassment and abuse.

The Alberta Party Supports Gay-Straight Alliances


If you don't remember your school days and what it was like to get picked on here is a very vivid example of how OUT-OF-CONTROL bullying can get.




If you are inclined to disagree with me please be very mindful of the facts. LGBTQ students who are targeted by bulling have a significantly higher risk of suicide. 

A study of students (grades 7-12) found that LGBTQ students were 2 times more likely to have attempted suicide than heterosexual peers.

University of British Collumbia Study: Gay-Straight Alliances in schools reduce suicide risk for all students

--------------------------

With that said; I am glad that our government now officially accepts GSAs but the reluctance of the PCs to be leaders in this regard and the ignorance of their original stance, has caused A LOT of harm! Albertans need to remember this when we go to vote in the next government of our province!

Now to be fair if this were the only reason I supported the Alberta Party it could also lead me to support the NDP and the Liberals. Afterall it was Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman who introduced Bill 202 and brought the issue of GSAs into the public conversation. I laud those other parties for taking an authentic stance on this issue as well.

Admittedly, my argument isn't so much for the Alberta Party as it is against the Wildrose and the Progressive Conservative parties. Both of those parties have in the past failed Albertans and failed students who were the target of bullying. 

Now, I anticipate that someone will jump to defend those parties and say:

"But the PCs DO support GSAs! They just came out supporting them a few months ago!"

- The truth is that the PCs were dragged kicking and screaming into supporting GSAs. If there hadn't been such a loud public outcry they would have swept the issue under the rug and forgotten about it. This is how they are. Their actions have proven they do not really care about this issue. Their actions have proven that they just care about getting re-elected and that they will say whatever it takes to do so.

"But the WRP DOES support GSAs! They allow MLAs to vote their conscience!"

- I'm sure that there are some reasonable Wildrosers; but, I do not trust them. Although they have been getting better at biting their tongues and not saying racist, bigoted things; there are still plenty of examples of sexist tweets, racist comments, and homophobic attitudes. A quick google search will demonstrate this.

Furthermore, the WRP is unofficially the party of choice for people who are opposed to LGBTQ rights.

The other day I was talking with someone about the Alberta Party. The first question they asked me was "Do you support gay marriage?". My reply was that I support human rights. To which I received the retort "That's why I'm supporting the WRP. They don't support the gays."

Clearly the WRP is still perceived as being the party that is anti-gay and they will get the homophobic vote. I would have a lot of respect for their new leader if he would take decisive action to change this perception; but he has not. So it seems fair to assume, based on his wishy-washy stance, that he secretly endorses it.

--------------------------------------


It is my hope; that in the sea of ideas, the tide is turning and that this kind of folksy reasoning for being bigoted will wash away. It seems that the vast majority of Albertan's see that we cannot have government endorsed bigotry and that we need policies which will equally protect the rights of all citizens.

We used to have government policies which endorsed racism (See: Reason #2 Why I support the Alberta Party) and we used to have government policies which were sexist. But we have moved on. This is called progress. It's time for some NEW ENERGY in Alberta. We are at a turning point in history and we need visionary leadership.

As scathing as I am to the WRP and the PCs there are some good ideas that the Alberta Party takes from them. Likewise there are some good ideas that they take from the Liberals and the NDP. The Alberta Party is committed to taking the best ideas from around the table and finding workable solutions that will serve ALL Albertans.

I  fully support Greg Clark, the leader of the Alberta Party and I fully endorse the Alberta Party Candidate in Red Deer NorthKrystal Kromm

Thank you!


Connect with Me on 
G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

----------------------------

Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North. 

Check out her website to learn about her platform!

www.AlbertaParty.ca

Like her Facebook Page.
Follow her on Twitter.





* I have friends and family members who are gay and I assure you that they are in fact very easy to love.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

I Support The Alberta Party, Reason #2

Aboriginal Rights

This is an issue that has been sidelined in Alberta for too long! Both provincially and nationally our government has failed us in this regard!

Did you know the last Residential School in Canada shut it's doors in the mid 90's and that it wasn't until 2008 that Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally apologized for over 100 years of institutionalized racism?

If you are unaware of what a Residential School is read my blog post about them; Healing From Racism. They were truly horrible! Kids were taken away from their families and forced to live in squalor. Many kids were raped, beaten and forced to work like slaves; many kids never saw their parents again and many kids died. All this, in the name of "civilizing" the Native Culture. This makes me feel ashamed!

Many of the challenges Native People face in Alberta today stem directly from what was done to them. There is a disproportionate representation of Native People in our homeless population in Red Deer. Many problems like addictions, domestic violence and poor literacy rates can be directly linked to the racist policies of our government. Yes, the healing process will be intergenerational but we need to start now.

Side Thought: Why was I never taught about this in school?


It is time for some New Energy in Alberta. We need some new eyes on old problems. We can do better!

There is a lot of talk about "Land Rights" in Alberta. But often the conversation only extends to white farmers not to Native land owners. When the time comes to build a pipeline, a rail way or an electrical utility, Native Land Rights get lip-service, but it often ends there. Same goes for Native Communities that have environmental concerns.  

Did you know that 35 minutes from Red Deer there is a place where there are people living WITHOUT access to basic services like running water? I'm talking about Mascwacis (formerly Hobema). I have personally seen homes that do not have working water or sewer utilities! Why in this province; where we have so much wealth, do we have an entire class of citizens completely left out? 

We need compassionate and visionary leadership. We need to elect sincere MLA's who will stand up and do what is right by ALL Albertans. I see that in Greg Clark and the Alberta Party.

When I hear Greg Clark speak about "Entering into a new partnership with the Aboriginal Community" I hear a man who is passionate and who will keep his word. 

We have a long way to go and there will be no one size fits all solution, but we need to start having sincere conversations about issues like this. Alberta Party MLA's will have a free vote in the Legislature and the Alberta Party is open to grass roots collaboration on policy development. 

That means you can have a voice in this government!



Thank you!


Connect with Me on 
G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!



-----------------------------------------------------

Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North. 

Check out her website to learn about her platform!

www.AlbertaParty.ca

Like her Facebook Page.
Follow her on Twitter.




Monday, 13 April 2015

I Support The Alberta Party, Reason #1

Environmental Policy

I am not anti-oil and gas but I have a strong environmental side. I am very fond of that place where all my food, water and air comes from.

I heard from the man himself, Jim Prentice that "if you are in the energy business you are in the environment business". He rightly says that Alberta has the BEST environmental standards in the world!

But let's just admit it; being the 'BEST' doesn't speak to whether or not we are actually GOOD ENOUGH! With that said, we do have some good environmental policies but we need to actually enforce them. Also, we need to stop pretending that all is well and start being honest about the environmental impacts we are having.

When I hear Greg Clark speak about the practical steps we can take to make our province more environmentally sustainable I hear that he cares about this issue and that he will actually do something about it. I also hear that he wont just toss our province off a cliff in the name of getting off our addiction to oil. 

I believe this approach is the only practical middle ground solution to the problems we face with climate change. The world must change and the world will change! Alberta can lead the way! But we need visionary leadership. I see that with Greg Clark!

Also I see a man and a party that I can work with. Its not their way or the highway, rather they are open to input and will allow their MLAs to represent the people and vote their conscience. It is because of this attitude that I am confident, that although their environmental policies are developing they can be honed into a practical framework that will serve our province well. 

I fully support the Alberta Party and I fully endorse Krystal Kromm for Red Deer North!

Thank you,



Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

-----------------------------------------------------

Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North. 

Check out her website to learn about her platform!

www.AlbertaParty.ca

Like her Facebook Page.
Follow her on Twitter.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Isaac Victor David Wieler

Hey everyone,

So I heard through the inter-tubes that today is Autism Awareness Day. My late brother Isaac Victor David Wieler was severely autistic and never spoke a word in his life. So I figured I should write a post about that.

I am the youngest of 4 kids. My two older sisters moved away from home before I can remember. Isaac was a few years older than I. 

Firstly, I want to make it clear that Isaac died a long time ago and I am past the grieving period; so please there is no need for sympathy.

Looking back it is weird to think how his developmental disability held him locked in the mind of a child as my cognitive abilities developed at a natural pace. I remember being 5 or 6 and we would play the same games. Then I remember being an early teen and he still played with small toys and I played video games. Then when I was in high school he was still fascinated by spinning tops and I was driving a car. 

It seemed normal to me but as I entered my adult life I realized that it wasn’t. Most people never have to face the challenges of having someone in their family with developmental disabilities. Most people react out of fear when they see someone like my brother, or they mock or they are impatient. 

At this point I would like to describe his situation in BLUNT detail. Isaac died in his mid 20s. The last few years of his life were truly horrendous. He would defecate in his bed. He would throw violent tantrums, keep in mind he was a 250 pound man! He would punch holes in the walls. He had a few seizures a week. He would chew on his knuckles and violently strike his own head. He couldn’t be brought out in public; so he lived in my parents basement. 

My family was stressed beyond the break point. There were people who sincerely cared who tried to help. People from various government agencies, but it was one of those situations where nothing was a win-win. They were on their own. It wasn't always that bad but over time his situation became worse and worse. 

When Isaac was about 12 years old, social services and the RCMP just showed up one day and kicked in our front door. They pepper sprayed my dad, handcuffed my brother and pried him away kicking and screaming in the back of a police cruiser. They took me too, but that is another story. They sent Isaac to Margaret House, a mental institution similar to Michener Centre, in Calgary. I was returned to my parents about 10 days later but Isaac was gone for well over a year and my parents became locked in a legal battle with the Alberta government to regain custody of their child. 

Eventually they won the court case and got Isaac back. But it wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies. There was permanent damage done, Isaac came out 100 pounds overweight and addicted to medication. Yes, that is how our Alberta government handles situations like that. 

After that my parents, rightly, never trusted the Alberta government again. Over the years many different living situations were devised from in-home supports to Alberta Hospital in Edmonton to living in Michener Centre. Nothing was a win-win. 

When people hear autism I wonder what they think? Do they see someone like Rain Man? Do they think of someone who can figure out if July 3, 1922 was a Tuesday or a Thursday, in a split second? From my experience autism is such a broad term that its use in our language can be misleading. 

Isaac was labeled severely autistic. He couldn’t speak. He rarely made eye contact. He wore his clothing inside out because the seams bothered him. He was deathly afraid of rubber bands and blowing up balloons. He was prone to throwing violent tantrums in public and after the police were compelled to handcuff him a few blocks from our house, we weren’t allowed to take him out in public anymore. 

I don’t know the answer to any of this. I wonder what the best course of action would have been. Maybe if the government had taken Isaac away as a toddler and institutionalized him at an early age and given him the professional care right from the beginning things would have been better? 

When faced with the option of living in an institution with padded cells, rubber mattresses and large men with latex gloves restraining you to change your diaper; living at home with your parents seems like the best decision. But then when the situation at home perpetually grows worse as your parents age and they become unable to work, unable to provide care and unable to mentally cope; eventually the government will intervene anyways; as they did a few times throughout Isaac’s life. The options are bleak. 

In a sense it was best for my brother to die when he did, because if were still alive today he would be a ward of the province wasting away in a padded, cell drugged into oblivion. Yes; even in this magnificent country of ours with all our wealth and prosperity, that is still the endgame for people like my brother.

-------------------------------------------------

He was innocent.

--------------------------------------------------

When I hear of other people going through what I went through I am filled with compassion. It is easy to retweet that it is world autism day. It is easy to write a blog. It is hard to do something that actually helps; but there is a lot that we can do to help.




Scientists and doctors have done some amazing work. There have been breakthroughs in behaviour modification. There are better medications. There are treatments available which can help. But there is always a battle for resources. All too often our political leaders count the nickels and dimes and forget about quality of life and doing the right thing. All too often our society pushes the problem out of sight so it becomes out of mind. People like my brother are often marginalized. 

Even I am guilty of this. There are so many people out there who need help and so many problems to solve which one should I pick? Should I help the autistic people like my brother or should I help the sick kids with leukaemia? Should I help the homeless woman on the streets of Red Deer or the starving family in Africa? I don’t know. 

I am not in this world to change everything, I am in this world to change something; whatever I can, hopefully for the better.

Cheers,

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

-----------------------------------------------------

Also, Alberta is about to enter a provincial election and my wife Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North. 

Check out her website to learn about her platform!

www.AlbertaParty.ca

Like her Facebook Page.
Follow her on Twitter.



-----------------------------------------------------

Need Enform H2S Alive or Red Cross First Aid training? 

I am the owner of Bullseye Safety.

For pricing and scheduling see: 




Sunday, 22 March 2015

Residential Schools - Healing From Racism

Hey everyone,

I am a safety instructor. One of the courses I teach is Enform H2S Alive. H2S gas is extremely toxic and is prevalent in a variety of industries. This course teaches workers how to prevent exposure and how to respond to an emergency. This course is a prerequisite for almost every worker in the Canadian Oilpatch.

I have been teaching H2S Alive for about 1 year now and one of my customers is a safety training company that serves Native Americans. I travel from Red Deer to Maskwacis (formerly Hobema) to teach students on the reserve. I would like to tell you about my experiences.

When I tell people that I am working on the reserve I hear some very racist things. There is a lot of prejudice. Some people retort that they "feel sorry for me" or that they wonder why I waste my time! There are many racist stereotypes that I am sure you are aware of; but from my experience I have found quite the opposite to be true. The vast majority of my students are more respectful and more diligent than the 'white' students I teach in Red Deer! Yes, there are challenges but, I overcome them through a high standard of professionalism and compassion. At the end of the day I take great pride in my work and find much fulfillment.

I have had many conversations with the owner of the company about his people. One thing that really stands out is what he has told me a lot about residential schools and how damaging they were to families, communities and their entire culture!

Residential schools were the cherry on the cake after hundreds of years of crimes against the Native peoples of this land. Kids were stolen away from their parents and taken hundreds of miles away, many never to see their families again. Many kids died, many kids were sexually abused, many kids were beaten and made to work in slave-like conditions. It was truly horrendous.

Sir. John A MacDonald (the guy on a Canadian $10 bill) was who authorized residential schools and it took century of human rights abuses before our current prime minister Stephen Harper finally apologized. But the cultural healing process has only just begun.

Did you know that it was compulsory for kids 7-15 to attend residential schools?
Did you know that native people required "permission" to wear traditional native clothing?
Did you know that the last federally run residential school (Gordon Indian) closed in 1996?
- See: Legacy of Hope - 100 Years of Loss

What is worse is that I have lived in Alberta most of my life and I went through the public school system and DID NOT LEARN about what my own government had done to these people just a short time ago!

So with all that said; when I teach on the reserve I am acutely aware that my role may be perceived similarly to that of a teacher from a residential school. Since many of the problems Native people face today stem directly from residential schools and institutionalized racism, there are very fine lines which I must navigate. But I am proud to say that I have had many successes teaching and I believe my role is a positive force for good.

After teaching on the reserve for the last year my perceptions have changed. Consider the fact that there is a disproportionate percent of homeless people in Red Deer who are of Native American ancestry. Then consider the violence that they have endured for the last few hundred years! Consider how blankets were handed to them under the guise of charity, blankets laced with small pox! Consider how the buffalo herds, their main source of food, were decimated by settlers who slaughtered entire herds just for sport! Consider how they were rounded up onto small plots of land and tricked into signing unfair treaties they didn't understand! Then consider how the Canadian government, of our generation, propagated racist policies through residential schools designed to "civilize" these people! I could go on, but my point is that extreme injustices have been committed and the healing that needs to take place will take generations.

I take great pride in my ability to overcome language and cultural barriers while instructing my classes. It is a challenge that I love to take. When I first start a class I can feel the tension. I am a white guy from Red Deer coming to their community to tell them what to do. There are students who cannot read so I must administer the exam orally. There are students with learning disabilities so I must use a variety of visual and verbal tools so as to communicate the lesson effectively. There are cultural barriers and racial tensions which I must assuage.

There is one final remark that I wish to make. Since the safety courses I teach are a job requirement for oilfield workers it goes without saying that it is necessary to pass in order to get a job. But for many of the people living on the reserve who wish to work and who wish to better themselves this is an very large barrier to overcome. If they fail H2S Alive because the instructor wasnt willing to put in the extra effort to administer the test orally, or if the instructor just blurrs through the material paying no heed to the learning needs of the students; then doors will close for them. I see my job as a crucial step towards improving their lives. It makes me very happy to know that I am removing barriers. It gives my job a great deal of purpose. I feel like I am part of the healing process. I feel like I am part of the solution.

I want to be part of the solution so let the healing begin with me.


Has it ever happened to you where you found yourself standing in a group of people and the conversation turned to racist, homophobic of sexist? Did you find yourself either joining in or going along with it? Maybe you were fearful to go against the group's momentum?

I have found myself in this situation before. Someone makes a joke about "those indians" or "those fags" and I laugh! I am not a racist, a homophobe or a sexist; but I have in moments of weakness just went along with the conversation. I have laughed. I have said hurtful things. I am ashamed. But I firmly believe that part of the healing process is to talk about it and raise awareness.

My experience teaching on the reserve has been an eye opening experience and it it with new resolve that I say:

The next time I am in a circle of people and the conversation turns racist I will not just stand there and laugh out of fear. I will show some spine and lead by example. There is an easy way to do this without just starting a fight:


Ask questions that raise awareness. 

Through a series of mindful questions and gentle nudges the conversation will shift and so too will the group sensibility. 


Cheers,

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

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Need Enform H2S Alive or Red Cross First Aid training? 

For pricing and scheduling see: 


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Also, Alberta is about to enter a provincial election and my wife Krystal Kromm is the Alberta Party candidate for Red Deer North. 

Check out her website to learn about her platform!





Sunday, 15 March 2015

Starbucks Cups - Landfill Gluts

Hey everyone,

Today I was at Bower Ponds in Red Deer playing at the park with my kids and I couldn't help but notice the near overflowing garbage can nearby! I looked inside and noticed that it was mostly full of "disposable" beverage cups. So I took a picture and made a "tongue-in-cheek" comment on social media about how seeing this made me feel. This started a conversation which has carried on all day, so I have decided to collect my thoughts and write a blog about it.

"Hummm... It seems that there are 2 main companies
producing garbage here and I feel guilty for
going along with it..."
@Wieler4RD
If you're wondering why these cups don't get recycled check out this Bloomberg article. The article lays out how it is not economically feasible to recycle them. Which really begs the question, how much would it cost if we had to pay the environmental costs upfront when we buy a cup of coffee?

This may just be the million-dollar-question; literally and figuratively. From start to finish what are the environmental costs incurred in order to get a cup of coffee? 

1. We clear wetlands and forests to make roads and pipelines to drill wells. Then we build huge refineries and load the oil onto boats and ship it to china. (Shhh... but sometimes the oil spills...)

2. Then people working in near slave-like conditions toil in dirty factories to make our disposable cups and then ship them back across the ocean to us. Then diesel burning trucks haul the cups hundreds of miles in each direction.

3. Then we idle in our cars while waiting in drive-thru's, with a cue of others like us wrapped half way around the block. There are lights turned on in the building all day and night and somewhere, far away, a coal plant is bellowing plumes of smoke. The building is encircled in pavement often covering over once prime fertile farmland. There's a 10 square foot patch of artificially maintained grass next to the sign, kept alive by chemicals, giving us that reassuring feeling that nature is near! 

4. Then after all that we pay our city taxes so all this material can be landfilled. Rainwater then soaks down and leachate chemicals fill up and must be constantly pumped out and treated in a never-ending battle to prevent groundwater seepage. Again, prime real-estate and farmland is contaminated and will be so for many generations.

I'm not even going to talk about how we got the coffee bean...

So you tell me; how much would a cup of coffee cost if we had to pay it's "true" cost upfront and didn't have the option of passing the environmental costs down to future generations?

With all this said, we could just refuse. We could just refuse to buy products that couldn't be reduced, reused or recycled. This concept is aptly called the "4 R's"; reduce-reuse-recycle & REFUSE! 

I have a special shoutout to Jeff Rock; who kindly gave me a reusable cup after hearing me rant about this subject once. He probably echoed Ghandi and said "Be the change you want to see in the world." 

I have, however only used the cup a bunch of times and thus far have failed to put my words into meaningful action. I have preached about this for a while and still can be seen doing un-sustainable things... What's the solution?

Closely related to this subject is the topic of reusable bags. Today I was at the grocery store. The clerks are trained to ask if I want bags. I always respond guiltily that "yes, I will take some plastic bags and do my part for the landfill". As the clerk was bagging my groceries I wondered what it would take to actually get me to change my behaviour, as I have been trying to change this habit for sometime. To which I reasoned the only possible way to change my behaviour would be to force me to. In other words the only way to get me to stop using plastic bags would be for the government to outright ban them! I suppose the same goes for the "disposable" cups. Maybe the only way to get me to outright and altogether STOP USING DISPOSABLE CUPS would be for the government completely ban them!

The idea of such strong government intervention into our personal lives really flies in the face of my normal response to things like this. On most issues I say we should be "educating instead of legislating". But I wonder if this issue is urgent enough that it would be appropriate to take the extreme measure of banning bags and cups? After all the ocean is becoming inundated in plastic and our landfills are burgeoning to capacity with things we should be recycling.

Even though I am educated about this subject I still fail to make my words into actions. Is merely educating people about recycling going to work for us? Has it worked for us?

Maybe there is a "free market" solution. Maybe all the businesses will get together and act altruistically? Maybe if all these coffee shops and places that sell disposable cups were to come together, they could invent a sustainable system?

What would that look like?

Would they all charge an upfront "environmental fee" the way we do with cans and bottles? Then would they offer a refund back at the drive-thru window when a customer placed a used disposable cup into a special receptacle so the cup could be recycled? Would all the added emissions of hauling the cups back and then refining the plastic and paper, offset the gains made by doing so?

Bah! What a mess we have created for ourselves? I doubt there is a way to make our current system sustainable. Companies like Starbucks and Tim Hortons brilliantly created demand for disposable cups where before there was none; now we are all addicted and whiny when we are told to kick the habit. Just like the Keurig cups, we've been sold something we didn't know we needed and will not give up the convenience without a fight.

I long for a Star Trek future where we can just tell a machine we want a coffee and it will simply "materialize" in front of us. Then when we are done supposedly it will just de-materialize and leave no traces? Maybe we'll do this for cheeseburgers too and then after were done gorging ourselves, the fat will de-materialize as well!!!

Ok Im going to bed... :p

Cheers,

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!

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Have I persuaded you to change your habits or will you be like me, cynically standing in line for another cup?

Are you feeling guilty too? Is it enough to make you change?

Ok... I'll try to change... One step at a time...

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Final Note: Thank you Starbucks for setting out your coffee grounds for gardeners to take for free. That was a good move. I have collected many bags for my garden!



Sunday, 1 March 2015

Plant-A-Row

Hey everyone,

I recently spoke with some of the senior members of my Rotary Club and they told me about something that they used to do in Red Deer called "Plant A Row". It's a very simple concept and here is how it works.

1) Get a bunch of volunteers together who are willing to work a garden.
2) Get some accessible land donated to use as an urban farm.
3) Get some supplies and seeds donated.
4) Grow a garden.
5) Donate the food to whoever needs it.

It is a simple idea and apparently it used to work really well. All it needs is a few leaders to come together and make it happen! And now is the perfect time because spring is right around the corner!

There are a lot of hurdles to over come at each step and here are a few of my ideas:

1) In order to make this sustainable we need a core group of volunteers; but the work of gardening can easily become a burden. So realistically I'm thinking that it would be feasible to do weekly rotations. Say one group of 5 or 10 tend to the garden over a week and then another group tends the garden the next week. If there were several groups then volunteers would only have to commit to a few hours once every other week or so. Either way the more the merrier!

2) Getting land sounds easy but I'm not too sure how to go about lining that up. The dreamer in me visualizes turning some city owned land into the garden. Maybe even the space on the North Hill just south of the Parkland Mall between the northbound and southbound lanes on Gaetz ave. This space would be perfect as it faces south, gets good drainage and has limited foot traffic. Another benefit is that it is highly visible and that would generate lots of public interest! But realistically this may be too grand and I may have to find somewhere else like Mitchener centre or the college.

3) As for supplies, I know that the city strongly encourages community gardening and there may already be resources available. There may also be potential to get supplies donated from a hardware store if they get permission to put up a sign or something. Or maybe if we agree to donate a certain amount of the crop to a charity they would help with the upfront cost of getting the seeds?

Also if a good site is found it would be a good opportunity to showcase how composting can be used to enrich the soil and sustainably increase yield. I wonder if a grocery store would donate all their throw away produce to the cause so it could be composted on site and used to enrich the soil? A large compost bin could be built nearby and after the fall harvest it could be added to the garden making it ready for a highly productive growing season the following year!

4) Growing a garden is rewarding and enjoyable. If something like this were to happen there would be many new friendships forged. It would have the added benefit of making people more connected to their community and their own food supply. Also this would raise awareness about environmental sustainability.  - WIN! WIN! WIN!

5) Since the main objective of this endeavour would be to donate the majority of the food to charity after everything is said and done this could be very beneficial to the community. There is need all around us from the Food Bank to the Soup Kitchen to the Ronald McDonald House. This idea could be part of the solution to fill those needs. 

So I am going to put out the call!

Is there anyone interested in helping to get this started this year? If so please let me know. Once we get enough people together we will setup a time and a place to meet and we'll go from there.

What do you think?

Cheers,

Connect with Me on G+FacebookTwitter 

& IRL (In Real Life) - lets go for coffee!