Thursday, May 26, 2011

I Matter

It was over sixteen years ago when I first had my eyes opened to realize that our Industrial lifestyles are leading our world to a very calamitous future. I heard the message in the music I listened to and I devoured many books on the subject, trying to understand how our societies had gotten to this point and where we were headed. But these were just words! Where was the action?

As I went through my day to day life, I found that nobody was talking about these subjects and I could see very little in the way of social action and response to all of these interconnected problems.

It didn’t take me long to realize that I had to do something and after eight months of planning ‘The Temagami Trail Tribute’ was born. This expedition would see me and several friends walking throughout Southern Ontario to raise awareness about the clear cut logging that is destroying an ancient forest in the Temagami region of Northern Ontario.

Since then, I’ve still continued to be a leader for the environmental cause ( ) but I feel that my ambitions now have a lot of company… and this is a great thing!!!!

Every time I turn around, I’m being invited to another and another social action in response to our global climate shift. I sometimes wish there were two of me so that I could attend more rallies and benefits.

The thing that I like the most about this hugely escalating social response is that so many action platforms have now become global phenomena. The ‘350’ action plan ( ) was not something that happened in just London, Ontario, it was a massive swelling of public support that occurred simultaneously around the world, to name just one previous event.

Just a few weeks ago, I became involved in another social action response to climate change. It was named ‘The I Matter March’. When I first arrived at London’s City Hall, I quickly learned that this event was also happening simultaneously around the world, with a few other Canadian cities being involved and some rather larger rallies happening in many other countries.

The idea was very simple – we had signs stating our concerns for the environment and we held these high as we marched (with a police escort) from City Hall to a nearby community outdoor market. Many local politicians came out to support this march and many local news reporters milled about with cameras on the ready and microphones set to ‘on’ as almost every marcher was interviewed.

Making News -

We were not there to protest against something, but more to the point, we were there to express our desires to ensure that the world’s future is a healthy and happy one. A very positive message, indeed!

The messages reaching around the world about our need to dramatically change from a polluting and ecosystem destroying civilization to one that respects Nature and our relationship with her has – for the last decade – been reaching the ears of the world’s youth.

It is so inspiring to see all the many actions that the youth are involving themselves in, as they begin to raise their voice of concern for our leaders to hear.

I listened intently. But, if I knew that someone would be taking my picture I would have smiled!!!

Several local musical groups then offered up some inspirational entertainment to conclude our short, peaceful but soul-satisfying march.

Parents, children and even grandparents enjoyed the sunshine, spring breezes and thoughts about a better future for humanity and all the world’s living creations.

Since so many youths were involved with this march, organizers thought that it would be fitting to conclude the event with a local youth band. This is U-Turn and in a way I think that their name represents our societies need to ‘curb’ away from harmful industrialized constitutions so that we may embrace a more sacred existence with much reverence for the entity that provides for and sustains us… the Earth!

Events such as this are becoming more and more common in every town and city around the world. People are concerned! People do care! People want to learn more! People want to take positive action!

We are the pioneers of sustainable living! Solutions are found after concerns are raised and ideas expressed. We are now raising our voice of concern and soon we will evolve to find more viable solutions so that we ‘the people’ will thrive and not merely survive.


PS – If this story has inspired you to want to participate in a future environmental response action to climate change then you are in luck!!!

Tomorrow – Friday, May 27th between 6-6:30pm the ‘Critical Mass Bike Rally’ will be meeting at the Victoria Park bandshell in downtown London, Ontario. At 6:30pm we will be taking over the downtown streets with our bicycles for a half-hour ride. Be prepared to sing out a few of Mr. Jim’s ‘repeat after me’ songs and bring your smile!

See ya then!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Meadowlily Woods Park…

…Under Walmart’s Knife!

Two blog stories ago ( ) I talked about the importance of individuals contributing in positive ways to make each of our communities healthier and happier. I ended with this…

…photo of me, as I arrived at London’s City Hall. Let’s take a look to see what’s going on inside…

The City Counsellors were just beginning to fill their seats…

…and the seats available for the public to attend, where all soon to be occupied. It was going to be a full house!

This is my friend Melissa – holding the ‘Stop Sprawl’ sign. We’ve known each other for a few years, after an interesting first meeting. Melissa has helped me to edit a few of my music videos for Youtube ( ) and we had another meeting just yesterday, to pursue another video that I’ll be sharing with you in another week or two.

I had first heard of Meadowlily Woods Park during our first conversation and I’ve been aware of a little bit of the controversy surrounding this area of London, but I must admit, that my knowledge on the issues is very limited. It was Melissa who told me about this City Council meeting and I was glad to attend because I wanted to learn more.

The first thing that I learned was that this meeting was designed for the sole purpose of the community to offer insight, concern and inspiration to the council members so that a prosperous decision could be made concerning development plans for the Meadowlily Woods Park.

I say ‘prosperous’ with the hopes that a sustainable plan will be reached offering Londoners and the wildlife that lives there a prosperous future. I think that it’s vitally important that our generation redefines many words such as ‘prosperous’ so we can begin thinking that Nature and natural habitats actually have a value in our societies!

There were many speakers with prepared reports and speeches and each took a short turn to share their knowledge about this valuable ecosystem. I was actually surprised by the fact that so many people had so many different things to share with hardly a repeat in the points that were made.

The first speaker shared a vision for the Meadowlily Woods Park. She suggested that the area remain much as is, but with more of an emphasis on education. People could be employed as caretakers of the park’s trails and guides for those interested in studying the many varieties of fish, birds, animals and insects that depend on this area for their survival – the list is extensive!!!

She continued by stating that this area is receiving much attention throughout Southern Ontario – and beyond – because of its uniqueness. She suggested that this area could generate income as an ecotourism destination. Many birds use the Meadowlily Woods as a resting area during their long migrations and certain species use only this area.

I really felt the importance in her well thought out presentation as I am aware that natural habitats such as the Meadowlily Woods are disappearing from our planet at an ever increasing rate. If we do not preserve areas such as this, then we lose opportunities to learn how Nature ‘works’.

The next speaker shared information concerning the environmental impact that is being felt in this area by the developments that already surround the Woods. With scientific research documents in hand, he shared information about the increase in riverbank erosion caused by the rise in rainwater runoff. Since the developed areas used to be forested until a decade or so ago, an enormous amount of clearcutting has already occurred. With the trees now gone, the naturally falling rainwater is not being used to feed the trees and so it flows in ever increasing rivulets to the river bringing with it more dirt and soil. Now the river has increased in volume, thus causing an ever increasing speed of erosion and more contaminates are added to the waters changing the very nature of the water, thus making the river a hostile environment for naturally occurring species.

The Gravel Chub is a species of Chub fish and the red area of the map below shows where this species of fish habitates.

Hmmmm…. Did you also notice that this red area is so very small and its central point is the City of London???

How do we place a value on such a small and seemingly unimportant creature? My fear is that we won’t be able to realize that this creature IS of great importance to its ecosystem until after it has become extinct. If plans for developing the Meadowlily Woods into a parking lot for Wal-Mart gets approved we will never have the opportunity to equate an answer to that question!

There were many people caring signs of protest against the development plans for another Wal-Mart in the City.

I came prepared with two signs of my own.

There are two development proposals laid out for the Meadowlily Woods Park. As mentioned, Wal-Mart wants to clear the area for another store and parking lot. The second plan is to develop the area into another subdivision complete with water runoff containment ponds – as if London needs any more of these!!!

The next speaker shared insights as to how these two different development plans would affect the area. Neither scenario was a pretty picture.

It was interesting to learn more about how forests live and breathe with the help of all the animals that live in these areas. Have you ever noticed that most forest edges are surrounded with low-lying shrub bushes? Many different species of birds live in these bushes and one of their ‘jobs’ is to fly around throughout the forest and gobble up all the yummy bugs that are eating the leaves of the forest trees. Building contractors like to clear these bushes away and when this happens the birds are driven off. When this happens the bug populations are not kept in check. When this happens the leaves of the forest trees are eaten at an ever-increasing rate. When this happens the trees can’t breathe. When this happens the forest dies!

Boy! I was learning a lot!!!

The next speaker brought to my attention – and hopefully the City Counsellors were listening too – how corrupt and manipulative Developers can be. We heard about one area of the Meadowlily Woods Park where a developer had (without approval – “Can you believe this,” was being whispered throughout the room) gone into one small area and cleared it away during the middle of the night! “Ooops! So sorry about that.” was the developer's response as they sought forgiveness for their actions. Many people are afraid that this kind of corruption will continue. If it does, we lose a unique forest and any sort of fines or penalties that the developers may have to pay will never bring this forest back!

As this meeting continued more and more people began to speak out. Many know this area very well and had personal stories to share about the enriching experiences they and their families have had over the many years. Slowly, the microphone was making its way towards me. I felt that I had to say something.

First I commended the City Counsellors for allowing the community to be a part of the development process. Then, I thanked the community for sharing their knowledge, inspiration and love for the Meadowlily Woods. I noted that I was surprised that so many people had so much to say with so little ever being repeated. I told how I had come to this meeting to learn about this issue and now I was inspired to continue to work with others to help preserve this area for future generations. “Even though I have never experience the Meadowlily Woods, I am now inspired to make sure that I do become acquainted with this repository of Nature!”

Throughout this whole affair, the public spoke and the counselors listened. I wanted to do something to bridge this gap, to make the room smaller, to join both sides of this debate. I concluded by asking the City Council members if they had ever been to the Meadowlily Woods and if they had any memories of this area. All but one counselor raised their hands and two counsellors made comments. This was my ‘crowning achievement’ for the evening and I hope that I made a positive contribution to this meeting.

I’d like to acknowledge Allan Jay as the photographer for all the Meadowlily Woods landscapes that brighten up this story. The other photos of maps and wildlife were also stolen from other sources. I have barely scratched the surface of these issues and I encourage anyone who is interested to learn more to contact the people who have dedicated themselves to this cause for many years. You could start by sending Gary Smith an email – and you can check out this group’s website - .

I would like to encourage you to send a letter voicing your opinion for the preservation of the Meadowlily Woods to London’s City Counsellors and Mayor:

Mayor Joe Fontana…
Bud Polhill…
Bill Armstrong…
Joe Swan…
Steve Orser…
Joni Baechler…
Nancy Branscombe…
Matt Brown…
Paul Hubert…
Dale Henderson…
Paul Van Meerbergen…
Denise Brown…
Harold Usher…
Judy Bryant…
Sandy White…

On behalf of the trees, waters and creatures of the Meadowlily Woods Park who can’t speak out for their own survival, I say, “Thanks to all Londoners and other readers for your support!!!!”

Friday, May 13, 2011

Peacebus Window Art

I was hoping to continue - from my last blog - with more information about what’s happening with the Meadowlily Woods Park, but I’m still researching info and photos. I should have that story completed by next week. So – a bit on the lighter and brighter side – I thought it would be fun to share the artworks that my students have created…

… to decorate the windows of The Peacebus!!!!

The students just love to create peace art for the bus… that’s more than obvious!!! When we have art competitions on the bus, the students become very excited to see their artworks displayed on the inside roof of the bus.

These ‘competition’ art challenges really help to evolve the students’ artistic abilities as I inspire them to fill the space of their art completely with colourful things, shapes and textures.

The artworks that they create for the windows are a lot less structured. In fact, I never give them guidance. In fact, I never say a thing. The students just do it – self-motivated and self-inspired!

The only time I’ve ever asked them to create window art for the bus was about a month ago, when I was preparing to take The Peacebus to a special Earthday event.

For the most part, the students just surprise me with their art creations. I’ll be pulling up to a pick up location and I’ll see one of the students waving at me, with a big smile on their face, holding out their newest art creations. When they get on the bus they hand me their drawings, and in return I give them one of my peace Stik-ers!

Or, the students will be getting on the bus at the end of the school day and as they’re climbing the stairs they’ll outstretch their hands filled with all the drawings that they created during lunch break or recess.

I think that it’s great that the students think about The Peacebus during their school breaks or while they’re at home. Many times a student will tell me, “TV was boring last night so I turned it off and drew some art for The Peacebus instead.” This really puts a smile on my face!!!

The Peacebus is not just a bus that takes them to school and then back home at the end of their day. The Peacebus is something that inspires them to feel proud about their contributions to the bus so they can call it their own.

The students hate it when they find garbage on the floor. “Mr. Jim!! Mr. Jim!! Somebody was not being peaceful. Somebody was littering. I found this empty chip bag on the floor.” I’ll thank them for telling me about it and ask them not to touch the garbage cuz I’ll pick it up myself at the end of the day. I don’t want the students touching anything yucky, filled with germs! I think that it’s great to see the students taking care of the things that they enjoy most in life.

One of the things that I often wonder about is how many people become inspired by The Peacebus as I’m driving down the streets of London. On many occasions I’ll be stopped at a red light and people who I’ve never met will give a friendly wave and smile as they are walking by. These people can’t see the artwork that decorates the inside of the bus, so it must be the window decorations that bring them such delight!

I smile as I remember one day when a Grade 1 student asked me if I knew who was driving the school bus just in front of ours. I was being a bit silly when I told her that in fact the bus in front of ours was our bus, “but it’s ten seconds in the future.” “No it’s not, Mr. Jim. That bus doesn’t have any window decorations, so it can’t be us in the future!” It sure is hard to play silly tricks on these kids cuz they’re so perceptive and smart!!!

I’m so happy with all of the things that happen on The Peacebus! Teachers and parents have also expressed their delight with the fact that my students always look forward to getting on the bus in the morning and they always leave the bus with smiles on their faces. I’m not bragging – just being honest – but I’m pretty sure that the biggest smile on the bus is always mine!!!!!

Thank you, students of The Peacebus, for continuously showering me with your inspiration and charms!

Mr. Jim

Friday, May 6, 2011

My London


A couple of weeks ago, I had an evening appointment in downtown London, Ontario. It was a fairly nice day, so instead of taking the city bus all the way downtown I decided to get off a few stops early so I could enjoy a nice walk into the core of the city. I like to walk!

I had been walking for just a minute or two, when I chanced to cross paths with this here duck! I wasn’t in much of a hurry, so I decided to stop and have a little chat with my feathered friend. He told me that he was very happy to know that I was on my way to a City Council meeting to raise my voice in support of the preservation of the Meadowlily Woods Park. “I go there quite often,” the duck continued, “and I have many friends who would lose their homes if it wasn’t for people like you, Jim!” I found it surprising that the duck had so much to say!

As I was about to continue on my way, the duck said one last thing to me. Indeed, I found this quite odd. He said, “As you continue on your way, look at all that you pass by and remember…” I raised my eyebrow and questioned, “Remember?” “Yes!” the duck exclaimed, “Remember……” and then he flew off!

A wee bit startled by this unusual happenstance, I just stood and stared as this duck flew up, flew out and then beyond my sight. I soon found myself following my feet as I continued on my way.

Moments later, as I was approaching the Wortley Street bridge, which overpasses Horton Street, I found myself enjoying a great view of the downtown core. I continued over the bridge, tapping my fingers along the metal railing when I found my mind slipping through time. I was remembering…

I remembered the summer of 2009, when I had walked over this same bridge. I remember looking down to the sidewalks running alongside Horton Street and thinking that I would draw…

… a peaceflower using chalk on that there sidewalk! I remember being inspired by such a simple, artistic expression and how that led me to begin my first ever ‘Global Art Attack’!

Peaceflowers From Around The World –

I remembered how this one simple idea was used to unite so many people from over twenty different countries… and I smiled!

Just another minute later, I found myself walking over the King Street bridge. Ahemm… the NEWLY constructed King Street bridge. For many years I meandered across this bridge on almost a daily basis. I’ve seen Blue Herons flying over this bridge. I’ve seen many Canada Day fireworks shot out over the river from just beside this bridge. I look forward to building many more memories with this new peace of London.

A few steps further, past the Court House and some fancy restaurants is this towering condominium building. It’s hard to imagine that someone like me would have a significant memory associated with a building like this… but I do.

Almost a year and a half ago, I traveled up to one of the top suites to meet with the person who had commissioned me to paint this portrait of his dog who had recently passed away. As I continued on, I remembered the many hours I spent labouring on this artwork – getting the colours just right, experimenting with new texturing techniques and keeping my fingers crossed that my painting would be positively received… and it was!

Onwards my feet directed me until I came to the John Labatts’ Centre. I would be surprised to find anyone living in London who has not been to this stadium for one reason or another – so much goes on here.

I remembered the night when Joanne and I enjoyed a couple of beers before rockin’ out with the Foo Fighters acoustic opening set ( ) before one of the Great Greats - Mr. Bobby Dylan - took the stage ( ) to dazzle us with his shiny white suit and wide brimmed hat!

All I had to do was turn my head to look upon London’s Covent Garden Market – a downtown farmers market filled with many artisan shops - and suddenly my mind filled with many many great memories!

I remembered the time in 2004, when Jo’ and I had just moved back to London after spending five years touring Canada. Over the course of eight months I had – with the support of the Spriet Family Children’s Library – finished teaching my first structured ‘Art For Earth’ programs. At the end of the course, the students and I had an Earthday celebration and we were invited to share our art and our stories with the community during a morning news broadcast.

I remembered when I had received my first ever art grant – from the London Arts Council – to help buy the materials that I would need for my ‘Healing Hands’ community arts project. Hundreds of people from London and surrounding communities made special visits to the Market to participate in the creation…

… of this absolutely unique art peace that was later donated to the London Health Science Centre’s annual fundraising art auction!

While I was looking through the lens of my camera – taking the picture of the Market – I spotted something that I hadn’t noticed at first…

As I walked closer to the mailbox - where someone had stuck a sticker - I had an instant flashback to about a kazillion memories!!!

This is one of my own hand drawn peace Stik-ers and to this day they can still be found throughout the city. They can also be found throughout Nunavut, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, British Columbia and most recently Mexico!!!! I’ve been handing out these Stik-ers for almost fifteen years. They’ve traveled to over half the countries on this planet and in fact, today I handed out over 75 of them to students who were passengers on The Peacebus!

I think that stickers are a fun, artistic and creative way to spread ideas and inspiration throughout a community!

I was getting closer to my destination, but first I had to continue walking along King Street for another block or so. As I crossed Richmond Street, a huge smile crept across my face as I remembered participating in a Critical Mass Bike Rally, last Autumn. On that date, organizers told me that they had the best turn out so far!!!!

Another rally is scheduled for Friday, May 27, 2011 – in just a few weeks. If you’d like to join in this movement - meant to voice concern about global climate change - then bring yourself and your bike to Victoria Park’s bandshell between 6-6:30pm. I hope to see you there!!!!

Having reached Wellington Street, I had to direct myself northwards to reach my final destination. Along the way, I passed by this great old building. During the mid 90’s I almost lived here – it used to be the downtown library – as I was continuously researching things that interested me.

It was in this library where I learned about the Temagami forestlands, located in Northern Ontario, and how the pressures of clearcutting where threatening the survival of this natural reservoir of ancient mystery and energy. It was in this library where I organized a ten-day walk across Southern Ontario to raise awareness about this issue. It was in this library where this journey began.

My experience in the Temagami forestland changed me. Upon my return to civilization I felt an inspiration burning inside of me. Soon, I was honoured to self proclaim myself to be an artist. It was in this library – 3 years later – when I showcased the first artwork that had been created for my epic adventure entitled “Canada: Glorious To Be”

In 2006, this project witnessed an explosion of creativity in Canada’s newest territory – Nunavut!!!!

While all of these memories were washing over me and I heard a small voice in the back of my mind. I was recalling a poem I had written many years ago, something that expanded on the simple statement, “How the future is depends on what we do now.”

Train Time

Time is a train
It leads our future
Into their pasts
And we are all conductors
For into this world
We have been cast
We ride this rail
Hard and fast
Always filling our hearts content
But now and again
It’s good to look back
To see which way we went.

Ahah!!!! Here we are. 300 Dufferin Street. London’s City Hall. In a few moments I will be meeting some of my fellow Londoners as we raise our voice to share ideas and plans that could save a very special place – The Meadowlily Woods Park.

But, that’s another story…