Coming Back to Life After COVID-19

Posted on: April 23rd, 2020 by Lanlin Bu No Comments
Author: Michael Bloomfield


As Covid-19 recedes will we resume life as before or create a fairer, more compassionate and self-sufficient society.


That struggle has begun with globalization promoters touting great economic opportunities as 5G arrives and consumerism re-ignites around the world. Globalization has somewhat reduced poverty and improved education and healthcare in developing countries but at a price, a new colonialism primarily benefiting the rich and powerful.


Covid-19 exposed serious flaws in a global system emphasizing economic gain. Over 85% of our antibiotics come from China. Canada imports more food than it exports; 25% of our needs are imported. Surrendering self-sufficiency for food and medical supplies for cheap consumer goods is reckless.


Who gained most from globalization? Oxfam reported in 2018 the world’s 26 richest people held more wealth than the poorest 3.8 billion people.


Exorbitant CEO pay further exemplifies the growing gap between rich and poor. David McKay of the Royal Bank is paid $14.5M/year, Apple’s Tim Cook received $136M in 2018 and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos takes $9M/hour while the average Amazon worker gets $15/hour.



Conversely the lifetime income of a Canadian earning $50,000/year for 40 years is $2M. Workers in the 25 poorest countries, people providing us precious metals and luxuries earn less than $1,000/year if they can find work.


The gig economy was another injustice exposed. Workers without benefits or job security were on their own while their employers demanded government aid. The gig is up!


Adding insult to injury, wealthy Canadians and corporations don’t pay their fair share of taxes. Canadians for Tax Fairness estimate losses of at least $8B/year to personal tax evasion and avoidance.


The corporate story is worse. Corporate Knights reported that from 2011-2016 Canada’s 102 largest companies avoided $62.9B in income taxes. The scales are tipped so favourably towards large corporations that Canadians paid $145B in income tax in 2018 while corporations paid $41B. As corporate taxes were slashed individuals and families have had to make up the difference. CRA estimates about 25% of corporate taxes were unpaid, money needed for education, healthcare, social housing and a healthy environment.


The cozy relationship between business and government must change. It has compromised democracy and created a dependency on hand-outs. Companies are heavily subsidized by society through generous tax-breaks, credits and loans, infrastructure, healthcare etc. Where’s our return on investment?



The fossil fuel industry is a good example of malfeasance. In Alberta alone the liability for cleaning up roughly 3,500 abandoned oil and gas wells and the tar sands are estimated at $30B and $200B respectively. The province holds 1% security in a clean-up fund.


Bailouts are a similar story. Bombardier has been rescued more often than the neighbour’s cat. During the 2008/09 meltdown Canada provided $13.7B to the auto industry. Some companies never repaid their government loans while forcing creditors and employees to accept concessions. Canada took no equity and taxpayers paid for it. Why does government refuse to identify defaulters?



Canada also has a poor record for honouring international agreements on corruption, human rights, environment and money-laundering and the appalling honour of being home to the most firms on a World Bank blacklist of corrupt companies.


Corporations have persuaded, cajoled and bribed officials in other countries to accept hazardous mines and e-waste and produce luxuries for us instead of food for their people. Forests and rivers have been trashed and we’ve turned a blind eye to child and slave labour so that we can enjoy cheap carpets, shrimp and cell phones.


Canadian mining companies have a terrible track record, exploiting lax standards to ignore human rights and pollute environments local people need for food and water. Growers of strawberries, tea and avocados are typically no better. Our government calls it the Canada Advantage. More like taking advantage.


And before we get too smug about corporate behaviour, each of us has a part in this messy business. In the global system we are the rich and powerful. We work for and invest in companies that take advantage of low wages and poor labour, human rights and environmental standards. CPP and private pensions invest in mining, tobacco, weapons and private prisons.


Our lavish lifestyles corrupt and kill, exploiting children for chocolate, supporting slavery on shrimp boats and pushing many wild species to the brink of extinction for more burgers and coffee. Are we too content to care?


Since the 1950s every natural system has dramatically declined. We’ve polluted and over-fished the oceans, poisoned and depleted rivers and lakes, removed more than 50% of the world’s forests and flooded and paved productive farmland.



We all saw people fighting over toilet paper and governments stealing vital supplies from each other in a nationalistic frenzy. We can and must do much better.


However, if we want a peaceful, healthy and prosperous world we must address the systemic flaws of globalization 1) inequity within and between countries 2) consumerism’s role in injustice and environmental degradation, and 3) our disastrous relationship with nature.


Personally, we must personally adopt ethical practices in how we live and work and oppose governments and corporations doing harm in our name. Together we must urgently adopt clean energy as part a world-wide movement to meet our needs without harming other people, future generations and other species. It’s time for real change, lasting change, the kind we can be proud of and for which future generations will say thank you.



Michael Bloomfield, ecologist, philanthropist and educator

Founder and Executive Director, Harmony Foundation of Canada


Earth Day April 22, 2020



Recommended Actions for Your Consideration


For Individuals and Families


  1. Celebrate real heroes who make our communities healthy, well-educated and prosperous; teachers, healthcare professionals, farmers, artists etc. Celebrity culture is corrosive.
  1. Buy local and support our farmers; they are essential for our food-security.
  1. Demand strong universal healthcare and well-funded schools.
  1. Insist that our elders receive compassionate care from better trained and paid staff.
  1. Stop real estate speculation. We need homes to raise and shelter our families.
  2. Choose a zero emission vehicle. Gasoline cars are like billions of burning cigarettes, bad for health and environment.
  3. Push for greater investment in quality, affordable public transit.
  4. Eat less meat; animal agriculture harms our health and the environment and causes animal suffering.
  1. Stop eating shrimp involved with slave labour and destruction of important wetlands.
  1. Choose chocolate from companies not using child labour or dangerous pesticides.
  1. Reduce, repair, re-use. Avoid disposal products; they waste resources and harm the environment.
  1. Stand up against racism, discrimination and hate. Silence is the enemy of justice.
  2. Oppose arms sales to non-democratic countries; self-defence only.
  3. Demand CPP and your fund manager stop investing in enterprises harmful to people, animals and the environment.
  1. Choose businesses that support local arts, education, healthcare etc. Box stores and online sellers often contribute little or nothing to communities.
  2. Back tougher laws and enforcement on environment, labour and human rights.
  3. Get involved with and support practical reconciliation with First Nations.
  4. Make family, community and healthy, meaningful lives our priority.



For Society


  1. Support local farmland and farmers. They are essential for our food-security.
  1. Strong universal healthcare and well-funded schools. They have been under-valued and under-funded for too long.
  1. Compassionate eldercare and better training and salaries for staff.
  1. Stop real estate speculation. Only citizens or permanent resident should be entitled to buy residential. We need homes to raise and shelter our families.
  2. Promote zero emission vehicles and greater investment in quality, affordable public transit.
  1. Ensure that The Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Export Development Canada (EDC) and all government funding for business clearly serve the public interest.
  1. Demand stronger regulations for animal agriculture that protect land and water, eliminate antibiotics and growth hormones and stop animal cruelty.
  1. Stop shipping our electronic and other waste to other countries.
  1. Reduce packaging waste and disposable products and pressure companies to produce more durable, longer lasting products.
  2. Stronger laws to reduce racism, discrimination and hate, including online.
  3. Demand that the behaviour of our companies overseas is at least as good on environment and human rights as it is at home and that must improve too, especially in the territories of indigenous people who are not treated equally either. Child labour must end.
  4. Make it illegal for companies to lobby government secretly; all such activity must be publicly revealed and balanced through fairer access for public interest advocates.
  5. Stop the revolving door between government and business; it’s a dubious form of delayed compensation. There needs to be a waiting period of at least 3 years.
  6. Stop arms sales to non-democratic countries and for political adventurism; self-defence only.
  7. Ensure our universities serve the public not donors or internal ambitions.
  8. Stop CPP from investing in tobacco, arms, prisons and other harmful enterprises in Canada and around the world.
  9. Impose their fair share of taxes on foreign and online companies operating in Canada.
  10. Rebuild domestic industries for food, medical and other essential supplies and stop relying on global supply chains for these goods.
  11. Tougher laws and enforcement on environment, labour and human rights.
  12. Increase practical reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples.
  13. Increase foreign aid. Canada spends 0.27 percent of Gross National Income (GNI) on foreign aid. That’s less than the 0.3 average of other donor countries, far below the UN target of 0.7 percent we agreed to in 2005.
  14. Adopt strict gun control and ban assault weapons in Canada.

Food Security Advocate Vandana Shiva Visits Victoria, Feb.29, 2016

Posted on: January 13th, 2016 by Harmony Foundation No Comments


Vandana Shiva, globally renowned food sovereignty activist will be speaking to Victorians on February 29th, 2016 highlighting local food systems, ecosystems and community resilience. Co-hosts Harmony Foundation of Canada, LifeCycles Project Society and the University of Victoria’s Institute for Studies and Innovation in Community University Engagement (ISICUE), invite you to join this vital discussion at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium.


Harmony is sponsoring this exciting evening” said Michael Bloomfield, Founder and Executive Director, “because, along with our partners at LifeCycles and ISICUE, we recognize the critical importance of public participation in ensuring community stewardship over our food supply, and supporting the land and water and people that produce it.


Shiva, a celebrated international speaker, will inspire listeners with global examples of the community-led initiatives that can inform local efforts here in Victoria. Shiva’s broad experience in food systems highlights the connections between climate change, poverty, gender inequality, loss of bio-diversity and food insecurity, as well as weaves stories of how communities respond creatively to these challenges.


We’re thrilled to be co-hosting such an accomplished activist who brings a depth of knowledge and insight around the power of localized responses to the global industrialized food system and the resilience of organic agro-ecosystems,” says Maurita Prato, Director of LifeCycles. “We’re particularly excited for this event to catalyze communities here to keep asking questions around what actions we can be taking towards more sustainable local food systems.”


There will be time for questions from the audience and to hear about how you can connect with local, on-the-ground food initiatives in the Capital Region. A book signing will follow the public presentation– bring a Dr. Shiva’s publication to be signed!


Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Purchase yours at www.tickets.uvic.ca, or 250-721-8480.


To learn more about this event, please visit lifecyclesproject.ca or https://www.facebook.com/events/958064100939189/

Victoria’s Urban Forest: Asset or Liability?

Posted on: June 4th, 2015 by Harmony Foundation No Comments


In Victoria Foundation’s 2014 Vital Signs report, Victorians ranked the natural environment as the best part of living in the city and with good reason. However, while Victoria’s urban forest is a substantial natural asset, it’s largely taken for granted.


Beyond their aesthetic value, Victoria’s street trees lower stress, increase community pride and social well-being, sequester 110,000 tons of air pollutants each year, preserve road surface and provide $2 million of storm water service per year.


Conservative estimates show that for every $1 invested in Victoria’s urban forest, about $4 is returned in economic benefits. Yet years of neglect have left us with a diminishing asset and growing risk to public safety from unhealthy trees and a forest past its prime.


Since 1995, inventories and reports produced by and for the City consistently urged Victoria to adopt an action plan to address an increasingly vulnerable, hazardous and aging urban tree population. Recently, the City commissioned another inventory of all City owned trees that was accompanied by a “tactical plan” for managing all public trees. While considerable public resources have been spent on these documentations, many recommendations have not been acted upon, most notably the implementation of an action plan.


As a result, resources invested in these inventories and reports have not been well used. Over 800 hazardous street trees were identified and remain threats to public safety, with a similar number needing urgent action in our parks and green spaces. Nearly 1500 sites where trees were removed have not been re-planted, nor has a comprehensive action plan been adopted for urban forest revitalization since it was first recommended nearly 20 years ago.


After years of trying to get this issue on the City’s agenda, during the summer of 2014 I reviewed all of the above-mentioned reports. A pattern of unfulfilled promises and minimal action is clear. Drawing on more than 30 years experience working on sustainable communities and consultations with experts on the social and economic benefits of investing in urban forests, I developed six comprehensive recommendations.


The City of Victoria must undertake the immediate removal and replacement of hazardous trees. Existing vacant spaces need to be replanted, and a long-term tree planting campaign must be adopted. The City should establish two committees to ensure the health of the urban forest: one to recommend updates to our weak Tree Preservation Bylaw, and task another to recommend on increasing benefits provided by our urban forest, such as food production. Finally, Victoria must commit to a comprehensive action plan that sustains the social, environmental and economic benefits provided by our urban forest. These recommendations were offered to help ensure the long-lasting health of Victoria’s urban forest and maximize its benefits for us and for future generations. But like the reports before them, my recommendations went largely unanswered.


Why the foot-dragging? Trees are the only public investment that increases in value over time. A 2005 report commissioned by the City assessed the monetary value of Victoria’s urban forest at $39,139,000 for street trees alone, a sum that only increases once social, health and environmental benefits from all of Victoria’s trees are taken into account.


There are many compelling reasons for the City to act now. Again, Victoria is losing valuable assets and facing increasing risks to public safety from unsound and hazardous trees. The social, economic and environmental benefits of a healthy urban forest, as well as strong public support for it further stress the need for prompt action. The City needs to move quickly to address hazardous trees, (re)plants vacant sites, adopt a long-term tree planting program and to engage a supportive public in preserving, maintaining and increasing the long-term benefits of a healthy urban forest.


If you too care about healthy trees, please make your feelings known to Mayor Helps and city councilors. Their leadership is required to reverse the decline of Victoria’s urban forest.


The full report of Victoria’s Urban Forest: Asset or Liability can be found here.



Oil Is Bringing the Arctic to a Rapid Boil

Posted on: July 31st, 2013 by Harmony Foundation No Comments



Photo Source: Reuters

Encroaching Business Interests...............................Photo Source: Reuters



Climate is the new game changer


Lloyd’s of London estimates that Arctic oil and gas reserves could draw investment of up to US$100-billion within a decade. Now a paper published in the journal Nature reports that the release of methane from the Arctic could speed the melting of sea ice and climate change with a cost to the global economy of up to US$60-trillion [1] .


In addition to these colossal financial implications, we must not overlook the enormous social and environmental risks from damaging the Arctic ecosystem. Do the economic rewards justify the social and environmental risks? Who should answer these questions?


Perhaps those pushing Arctic development should consult the peoples of the North, the millions threatened by famine and thirst, and the victims of recent floods in Europe, Canada and China and wildfires in Australia and the United States.


And yet while the global climate changes the world’s leaders seem more interested in dividing up the Arctic pie than working together to mitigate and manage the dramatic changes facing us. Will Canada’s leadership of the Arctic Council bring cooperation to protect the Arctic, or accelerate the 21st century resource-rush that threatens the world?


As Sweden’s Carl Bildt passed the chair of the eight-nation circumpolar Arctic Council, he raised serious concerns about the threats facing the Arctic environment. When Canada’s Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq assumed the role of chairperson, she announced that the council would establish a Circumpolar Business Forum.


With powerful business interests pressing for development, it’s important to ask – to whom does the Arctic belong? The people of the North, and the wildlife who have shared their homelands for millennia? How about the island and coastal nations threatened to be submerged? What about our children and grandchildren who have no say in our decisions but must live with the consequences?


Sovereignty over much of the Arctic also continues to be contested. For many the Arctic should be part of the global commons, and yet those seeking to exploit the region are given preferential treatment.


The Circumpolar Business Forum and their political allies cannot be allowed to make this decision alone. For a legitimate determination of whether and how responsible development can take place, the needs and interests of the whole world must be addressed.


In recent decades, the average Arctic temperature, recorded at the National Snow and Ice data centre, has increased twice as fast as the global average [2]. Six working groups commissioned by the UN are tracking these changes and encouraging member countries to become informed on key issues including Emergency Prevention, Preparedness, and Response, Arctic Contaminants, and the Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna [3]. Although the Council receives valuable research and advice from these working groups, leaving out public advocates and First Nations compromises credibility and results.


The Kiruna Declaration, recently adopted by the Arctic Council, is not encouraging on this point. Within the Declaration, two very disparate values were revealed. The council “[recognizes] the central role of business in the development of the Arctic” while acknowledging “with concern that Arctic biodiversity is being degraded and that climate change is the most serious threat” [4].


How then can the Council assume that the risks are acceptable, especially before adequate public consultation and solid scientific data? The purpose of these groups is to collect and assess comprehensive baseline data for conservation and development decisions not to give cover to hasty approvals [5].


This returns us to the central question: is Arctic development in the best interest of today’s global inhabitants and future generations? Or does development primarily serve the interests of the rich and powerful?
Recently, the Arctic council welcomed India, China, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea and Singapore as observer states, further evidence that the resource race is expanding. Can we expect leaders, pressed by national and corporate interests, to protect worldwide interests in the management of the Arctic?


The pursuit of mineral wealth may have obscured other vital issues in the Arctic but now civil society advocates are demanding environmental justice and serious mitigation efforts against climate change.


The question to each of us is: do we care? If you do, get involved. Let Minister Aglukkaq know that you support a process that is inclusive and ensures that before any development proceeds there is no doubt it will be done safely and responsibly in the best interests of the world. If development proceeds, it has to be in accordance with vigorous international standards and monitoring, because it is too dangerous and irresponsible to make up the rules as we go.


Leona Aglukkaq
Canada’s Minister of the Environment. Chair of the Arctic Council
Email: Leona.Aglukkaq@parl.gc.ca
PO Box 1930, Office 3, Bldg. 208
Iqaluit, NU, CAN
X0A 0H0


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[1] Nature. July, 2013. Vast costs of Arctic Change. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v499/n7459/pdf/499401a.pdf

[2] National Snow and Ice Data Centre. 2013. http://nsidc.org

[3] Arctic Council. 2013. Working Groups. http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/about-us/working-groups

[4] Kiruna Ministerial Meeting Documents. 2013. http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/resources/news-and-press/news-archive/739-kiruna-ministerial-meeting-documents

[5] Arctic Council. 2013.  CAPP – Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/about-us/working-groups/conservation-of-arctic-flora-and-fauna-caff


Friends of Nature Launches Community Based Water Project in China

Posted on: September 21st, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

Friends of Nature (FON) is pleased to announce that it is the first recipient in China of a grant from the Royal Bank of Canada’s Blue Water Project. Thanks to the generosity of RBC and assistance from Harmony Foundation of Canada, serving as advisors, the grant will support local water projects conducted by FON groups across China and lay the foundation for a national water stewardship program.


FON was founded in 1990 in Beijing and now has 10 registered volunteer groups across China, located in Hubei, Henan province, Shanghai and other regions. Their programs include Apple Suppliers Pollution Investigation, vegetation protection and wild bird habitat protection.


In addition to achieving local benefits thorough water clean-up and conservation, The Community Based Water Project will also improve the skills of local groups to assist their communities on water and other important issues.


Harmony Foundation of Canada is recognized internationally for innovation and leadership in education and community training and has helped business, government and civil society in 36 countries take positive action together for prosperity based on social development and healthy environments.


Together, Harmony and FON will choose participating FON groups and communities, provide training on public participation and assist them to successfully implement water projects to help improve local water quality and conservation.


In August the project began with a workshop involving FON registered groups. Vice Director Zhang Hehe and German advisor Joerg Naumann from FON introduced the project, and Chen Hulu from Shining Stone Community Action presented Harmony Foundation’s Community Action Workshop which will be used for community training. Representatives from all groups reacted with enthusiasm.


Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) is listed among the top 50 most socially responsible organizations in Canada; moreover, it is also one of top 100 most sustainable organizations in the world. The RBC Blue Water Project is a wide-ranging, multi-year program to help foster a culture of water stewardship, so that people have clean fresh water today and tomorrow.

Harmony Foundation and RBC have worked together with great success since 1989 and are pleased to join with FON in this outstanding project.



Crazy Dam Fever Plagues China!

Posted on: July 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments


The 185-meter-high Three Gorges Dam was the biggest water dam in the world when it was completed On May 20, 2006.  The construction displaced millions of people and has had enormous environmental impacts during construction and beyond.

While the Chinese government was proud of creating this “miracle,” huge environmental impacts started to hit China soon thereafter. In the spring of 2011, seven central and eastern provinces and Shanghai were experiencing serious water shortages. This was the driest season in China in 50 years. While authorities blamed the problem on global warming, many experts dismissed such claims, recognizing that more frequent and longer lasting droughts occurred since the huge dam came on stream.


Criticism of the environmental, ecological and social damage from Three Gorges Dam has never cooled down, yet the fever for hydroelectric dam construction keeps getting even hotter despite scientific warnings. According to a June 2nd 2011 article from China [1], there were over 5200 dams over 30 metres high in China either constructed or under construction. You can say that along any well-known river in China there are hydroelectric dams. By 2020, most planned hydro projects will have been completed in nearly all areas except Tibet, and now China is focusing its thirst for hydro to Jinsha, Lancang, Anger River and Yarlung Zangbo Rivers in Tibet.



The Yellow River, the “cradle of Chinese civilization,” is the second-longest river in China after the Yangtze and the sixth-longest in the world at the estimated length of 5,464 kilometers.  Over 3300 dams were built along it, and it eventually dried out. For nearly the entire year of 1997, no water at all flowed into the sea from the Yellow River. [2]


The Jiulong River in the south of China, the mother river, once flowed through Longyan, Zhangzhou and Xiamen cities. Then the Jiulong River disappeared; cut into hundreds of unconnected ponds. The ecology along river is totally changed. In Zhangzhou alone, there were 920 hydroelectric plants in 2010; while in Longyan, the number already reached 1072 by 2007.  In Zhangzhou, over 100 fish species are extinct, and in Longyan, over 30 more vanished from the river. [3]


Apparently China didn’t learn the lessons from either the Yellow River or the Jiulong River. The same tragedy is happening to the Yangtze River now.


The Jinsha River, about 2308 kilometer long with catchment area of about 500 thousand square kilometer, is upstream from the Yangtze River. Its watercourse contributes about 40% of the Yangtze River. The Jinsha River will be divided into many sections by 25 hydroelectric dams under planning, which will generate as much electricity as four Three Gorges Dams put together, and become a gigantic cluster of reservoirs with an average of one hydroelectric dam every 100 kilometers.


Chinese geologist Fan Xiao of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau in China warned that the Yangtze River will run dry with so many dams along the river, that their combined reservoir volume would exceed the Yangtze’s flow.


Hold on a second! You are probably asking, “why does the hydroelectric development chaos in China matter to Canada?” Good question. Let’s take a deeper look at the roles Canada played in Three Gorges Dam. Pat Adams of Probe International made it clear commenting that, “the problems at the Three Gorges aren’t just a Chinese problem, as it’s often portrayed; it’s a world-wide issue, with responsibility in other countries.” [4]


In 1986, China picked a consortium funded by Canada to carry out a feasibility study on damming the Yangtze River in the Three Gorges region. By then, Canada was a leader on hydroelectric power. The report came out supporting Three Gorges Dam with one condition “the water depth should not exceed 160 metres.” However, China decided to go with 180 metres. Initially in 1992, Canada’s international development agency (CIDA) withdrew support, citing concerns about economic viability and social dislocation. Many other western governments initially refused to support China to build this huge dam too. However, in 1994, recently elected Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien led a trade mission to China and surprised Canadians by announcing his government’s support for Three Gorges Dam. No surprise that other western countries, such as Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and French, followed. [5]


Probe International asked the key question for us – how could a country with a reputation for being peacekeepers to the world, morally upstanding, and environmentally sound give the Three Gorges Dam the credibility and financing it desperately needed?


The companies that gave life to the Three Gorges Dam are BC Hydro International, Hydro-Quebec, SNC-Lavalin and Acres International. Who financed Three Gorges in Canada? AGRA Monenco, an international engineering and construction management company signed a $25million contract in 1994 and another for $12.5 million in 1995, with Canada’s Export Development Cooperation (EDC) financing this contract. Dominion Bridge Inc. signed a $64 million contract with Chongqing and Sichuan Province, and EDC financed $23.5 million of this contract. General Electric of Canada, in a consortium with Siemens and Voith-Hydro, German engineering companies, signed a $320 million contract in 1997, and EDC provided $153 million to finance GE Canada.  Hydro-Quebec International signed a $1.9 million contract with China Power Grid Development Company. [6]


Now, let’s think back to what Pat Adams said about “responsibilities in other countries.” If we contribute to harmful decision which lead to negative indeed nasty impacts in another country, shouldn’t we take responsibility for that?


The poor decisions may have been Chinese but the enablers were Canadian businesses and agencies willing to put aside social and environmental concerns and responsibilities to gain lucrative contracts and curry favour.


How are we doing now? Canada’s campaign to ship oil sands crude to China certainly offers major clues that short-term political and economic ambitions trump humanitarian and environmental concerns and responsibilities for Canadian decision-makers.


E-waste: Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Posted on: June 5th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

Grand houses, luxury cars, piles of electronic waste, and a blackened river are common sights in Guiyu, a small town in Southern China, becoming infamous as a dumping ground for international e-waste. Every year about 20 to 50 million tons of e-waste is produced in the world with 70% shipped to China, and the rest sent to India or poor African countries. The e-waste includes computers, printers, cell phones, TVs, toys, and other electronics.


And it’s not only obsolete and broken equipment. Adam Minter, author of the Shanghai Scrap blog, found in April 2012 that the e-waste included defective but nearly new items from HP, Samsung, and Panasonic, as well as electronics returned for warranty repairs. In Guiyu, about 80% of families are directly involved in the business of disassembling and disposing of e-waste. Every year about 1.5 million tons of e-waste is processed in Guiyu, which contributes 90% of tax income for this small town.




Among over 150,000 employees in Guiyu’s e-waste industry, many are migrants from poorer parts of China, too desperate to care about the health risks. According to a 2008 documentary produced by 60 Minutes, “21st century toxins are being managed in a 17th century environment.” Workers use their bare hands to disassemble electric wire, plastics and circuit boards; then the unprotected workers use fire and mercuric acid baths to extract precious, mostly toxic, metals from the e-waste.



What’s the cost of our obsession with the newest electronic gadgets? The e-waste industry has seriously harmed the local environment and the health of residents. Acid residue is dumped into the local river which has turned black. Clouds of acrid smoke from burning the e-waste expose residents to polychlorinated and polybrominated dioxins, some of the most toxic compounds on earth. In fact, research has found that Guiyu has the highest level of cancer causing dioxins in the world.


Standing on the street for a short while you can smell the pungent stench in the air. Many workers have respiratory disease, skin ulcers and kidney stones. According to an article in the Chinese magazine Environment Research by Huo Xia, a professor in the Medical School of Shantou University, blood lead levels of 70.8% in children has reached the level of lead poisoning. The rate of stillborns for pregnant women in Guiyu from 2003-2007 was six times higher than other areas, and the rate of premature births was 62% higher.


Of course China bears some responsibility for this awful mess. In 2010 China, produced, 2.3 million tons of e-waste, second only to the U.S. production of 3 million tons. In addition, China ratified the Basel Convention in 1990 and has banned e-waste import ever since, but local governments turn a blind eye on the e-waste industry, grateful for tax income contribution to local towns.


But what about our responsibilities as consumers, is it fair for us to dump our waste on others?  And yet that’s exactly what we do, exploit the poor and leave them a legacy of damaged health and environments. Adding insult to injury we turn up our noses at their reckless behaviour and walk away.


The ugly truth is that the stinky e-waste export is driven by pure economics. A 2006 Seattle Times article E-waste dump of the world reported that, “an average computer yields only $1.50 to $2 worth of commodities such as shredded plastic, copper and aluminum (…) e-waste recyclers in the United States can’t cover their costs with such low yields, especially while respecting environmental regulations.” Even though charging 50 cents a pound for taking in old computers (about $20-28 per unit) would mean recycling can be done safely and profitably in the U.S., many companies still chose to ship the e-waste to Asia and Africa for better profit. Stricter environmental and safety rules drive up the cost of disposal, it’s as much as 10 times cheaper to export the waste to developing countries.


Surely this harmful practice can be stopped. In fact, in the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted to do just that. As the Basel Convention clearly states, “Recognizing the increasing desire for the prohibition of transboundary movements of hazardous wastes and their disposal in other States, especially developing countries. Parties shall prohibit or shall not permit the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes to the Parties which have prohibited the import of such wastes.”


So what’s the problem? Shamefully, as the biggest e-waste producing country, the U.S. continues to allow such criminal e-waste management through weak legislation and failure to ratify the Basel Convention. As usual Canada makes all the right gestures and does little in practice.  Canada ratified the Basel Convention in 1992 but to date has done very little to enforce it. As the CBC documentary e-waste Dumping Ground (2008) pointed out, if e-waste export were an Olympic sport, the U.S. would win the gold medal while Canada would win the silver.


Even our Ministers of the Environment failed to get the job done. In 2004, The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment adopted 12 principles for e-product stewardship in the much ballyhooed Principles for Electronics Product Stewardship. Despite a clear commitment to only export e-waste for recycling from Canada to facilities with a documented commitment to environmentally sound management and fair labour practices, the CBC documentary clearly showed that some parts of Canada still ship e-waste to China and other countries.


So how do companies continue to export e-waste from Canada? Wikipedia reveals that the Canadian Government uses a unique interpretation of the Basel Convention to create a loophole in the regulations. As a result as much as 400,000 tons of e-waste is exported each year because it is intact not disassembled.


Our enforcement is not much more impressive. According to Seattle-based Basel Action Network, the only known enforcement success in Canada, occurred when 50 containers loaded with about 500,000 kg of e-waste destined for China and Hong Kong were caught at the Port of Vancouver in 2006. The 27 companies involved were fined less than $2,000 apiece under the Customs Act, but the company names were not revealed.


Well done Canada, we’ve opened the door to uncontrolled export of toxic e-waste and made some money in the process. If the Chinese or Ghanaians or others are stupid enough to take it, that’s their problem not ours.


So Canada, what’s our decision, out of sight, out of mind, or to take responsibility for ourselves?


If we are serious about human rights and environmental protection, we must first ban all e-waste export, and strengthen regulations for enforcement. The only exception should be highly specialized equipment going to a facility abiding by the highest international Environment, Health and Safety standards. At the same time, Canada should also urge, indeed require, producers to improve their product design for better disassembly and disposal, and press them to replace toxic flame-retardants with environmentally safe alternatives.


According to the U.S.Government Accountability Office, only $1 more in design cost per computer could save $4 for American recyclers in disassembly costs. Why let innocent people bear the cost for irresponsible consumers and profit-greedy producers? Sure companies and government must do better so must we as individuals. We need to control our eager pursuit of the latest fashion in cell phones, cameras, computers and other e-devices. Ten years ago, the average life span of a computer was six years; now it is only two years. Cell phones, cameras and TVs are no better.


If we each reduce our e-waste, make sure it is properly disposed of and choose suppliers who do the same we can help ensure our wastefulness is not destroying the environment or damaging the health of children and parents half way around the world.


If you want to explore more about e-waste, here are some links you can visit:


Important Facts You Need To Know About E-waste


The Dark Side of the Information Age

Chinese Investment in Canadian Energy and Natural Resources: Boon or Bogey Man?

Posted on: May 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments


Since Prime Minister Harper changed his government’s policy on China, Canada is welcoming, indeed encouraging Chinese investment. According to Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, “The stock of foreign direct investment into Canada from China reached approximately C$14 billion at the end of 2010. Chinese firms are actively investing abroad and have expressed a strong interest in investing in Canada. Sectors of interest include natural resources, renewable energy, information and communication technology, food processing, pharmaceuticals and natural medicine, and advanced manufacturing.” [1]

Are Canadians concerned, should we be concerned? According to Canadian Press-Harris Decima survey in February 2012, 51% of Canadians welcomed Chinese investment in Canada, while 71% felt badly if Chinese companies took majority control of an existing Canadian-owned operation.
Canadians do have a few concerns about China’s investment in natural resources. First of all, most of China’s investors in natural resources and energy are State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), who are considered by many as government agents, raising concerns China ‘s government will control some of the natural resources in Canada through its SOEs; second, because China lacks enough of its own resources, there is concern it will exploit Canada’s natural resources too rapidly to fuel its development needs; third, China’s investors and collaborators in Canada might bring short term contract workers from China to work in Canada.
The BHP bid on Potash exemplifies these concerns. In Aug. 2010, BHP Billiton (Australia), the largest mining company in the world, offered $38.6 billion in a takeover bid for PotashCorp in Saskatchewan, the largest Potash producer in the world. Meanwhile, China’s SOE Sinochem was looking for potential partners to mount a counter-offer. The Conference Board of Canada completed a report “Saskatchewan in the Spotlight” to help the provincial government to make their decision. This report says “BHP Billiton’s proposed takeover of PotashCorp could reduce Saskatchewan government revenues by at least $2 billion over the next 10 years”.  Under the scenario that Sinochem buys PotashCorp and adopts a “high production” approach, the possible reduction of revenue for Saskatchewan over a decade would be $5.7 billion. Eventually the bid by BHP Billiton was blocked by the Minister of Industry Tony Clement under the “net benefit to Canada” provision of Canada Investment Act on Nov. 3rd, 2010.
What’s interesting is that CBC held a poll online to solicit predictions on the BHP bid. 25.14% predicted that BHP would win the bid while only 9.85% thought China would buy PotashCorp. [2]
While the accelerated development concern seems real, the view held by many that most of China’s investment in Canada is in natural resources and energy does not match with results to date.  In fact, Asia Pacific Foundation’s research on China’s investment in Canada shows that in 2010, 44% of China’s investment in Canada was in business service, while 8.3% was in mining, dropped from 10.4% in 2008. [3]
Another concern expressed is the danger of Chinese domination. While it is true that Chinese investment in Canada has grown significantly in recent years, its overall scale compared to America and Europe is still small. In 2011, US invested $326.1 million in Canada while China’s investment was only $10.9 million.

Finally, concerns are being raised about Chinese environmental performance. In June 2010, China published “Environmental Performance Guidelines for China’s Overseas Investment,” covering environmental impact assessment, protocol protection mechanism, ecological compensation and corporate social responsibilities.
One can only conclude at this time that, whether or not China or any other foreign investor is a problem for Canada, whether control of essential industries or sectors, domination of Canadian business, undesirable influence over decisions of strategic national importance or weakening of labour, public health and environmental protection, is up to us.
We need to strongly encourage our governments to protect our interests and not compromise under pressure from business to give priority to their ambitions. Regarding China, let’s take the opportunity to help Chinese investors make responsible investment in Canada, better inform them about CSR in Canada, and where needed pressure Chinese companies to be social and environmentally responsible in Canada, at home and around the world. In this way we not only protect our own interests but also contribute, as we should, to improving conditions globally.
Major investment from China in Energy & Resource in Canada in the Past Three Years


  • Jan. 2012, PetroChina bought Athabassca Oil Sands Corporations’ remaining stake  (40%) in the Mackay River project with $1.9 billion, which made PetroChina the first Chinese company having full ownership of an oilsands project
  • Nov.2011, CNOOC acquired Opti Canada, a financially troubled Calgary company, with US$2.1 billion; in return, CNOOC gains a 35% stake in the Long Lake oil sands project.
  • Oct. 2011, Sinopec bought Daylight Energy Ltd. for $2.2 billion.
  • Aug. 2011, Jilin Jien Nickel would invest another $400 million in its nickel extraction project in Nunavik, which makes the total investment $800 million after it acquired Canadian Royalties Inc. in 2010.
  • May, 2011, Baosteel purchased Noront Resources’s 9.9% equity with $17.4 million (the percentage could raise from 9.9% to 14.15% with extra $11.7 million)
  • Apr. 2011, Jinchuan Group acquired Continental Minerals with $431 million
  • Jan. 2011, Wuhan Iron & Steel Group (WISG) and Adriana Resources (ADI) signed agreement that WISG would pay ADI $120 million for a 60% participating interesting in a joint venture in the Lac otelnuk and December Lake iron ore properties in Northern Quebec
  • Sept. 2010, XinXing Pipes Group Co. agreed to invest up to $1 billion into an iron ore mining project in Nunavut
  • Aug. 2010, CRCC-Tongguan Investment Co., a jointed-owned direct subsidiary of Tongling Nonferrous Metals Group Holdings Co., Ltd. and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited, acquired 100% of Corriente Resources, a Vancouver based copper company, with $679 million.
  •  May 2010, CIC invested $1.25 billion to a joint-fund company with Penn West Energy.
  • Apr. 2010, Sinopec paid USD$4.65 billion to Syncrude Canada Ltd. for a 9% stake in Syncrude owned by Conoco Phillip.
  • Feb.2010, PetroChina completed the acquiry of Athabasca’s 60% interest of macKay and Dover oil sands projects.
  • Dec. 2009, Yunann Chihong Zinc and Germanium Co. Ltd. and Selwyn Resources signed agreement for Chinhong to earn a 50% joint venture interest in the Selwyn project by spending $100 million on exploration and development.
  • Oct. 2009, CIC invested $500 million in convertible bonds of SouthGobi Energy Resources Ltd. to help SouthGobi accelerate its coal mining and exploration activities in Mongolia.
  • 2009, CIC invested $1.74 billion to buy 17% of Tech Resources Ltd’s equity.
  • 2009, China State Grid Corp signed a MOU with Quadra Mining Ltd. (QuadraFNX Mining Ltd.) on an investment of $1billion.
  • March 2009, Wuhan Iron and Steel Group (WISG) invested US$240 million and became the biggest shareholder of Consolidated Thomson Iron Mine Ltd. (CLM); it owns 19.9% of CLM’s share, 25% of CLM’s BloomLake project and 50% product from that project.


Are You Wearing Something Clean?

Posted on: May 7th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments


Water shortages and pollution trouble China, with two thirds of over 600 cities lacking sufficient clean water. Industrial use and wastewater discharge are major causes for water shortages and heavy pollution with the textile industry the biggest source of both.  In November 2011 Greenpeace published Dirty Laundry – Unraveling the corporate connections to toxic water pollution in China, and then in April, a group of respected environmental NGOs in China, Friends of Nature (FON), the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE), the Darwin Institute of Environment, Green Stone, and EnviroFriends, published the report Clean up for Fashion – Green Choice Textile Brand Supply Chain Pollution.


According to these reports, many textile factories are responsible for serious environmental violations in China, causing severe water pollution.


More than a few violators are suppliers for famous international textile brands and clothing retailers. To make these international companies aware of the unethical performance of their suppliers and to encourage their action to improve their supply chain’s environmental practices, the 5 environmental groups sent letters to the CEOs of 48 international companies in March 2012.


Some companies, such as Nike, Esquel, Levi’s and Burberry started to investigate suppliers and look for solutions; some replied, refusing to give any information.  Remarkably Zara replied, “We regret that we cannot respond to individual requests for information from schools, universities and professionals regarding our business model.” More chose to ignore the request for information, and by the time the Clean up for Fashion report was published, 32 companies still had not replied. To date, 23 companies have replied, while the other 25 still keep silent.


So who are these companies who fashionably damage the environment to produce our clothes? The logos shown below identify the 48 companies who received letters, including many top brands.


Why should we care, if the Chinese care about their environment let them do a better job protecting it?  The stark reality is that much of the damage is done by companies cutting corners to provide us with low cost fashion. Let’s look forward to the day… soon… When Wal-Mart changes its slogan from “Save money, live better “ to Save the environment, live better” and we quit making our consumer choices simply based on price and take into account the environmental, health, and labour practices of  the companies we support or avoid.


The 48 companies are:


On the Environment: Canada Continues to Lift Far Below our Weight in China

Posted on: April 10th, 2012 by Harmony Foundation No Comments

Incredible dramatic economic growth since the 1970s has transformed China into a dominant force in the world economy, raising the standard of living for millions of Chinese.
China’s new role as a global power presents new challenges to the ranking world powers. Western nations can no longer afford to ignore or isolate China, which is quickly becoming a pace-setter on the world stage.
However, China’s economic success has not come without a steep environmental cost. The last three decades of unabashed economic and industrial growth has wreaked catastrophic results on the environment and compelled China to seek foreign partners to chart a greener more sustainable course for the future. According to TIME magazine, China currently occupies the dubious distinction of having two of the top ten polluted cities in the world, with Linfen and Tianying occupying the top two positions on the list. The top ten polluted rivers in the world include China’s Pearl and Yellow Rivers. While only 44th in the world per capita, China is by far the world’s worst polluter nation with the highest overall annual emission of greenhouse gases (6,018 million tonnes).
Canadian companies, governments and organizations have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage their expertise and technological innovations in the environmental sector to create unique green solutions with the world’s foremost emerging economy. We not only have the opportunity to strengthen trade and commerce with China, which are commonplace today, but also long-term relationships in the vitally important and rapidly growing fields of environmental sustainability, education and social development.
However, moving forward the question remains; is Canada doing its part to help China through her environmental challenges or are we shirking our responsibilities in exchange for lucrative short-term economic profits? Does Canada have a long-term plan moving forward for its relationship with China? If so, what are our goals and interests in China besides dollars and cents and how can we show leadership on the environment and the development of more inclusive and open society?
The evidence strongly suggests not only that the Canadian relationship with China lacks a clear sense of direction, but that rhetoric about environment and human rights is a thin veneer covering overwhelmingly commercial ambitions emphasizing fossil fuels, uranium and lumber. Significant evidence of a long-term commitment towards environmentally and socially sustainable development is simply not there.
The Canadian relationship with China seems as backwards as the coal-burning plants that Canadian companies are installing in China. Rather than emphasizing investment in the economy of the future, renewable energy, value-added commodities and green solutions to tackle climate, water and other problems, the Canadian model has been strictly ‘business as usual.’ What message are we presenting to China, that Canadian companies are only driven by bottom-line economics and not the place to look for innovative solutions to the pressing environment and development issues facing China, Canada and the world? For example, Canada’s leading overseas development agency, CIDA, lists one of its objectives as “to promote environmental sustainability in China through support for Chinese efforts to manage environmental issues in western regions of China by enhancing the capacity of the country’s land resource management systems.” Laudable goals and sentiments but what’s preventing CIDA from delivering results?
As we explored in the blog article entitled “Where’s the Beef in the Canada China Relationship” there is much political pressure on CIDA to abandon China because China has the financial capability to provide for itself. We disagree because China’s development decisions will affect the world’s economy, security and environment, trends to which Canada will not be immune.
In the interest of meeting our global responsibilities we must do more not less. However, we must recognize that funding needs to be focused on sustainability initiatives that bring practical results, prosperity while protecting public health and the environmental and building social assets too.
CIDA certainly talks the talk, but how well it actually walks the walk is an entirely different story. In too many cases CIDA’s rhetoric and progress at the grassroots level simply do not match, a problem across government where much more money is spent on policy development, bureaucratic exchanges and research without practical application than spent on results- based projects which improve health, education, social justice and the environment.
For example, between 2005 and 2012 CIDA spent 13.5 million dollars on a Statistical Information Management project, “so that it can provide data relevant to the Millennium Development Goals and other international economic, environmental, and social agreements.” Do Canadian taxpayers need to spend over 13 million dollars on data collection? Another project, led by Simon Fraser University, consumed over 16 million dollars developing agricultural policy options for China. SFU doesn’t have a department of agriculture and like many other projects there isn’t clear evidence that this project generated real results for communities and peoples in China. Need another example, how about over 4.4 million dollars being spent on “Cooperation on the Management of the Environment Sustainability.” Sounds good right? Unfortunately most of the money was consumed by more policy options, study tours and talks about environmental sustainability.
Now don’t get me wrong, I respect the value of baseline research in order to collect information necessary to develop and implement practical projects, and I believe CIDA supports many valuable activities despite political pressures to increasingly fund commercial or bureaucratic initiatives.
However, looking at the list of CIDA’s funded projects the majority seem to simply study and write about policies, and never produce or even lead to results for communities and people and the environment in China. It is one thing to study and analyze problems at Canadian universities, and consulting companies but there simply is not enough funding available to waste in on projects that produce little more than work and professional credits and papers for the participants. CIDA is not the only Canadian government organization whose mission is comprised by misdirected and misplaced spending; recently NRCAN launched a project to export “clean coal” to China and India. If you have a perplexed look on your face, you are not alone; there is nothing clean about coal period. According to NRCAN, “coal’s environmental impacts are the primary challenge to overcome for this industry to continue its vital role in providing an essential service. NRCAN’s “Canada’s Clean Coal Technology Roadmap” essentially provides Canadian corporations with more opportunities to flog their dirty coal products overseas, reaffirming that it is “business as usual.”
And what about Environment Canada our lead agency for environmental protection, conservation and management, what could they be doing? Of course, we need to meet our national requirements for clean air and water, carbon reduction, but Canada cannot even meet its own goals let alone its international commitments by staying home. Our environmental report card has been inconsistent at best.
Canada still dramatically lags behind other developed nations in demonstrating a tangible commitment to the environment. A 2008 analysis by the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy in collaboration with the financial services and consulting firm Deloitte concluded that Canada currently ranks sixth among the eight major economies when it is evaluated across five key categories and 1.5 comprehensive indicators necessary for low-carbon performance. In comparison to the rest of the G8, Canada continues to fall severely behind in the creation of green energy jobs, sustainable energy investments and renewable technologies. Simply put, Canada has some serious catch up to do in the Green Race.
Although this isn’t a pitch from some naive Sinophile there is much to be admired in China’s emerging grassroots environmental effort. There should be no doubt that China’s environmental performance will greatly affect the health and well-being of Canadians too! And, of course, the environmental consequence of our voracious appetite for cheap consumer goods gives us greater responsibility.
Simply put Environment Canada should be doing more to help China protect endangered species and disappearing habitat, to conserve energy, rehabilitate its fresh water and reduce carbon and other greenhouse gases. For that to happen Canadians and our leaders a need a new type of thinking, one that looks towards the future and not back at the past, which contributes to meeting the world’s problems rather than just talking about them.