The Green Pieces is a pot-pourri of Silver Donald Cameron's environmental writing – reprints of earlier articles, speeches and essays, and copies of current columns and other writings on environmental topics. Many of these are fairly lengthy pieces that are no longer accessible anywhere else.

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Bunker Roy!!

We recently posted our interview with Bunker Roy, the founder of India's Barefoot College, and an educational thinker of ruthless robustness. He won't educate people who have been spoiled by formal education, and he doesn't think highly of men as students, either. Among his greatest successes have been grandmothers from Africa, Afghanistan and the Himalayas, whom he's trained to be solar engineers and to bring electricity to their remote villages. In many ways, Bunker Roy's ideas turn our concepts of education on their heads.

The Animals in Ottawa - Sunday column, March 6, 2011

“Canada,” said the US journalist, “is heading toward becoming an authoritarian state to an extent that surprises observers even in China.”

Another comment on Bev Oda and the garrotting of Kairos? Nope. A reflection on the Harperites' infatuation with harsh sentences and larger prisons? No. Kyoto, Afghan detainees, the G20 repression, the flouting of the Supreme Court in the Omar Kadr case? Our humiliating defeat in the UN Security Council election? Could have been, but in fact it's none of the above.

The World After Sidi Bouzid - Sunday column, February 13, 2011

[NB: This column was written on Wednesday, February 16, 2011]

When the policewoman slapped the young fruit-seller on the street in Sidi Bouzid a week before Christmas, she was not thinking of Hosni Mubarak, the Pharaoh of Egypt. Nevertheless her action set off an tsunami of grief and fury that is quickly transforming the Middle East, and will probably wash Mubarak clean out of Cairo.  

Mohamed Bouazizi, 26 years old, was desperately trying to support his family by illegally selling fruit from a push-cart. After the policewoman seized his cart and insulted him, he went to the regional governor seeking redress. Rebuffed, he bought some paint thinner and set himself on fire. His death triggered a push-and-shove of protests and repression that ultimately ended the 23-year reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali – and soon spread to Jordan, Yemen and other countries, particularly Egypt. 

New interview -- Andrew Nikiforuk!

Andrew Nikiforuk is one of Canada's leading journalists, a man who can write memorably and incisively about education, public health, energy and the environment, among other subjects. He's won seven National Magazine Awards as well as the Governor General's Award for Non-Fiction, Canada's top literary prize. In 2009, he became the first Canadian to win the prestigious Rachel Carson Environment Book Award from the Society of Environmental Journalists for his book on the oil sands in northern Alberta, Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.

That's the book we discussed when I interviewed him in 2009.

The Future of the Salmon - Sunday column, January 30, 2011

Last month, 138,000 farmed salmon escaped from feedlots on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy, which scarcely caused a ripple in the Maritime consciousness.  Elsewhere – in Norway, Scotland, Chile, British Columbia – salmon farming is a highly controversial industry. Here it skates along smoothly under the radar.

Salmon farming is controversial for two main reasons.

Energy, Environment and the Left - Vancouver Institute Lecture, March 2000

This lecture is  my most extensive and detailed examination of the ideas and issues I'm now pursuing through The Green Interview. Although it's ten years old, most of what it says is still valid and important. It was delivered at the University of British Columbia on March 25, 2000.

You can stream or download an audio recording of the lecture here:

Energy, Environment and the Left

Thank you. I am very happy to be here tonight, and for several reasons.
First, this university is my alma mater -- and the alma mater of my father, both my brothers, my eldest son, and my wife. In addition, my father, my son and I have all taught here. I even think I have a dim childhood memory of my parents going out to attend lectures at the Vancouver Institute. My mother would certainly have been shocked at the notion that her rebellious, duck- tailed, leather-jacketted, hot-rodding eldest son might eventually speak under these august auspices. Once she recovered, she would have been very pleased.
Second, most of the speakers in lecture series like this one hold impressive positions in academic life, finance, politics, and the professions; very few are self-employed lowlifes such as freelance writers. I have twice resigned tenured university positions to live in a tiny Cape Breton village and take up or resume the trade of freelance writing. Such a move is the status equivalent of bungee-jumping. Your career trajectory is determined by gravity. You sink from the view of polite society in a flash, bouncing just before you splash on the pavement. Yesterday you were a distinguished professor. Today you're a sweaty marginal hack, a coarse and dissolute denizen of Grub Street who would hardly be invited to speak in venues like this one. I'm grateful to be an exception.

The Week of Bill Rees

How can it be that I can know the right thing to do, do the wrong thing instead, and still consider myself an intelligent being? We've all had that experience. I shouldn't eat any more of those fattening canapes, we think. I should not smoke. I should not take another drink. And then we eat the snack, light a cigarette, pour the drink, and ogle our neighbour's spouse, to boot.

If we understood why we act this way, maybe we could understand our wide-awake self-destructive behaviour as a species.  That's the issue that really concerns Dr. William Rees in the 90-minute interview we've just posted on the site.

The Prophet of the Footprint - Sunday column, January 23, 2011

“The ecological footprint is a very simple measure, and it's intended to measure one thing,” says Bill Rees. “How big would the little planet required to support Silver Donald Cameron be?

Echoes of Gandhi - Sunday column, January 16, 2011

I need to know more about Mahatma Gandhi.

During the past few months I've had the pleasure of interviewing three towering figures in the Indian eco-justice movement. Bunker Roy is the founder of Barefoot College; Satish Kumar edits Resurgence magazine; and the protean Vandana Shiva is a physicist, eco-feminist, philosopher and doughty foe of agricultural imperialism. All three are consciously and proudly heirs of Gandhi. They pepper their conversation with references to Gandhi, referring to him the way a Christian might refer to the Bible. “As Gandhi's example shows...” they will say. “Well, we learned from Gandhi...” Or “Gandhi once commented...”

Offsetting Our Carbon - Sunday column, January 2, 2011

“You'll be pleased to know that the emissions for your air travel to this conference have been offset by the purchase of carbon credits,” announced the Executive Director.

The delegate next to me leaned over.

“What language is she speaking?” he whispered.

“Futura mondiale,” I said. “The language of the world's future.” Actually I didn't say that, but I really wish I had.

Carbon offsetting is a scheme that allows you to cancel out your personal greenhouse gas emissions by paying someone else to reduce their own emissions. It's like an inverted bank account. If driving my car 1000 kilometers puts a tonne of carbon dioxide into the air, for instance, I can neutralize the damage by paying someone to plant enough trees to draw a tonne of C02 back out of the atmosphere.