Category Archives: Uncategorized

Institute for Sustainable Food Systems

On April 19 Dr. Kent Mullinix presented on the work of the Institute for Sustainable Food Systems (ISFS).

ISFS is an applied research and extension unit at Kwantlen Polytechnic University that investigates and supports regional food systems as key elements of sustainable communities. The project focuses predominantly on British Columbia but also extends to other regions.

See here for more information on the project, and scroll through the presentation slides below. (It may take a few moments for the slide show to load!)

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Surrey’s Czar of Biochar

OK, perhaps “Czar” isn’t the best word to use to describe Rick Ketcheson and his work with sustainable biochar production. Advocate? That would be better. Entrepreneur? Definitely.

Biochar, according to the website of the International Biochar Initiative, is: “…a powerfully simple tool to fight global warming. This 2,000 year-old practice converts agricultural waste into a soil enhancer that can hold carbon, boost food security, and discourage deforestation. Sustainable biochar is one of the few technologies that is relatively inexpensive, widely applicable, and quickly scalable.

A few months ago, Rick started building connections with a few of his friends and neighbours that were also interested in developing a sustainable and profitable business built on the principles of permaculture.

After deciding on exploring biochar as an option, they gathered recycled metal containers, pipes and plastic buckets to reuse. They even found and repurposed and old hand-cranked grape crusher!

Over the summer, Rick and his crew have been experimenting with different methods of creating biochar and preparing it for use in gardens. Since the “pyrolysis” process used to convert organic matter into carbon involves fire, they’ve got some good stories to tell!

Below you’ll find some pictures of the various contraptions and process that the group has trialed. You can click on each picture to enlarge.

For more information on biochar, Rick recommends:

The International Biochar Initiative, Biochar Supreme (in Washington), or DiaCarbon (in BC)

To learn straight from the source, contact Rick directly at

Pilgrimage to Burns Bog 2015

Each year the Burns Bog Society hosts a “Pilgrimage to Burns Bog.” The pilgrimage is a opportunity for people from all cultures and backgrounds to experience the sacred beauty and importance of Burns Bog.

This year, pilgrims were treated to flute music by Jane Sleeman, sacred drumming by Daughters of the Drum, and singing by the Singers of the Sacred Web.

Along the way, different speakers also spoke about their spiritual connection to the Bog and how important it is that we nurture our spiritual connections with the Earth and each other.

Speakers included Aline LaFlamme, Eliza Olson, Dr. Frank James and Acharya Dwivedi.

We hope you’ll join us for next year’s pilgrimage!



Get up! Stand up! Climate Action now!

Get up! Stand up! Climate Action now! – slogan from the Peoples’ Climate March on Sunday in Vancouver

When you are in a hole, stop digging!” – Bill McKibbin

I am feeling an odd combination of emotions today, including relief, embarrassment and resolve. The relief is perhaps strongest because until this past week, I was not sure what was happening in terms of a local Peoples’ Climate March. I’d been following Bill McKibbin and the organization since last May and I was all fired up about being part of the growing global movement surrounding climate change. I emailed Bill a few months ago and got a personal response back (that, to me, is a true leader: someone who took the time to reply and make me feel connected). But there were no details about a Surrey or Vancouver event to join forces with the New York City march which was planned for Sunday September 21st. I worried about this, wanting to organize something, but knew I did not have the time and resources on my own. I kept hitting the “snooze” on my email reminder, feeling guilty. Then I heard through several sources what was planned for this past weekend and that is where my feeling of relief, and gratitude, came from. Many hands make light work, and there are many, many others who care about the future just as much as I do and got together to create public events.

As you know, the weather was beautiful this weekend and I had the time, so I went to both the Peace Arch rally on Saturday and the march in Vancouver on Sunday – they each offered something different. The march was a bigger event and I enjoyed chanting slogans on the streets of Vancouver with my 13 year-old son who made a sign and came along (as did my parents). But the rally at Peace Arch park in South Surrey was more inspirational for me. It was entitled “Climate Change Knows No Borders”. There were powerful speakers who had me on my feet. The event brought together a 50/50 combination of Canadians and Americans (and First Nations members who know no such borders), all joined in a common cause. The speakers made it clear that those of us in this region, we are on the front lines of climate action. One of the stated rally goals was that “we will call for cross-border action by citizens and politicians to defend the Salish Sea from a juggernaut of new coal, oil and LNG export projects.” [The Salish Sea was officially named in 2010 as the ocean area commonly known as Puget Sound/Juan de Fuca Strait/ Strait of Georgia].

What impressed me most was the passion, commitment, and resolve from those who came from every walk of life, with all kinds of creative protest signs. No more waiting for politicians. Some of the Americans had apparently been sitting on train tracks the week before, blocking coal trains, taking direct action. It felt good to be part of a crowd of like-minded people. It felt good, as one speaker said, to not yell at the TV set but do something positive. I learned about new grassroots groups, talked to people, let some of them know that there is a Village Surrey working towards change.

But was did NOT feel good was the part when we needed to boo the Canadian governments (provincial and federal) for pushing growth in an extractive model on an ever-increasing scale. Prime Minister Harper is not even going to the UN Climate Summit on September 23rd in New York City. Heck, the company IKEA is going and our “leader” can’t even be bothered to attend? How can we make decisions that affect us all when we are not even showing up to the table? When we joined hands through the Peace Arch, Americans in one long row, Canadians in the other, we had time to chat while organizers took pictures. The 12 year old boy across from me was wearing a “stop Harper” badge and I felt such shame.

Having been through Saskatchewan and Alberta this past summer, I saw the pipelines being dug. I saw the ‘dino juice’ being extracted through oil pump jacks. We all know that eventually the fossil fuels will run out. We know that endless growth does NOT mean prosperity for all. Do I use fossil fuels? Yes. Am I working towards an energy descent plan? Slowly, yes. Am I willing to pay a lot more for energy if we stop all these dirty projects? Yes (with a little more trepidation because I will probably lose my jobs if energy prices surge and stay high). But there is simply no alternative. I think many of us at the events this past weekend realize that what we are saying to governments is that we cannot burn all the proven reserves of fossil fuels. That means we all have to change. There needs to be a carbon budget. Perhaps we have to be told, not asked, to use less. Maybe we are like a five-year-old in front of a cookie jar, repeatedly sticking our hand in for yet another cookie even though we are already sick from the sugar. Somebody may have to tell us “no” which we won’t like. But we’ve mobilized as a nation before and we can do it again. The march in New York city was projected to have 100,000 people. Almost 400,000 attended. You cannot ignore a third of a million people speaking as one, or ignore the 2,700 other events around the globe. The tide is turning. Come be a part of it!

Very few people on earth ever get to say: “I am doing, right now, the most important thing I could possibly be doing.” If you’ll join this fight that’s what you’ll get to say.” – Bill McKibbin


Free Introduction to Permaculture and PDC to follow

Free Introduction to Permaculture : Delvin and Kym Chi April 12, 11 am – 5:30 pm : Langara College, Vancouver
Come meet both the facilitators of the upcoming Langara Permaculture Design Certificate : Delvin and Kym Chi. They will facilitate a creative and engaging day exploring permaculture ethics, principles and foundational concepts. We will adventure by skytrain to a community garden, share a potluck lunch, watch permaculture movies and learn interactively with group games and activities.
We are happy that our upcoming Langara course has been given another chance to run, and the beginning date has been pushed forward. The Permaculture Design Certificate Course now starts April 26 The course is flexible and missed classes can be done at no extra cost with Delvin’s other classes and there is no time limit to complete the certification. We also have another free intro to permaculture day at Langara on April 12. 
Langara Permaculture Design Certificate Course
Connect with others who want to become more conscious global citizens, deepen their understanding of how nature is designed, and learn how to become more empowered designers. Together we will learn how to map and design our homes, communities and lives, plan for emergency, grow more of our own food in all four seasons and work to build a regenerative future. The certification granted upon completion of the course will empower participants as permaculture designers, consultants and beginner teachers, able to use the word permaculture legally in their practice, business or project. This sustainability education eco-training certificate is a practical path for greening your life, resume and portfolio. Graduates can choose between internationally recognized certificates from Permaculture Research Institute Australia or Permaculture Institutes USA.
The course offers a unique perspective on nature’s design system through a well designed  curriculum that includes short lectures from the original permaculture lineage in combination with inspiring site tours and dynamic integrative games based on the 14 chapter curriculum.  field trips include visits to  farms, forests, gardens and parks like Means of Production Garden, Loutet Farm, Strathcona/Cottonwood Gardens, City Farmer, Kits Community Gardens, Brewery Creek Community Garden and numerous other locations.
This low cost, 9 month, weekend urban model offers accessibility and ease, running over 14 days and saving time and energy in travel and missed work. It is very flexible for busy lives and organized modularly. There is no time limit to complete the course and if you miss any classes you can do them in the future with other Gaiacraft permaculture design courses at no extra cost.
Delvin and Kym are a diverse and creative male/ female teaching team offering many perspectives on Permaculture design.
Course Topics include :
design methods * patterns * soils and composting * water * trees * animals * design for cool , tropical and arid climates * social permaculture * native food and medicine plants of the Coastal First Peoples and much much more. We have worksheets, permaculture design gaming tools, an online social networking and educational support platform, as well as hundreds of gardens as our living classrooms.
We will have large focus on cool climate, urban and suburban design, with a well rounded information base also touching on design for rural areas and on other climates.
*learn natures language *become and empowered solutionary *engage with your community *familiarize yourself with Vancouver’s most inspiring places *meet other like minded people.
april 26 Pretro
may 24 & 25 Intro and Design Methods
jun 28 Soil
jul 26 Water
aug 23 & 24 Trees and Animals 
sept 13 Climate
sept 27 & 28 Cool Climate and Tropical Design
oct 25 Dryland Design
nov 22 Integral Permaculture
nov 23 Social Permaculture
dec 6 Graduation
We still have spaces available and you must register to ensure your spot.  Please contact Langara to register today!
email  for details or questions.
Facilitator Delvin Solkinson has done a PDC, Diploma and Masters Degree in Permaculture Education with Bill Mollison and done advanced trainings with David Holmgren, Robyn Francis, the Bullock Brothers, Tom Ward, Jude Hobbs, Michael Becker, Robin Clayfield, Geoff Lawton, Larry Santoyo, Scott Pittman and Rosemary Morrow. After taking a PDC with Toby Hemenway and completed a second Diploma through Permaculture Institute USA, he is currently doing a PHD. Delvin is an accredited teacher through PRI and PI USA. His passion is making free, open source learning and teaching tools for permaculture which are used in design games and activities in the course.
Facilitator Kym Chi is a passionate, creative and dedicated educator, inspired by nature, art and self empowerment. Kym has completed a PDC through Verge in Alberta and Gaiacraft in New York and is currently doing a Diploma in Education through the Permaculture Institute USA. Kym offers Permaculture design and consultation and education including intro and design courses. Kym’s mission is to spread Permaculture through creative education, ecological design, regenerative creation and holistic healing. She also makes free, open source learning and teaching tools for permaculture that will enhance the course experience and transform lectures into games.


Community Food Mapping Postponed!!!

Important Notice!

The Community Food Mapping Workshop originally planned in Whalley (Central City Library) for March 1 at 1 PM has been postponed and will take place in April.

If you were interested or planned to attend, please stay tuned as we will send the new dates soon and post the vent in Eventbrite:

For further information, please contact Silvia at:


Silvia Di Blasio

Community Food Mapping – You are Invited!

Do you eat? What are your perceptions and concerns about food? Have you asked yourself where the food we consume comes from? What percentage of it is produced locally? Is it healthy and nutritious? Is it sustainable? Does it help your community? How many people in your community can access healthy, nutritious, sustainable and culturally appropriated food? How food would be impacted by changes in the climate,  the global economy or access to affordable fuel for transportation of goods?

The Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition invites you to participate in two workshops:

  1. Participate in the Community Mapping of our current Food System – where are we now? Where does our food come from, what are our challenges, risks, assets and opportunities? – Saturday,  March 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM
  2. Be part of the Creation of the Food System we need, dream and want: connect with like-minded community members and participate in a community-driven creation of a resilience and healthy food system – Saturday, April 12 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Location:  City Centre Library, Dr. Ambedkar Room 418 – 10350 University Drive, Surrey

Please see attached flyer for more details.

Questions? Contact us at: Deirdre: or Silvia:

More information to be posted at:

Please distribute among groups and residents of the Whalley community in North Surrey. Similar workshops are being currently planned for Newton.


Silvia Di Blasio, CCDP, PDC

Food for Thought Community Garden Coordinator

Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition Board Member

Food Mapping Poster – Central City

New Year ‘resolutions’

New houses were built in every direction, and an illusory prosperity shown over the land, and so dazzled the eyes of the whole nation, that none could see the dark cloud on the horizon announcing the storm that was too rapidly approaching.” – Charles MacKay, Extraordinary Popular Delusion and the Madness of Crowds (1841)

Here we are in a new year, many of us thinking about fresh starts and ‘resolutions’. The reasons most resolutions fail is that we are too ambitious and do not stick with the new habit long enough (6 weeks is apparently the minimum required). That’s why smaller changes that last are better than more radical ones that cause too much disruption at once.  Looking at the big picture, learning about what is happening in the world, compels me to make changes no matter what time of the year it is. The more I read about history, the more I realize we have been through all of this before, albeit not on a global scale. A quote from 1841 could have been written yesterday!

So I am thinking about what it means to be a part of the Peak Generation, as we are now called. How does this affect my life, and future generations? We’ve heard a great deal of arguing about global warming and who’s to blame. We’ve heard about peak oil and what to do about adopting to a more costly, energy scarce future. We’ve definitely heard about peak credit (mortgages, loans, credit cards, health care costs and student, household, business and government debt). Then there’s peak population, possible peak food production, peak water ….sounds like the coming of the Apocalypse. But perhaps the other side to all of these issues is positive: facing up to a changing planet, one community at a time, which gives us some control over our future. Figuring out a life with less oil dependence and less credit might mean living simpler, relying more on our community, and slowing down. Rarely do we question the full price tag of a busy, technologically jammed packed life with cheap goods and longer work hours. Barter systems and local currencies do not have issues of inflation which steals people’s wealth. Working outside in the garden is healthier than driving to a gym. And there are all kinds of interesting projects out there to model after, such as  After all, peasants in the Middle Ages work far fewer hours per week than the modern human and had far more feast days to celebrate! Perhaps if we start with changes that seem easiest for each of us, see how that works, then slowly continue, we can make a real difference.

In Geneva, Switzerland, they are practicing ‘foodscaping’.  Each yard is a vegetable garden and neighbors consult and plan what each will grow so they can trade. “have become a pivotal point for research in food, food chains, food production, food ethics, and food policy.”  From small ideas, big things can grown and flourish! 



Update on a previous blog: we did find a bike trailer for my son, it’s great, but I thought it was made by an Ontario company. Turns out they are just a distributor for the product which is made in China. That’s what we do, import from abroad – until oil prices make such practices unsustainable. In the meantime, we are one step closer to being able to give up a car!

To all VS active members and followers

It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
~ Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

I dedicate this post to all VS members. However, there is a smaller group of transitioners who are closer to my heart. You all know who you are, thank you from my heart for all what you have done and for being there all this time.

ID-10021968Image: Jay In Snow Stock Photo:  By Dr Joseph Valks, published on 22 October 2010 Stock Photo – image ID: 10021968

As this year is closing, I want to send a message of gratitude and hope to all VS fellow members and followers of this blog. The adventure of becoming more engaged with VS activities has been a roller coaster for me as it may have been for many of you.

Being “In Transition” and accepting the realities that affect our present and future both as citizens and as part of a wider community is not an easy task. We are trying to intentionally transition from an unhealthy and terribly unjust society to a more sustainable, resilient and caring one. We are talking about big challenges and we are trying to discover how best support each other and other groups in our communities through difficult times. And supporting each other means suppressing judgement and proactively looking for the understanding of different levels of awareness and commitment, including all the biases and challenges each one of us brings to the group, all the pain and the joy for this beautiful world and its future.

Most of us have regular jobs and families, financial and social commitments we can’t abandon and are involved in other initiatives as well as this one. For many, families are not fully supportive and even attending a meeting can become a household fight, let aside trying an energy descent action plan, a career change or changing lifestyles altogether…

It has been challenging for all of us to adapt to different personalities, expectations and visions of the future or how to do what we need to do (even defining what exactly is what we are supposed to do, if anything at all). This year has been both an external and an inner journey to discover what is important for each one of us and for our individual communities within the Surrey/White Rock/Delta area…

Even trying to figure out our own role and level of involvement in all this is a personal and group challenge. Only when real care and support are in place these challenges may become more manageable.

There are many things I personally am grateful for: from meeting or knowing better many of you, to all the contacts, activities and projects we have achieved or embarked together or from small side groups. We have the movie nights, the transition fireside, the book-clubs, field trips and regular meetings, we have explored local currencies and partnerships with many local organizations, from governmental and formal to grassroots and informal.

But there is one “project” for which I feel a personal gratitude: Permaculture and its many possibilities, including work with our inner/personal transition, family transition and community transition…

Although only time will tell how this journey together will develop, I’m sure our “Permies” group will take home many valuable tools to create more resilient and productive communities and families.

I wish all of you, a holiday season full of Earth-care, People-care and lots of Sharing the amazing abundance of this Earth…and lots of thoughtful planning on how we will all continue building a new way to see the world, one where injustice, forced extinction, waste, short-sightedness and depletion are no longer part of our vocabularies.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
~ John Lennon

What to tell our children?

Start living in a post-petroleum lifestyle now and avoid the rush” – Richard Heinberg 

When children are young, they are naturally enthusiastic about Christmas and often believe the myth about Santa Claus coming down the chimney with presents. As they get older, parents struggle with the choice: tell their children that there is no Santa, or let them figure it out or “outgrow” the idea.

I feel that I am facing the same choice with peak oil and what to tell my children. My son is 12 and becomes easily overwhelmed, so telling him what the next 80 years will look like is not something that can be done all at once. My stepdaughter is 17 and already has a car and a job, is busy rushing around, with no idea how life will look when she can no longer afford the cost of running a vehicle. If we say nothing to them, I feel I am doing them a disservice. If we tell them too much, I am sure they will think we are all “doom and gloom” and overreacting. But the more I learn, the more I feel compelled to share with youth what they are facing, not only in terms of peak oil, but also issues such as rising sea levels and food security and how we humans have to start figuring this out – my generation still seems stuck so perhaps it will be up to the youth graduating today. As several people have noted, humans made the problems, so humans can solve them, but only if we start to work collectively at a grassroots level.

That is why Village Surrey is so appealing to me: it’s not just an environmental group, or an ‘activist’ group, but a collection of concerned individuals who want to make positive changes, for ourselves and the future. When I talk to older people, they don’t seem to feel much urgency about issues, perhaps because they have lived through their careers and just want a quiet life. Making change as you get older is difficult. So it’s the youth that are most important: for their energy, their stake in the future, their skills that will be needed to make real change. And it’s up to us to help them figure it out. I’m excited about my career plans to move towards teaching World History and monetary courses to teens and young adults, helping them see the trends throughout all societies. People from 1,000 years ago had many of the same concerns that we have today; it’s only the technology that has changed. And we can change again: history is not a forward march of “progress” with humans continually learning from mistakes and making better choices. Sadly, far from it. We can take up the monumental challenges facing humanity, delving into the past to learn where we went wrong, or we can hope that technology will save us. This holiday season, I plan to devote some time to really thinking about ‘peace on earth, goodwill to all’ and what that means at the community level. Building relationships, trust, and planning for the future is a lot more proactive that hoping someone else will figure it out!