Archive for the 'environment' Category


Clueless blogger buys gas, corn chips from BP station!

A Definitely Not the Daily News Special Report.

Hamburg (DNDS)  – Clueless Blogger Ian in Hamburg was discovered today purchasing gasoline and a bag of corn chips at the Aral station down the street from where he lives, completely oblivious to the fact that Aral is, in fact, owned by British Petroleum.

Ian in Hamburg was so stunned to be informed he was actually purchasing goods from a company responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters of all time, he could only blurt out a response in cliché internet teen-speak.

“Oh. My. Föcking. God.  You have, like, GOT to be kidding!”  he blurted, looking over at his wife’s car in revulsion.  “You mean she’s going to, like, be driving this thing knowing there’s, like,  gas in it from BP?  That’s even more disgusting than paying 10 bucks for a gallon of gas and 4.50 for 3 ounces of crappy corn chips.”

BP operates more than 2,400 gas stations in Germany under the Aral brand name.   The company web site says more than 2.4 million Germans walk into its stations every day.

“I wonder how many Germans would keep buying from Aral if they knew it was BP?” he mused.  “I mean, come on.   BP is the Bopal for the new millennium.  From now on, whenever the subject of corporate incompetence combined with bullshit PR downplaying mixed in with millions of litres of oil either washed up on beaches, coating wildlife or dispersed with toxic chemicals out at sea, people will automatically say BP, right?  They won’t say Aral, will they?”

The boycott BP bandwagon includes the obligatory farcebook page everyone can forget they’ve signed up to once they’ve clicked away.

BP’s formidable public relations machine has gone into high gear to counter the negative backlash over the oil leak.  They say the quantity of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico every day is still only a fraction of that which seeps naturally from seabeds or is spilled from ships, so everyone should just take a chill pill.

“We don’t think a boycott would help things at all,” said BP/Aral spokesthingy Abbit Dafft.  “Keeping our shareholders happy and our profits obscene is the only way to make sure we can have the money to pay for the clean-up and still have enough left over for lawsuits.”

The company has even set up a Twitter account to make sure everyone – including those poor souls addicted to random bursts of personal trivia –  gets the message about all the good things the company does for the environment and how seriously it takes the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.


Global warming in a freezing winter

A while back this blog was trolled by another Fox-watcher who thinks that just because some parts of North America and Europe are going through a cold winter, there’s no longer any global warming.    I’ve stopped posting his comments – sent his latest one straight to trash unread and permanently blocked him – because I got tired of reading his personal attacks.

But if you’re still shivering like we are through this winter, it’s not a sign the global warming trend has reversed and is now cooling.

If you haven’t the 9 minutes to watch this video which explains why, here are a few facts:

  • August 2009 was the second-warmest on record.
  • June – August 2009 ocean temperatures the warmest ever.
  • Canada, North Africa, the Mediterranean and southwest Asia are going through above-average temperatures between 5 and 10 degrees C.
  • The number of record high days has been increasing over the past few decades, the number of record low days decreasing.

Thanks to WriteChic Press.


Open letter to German Chancellor Angela Merkel asking for €250 for my old bike when I buy a new one

From: some blogger

To: Angela Merkel, The Chancellery, Berlin.

Subject: Giving €2500 to Germans to scrap their old cars if they buy a new one.

Dear Angie,

May I call you Angie? It’s just that I feel so close to you now that I have one of your Barbie Dolls. I was going to give it to my daughter, but since she’s not into them and they did such a flattering job on those thunder thighs I thought I’d keep it for myself.

Anyway, about those cars. I think it’s a great idea to give everyone here in Germany €2,500 to scrap their old car if they buy a new one. Prop up Opel through the back door, get those junkers off the road, a little jiggery-pokery by the dealer and maybe with a bit of luck you’ll see the ol’ beater again on your travels after it’s been sold off for a profit in Eastern Europe or Africa. We’ve thought of doing it, but even though our car is about 15 years old, we figure it’s good for another 100,000 km if we treat it right, so why bother?

Instead, I thought that since I’m in desperate need of a new bicycle to get to and from work, you might extend the favour to cyclists by giving us a few bucks too?

I love my old bike, Ange. We go back 15 years to my Hong Kong days, but it’s on its third set of front and back sprockets, the front and rear bearings once, two sets of new gears, brakes, cables, rims, spokes, tires – the works. The only thing left from the original bike is the frame, the forks, the handlebars and a few scratches.


Since the new bike I lust for is going to cost between €1,500 and €2,000, I figure if you’re throwing €2,500 of my tax money at people willing to spend €15,000 to €20,000, we could just lop off a zero on both sides and both of us can go home happy.

I know what your thinking. You’re rolling those sweet, droopy eyes that look so good on television and thinking: yeah, right. Why should you care about cyclists? We don’t buy that high-tax gas, so we don’t contribute anything to the German state. We don’t provide workers with high-paying jobs, we’re always whining for more bike paths, and when we get home we drip sweat on the carpet.

But I figure I’ve saved the planet about five tonnes of carbon over the past decade by refusing to buy a car. In fact, I’ve probably saved it about 5,000 tonnes because I haven’t chartered a helicopter to get to work each day. When you think about it, I could sell you carbon credits for that trip to Greenland you made a while back to traipse around on the ice and say: It’s melting! It’s melting! Let’s do something!

So whaddya say, Angie babe? Instead of caving into the unions and the auto lobby and propping up the last legs of an industry that only holds us hostage to this unsustainable petroleum- and metal-addicted vampire economy, how about living up to the Germans’ worldwide reputation as people who actually care for the environment and help out those of us who choose the most sensible form of transportation so we can do just that? I promise to donate the money to research into alternative forms of energy.

Yours sincerely,

Ian in Hamburg


Time to donate to charity

I wrote a rather long travel / what-we-did-on-our-summer-vacation post not too long ago with the following tucked in around the mid-point:

What?  You’re still reading?  Good for you!  Most would have started skimming or given up ages ago.  In honour of your perseverance, I will donate 10 euros to charity for every reader who takes the trouble to find my email address in the sidebar and send a mail with the following subject line:  I can’t believe I read the whole thing.  I bet I won’t have to pay a dime.  I’m dead serious.

Despite that rather cocky assertion that I probably wouldn’t have to fork it over,  four readers let me know they indeed had read the whole thing.  One left a comment instead of writing an email, but that’s OK.

So now it’s time to put my money where my keyboard is.

Saving the rainforest, curing cancer, feeding the homeless and supporting animal shelters are all worthy causes and I suppose the money would be put to good use wherever it goes.

We already sponsor a girl in Sri Lanka through Plan International, but there are also people close to home who could use a hand.

nutzmull-hamburgThat’s why I’ve rounded it up by €10 and given €50 to a workshop in Hamburg that employs deaf people as bicycle mechanics.

They take bikes that nobody wants anymore, fix them up with spare parts, and sell them for a reasonable price.  They not only give a steady job to people who might not otherwise find one, they recycle the most environmentally friendly mode of transportation going.  I’ve bought two from them over the years, using them as bad-weather wheels to save my main bike from the ravages of winter grit.nutzmull-hamburg-computers-printers

They have also developed a really good sideline business rejuvenating out-of-date computers and computer equipment and selling them on to people who might otherwise not be able to afford top-of-the-line gear.

So thanks once again Michele, Bellicose, Onkel Mo and Silke, who took the trouble to let me know they’d slogged through the whole thing.

It was a pleasure to drop by there and say hello today, and pass along the money to a worthy cause.  They were quite happy to see me, too. 🙂


Letter to my friend about Turkey – Part 6

In which we have arrived at mid-point of perhaps the longest letter I’ve ever written.  It’s OK, she’s a special friend, and the trip back was wonderful.  This section is a bit of a ramble.  Please bear with me, or read part one here, part two here, part three here, part four here or part five here.

The only time I have ever taken a photograph of a meal was the time in France when I ate roasted sheep heads for dinner with the family I was living with as a student.  Or was it goat?  Anyway… not about to start taking phots now just for a blog, but I will mention…

Food! I haven’t told you about the food yet!  Trish, the food is the one big improvement over the time we were there. It’s simple, honest fare and outside the tourist areas, still a great deal. Ten euro will buy three people a good lunch, dinner around 15 or 20. Even in the areas with higher tourist traffic, we felt prices were reasonable. And no worries anymore about falling ill. We were also smart this time around, drinking only bottled water, which is cheap and sold everywhere. Sometimes I think back then that for a few more dollars a day we could have saved ourselves a lot of grief in the long run.   Remember how sick we were?

turkey-istanbul-topkapi-palace-line-upI was going to say you shouldn’t go to the Topkapi Palace unless you’re a masochist, but I still have to post the section on Turkish trains.

But if hanging out with hordes of people in line-ups starts to turn you off and you’re prepared to pay yet another entrance fee once inside the place just to see the Harem, where you’ll be treated to the most interesting part and be sheltered away from the crushing throng. I found the idea of seeing all that wealth and religious relics kind of enticing – who wouldn’t want to see a whisp of the beard of Mohammed himself? – but having to stand in line to do it just turned us off, so after a while we just didn’t bother.  The Harem, by contrast, proved to be quiet, sheltered and full of gory little details about palace intrigue and death.  Great fun for the kids.

I hate to harp on about the tourists, but they kind of ruined our visit to the Chora Church as well. Although we marvelled at some of the most well-preserved and beautifully restored Byzantine mosaics anywhere, the tour groups just wouldn’t GET OUT OF THE DAMN WAY long enough for you to stand back and really appreciate the setting and feel of the place.


I wanted to collectively bash together the heads of this particularly annoying group of blue-rinsed Greeks, who seemed more interested in yakking on amongst themselves about the weather and taking pictures of each other than really seeing what was in front of their blabbering gobs. I’m starting to feel the annoyance leading to aggression I felt at that moment, so will stop now.


Except to say the Little Hagia Sophia and the Mosaic Museum were ours to enjoy all to ourselves. Little Hagia Sophia is what they call a smaller mosque down on the southern shore of Sultanahmet coloured the same ochre as the Aya Sofya. It’s newly restored, and a jewel that had me holding my breath after walking in and turning skyward. The Mosaic Museum wasn’t even around when we were there because the actual restoration work didn’t start until a few years after, and wasn’t completed until the mid-nineties. Wonderful pieces, not all complete but when you think of the number of invasions and the looting that must have gone on, it’s a miracle they’ve survived at all.

turkey-istanbul-bosphorus-wooden-villa-yaliWe also had the pleasure of enjoying the amazing autumn weather on a Bosphorus cruise, taking an old tub from Eminönu right near the Galata Bridge way up to a small town on the Asian side very close to the Black Sea entrance. It stopped at several little ports along the way, giving us a great look at the grand old houses still left, what hasn’t burned down over the years. Those old wooden buildings are disappearing fast. Apparently if you buy one they have a law which says you have to restore it to its original look,which of course is too expensive, so people live in them and one day, a candle happens to fall over, or be given a nudge…


Speaking of fires and the Bosphorus, do you remember that huge, black, half-sunken shipwreck dominating the harbour back then? For the life of me I can’t figure out WHY I never took a photo of it, and I’m kicking myself still for not having done so, but I remember being so dumbstruck that amidst one of the busiest and most important waterways in the world this wreck should be even there.

On the outside of the Haydarpasa station there is a mention of the accident on a placard. We MUST have also seen it close up, because it was only 500 metres offshore from the station we had to have taken if we took the train going east. Again – no memory of it close up, but the view from afar I’ll never forget. I found this on the net:

1979–The Greek cargo ship Evriyali spears the Rumanian tanker Independenta offshore of the major Haydarpasa railway station, shaking the city with an explosion and causing pollution in both the Marmara Sea and the Bosphorus. About 95,000 tons of oil were spilled into the water and the wreck burned for nearly two months before the fire could be extinguished. Out of the 44-strong crew, only three survived. The wreckage of the tanker affected the area for many years.

So I’m not losing my memory after all.



A long letter looking back at Turkey: Part 2

This is the second in a 10-part series, part of a long letter I’ve sent snail mail to a friend with whom I traveled in Turkey in another life. The first entry is here.

turkey-istanbul-old-ferryWhat else is the same? The state-run ferries – old, slow, hulking tubs when we took them so long ago – are still covered with layers and layers of paint over the rust, their wood-paneled interior filled with wooden-framed leather benches carrying a lot of people who don’t seem to be in a hurry to get anywhere. I’m sure they hold it in until the ferry docks, because the toilets still make your stomach roil and eyes sting.


I’ve got a whole section on trains, which outside the Ankara – Istanbul route are still old, dirty, slow and arrive late.

The buses are cheap and plentiful and you still get a splash of scented water every couple of hours as a refresher, though for entertainment they now blast you with a DVD. On the ride from Cappadocia to Ankara we inserted ear plugs, trying to keep our eyes on the landscape and away from the gaudy spectacle playing out above us, some 70s Turkish Starsky-and-Hutch-meets-The-Pink-Panther detective show knock-off with an all-male cast save a bride who rejects the groom after she sees him in a situation that makes him look (gasp!) gay.

In the towns and markets, shopkeepers in dark clothing still sit or stand in front of their doors like a row of turkey-istanbul-shopkeepers1sentries, calling out their wares from one side of the street to the other like forest birds, rhythmic, repetitive. There’s still no shortage of old men in suit jackets with pants that don’t match, floppy shoes, check socks, their crevice-filled faces, rheumy eyes, bent backs, women in shawls and headscarves walking 10 paces behind. In the hidden recesses of Cappadocia you’ll still see wooden-wheeled donkey carts painted with the star and crescent, a floral pattern and the owner’s name, and as a backdrop that endless Anatolian sky.

We stood on the Galata bridge and watched the hundreds of men – and even some women – lined up shoulder-to-shoulder fishing. I wondered if I were looking at the same people we did back then, or merely watching their sons. It’s a mesmerising sight. What most of us associate with the solitude and calm of a lakeshore, riverbank or open ocean is in Istanbul as much an essturkey-istanbul-galata-bridge-fishermenential part of the endlessly moving cityscape as the throngs of people, the buses, taxis, cars and trams and the ceaceless criss-cross of boats along the Golden Horn and around the mouth of the Bosphorus to the Asian side.

The bridge looks different, though. Wasn’t it flat and down close to the water before, seeming to float on pontoons from one end of the point to the other? I remember back then – I’m going to say that a lot, I’m afraid – but I remember walking to the mid-point with you one day and not wanting to stop and linger because the traffic fumes were making me gag and my eyes water. Now, it’s so clean, you almost miss the grit. Has Istanbul become TOO clean? Or is it simply my comparison with how dirty it used to be?

turkey-istanbul-journal-entry-may-25-1981I like in Turkey how you can meet someone who may at first just be trying to sell something to another tourist, but then once things are clear and they know you’re not interested in their wares, still want to chat a while. l met this man called Adnan that way – it was a brief encounter, but we shared a moment, you know? Turns out he was born less than two months later than me and has a son our daughter’s age. He runs this tiny hole-in-the-wall used bookstore on one of the many narrow sidestreets branching off Istiklal Avenue, the main boulevard that leads the length of Beyoglu to Taksim Square. He wanted to sell me a print hanging from the ceiling, but when I politely told him no, he asked me where I was from. We got to chatting and when he asked if this were my first time in Istanbul, told him no, I’d been there in another life, Spring 1981. I guess it’s just a matter of jolting so quickly back and forth in time and memory, or maybe just that we were lucky enough to have had incredible fall weather, the air washed clean for the next few days by a sweeping wind- and rainstorm the morning we arrived, but he burst out laughing when I told him that what I’d noticed had changed the most was that Istanbul was so much cleaner.


But that’s the air; the choking soot may be gone, but they still seem to have little regard for their surroundings, so you see them tossing litter or flicking cigarette butts out car windows as if the streets were public garbage cans. On the train just west of Ankara on our way back to Istanbul we saw a creek maybe 20 feet across pitch black with filth, swirling back-eddies of plastic refuse and garbage spilling later into a swampy pool of bilge. Ugly, horrendous.

Second in a series.


Must cut off electricity to help save the planet, so I guess this is the last post. See ya, it’s been fun.

Just a short follow-up to the post below concerning the wasteful weekend ways of some so-called nature-loving Brits.   One of the links leads to a short ecological impact test.  My results were a shocker, because I’d always considered my lifestyle to be pretty sound, ecologically speaking anyway.

I try to buy local, ride my bike everywhere throughout the year in all types of weather, recycle as much as possible, fly maybe only once or twice a year, am sort of semi-vegetarian, ie: eat meat when I feel like it but certainly not every day, and STILL I came out with a rating which shows that if everyone in the world lived as I do, we’d need 2.5 planets just to support this lifestyle.

So I checked out the site again and tried to see what I would have to do in order to bring it down to just one planet.  So putting in things I can’t change – age, home city, alcohol intake gender, size of family and type of residence, I started to tweak the other settings.

But even pretending to be a strict vegan who never eats processed food, produces much less waste than his neighbours, never flies, never travels by car or public transport but only on foot,  bicycle or bullock, I’m still at 1.4 planets.  Time for desperate measures.

Moving into an apartment half the size of the one we’re in now would bring it down to 1.1 planets, but that’s still not good enough.

So apparently the only thing left is to do all of the above, but cut off the electricity.   This is how billions breathing the same air as us will live out their lives, but still…

Any advice on how to sell the idea to my wife and daughter greatly appreciated.

© 2007 lettershometoyou

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

My email

britbeach / at / yahoo dot ca

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 586 other followers

SUBSCRIBE! Or I’ll post again.

This blog is best consumed with a glass of wine and often a grain of salt. Take a random look:


This blog has been visited

  • 562,199 times.

Nine out of 10 dentists recommend flossing with the following posts:

A few reasons why I sometimes get homesick

1oo% Blogthings-free since January, 2007

and one last factoid about me: according to these people, i can type per minute

OK, that wasn’t the last thing on the sidebar, but this is: