In-Depth: Time to Share

Posted on May 12, 2012 in In-Depth by talonsjen

After two major trips, a minor one, a two-day course, and so much learning, Jen and I are ready to share our knowledge and experiences with attendees at In-Depth Night 2012. With so many interesting tables to attend, we are going to make our station effective, unique, and engaging for the parents, mentors, staff, and students that attend.

When people come to our station situated outside, they will be greeted by Jen and I dressed in our finest hiking gear. On the table will be a full overnight bag laid out, complete with extra clothes, stove, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, food, toiletries, tarp, maps and small safety and navigation equipment. We will also have a packed bag so that people can test the weight and learn how to lift and adjust it.

Jen and I have have so many beautiful pictures from the trip that we will be sharing on a slideshow on one of our computers. Of course, we will be describing our adventures to anyone who is willing to listen!

Looking forward to an awesome evening!

 

 

 

 

AST

Posted on April 27, 2012 in In-Depth by talonsjen

In February, there was a small lesson on Grouse Mountain for AST (Avalanche Skills Training) 1 for skiers or snowshoers. With our recent activity in Tetrahedron Park and the likelihood that we would continue to embark on such endeavours, we the Jens signed up for the two day course. It had to be completed in two parts, as I had a dance recital on the second day of the regular course. Hence, we attended one day in February and one in April.

Most of that day we were inside, which was beneficial as I couldn’t see out of one eye and breathe for the day. We spent the first half of the day in the patrol cabin, learning about snowpack structure, avalanche warnings, and group decision making. I took notes, Jen didn’t. Anyone surprised? With the snow letting up, we travelled outside to practice snowpack tests and rescue technique. At the end of the day, we left with knowledge in both our hands and our heads.

Months later, we returned to Grouse, I having reviewed the handbooks that I’d brought along, Jen having not. Anyone surprised? Anyways…that day began with a short review, followed by an analysis of the day’s weather, avalanche, and snowpack conditions and an exercise in topographical map reading. Then, we set off into the wild unknown of the groomed trails of Grouse Mountain where we saw familiar faces such as Ms. Mulder. Snowshoeing up the Snowshoe Grind, we often paused to assess the potential avalanche danger of a slope. The conversation with AJ, our instructor, went something like this:

AJ: “So, would you travel down this slope?”

Jens: Looking over the edge cautiously, the Jens announce “avalanche risk aside, there is no way in hell we’re going down that slope.”

AJ: “But let’s put that aside, and just assess the avalanche risk.”

Jens: “Why would that be necessary if we aren’t going down it?”

AJ: “But seriously, just assess the avalanche risk.”

Jen S: “Yeah, I’d do it.”

Jen A: “No.”

Near a peak, we spent a while learning different snowpack tests, which confirmed the reports we (or I) had read that morning. Then we dominated the rescue scenario, saving two Smurfs (aka beacons). On our way back down, Jen and I watched AJ fly down the hill on skis, and then I watched Jen slowly side-step down the mountain. It was mildly reminiscent of our cross-country skiing trip together.  

After having completed these lessons, we are much more prepared for the dangers that lie in the unknown wilderness snow-capped mountains. Here’s a same of what we learned.

 

 

Napoleon Fell, Britain Rose, and Now America Has Centre Stage

It rose and it fell under his command, but history hasn’t since repeated itself. During the rule of Napoleon, who first overthrew the Directory in 1799, France was a thriving nation with control of much of Europe. Still, Britain was a consistent threat, often leading the charge against Napoleon and ultimately being one of the main powers to defeat him at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. With France reduced to its original borders, the stage was set for Britain to utilize it’s workforce, new technology, strong navy and rich colonies in order to dominate the global landscape. As shown through the power shift from France, to Britain, and now to the USA, no empire can remain paramount forever. But how is such a massive shift in power made possible?

Quite rapidly, Napoleon’s persuasive, relentless nature led to him great heights as the man in charge of the fastest growing empire in the world. Beginning as a member of minor aristocracy on the island of Corsica, the determined Napoleon moved quickly through the ranks in France’s army. He was convincing and inspiring, swaying the minds of others while his held steady. Utilizing the patriotic feelings of the French following their Revolution, Napoleon mobilized massive armies as he went about conquering bits of Europe. After crowning himself Emperor in 1804, he had even more power over the minds of the people, gaining the trust of many, partly due to the use of censorship in the media and education systems. Napoleon took advantage of his newly conquered nations in order to grow the French Empire, forming an army comprised of men of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Napoleon was gaining much of Europe’s territory, but a weakening army and strengthening enemies halted his quest for world domination. Not all nations were compliant with French occupation, with Spain taking a firm stance against Napoleon and his men. After their king was replaced with the French emperor’s brother, the Spanish resistance grew even stronger, strong enough to defeat the Frenchmen. A 5-year war, fought with methods foreign to Napoleon, was a crack in the ultimate authority of the French leader. Still, he continued to fight, entering Russia in 1812 after they turned their back on a previous agreement and continued trade with Britain. Instead of battle on a field, the Russians retreated, burning the shelter and food that was ahead of the Grande Armée. After reaching the gates of Moscow, the Grande Armée was spent and thousands died on the long trek home through the harsh winter weather of Russia. Leaving his defeated army, Napoleon returned to Paris,his reputation severely weakened. But he remobilized, and a new army fought many successful battles against the Russians, Prussians, and Austrians. Then a vital battle was lost at Leipzig, in present-day Germany, followed by a defeat near Paris. Napoleon, crushed, abdicated and was exiled to Elba.

Though an opponent of the most influential and powerful empire at the time, Britain was a fierce threat, ultimately playing one of the main roles in the defeat of the Napoleonic Empire. From 1803-1814, the British and French underwent a series of wars centered on trade. In an effort to suppress Britain and exert greater control over his territory, Napoleon created the Continental System, banning his colonies from trading with Britain. In response, Britain issued similar laws, smuggled goods into French colonial territory, and taking advantage of its own colonies across the seas. With relations to Napoleon never improving, they were a vital player in the 7th Coalition that worked to destroy Napoleon after his return to France. At the Battle of Waterloo, they did just that, and Napoleon was sent to St. Helena in the south Atlantic. Quickly, Frances original borders were reinstated, with Britain taking over much of the fallen Empire.

With rich natural resources, both in England and her colonies, a growing labour force, and a previously exerted dominance via the seas, Britain was in the perfect condition to grow and remain the most powerful nation on Earth for over a century. Napoleon had commanded a France with a larger population and more robust agricultural sector than Britain, but it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Britain’s population was on the rise, especially in the urban centers, where farmers whom had lost their jobs to improved technology fled in search of work. Through enclosure, the seed drill, and a new system of crop rotation, among other technologies, the countryside was producing an abundance of food that in turn could feed the growing city population. These people were put to work using the latest industrial technologies, which quickly became powered by a resource with which England was abundant – coal. Even with this perfect mix, Britain could not have thrived well into the 20th century without their efforts being so focused on trade. With natural resources from its many colonies across the seas that it commanded, Britain was able to fuel its industry and have a reliable market to sell its manufactured goods to. The colonies sold their raw resources, and in turn could buy all sorts of fancy goods. That, coupled with up-to-the-minute technology, meant it dominated the competitive market, offering the cheapest new products.

Some of Britain’s main colonies, providing raw materials and tax dollars, were the Thirteen Colonies who ended up breaking away once they gained enough strength to defy their “motherland.” The first British colony in present-day USA was the Virginia Settlement in 1607; by 1733 all 13 had been established. Local governments were in place in the settlements, as Britain was far, far away. While the colonists were not represented in the British Parliament, they were subject to British taxation. Soon, the expanding colonies were protesting, resulting in the American Revolution of 1775-83 and ultimately, the independence of one of Britain’s main trading partners.

The newly formed USA had a long way to go before it would outcompete the British, now in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, for the top spot. It had to build on the structure already in place; natural resources, a solid military and infrastructure had to be developed and great trade relations formed. Jumping forward to the early 20th century, the USA was taking on a more prominent role as a forward thinking nation with a rapidly changing culture. The economy was thriving following the Second World War, which had spurred capital investment and industrial growth. The USA, along with the USSR, was placed at the head of international relations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the tension between these two powers, or the Cold War, ended with the USA coming out on top.

No empire can remain the most dominant power forever. There is a natural progression as different nations develop new technologies, form stronger trade relations, and build upon practices already in place in other countries. What matters is making sure your domestic and international relations are strong so that after you fall you still have means to survive and thrive, even if it’s in a lower position. Though they were originally at odds, Britain and and the USA reconciled their differences as both recognized the advantage to be gained from cooperation; the UK now has a Special Relationship with America, as they share much in the way of “economic activity, trade and commerce, military planning, execution of military operations, nuclear weapons technology and intelligence” (Wikipedia).

E pluribus unum is the Latin phrase on the Seal of the United States, translated into “Out of one, many.” This could be taken as “out of many colonies emerged one nation” but I automatically thought of “out of all counties, the USA has come out on top.” It may not be that way for long though; in our lifetime, the title of global superpower may fall to the increasingly influential industrial powerhouses in Asia. From President Obama: “The fact of the matter is that for most of my lifetime – and I’ll turn 50 next year – the US was such an enormously dominant economic power, we were such a large market, our industry, our technology, our manufacturing was so significant that we always met the rest of the world economically on our terms. And now because of the incredible rise of India and China and Brazil and other countries, the US remains the largest economy and the largest market, but there is real competition.” Or in other words – will the sun soon be setting on the American empire?

Sources:

Cranny, Michael. Crossroads: A Meeting of Nations. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 1998. Print.

“Obama Acknowledges Decline of US Dominance.” The Times of India. The Times of India, 8 Nov 2010. Web. 12 Apr 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Battle of Waterloo.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “E pluribus unum.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “France.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “Napoleon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “Napoleonic Wars.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “Thirteen Colonies.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “Special Relationship.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

—. “United States.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Napoleon Fell, Britain Rose

Posted on April 8, 2012 in Industrial Revolution,Napoleonic Era,Socials,Uncategorized by talonsjen

During the rule of Napoleon, who first overthrew the Directory in 1799, France was a thriving nation with control of much of Europe. Still, Britain was a consistent threat, often leading the charge against Napoleon and ultimately being one of the main powers to defeat him at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. With France reduced to its original borders, the stage was set for Britain to utilize it’s workforce, new technology, strong navy and rich colonies in order to dominate the global landscape. Britain’s economic control and power over the seas maintained its paramountcy into the 20th century, with France never quite recovering from its shrinkage following the fall of Napoleon.

The interesting aspect of this story, I find, is how massive the changes in control are. At the beginning of the 19th century, France controls vast sections of Europe and bits of land overseas; if Google had existed back then, I think it would be safe to say Napoleon’s name would have more hits than any other world leader. Then, piece by piece, loss by loss, his empire falls apart and in no time all of his European gains are gone. Suddenly, Britain utilizes its colonies and growing population to come alive and the Industrial Revolution in born. But this time, France never again rises to the top spot.

Later this week I will explore the various ways in which I can express these happenings and their connections to modern society. I can’t wait to find out what I will choose!

Sources:

Cranny, Michael. Crossroads: A Meeting of Nations. Toronto: Pearson Education Canada, 1998. Print.

Wikipedia contributors. “France.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Napoleonic Wars.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Seven Years’ War.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Battle of Waterloo.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

Wikipedia contributors. “Napoleon.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Web. 8 Apr 2012.

 

I Juan de Fuca This Trail

Posted on March 29, 2012 in In-Depth by talonsjen

On the first week of Spring Break Jen and I embarked on a 6-day trip to the Juan de Fuca trail. It is predominately a summer trail because of the insane mud and crap. No matter, we were going to spend many hours climbing fierce hills, admiring the beautiful scenery, and sleeping on sandy beaches. Here is our journey.

 

SATURDAY: At 9:30 I arrived at Jen’s house, and we spent the next couple hours preparing and packing for the trip. We left a bit late, at around noon, and thus spent the entire trip to the ferry completely convinced that we were going to miss it. Fortunately, we did not, making it just in time. Once on Vancouver Island, about an hour and a half later, we decided to stop in at the Visitor’s Centre in Victoria to try and find a map. Long story short, we didn’t. As a result of that, as well as multiple detours, we didn’t arrive at the trailhead until 5:30. Following fee payment, we began our short hike in with our 35 lbs backpacks.

Darkness fell upon us shortly after we crossed the suspension bridge, engulfing the trail in blackness. Mystic beach was truly magical, as we could only tell where the sound of waves originated from by the slight lines of white ahead of us.  We found an area to set up camp, and another to cook our food. At this point, it was cold and raining, so we went about these activities quickly. After dinner we spent half an hour trying to hang food before we found a bear cache. Then we chose to move our tent to a higher and hopefully drier location in hopes of not being swallowed by the Pacific as the waves crept ever closer.

 

By the time we went to sleep, our tent was filled with my cries of “AHHHHH, the waves are going to eat me!”

SUNDAY: We woke up on dry land and set out packing up our tent before the rain commenced. Someone took a bloody long time to get out of the tent, so we started to collapse it on her. :(Breakfast was quick and delicious, and we happily digested our food as hail said ”Good Morning.” Before we set off, we explored some wondrous caves and a beautiful waterfall. At 1:00 we found the trailhead and headed to Bear Beach.

Nearing the end of our 8km hike, we passed a group of attractive boys who paused to watch us beat the Pacific Ocean. I was pleased.  Soon after we came to a small stream littered with fallen trees and large rocks. I found it very difficult to cross. Jen didn’t, scuttling across 7 times to ferry the packs of her mom and I. Finally, I managed to skip along a couple stones and teeter on a log, successfully landing in our marvellous new campsite.

 

The Precipitation Gods were kind to us, letting it be dry until we fell asleep. We made dinner under a wonderful tarp structure, stuffing ourselves with quinoa and not very rehydrated vegetables. Knowing we were safe and sound from the violent waves, Jen, her mom, and I drifted off to sleep.

MONDAY: It was the day of many hills. Today, we set off on an 11km journey to Chin Beach, one notoriously filled with 11 land bumps. Jen scooted across the first major creek, but her mom and I could not spot a safe, reliable route. Instead, we stripped off our boots and gators, rolled up our pants, and waded across. Needless to say, it took a while to warm up our toes. But after a short time of hiking up switchbacks, the Toe Fairy had returned our digits.

 

Today, neither Trail, Bridge, nor Precipitation Gods were with us. In no time, we found another creek to wade though, and this time all of us made the journey barefoot by balancing on a half-submerged ladder with only a rotting rope keeping us from falling to our soggy deaths. I found another harrowing experience in the 2nd suspension bridge when Jen tried to knock me off. Near the end of the trail, we came upon some glorious views and beautiful snow-covered pathways, before re-entering the world of slippery, muddy slopes.

 

The day was tiring, so when we came across the Emergency Shelter, we declared an emergency and decided to use it. With our limited water supply we made couscous and warmed up a little, with Jen and her mom enjoying steaming cups of lemonade dishwater (don’t worry-we didn’t use soap). After a long day, we retired to bed, and I finished The Great Gatsby, which I had begun on our last trip. I then feel asleep with artistic representations of genitalia looming above my head.

 

TUESDAY: Jen’s mom was feeling pretty sick, so we set off  with a plan to grab the van that night. The trail to Sombrio (or Sombrero, as Jen likes to say) was not too difficult, and we arrived on the beach in the mid-afternoon. Near the next trailhead we found a couple of groups of surfers, which we planned to utilize in order to get Jen’s mom to the van. After a beautiful dinner on the beach under the sun and some billowing clouds, we were shooed to the parking lot by the hail. Jen’s mom found a ride, and Jen and I spent an hour inhaling cigarette smoke, weed, and car exhaust while drinking tea. Then the van came into sight, and off we went to the city while Jen’s mom told us about her journey with the men who couldn’t take their foot off the accelerator without their truck stalling.

 

That night was spent cruising up and down the highway and calling multiple locations in order to find an inexpensive place to stay. After a visit to a strange but pretty hostel in Victoria, we settled on the City Centre Hotel where we SHOWERED. It was weird, but the beds were comfy.

WENESDAY: For some reason, Jen and her mom were craving sushi, so we set off to find an appropriate restaurant in Chinatown (yes, I know sushi is Japanese). I found an adorable café, Jen’s mom bought us a bag of white rabbit candy, and then we picked up some lunch (Jen didn’t like my “nasty tofu crap”) to eat on the way to the ferry.

 

After a rocky ferry ride we got home and unpacked. Then Jennifer’s wonderful mother came over to collect her before we could make Jen scrub our bathtub with a toothbrush or any other such jobs. It was terribly unfortunate.

THURSDAY: I slept in. Then washed dishes.

Like we said in the beginning, the Juan de Fuca is not done in the winter, and for a damn good reason. It was awesome though, and I would definitely do it again. Even in the winter. Yeah, I’m that crazy now.

 

Mwahhahahaha. She has come to the dark side!

Too Much TV: The Berenstain Bears Were Right

Posted on March 26, 2012 in Uncategorized by talonsjen

  (Image: Neat Solutions Inc.)

The Onion recently issued a report that had a shocking headline: “90% of Waking Hours Spent Staring At Glowing Rectangles.” Now, I assume many of you know that the Onion is fake, and I happen to know too. But that doesn’t change the fact that since then, and still today, I have been wracked with guilt/anxiety/indecisiveness whenever I find myself in front of one of these said “glowing rectangles,” be it a TV, computer, or even a billboard sign. What am I doing with my time? And how often is it my choice?

Lately, I’ve been encouraging my parents to turn off the TV. Now that I’m more aware, it’s shocking how often the phrase is coming out of my mouth. The TV comes on automatically so much of the time, almost like a light switch (which is something I hope you’re working on too…) and it makes me scared and sad about how our free time is being used. What are you getting from that show? Could you have used that 2.7 hours  (US Bureau of Labour Statistics) in a more productive, or less wasteful manner? That’s right, 2.7 hours a day is the American average for TV viewing for those 15 and up.

I understand the value in many forms of shows that the magical television offers, and I utilize many of them myself. Through this device, we can utilize our auditory and visual senses to learn about history, nature (though it is kind of ironic, you have to admit), society, our fellow human beings…or just chill and have a laugh, or a cry. My guilt comes from figuring out where to draw the line. How much is too much?

Plus, I feel the need to factor in what I like to call “second hand TV.” This is when you’re trying to read or do homework and such while there is an often interesting screen displaying colour and releasing sound just meters before you. I think it’s really a problem when I’ve done an hour of math and still know the entire plot line of the Body of Proof episode that was just on. That is the time that I find myself most uttering “Can you please turn off the TV?”

At this time, we have a multitude of opportunities for adventure, knowledge, fun, and accomplishment open to us, and technology plays a big part in that. For many though, it could play a smaller, or more useful part.

Let me just leave you with this. Right now my TV is off. But it was on last night when I watched the premier of the new season of  Men with my dad. It’s one of his favourite shows.

Sources:

The Onion

The US Department of Labour: Bureau of Labour Statistics

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food, Glorious, Food

Posted on March 6, 2012 in In-Depth by talonsjen

Finally. Lunch. Not that you haven’t been eating all day anyway. We spent today doing food prep for our 6 day ultimate, supreme trip down the Juan de Fuca trail. With 5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners, it took a while. Here’s a look at our creative experience…

After a wonderful, sunny walk, I arrived at Jen’s house. My mom had already bought the dried food that is necessary for our trip (heavy food=negative). We started with the dinners and the gorp, part of which was left over from the last trip. Looking at both the recipes that Jen’s mom had laid out and the ingredients that we were provided with, Jen and I utilized our magical culinary skills to whip up some amazing plastic-bag contained dishes.

If you ever want to try this at home, remember:

  • It’s not just weight that counts, but volume too.
  • Be creative, as no one wants to eat the same thing every day.
  • Keep in mind the cooking time of a meal, and the amount of fuel that each meal requires.
  • Space out the oatmeal.
  • Know the temperature of the area that you’re going into, so that you can plan your perishables accordingly.
  • Yes, it probably can be found dried. Think shortening, milk, hummus, soup, etc.
  • Spaghetti will break, so you might as well break it first.
  • Freeze-dried is lighter than dehydrated.
  • Tea. Lots of it. Kraken says all of the tea.

The Menu

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Dessert
Wraps, cheese, sausage, etc. Wraps, hard tack, peanut butter, dried fruit, hummus, gorp, jerky, cheese, sesame sticks, etc. Basil and corn orzo with cheese CRAZINESS
Oatmeal (with brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit) Veggie and black bean flake couscous with dehydrated turkey Biscotti, chocolate bars, chocolate chips, maple syrup, hard candy
Pancakes Rice curry with almonds, dried apricots, and dehydrated turkey
Oatmeal (with brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit) Veggie and black bean flake quinoa burgers with thin buns
Oatmeal (with brown sugar, cinnamon, and dried fruit) Veggie flake, freeze-dried chicken and almond, and spice spaghetti with gravy

 

It Wasn’t Flat

Posted on February 17, 2012 in In-Depth by talonsjen

Last Sunday, Jen and I decided to go cross-country skiing on Cypress Mountain. See, I was somewhat worried about this, but I thought I’d be okay. I went for a private cross-country lesson in January on the Lost Lake Trail up at Whistler and I loved it! The fright of running into people or flying into a ditch that I experienced with alpine skiing was (almost) gone. It was relaxing, an awesome workout, and the snow was so beautiful as it flew around the instructor and I.

When Jen and I embarked on the trail at Cypress, I soon figured out that this was not what I was expecting. I fell and slid as I struggled to climb up the steep hills (despite using my herring bone technique). But the scariest thing had to be the downward slopes. When the track was straight and not too steep, I held my breath and tried to ride it out for as long as possible, often snow-ploughing it down. But when there were turns, or when the slope was steep, I often ended up side-stepping – or just turning around.

I’m not good with hills. I’ll admit that. I don’t enjoy the unnecessary fear and anxiety. I’d rather become an expert at skiing on flat, soothing ground before I tackle any mighty summits.

The scenery was nice. And so were the discussions with Jen. :)

French Revolution

Posted on February 11, 2012 in French Revolution,Socials,Uncategorized by talonsjen

This unit has been quite interesting, and filled with stimulating banter both on- and off-line. All of the my blog post, which included some comment responses, are under this category of “French Revolution.” I have also commented on Daniel and Jess‘s blogs, and possibly another couple that I can’t remember.

Thanks for the awesome unit English 11s!

 

Kath McLaughlin: Textile Artist to Coquitlam’s Waste and Recycling Coordinator

Posted on February 11, 2012 in Uncategorized by talonsjen

My search for a leader in my community was rough, but finally I came up with an idea for an individual who would be easy to contact and had a career that was right up my alley. I decided to contact the Engineering and Public Services sector from Coquitlam, and in no time I was receiving an email asking for a time to meet up with Kath McLaughlin, the director for all of the waste management services governed by the Coquitlam municipality.

Kath and I met at City Hall on Friday, and she began to tell me a very interesting story. In her first run in University, she actually studied textile design. Working in the industry, she became increasingly bothered by the amount of waste produced as “the whole occupation of a designer really is to create something…that people don’t necessarily need but they may want or desire.” Seeing this, Kath decided to make a change and went back to University to obtain a Masters in Environmental Management. She opted for a course that would suit her more creative background and give her an opportunity to check out many different environmental fields, such as environmental law, economics, and engineering.

Starting off with NGO and local government work, Kath found a passion for waste management. She recognized that waste is something that “impacts everybody, whether they want to be impacted or not…it’s really about trying to get people on board to change behaviors.” This vision led to a job as the Waste and Recycling Education Officer in Sydney Australia, and then her current position of Waste and Recycling Coordinator in Coquitlam following a move to Canada.

Now, Kath oversees the work of the Urban Wildlife Coordinator (previously the Bear Aware Coordinator) and her two staff member’s that control the customer service desk and the education programs. She has learned to “expect the unexpected” in a job that includes conversing with contractors by various means and being part of working groups and committees that update and create policies for the region. Right now, Kath is working on the BC Packaging and Paper Product Stewardship program, where companies who produce or use printed paper or paper packaging will have the responsibility to create avenues for the disposal of their packaging once the product has been consumed. She thinks that Product Stewardship is a sustainable solution for items such as Styrofoam, whose recycling is not the municipality’s responsibility.

She feels that waste diversion is going well in Coquitlam, as the recovery rate has increased from last year and is now up to 54.9%, well on the way to a 65-70% diversion goal by 2015, a percentage set by Metro Vancouver. An area that does need improvement is organic disposal, tackled in Coquitlam by the Green Can program which is only available to single family homes at the moment. I think it’s going quite well, but Kath does see that “it’s still quite a hard sell to get people to change their routine.” And of course, there’s the problem with making sure that bears do not become habituated as a result of the prospect of garbage as food.

In her future Kath thinks it would be interesting to continue the line of work she is in, but possibly work in developing countries. For now, she works for a better planet through, of course, her current job, as well as utilizing biking and public transit (she doesn’t own a car!) and continuing to explore her love of organic farming.

I am so glad I had the privledge to interview Kath, and be given the opportunity to become involved in the upcoming Waste Reduction Challenge through her colleague Kellie.

These are the kinds of people who are making it just a little bit easier to be green.

(Muppet Wiki)

 Source: McLaughlin, Kath. Personal Interview. 10 02 2012.

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