Wellness Wall

Artist Miro Davis at the opening of her wellness wall at the Dixon Centre in Halifax

Artist Miro Davis at the opening of her “Wellness Wall” in the Dixon Building of the QE II Health Science Centre in Halifax

Imagine a volcanic landscape of giant barnacles bursting through the drab surface of a hospital wall. Imagine these barnacles fired inside by a magic blue light. Such is the vision of Halifax-based multi-media artist Miro Davis. Last night her glowing art installation, “Barnacle Tides Wellness Wall,” was unveiled for the public. The artist, originally from Vancouver, came to Halifax in 1995 to study at NSCAD. She’s been here ever since, serving as artist-in-residence at the Dalhousie Medical School in 2012. Davis is inspired by motifs from nature and works with a variety of materials to transform public spaces, often involving people who are connected with the space in the creation of the artwork. In the present case,  Davis worked with cancer patients and their families to create designs that were transferred to coloured glass, before being embedded in a fantastically contoured wall, shaped from clay. The glass and clay installation is lit from behind with a brilliant blue light to create a stunning effect, turning a small hospital waiting area into a expansive space with a sense of openness and possibilty. The project was funded jointly by the Robert Pope Foundation and the QE II Foundation.

At the opening, patients involved in the project spoke about how much the experience of working with Davis meant to them. Some of the patients involved have since died and their relatives described the wall as a lasting legacy. Folk singer Lenny Gallant composed a song for the occasion called “If these walls could talk.” This one surely can.

Thích Nhất Hạnh: Diet & Social Transformation


The power of two: Thich Nhat Hanh meets Oprah

Vietnamese peace activist Thích Nhất Hạnh took religion out of the monastery and onto the street with his notion of “engaged Buddhism.” His insight into the way that individuals participate in social change was formulated during the Vietnam War and endorsed by Dr. Martin Luther King, who nominated Thích Nhất Hạnh for a Noble Prize in 1967. The Buddhist teacher has influenced celebrities, lay people and clerics from different faiths. It is inspiring to hear Thích Nhất Hạnh’s views on diet, protecting oneself from harmful influences.

Mindful Consuming
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I vow to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practicing mindful eating, drinking and consuming. I vow to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in the body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practicing a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self transformation and for the transformation of society.
Thich Nhat Hanh

Thierry Vrain: Food Science Whistle-blower

Thierry Vrain2It’s funny how ideas spread. Ideas can be suppressed for a time, distorted and disputed, but some ideas have such resilience and vitality that they do not go away. They simmer under the surface of popular culture and mainstream media, then suddenly explode onto public consciousness.

Such an idea is that of Thierry Vrain’s lecture on Food, Ecology and Health. Vrain is a retired Canadian government food scientist, (formerly Head of Biotechnology at Agriculture Canada’s Summerland Research Station), currently a whistle-blower and organic gardener living on Vancouver Island.  In a lecture from November, 2013, he recalls how, in the course of his research, he came across a document arguing that synthetic fertilizers are damaging the soil, damaging the life of the soil. His first reaction was: “I didn’t know that. I didn’t learn that in graduate school.” He intensified his research. “Because if you tell me that organic is better for you, or organic is more nutritious, I say, show me the data.”

What he found was the data was convincing and impossible to ignore. “That’s when I converted. And I think it’s because I became organic that I was prepared to read more widely. Over the last 5 to 7 years I’ve read a lot of studies, published scientific studies, that cite serious problems with this technology. When I was in the field, the paradigm was this is great technology, we are god, we can do wonderful things, we are going to do absolutely beautiful wonderful things for agriculture. I was told this was a green technology and I did not argue or question that like a lot of my colleagues. It was understood that this was the paradigm of the time, the dogma. Now I have basically changed my position. Tonight what I’m going to present to you is disturbing. Some of you may know of it already, some of you may be surprised, some of you may be shocked and some of you will be angry.” Vrain’s full lecture outlines the history of the GMO revolution, starting in 1996, and its disastrous effects on the environment and human health.

Thierry Vrain’s talk is important on many levels. He raises issues about food safety, agricultural practice, and the corruption of science by corporations. Most importantly, his talk promotes an enlarged understanding of health based on the view of the human body as an ecosystem regulated by micro-organisms and our symbiotic relationship to them.

Thanks to Nigel Thornley for introducing us to the ideas and efforts of Thierry Vrain.

Baby-steps for NS Carbon Tax

CarbonTax CrowdImagine Nova Scotia having a chance to be a world leader in global warming policy while taking a bite out of poverty! The notion came out on the table, sometimes as calm points gestured, other times as fists flying, when citizens commented, cooperated or clashed at the January 21st public meeting for tax reform. In a large convention style room at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, filled to overflowing, citizens of all ages, backgrounds and lobbyist persuasions, convened  to debate carbon pricing and to listen to finance minister, the Honourable Diana Whalen outline the government’s current status concerning the recent release of the Broten Report on the need for Nova Scotia tax reform.


The introduction to the Broten Report states: “The essence of the tax recommendations would shift more of the burden of taxation toward consumption, and off personal and corporate income; and would tax pollution with the resulting revenue further reducing income taxes and offering income support to Nova Scotians who need it most. The basic rationale for pollution taxation is clear. Pollution imposes costs on society that are not currently borne by the polluter. A tax ensures that the polluter accounts for these costs and, on this basis, reduces pollution…”

The evening was largely an informal meet and greet between policy makers from the finance, environment and various other departments and the public, made up of representatives from such groups as the Ecology Action Centre, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Halifax, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the Affordable Energy Coalition, and Mount Saint Vincent Social Science Faculties. Individual citizens representing small business and private household concerns and four MLAs were also present.

nschequeSix citizens from a local chapter of the non-profit international Citizens’ Climate Lobby put their ‘prop cheques’ payable to “Residents of Nova Scotia” and a colourful infographic cartoon strip showing the advantage of a carbon fee and dividend  by the plate of chocolate chip cookies the government provided to the citizens. Citizens depleted both supplies by night’s end. This progressive approach to putting a price on pollution is proving to be sweeter than most as it is, in my opinion, the simplest, least expensive and fairest design, eliminating the need for an expensive bureaucracy; sparing the middle class and protecting lower income households by providing quarterly rebate cheques.

THE CARBON FEE AND DIVIDEND PROPOSAL has been  presented to both the finance and community service departments in recent weeks by Citizens’ Climate Lobby Halifax volunteers enthusiastically pitching to government personnel, including Minister Whalen and community services policy director, Brenda Murray. This plan differs from the B.C. Carbon Tax as it offers more protection to the low income households. Dalhousie University economist, Dr. Lars Osberg in his paper, “The Carbon Tax and Dividend – A Proposal for Sustainability and Fairness” states:

“The whole point of a carbon tax is to increase the incentives, which individuals and firms have to economize on carbon energy use. Starting the tax at a low level, with pre-announced steady increases over time, gives individuals the time to switch, for example, to a car with better fuel mileage or to change their furnace or to insulate more effectively. Because the CTD offsets the average impact of a carbon tax, most families will be better off financially, but whatever the initial impact on family finances, all Nova Scotians will benefit from reducing carbon energy use.”

For more info, see the full story as posted by the Halifax Media Co-op.