Tracy Johns. Teacher.

This is a moving, intelligent concise post from the battles lines to preserve educational values in BC. Thank you, Tracy Johns.


Teaching in 2014.   September 3rd, 2014.

I am a teacher in B.C. and I have been quiet (for the most part) about the ongoing conflict and subsequent job action. Quiet even when reading comments online and in the papers attacking me as being selfish, lazy and greedy. Quiet even when the guy in the white SUV drove past me on the picket line yesterday screaming at me to “get back to work #$%^ing lazy…” There are a lot of statistics and ‘facts’ being put forth by the government but these are my facts, my reality.

1. I taught Grade 4 last year with 29 students. 6 students were on an Individual Education Plan and at least 10 more required a lot of support. More than I could give.

2. I had an amazing Education Assistant that worked tirelessly to help as many students as possible but was often required to follow and keep safe, the one student that had such high learning needs and anxiety that he would run from the class, building and even the school grounds.

3. I had students that would hit, punch, kick, swear, yell, cry, throw chairs etc. Students that were in and out of foster care, students that came to school hungry. With all these needs I often did not get to those who were not acting out. Consequently I found out months after it happened that one of my student’s parents had gotten divorced. She certainly could have used some extra attention and support.

4. You would think that this was a very unusual case and that most classes are not like this wouldn’t you? Unfortunately this is becoming the norm.

5. Despite the challenges, I LOVE my job. I genuinely care about all of my students and couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

6. B.C. has one of the highest rates of child poverty in the country, are funded $1000 each per year less than the national average while one of the wealthiest provinces. $1000 less? How is that OK? (This makes me furious as a parent and as a teacher)

I have run the full gamut of emotions about this over the summer. Panic about how to feed my family (despite the stats being put forth- at 7 years of teaching without yet getting a continuing contract I make less as a teacher than I did at Starbucks), fear about the future for all our children, and finally anger. I have had enough. If you still think this is about a pay raise or better benefits then you really need to educate yourself. We will never, not ever, get back the money that we lost since this job action started.

Teachers, and everyone that works in a caring profession, go out of their way to make sure those in their care get what they need. After more than a decade of cuts,we can no longer stretch to cover what is not being funded. I can’t continue to buy supplies for students and the classroom that should be covered, parents should not have to hold bake sales, poinsettia sales, chocolate fundraisers etc., to cover what should be funded by our tax dollars. (Yes, teachers pay those taxes too). Children deserve classrooms that are not overcrowded, with enough support and textbooks- ones that you didn’t use yourself when you were in school.

At this point we need to ask ourselves what kind of society we want to live in. Are we so afraid of not being able to afford the latest gadgets and fancy cars/clothes/houses that we buy into the fear that the government is putting forth about affordability? I want to live in a society where children are well educated and taught to think critically, have empathy and learn to care about each other and our environment. I don’t want to see B.C. sold off to the highest bidder at the expense of our environment and our children. School is not a business to produce mindless masses ready for the workforce. Everyone should be standing up together and saying that this is not right. This is not just the teachers’ fight, this is a fight for everyone who values an educated society.

Inaction is no longer an option. If you aren’t standing up for what is right in this world you are just as guilty as those in power who are making the wrong decisions. Instead of clucking your tongue at the madness or burying your head in the sand hoping it will all sort itself out (or worse blaming the teachers) I challenge you to look at what is really going on and take a stand. I am fighting for your children and mine. If you aren’t standing up and doing the same, why aren’t you?


Go, Eden…

How Gateway stokes a simmering fury among B.C. natives

Eden Robinson

Contributed to The Globe and Mail

Last updated Monday, Jun. 23 2014, 10:17 AM EDT

Author Eden Robinson. (Tibor Kolley/The Globe and Mail)

Eden Robinson is the award-winning author of the novel Monkey Beach.

Where I come from, people will spit at you if they think you support Enbridge. That’s because we not only get the pipeline risk, but also the tanker risk, and the inevitable splashes that come with loading diluted bitumen into the tankers, which would mean constant micro-spills. Despite being bombarded with a lot of pretty ads reassuring us that our fears about tanker accidents are unjustified, the world-class tanker-safety system in the Douglas Channel, so far, amounts to one orange plastic triangle nailed to a tree.

Story continues below ad

My mother is Heiltsuk and my father is Haisla, both small coastal First Nations on the west coast of British Columbia. I live in Kitamaat Village, the main Haisla reserve 11 km from the city of Kitimat, which is the proposed terminus of the pipeline. Kitimat is widely regarded as a blue-collar, pro-industry town. When a recent plebiscite was held to decide whether or not the municipality should support the Enbridge bid, many pundits expected Kitimat would deliver a ‘yes,’ but instead came back with a resounding ‘meh.’ Initial excitement over the announcement that Enbridge was building a pipeline to Kitimat dampened considerably when people discovered that the number of permanent jobs for locals, in the end, would amount to some dock workers. Add to that the persistent coffee-house rumours that the Chinese partners were negotiating to bring in their own ‘experts’ under the Temporary Foreign Workers Program to help build the pipeline, and the plebiscite’s rejection of Gateway is less mysterious.

My reserve was not allowed to vote in the plebiscite because we’re not residents of the city of Kitimat. We’re also one of the First Nations bringing Enbridge to court. Our position is complicated by the fact that we’re partners in the current liquefied natural gas (LNG) rush. We’ve leased our reserve on Bish Creek, or Beese, as our traditionals call it, for LNG site development. We’re one of the native groups that would stand to gain the most by supporting Enbridge, and there is low-key support here for the project by food-on-the-table conservatives. But their backing is muted because the opposition to it is overwhelming and vitriolic.

Proponents have argued that you already have tankers plying the Douglas Channel delivering petro product and nothing has happened. But these are baby tankers compared to the monsters that are coming. And if the current tankers have an accident, our first responders will most likely be local volunteer Coast Guards who had to fundraise to get a new speedboat.

My mother’s home, the island community of Bella Bella, the main reserve of the Heiltsuk Nation, is 400 km south of us. The Heiltsuk have absolutely nothing to gain from this project, and everything that they hold near and dear to their hearts to lose. Opponents can mock our love of our home as sentimental, but it won’t change what we feel. The land and the ocean are living, breathing entities that supported us, clothed us, fed us, and nurtured our culture from time immemorial. Our ancestors walked here. We want our grandchildren, our great-grandchildren and their great-grandchildren to walk here.

The Haisla are pragmatists. The Heiltsuk have only engaged in peaceful protests. We are quiet moderates in comparison to other First Nations that oppose the pipeline.

If Enbridge has poked the hornet’s nest of aboriginal unrest, then the federal Conservatives, Stephen Harper’s government, has spent the last few years whacking it like a pinata. Their Omnibus budget bills gutted everything from our education to our sovereignty and (yes, you are reading this correctly) our right to clean drinking water. Their casual disregard of the staggering levels of violence against Native women in Canada continues to be infuriating. As is their expectation that, if lectured sternly and thoroughly at every opportunity about the economic benefits of the Northern Gateway pipeline, the First Nations of British Columbia would obediently lie back and think of Canada.

We’ve had a bulls-eye on our backs since the Harper Conservatives got their majority and the mood in our base is simmering fury. Every Native politician knows if they co-operate with the Conservatives, they risk being branded as Stephen Harper’s Uncle Tom. Supporting Gateway would be political suicide.

The Harper Conservatives (and to a lesser extent, the B.C. Liberals) have punted their responsibility to address unextinguished aboriginal title and concerns to the First Nations residing along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline route and the coast of British Columbia. The government has done so by distancing itself from the political backlash following the June 17 conditional approval of the project and the resulting flurry of court cases.

If the Northern Gateway Pipeline fails to be built, history will say it was partly because Enbridge failed to lobby the First Nations of British Columbia early or intensely enough. But the Harper government’s role in this debacle will not be forgotten, and, whatever the outcome, its legacy will be an entrenched native antipathy to any Conservative agenda.

Three Political Paths to Stop Northern Gateway

Federal approval handed huge power to British Columbians. Our job is to get organized.

By Kai Nagata, Today,



Several friends told me this week the Northern Gateway pipeline “finally feels real.” Even people who were cavalier about the inevitability of federal approval described feeling unexpectedly emotional. A few I didn’t even realize had the issue on their radar are suddenly speaking eloquently and passionately — not so much about the details of the proposal, but about the way Ottawa’s decision was carried out.

Enbridge CEO Al Monaco says it will be at least “12 to 15 months” before they’ll be ready to build. With that window in mind, the common question for those who want to stop it is: “How?”

Some are well-positioned to challenge this decision in the courts — First Nations governments best of all. The Crown committed a costly legal error when it left Enbridge to its own devices for so many years, attempting “consultation” deep in unceded territories. Those court cases could last for years and many of us who are not First Nations or trained lawyers will certainly donate to see them succeed.

Some pipeline opponents also promise to physically interfere with construction, should it ever proceed. More blockades like the Unist’ot’en camp may well spring up in the north. Environmental groups are already fundraising to hold workshops on civil disobedience.

Other critics are thinking big-picture about the demand for oil and how to undermine the business case for raw bitumen exports. Whether clean-tech entrepreneurs or climate policy advocates, these groups aim to shift the market conditions that make projects like Northern Gateway profitable in the first place.

Put it this way: there are many ways to stop the pipeline. Some combination of the above would probably stifle Northern Gateway eventually. But British Columbians can’t afford to spend another five years fighting a single project that never should have been proposed in the first place. There’s so much else we need to work on.

I believe the swiftest, most decisive way to stop Enbridge is political — and the most powerful tool most of us have is our vote. That’s why I chose to join Dogwood Initiative. We’re political organizers without partisan baggage. We believe decisions should be made by the people who have to live with them. And we know if First Nations and B.C. voters had a democratic say over this project, Enbridge would be packed up and gone tomorrow.

Three political paths

Tyee columnist Bill Tieleman is right when he writes that a Conservative election loss in 2015 would likely end Enbridge’s pipe dream for good. Opposition leaders Tom Mulcair, Justin Trudeau and Elizabeth May have each promised to cancel the project should their party form government. Supporting their candidates federally is certainly one political path to stopping Northern Gateway. What do we do until then?

Bear in mind our provincial government also has jurisdiction and retains the right to say no. That was made clear in the federal announcement on Tuesday: “The proponent will need to seek various regulatory approvals from the federal government and the governments of British Columbia and Alberta … The Province of British Columbia would be responsible for issuing approximately 60 permits and authorizations.”

Recognize that number? “British Columbia has the power to grant or withhold 60 permits,” Premier Christy Clark told a university audience in Calgary back in 2012. Later that day she told reporters: “If British Columbia doesn’t give its consent to this, there is no way the federal government or anyone else in the country is going to be able to force it through. It just won’t happen.”

Clark is still saying no, for now. Meanwhile, Enbridge’s Al Monaco says “we’re not looking at these conditions as something we’re opposing. These conditions will help us make a better project. It’s up to B.C. to decide whether the conditions are met and it’s up to us to try and close the gap.” Pushing the Clark government toward a final rejection of those permits is the second political path to stopping Enbridge.

That brings us to the third and perhaps least understood course of action. Under a law unique to British Columbia, the people themselves have the right to draft a bill on a matter of provincial jurisdiction. With support from 10 per cent of fellow voters around the province, that bill can be handed over to MLAs to pass into law. For example, a law denying provincial permits to a pipeline that would carry diluted bitumen over hundreds of streams and rivers.

The first major challenge lies in the difficulty of the petition process. Not only must you gather signatures on paper, you have to round up support from 10 per cent of registered voters in every riding in the province. At the bare minimum that’s 320,000 people across all 85 electoral districts — within a three-month deadline.

Assuming canvassing teams pass this Herculean challenge, further pitfalls await. Mr. Tieleman was the strategist behind the Fight HST campaign and probably knows the legislation better than anyone in the province. As he points out, “The government can indeed chose to hold an initiative referendum, but the results are not binding. Or it can simply introduce the bill proposed by the petition into the B.C. legislature, but not even debate it, let alone pass it.”

Tieleman calls the law toothless, fundamentally flawed and designed to fail. Yet he marshalled thousands of volunteers to try it anyway. It begs the question: why bother?

Process versus political reality

The truth is that the initiative to end the harmonized sales tax wasn’t just about the merits of HST versus PST.

As campaign spokesman Bill Vander Zalm wrote in March 2010, “The campaign to defeat the HST has ballooned into something much bigger and even more significant than protesting an unjust, illegal and unethical tax. As profound as those arguments are, there is something deeper and even more powerful afoot. People are rising up to take back their democracy.”

Gordon Campbell didn’t just impose an unpopular tax; he misled the people of British Columbia. He broke a major election promise. Worse, it was later discovered his party planned it that way all along. At that point it doesn’t matter how many loopholes are built into the Recall and Initiative Act, none are big enough to jump through when hundreds of thousands of voters want your hide.

Mr. Tieleman says “Our victory depended on Campbell’s multiple miscalculations, including his decision to hold a binding referendum in 2011.” Tieleman is being modest. Fight HST was designed from the start to put Campbell in checkmate. It ended the premier’s elected career.

The underlying purpose of launching a citizens’ initiative, whether on sales tax or oil tankers, is not only to change legislation. The mechanism itself forces you to build massive, organized political power — the kind no elected official can afford to ignore.

It’s a high mountain to climb. The question is what lies at the top. What motivates people to commit to the journey?

Put it this way: what is the legacy of the HST victory? We switched back to paying PST last year. His Excellency Gordon Campbell is now Canada’s high commissioner in London. And four years after the election that started the whole scandal, Campbell’s successor Christy Clark stormed back to win a stronger majority government.

Where are the boxes and boxes of petition signatures? Presumably safe in a vault at Elections BC. Those people can never be emailed or called, invited to a workshop or asked to donate to a new campaign. Even if they could speak to each other, the threat of the HST has passed. Their affiliation was momentous, but short-lived.

Building beforehand

Here’s where Dogwood’s strategy differs. As of today we have not approached Elections BC to launch a citizens’ initiative. Instead we’re building ahead. We call it a democratic insurance policy in case Premier Clark pulls her own version of the HST flip-flop and gives a green light to Enbridge. The longer that day is delayed, the closer to ready our organizers will be.

So far Clark is standing up to Ottawa, which puts her in line with First Nations and a democratic majority of B.C. voters. That’s good, but we imagine she’s going to come under a lot of pressure to keep the door open for Enbridge. As the company pulls out its chequebook and starts knocking off the NEB’s conditions, we’ll be watching closely to see if Clark’s position shifts. As her own government told the joint review panel at the Enbridge hearings, “‘trust us’ isn’t good enough”.

Here’s where we’re at. In the 48 hours following the federal announcement on Northern Gateway, 48,000 new supporters signed our pledge at Total signatures now surpass 200,000 — collected in person, online and through cell phones.

We have the benefit of technology that campaigners could only dream of back when the Recall and Initiative Act was introduced in 1995. The other night we signed up our first community hall full of supporters via text message (try it out if you like: text “vote” to 604-265-4967). We’re investing in mapping software to make our teams on the ground more efficient. And social media has extended our reach like never before.

But those bells-and-whistles should not obscure the off-line, social core of the project.

The simple fact is every door we knock on prompts a face-to-face conversation between two neighbours. That in itself is positive. From there, every new signature represents another voter who shares our values — or someone we can help get registered to vote. Every canvassing shift teaches you more about your community. And every few blocks you meet someone who loves the idea so much they want a clipboard too.

The most exciting number to me so far is 7,000. That’s the number of British Columbians who’ve taken the brave step of offering to leave their house so they can talk about democracy with strangers. New volunteers get a phone call from their closest team leader and an invitation to the next local training workshop. (Apologies if it takes us a few days to get to you right now — we’re thrilled by the response but our systems are a little stretched.)

Before the federal announcement, we had teams in 33 ridings. Now powerful allies are stepping forward to say they want to work together to defeat Northern Gateway democratically. We’re in discussions with Unifor, Coastal First Nations and a raft of smaller groups — many of which are already established in their home communities.

Whether they take a formal hand in the initiative preparations or work on parallel projects in complementary ridings, our goal is to form a network of allied organizers across all 85 B.C. ridings.

The citizens’ initiative should be thought of as a last-ditch scenario. A final democratic line of defence if our provincial politicians let us down. But if they hold fast to their rejection of the Enbridge proposal, our training and preparation will not be in vain. As Bill Tieleman points out, there’s a federal election next year. Only one party supports Northern Gateway.  [Tyee]

Kai Nagata is the energy and democracy director of the Dogwood Initiative.

Doors Recycled–Reused–Rescued


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Door / window repurpose in the garden

Repurposed Doors In The Garden


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Old Paned Window planters

Old Paned Window planters

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old wrought iron garden gate

old wrought iron garden gate

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decorated garden gate

decorated garden gate

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Old doors.

Old doors.

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Image detail for -Primitive Country Decor Stands The Test Time Pictures

Image detail for -Primitive Country Decor Stands The Test Time Pictures

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old window chair

old window chair

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weathered door

weathered door

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use old doors to decorate!

use old doors to decorate!

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LOVE this Garden Gate~

LOVE this Garden Gate~

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reuse a panel door

reuse a panel door

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Great idea!         love!
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good reuse of doors

good reuse of doors

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Screen door trellis

Screen door trellis

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Old door turned into clock

Old door turned into clock

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backyard swing <3

backyard swing ♥

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Recycled garden backdrop    Cool garden installation made from recycled windows, a door frame and wrought iron.

Recycled garden backdrop Cool garden installation made from recycled windows, a door frame and wrought iron.

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Our summer yard art project.  Repurposed old door and window frame with a pallet path :)

Our summer yard art project. Repurposed old door and window frame with a pallet path 🙂

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A mirror, shutters and a gate painted black — gives the illusion of a door that leads to another side beyond the fence.

A mirror, shutters and a gate painted black — gives the illusion of a door that leads to another side beyond the fence.

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Potting bench with old sink and door ---> Love the shelves...but maybe a cupboard?

Potting bench with old sink and door —> Love the shelves…but maybe a cupboard?

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Old doors are easily found on garbage day. This old door must have been from the 70's.  Perfectly shabby making it ideal for a garden (plant) bench

Old doors are easily found on garbage day. This old door must have been from the 70’s. Perfectly shabby making it ideal for a garden (plant) bench

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A screen door project my husband made for my mom :)  Nice garden addition!!!

A screen door project my husband made for my mom 🙂 Nice garden addition!!!

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Niki Jabbour - The Year Round Veggie Gardener: I'm back.. with wonderful winter garden photos to share!

Niki Jabbour – The Year Round Veggie Gardener: I’m back.. with wonderful winter garden photos to share!

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DIY Vertical Kitchen garden & seed starting trays. Single repuposed bi-fold shuttered closet door and dollar store container trays. Materials used and the how Mom did it on Teen Craft Connection's page.

DIY Vertical Kitchen garden & seed starting trays. Single repuposed bi-fold shuttered closet door and dollar store container trays. Materials used and the how Mom did it on Teen Craft Connection’s page.

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Gorgeous & Colorful shed made of ten recycled doors, discovered in yes, you guessed it: Door County, WI

Gorgeous & Colorful shed made of ten recycled doors, discovered in yes, you guessed it: Door County, WI

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repurposing old doors and windows | greenhouse made from old windows, love the tin siding (old tin ceiling ...

repurposing old doors and windows | greenhouse made from old windows, love the tin siding (old tin ceiling …

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There's so many ways to use old doors in the garen. This one is very romantic looking.

There’s so many ways to use old doors in the garen. This one is very romantic looking.

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Dressing up the Yard, My attempt at re-purposing an old bi-fold door

Dressing up the Yard, My attempt at re-purposing an old bi-fold door

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Often we have problem on what to do with our defective doors, they would take a lot of our storage space! But if you are a crafty person, then you can upcycle them for a different purpose!

Often we have problem on what to do with our defective doors, they would take a lot of our storage space! But if you are a crafty person, then you can upcycle them for a different purpose!

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That door should be saved and not left to     rot.

That door should be saved and not left to rot.

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garden bench made from repurposed door...

garden bench made from repurposed door…

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Repurposed Door garden shed.  But of course!  Why didn't I think of this?  Okay girls... looks like GG is a hunting at her ReStore.

Repurposed Door garden shed. But of course! Why didn’t I think of this? Okay girls… looks like GG is a hunting at her ReStore.

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reusing glass doors from a for funky decor in garden - maybe one day when we have a bigger place

reusing glass doors from a for funky decor in garden – maybe one day when we have a bigger place

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garden decor: Re-purposed old French doors used for pseudo-wall/screen in the patio!  Idea to note: would start trailing vines to drape over

garden decor: Re-purposed old French doors used for pseudo-wall/screen in the patio setting…love! Idea to note: would start trailing vines to drape over

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Door turned into a shelf; could easily be made into bench with storage underneath.  Picture the window panes with b/w photos in each.  Sweet!

Door turned into a shelf; could easily be made into bench with storage underneath. Picture the window panes with b/w photos in each. Sweet!

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Garden Salvage  I took an old door and coated the glass with mirror paint, then I mounted it on my fence. I added some porch poles and bunk bed slats as a frame around the door; decorating it with paint and flower pot finials. I added a decorative piece of steel as a topper and put some stepping stones in front of it. This is my

Garden Salvage I took an old door and coated the glass with mirror paint, then I mounted it on my fence. I added some porch poles and bunk bed slats as a frame around the door; decorating it with paint and flower pot finials. I added a decorative piece of steel as a topper and put some stepping stones in front of it. This is my “secret” door to nowhere.

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Re-purposed shutters as a garden screen. This is a great idea.  We used our front door's -  Old wrought iron doors for the back yard.....the ivy has started climbing.

Re-purposed shutters as a garden screen. This is a great idea. We used our front door’s – Old wrought iron doors for the back yard…..the ivy has started climbing.

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New Takes On Old Doors: Salvaged Doors Repurposed potting bench for gardeners DIY. I had one of these from the red barn in Modesto. had to sell it when we moved. I guess I will make my next one.

New Takes On Old Doors: Salvaged Doors Repurposed potting bench for gardeners DIY. I had one of these from the red barn in Modesto. had to sell it when we moved. I guess I will make my next one.

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No instructions, but it looks pretty self-explanatory.

No instructions, but it looks pretty self-explanatory.

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Red, antique door used as a garden gate.  What a great idea!  garden ideas.  vintage doors.  repurposed doors.  gardening.  garden gate.

Red, antique door used as a garden gate. What a great idea! garden ideas. vintage doors. repurposed doors. gardening. garden gate.

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STEVES. The Dean of the ALR

harold steves

Harold Steves’ unwavering passion for the land

Rod Mickleburgh

VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Forty-five years after Harold Steves’s first election to Richmond council, the legendary, perennial politician still relishes the whiff of the barn, the lure of the land.

Along with his wife, Kathy, he continues to farm what’s left of his family’s historic Steveston property, growing heirloom vegetables for the seeds and raising a dozen purebred Belted Galloway beef cattle.

Mr. Steves cleans out the barn every morning, and lately, for the first time in half a century or so, he’s been milking, too, forced to “empty” one of the cows that suddenly began producing too much milk.

“It’s fine,” he says, of his new daily chore, “as long as you’re agile enough to avoid the kicks, and you don’t get stuff on your shoes. We’ve come to enjoy having raw milk again for breakfast. I grew up on it.”

It’s all in a day’s work for the remarkable Mr. Steves. A fixture on council since 1968, broken only by a brief win-loss foray into provincial politics, he says he’s as busy now, at the age of 76, as he was back in his heady, activist days of the 1960s.

That’s when his greatest legacy took root. Without Harold Steves and a surreptitious municipal decision to zone his father’s dairy farm for housing, British Columbia might not have its cherished Agricultural Land Reserve, which has protected provincial farmland from development for the past 40 years.

It’s a story Mr. Steves never tires of telling. The residential rezoning meant his father could not get a permit to build the modernized barn he needed, and that was the end of the dairy farm. “It seems like yesterday. I’d just milked the cows and come in for breakfast. That’s when dad gave us the news.”

The calamity galvanized the young Steves. With houses already rising on rich farmland throughout the region, he began pressing his party, the NDP, to endorse the then radical idea of an agricultural land bank. It took three conventions. When the NDP took office in 1972, the basic thrust of Mr. Steves’s farmland preservation policy was implemented.

“I don’t think it would have happened without me getting angry when my dad was turned down for his barn,” he says.

All these years later, Mr. Steves’s passion for the land, for farming, and the environment is undiminished.

“I’m like Rip Van Winkle. I was an activist in the early days. Then, I had a very nice long nap. Now, I’ve woken up. I’ve become a re-activist.”

Mr. Steves keeps on chugging.

Besides his regular council duties, he is organizing an anti-Monsanto protest in October, he is in the forefront of the drive to restrict coal shipments along the Fraser River, he remains involved with the first university-based urban farm school in North America, centred in Richmond, and, for the past six years, he has spearheaded a regional food security strategy as chair of Metro Vancouver’s agricultural committee. “There’s still so much to do,” Mr. Steves says.

He is also forging new paths on the home front.

The Steves’s seed business began when they decided to recreate vegetables grown on their land 100 years earlier. Over time, however, many heritage seeds have disappeared. “Suddenly, what we’ve been doing for 30 years is in demand,” Mr. Steves says.

Their prize is a rare variety of tomato called Alpha. “We’ve got the only seed I know of on the entire planet.”

As for beef, the Steves have been raising grass-fed animals on their own patch of land and their son’s spread near Cache Creek for some time. They sell it directly from their home in Steveston. Orders are booked up until December, 2014. Their success is changing the marketing of produce in B.C., exults Mr. Steves.

His council tenure, meanwhile, is so lengthy, he’s one of the few municipal politicians to be bestowed not one, but two long service awards, as his career goes on and on. When Mr. Steves received his second notation, Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie marvelled that Mr. Steves’s electoral victories have now touched six separate decades.

Will he run for another three-year term? “Oh yeah,” Mr. Steves replies, in a flash. “If I just sat at home on the couch, I’d probably start to deteriorate.”

Juan de Fuca Scale


This measuring system has a lot of unknowns, but it covers some of the main factors in evaluating a town’s process for dealing with waste. Nature has no waste and many ways of turning one entity’s waste into another’s food.


As a society, the industrial world has been characterized by an extraordinary human plunder of stored “assets” and a parallel destruction of the possiblity of growth or even survival for other forms of life.

Juan de Fuca, who is certainly not an invented character, was one of the first European visitor to the Salish Sea. He was Greek, however, from a displaced family of earlier upheavals and the Spanish never rewarded him for his explorations.

The goal of this scale is to show what an ideal, truly sustainable system for “waste” would accomplish. There are models all along the scale, but many systems (old, new and planned) fail utterly when using this scale.


Norm. $1,500 per capita. 10 points. Lose points down to $3,000 which is zero.


Norm. 5% of capital costs per year.

5 points if less than 5% of capital costs.

Lose 1 point for each 1% increase above that.


Norm: Better than average the population now drinks.

35 points for norm.

Some scale that takes it down down to zero for water than can only be used for irrigation.

Irrigation needs to be defined. Irrigation for human food crops? Or for pasture for cows that produce milk?


Norm: capture some percetage of potential available heat.

10 points for capture and reuse of at least 70% of potential available heat.

Zero if all heat wasted.


Same as above.

20 points for capture and reuse of at least 70% of potential available methane.

Zero if no methane captured. Although this may. Up to negative ten points if methane created and flared or allowed into atmopsphere.

Norm: everything back into the natural world.

20 points for recyling of all biosolids in a fashion that does no damage to health or the environment.

Down to zero for landfill that generates leachate.

No Limits to the Power of an Educated Public

Township of Esquimalt rejects rezoning for sewage plant, aims to block construction at seashore location

Bill Cleverley / Times Colonist April 7, 2014 08:51 PM. With edits. Since this article fails utterly to note WHY the Township turned down the plant, for a large variety of sound reasons and because their citizens were adamantly and intelligently opposed to its construction at this location.


Esquimalt councillors didn’t just turn down the Capital Regional District’s requested rezoning for a sewage treatment plant at McLoughlin Point Monday, they rubbed the CRD’s nose in it.

Not only did councillors unanimously reject height and buffer zone encroachments necessary to build the plant, they asked township staff to prepare a zoning amendment that would prohibit a sewage treatment plant from being built at McLoughlin.

“We have faced Goliath before. We are doing it again,” Mayor Barb Desjardins told a chamber filled with about 50 people.

“For me the answer is: ‘No.’ One more time just so it is very clear, because the CRD has trouble accepting answers from this community. The answer is: ‘No,’ ” said Coun. Tim Morrison.

Councillors received a standing ovation when they officially rejected the CRD’s application.

The decisions leave the CRD in a tough spot said Victoria Coun. Geoff Young, who chairs the CRD’s core area liquid waste management committee. “We’re caught between the requirement that we carry out sewage treatment — a requirement imposed by both the federal and provincial government — and the unwillingness of Esquimalt to host a treatment plant,” said Young.

Of course, he slept through every public hearing, so he was probably the only individual surprised by the outcome.

young asleep-1982233_256381764542696_2048798598_n

Asked whether the CRD would ask the province to intervene, Young said that will be up to CRD directors who will discuss the decision this week. IF ENOUGH OF THEM ARE AWAKE!!

Young conceded McLoughlin would be a tight fit for the plant but said: “Our engineers and advisers have suggested this is the best site we have. We’ve done enough looking and I really don’t think we’re going to find a better one.”

The CRD has been seeking to locate a $230-million sewage treatment plant at the site of a former oil tank farm at McLoughlin Point for more than a year. The site is zoned to allow wastewater treatment, but the CRD is seeking encroachments — a maximum of four per cent — into a 7.5-metre shoreline buffer and to increase the allowable height.

After public hearings in July, the municipality passed an alternative rezoning bylaw and began working with CRD staff to develop an amenity package to compensate for hosting the plant. Esquimalt was offered about $13 million in amenities, including oceanfront walkways, a million-dollar bike and path system on Lyall Street, public art, bike lanes, road improvements and $55,000 a year for at least five years.

But several councillors dismissed the suggestion that the amenities total $13 million.

Coun. Meagan Brame said Esquimalt shouldn’t be held ransom for mistakes make by the CRD. “They asked for these setbacks so they could fit the project into the site. Is it Esquimalt’s fault that the CRD bought a piece of property that does not suit its needs?”

An Esquimalt staff report noted that selection of any option other than approval means the province could be asked to intervene and there would be no guarantee the amenity package survives.
















What makes jobs in BC?


From a great group: CRED:

Fuelling BC’s economy: where does our wealth come from?

Why does this conversation matter?

In order to decide whether energy development projects should go forward, it’s essential to have a good understanding of where the sector fits into the bigger economic picture. Of course we know that energy is important to Canada, but how important? In what ways? And is it more or less important than other sectors?

Where does our wealth come from?

It’s often said that British Columbia is a resource-based province. In actual fact, the reality is a lot more complex. While it’s true that much of BC was built on natural resources, and that even today sectors like technology and construction have a certain amount of inter-relationships with the resource sector, the basis of our economy has overwhelmingly shifted to service-based industries. More than 4/5 of us work in services and over 76% of our GDP comes from those sectors.

It’s also important to note that a significant part of our economy is based on small businesses. Small businesses make up 98% of all businesses here in BC, more than any other province.

Although economics can be complex and numbers can tell different stories depending on how they’re interpreted, some data speaks for itself. Here’s a chart breaking down the main sources of GDP in British Columbia:

BC GDP by industrySource: The 2012 British Columbia Economic Accounts, BC Stats

Oil, gas and support services make up just 3% of our GDP, compared to 15% for manufacturing and construction and over 23% for financial and real estate services. When secondary energy services are added into the equation, the total contribution to GDP is still only 11%. While this number is significant, it’s certainly not where most provincial economic activity is coming from.

Federally, the numbers are similar. The oil sands make up just 2% of Canada’s GDP. When you add in conventional oil & gas extraction, the total is still only 6% of our wealth.

Oil contribution to Canadian GDP
Source: Statistics Canada (CANSIM table 379-0031)  

Where’s the economic growth?

This graph from KMPG’s recent tech sector report card gives an overview of which industries are growing and which are shrinking in BC. The sectors to the right of the middle line are contributing more each year to provincial GDP, and those to the left are contributing less each year – in other words, they’re shrinking.

The sectors showing the most growth are construction, high tech, finance and real estate, retail trade, and professional, scientific and technical services. A recent survey of small businesses had similar findings.

Tech sector report card

Where are the jobs? 

In BC, the mining, oil and gas sector combined employs just 1% of the workforce.

BC energy jobs
Source: 2012 British Columbia Financial and Economic Review

Instead, the biggest employers in the province are:

  • Construction – 205,000 jobs
  • Manufacturing – 164,000 jobs
  • Tourism – 127,000 jobs
  • Real estate and property development – 121,000 jobs

The film sector adds an additional 36,000 jobs and the technology sector employs 84,000 people – more than oil, mining, gas and forestry combined.

Across Canada, the numbers are similar. In fact, more people in work in the beer economy than in the oil sands:Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 2.00.58 PM

Who funds social programs?

Although BC Stats doesn’t gather data on the tax contributions of different sectors, StatsCan makes this information available on a national level. In total, the oil and gas sector (oil sands plus conventional oil and gas) contributes 4.2% of corporate GDP. Compared to financial services (25%) and manufacturing (13%) this number is unimpressive. Particularly considering that the manufacturing sector is widely reported to be struggling and has decreased in size significantly over the past decade, manufacturing businesses contribute much more towards social spending for big ticket items like schools and hospitals.

Tax revenues by sectorSource: Statistics Canada (CANSIM table 180-0003)  

On the whole, the sectors most responsible for creating jobs, funding social programs and contributing to the wealth of British Columbians are finance, real estate, manufacturing, construction, retail trade and tourism. Any big development project should take into consideration its impact on these sectors – positive or negative – before it gets approved.

Unis’tot’en Camp. Save the Wild Coast

Save the Wild Coast


This is the most activist of the many groups working to follow the laws of the BC Aboriginal Nations and ban tankers from the coast and legally disrupt the construction of the Northern Gateway that would feed those tankers.




Spring training to stop the pipelines


March 29-31 in Victoria, BC, Coast Salish Territory

Full schedule here

Saturday & Sunday, March 29 & 30: University of Victoria, Bob Wright Building, Room A104

Monday March 31: Norway House, 1110 Hillside Ave,

Victoria workshops and discussions on:

Non-violent civil disobedience
Warrior societies
Shaping conditions for grassroots revolt
Planning and preparation for action
Security culture & counter-surveillance
How to stop a goddamn pipeline
Fundraising for radicals
Legal rights and solidarity
Families in the resistance
Indigenous women in resistance

Full schedule here. Admission by donation. Coffee, tea, meals, snacks, and child-minding provided.

RSVP on Facebook and follow the No Pipelines page. Email or phone Zoe for info: 250-813-3569.

Sponsored by Wild Coast and VIPIRG.

Permaculture Not Pipelines Camp May 12-30


Volunteers are needed now and all year round
Help defend the land and water
Support indigenous resistance
Stop the pipelines!

Spring Work Camp May 12-30
The camp is building permaculture gardens, a traditional pithouse, and a new bunkhouse in the path of the pipelines.
Now recruiting:
People with perrmaculture knowledge
General labourers

Apply to join the camp

Winter in the North

Four years ago, grassroots members of the Wet’suwet’en people of northern BC (western Canada) learned that oil and gas pipeline projects are planned to cross their territory without their permission.


The indigenous leaders of Unis’tot’en Camp began turning away oil and gas company workers over a year ago. The land defenders set up a “soft blockade” to keep out the corporations, and started building a camp and permanent homes in the pipeline route. A large log cabin now houses the defenders and volunteers, while several pithouses are still under construction.

The camp hosts are scrambling to prepare for the coming storms. The camp was on high alert in November after two incidents of attempted arson on bridges near the camp at the end of October.

People all over Turtle Island are responding to the call for support and funds for security equipment. The camp is also calling for strong-hearted volunteers to watch over the camp and patrol the area this winter.

Volunteers should:

  • be willing to to travel to the camp and stay for two weeks or more
  • have experience and gear for winter hiking
  • be able to chop wood, carry water, and watch for intruders

Sign up to volunteer

The oil and gas representatives and police have made a couple forays into the territory, but so far they have avoided starting a full-scale confrontation.


Donations will supply the camp with security cameras, motion sensors, night-vision equipment, and an all-terrain snowmobile to patrol the territory and watch for invaders.

The success of the camp jeopardizes oil and gas deals supposedly worth billions of dollars (plus the untold costs of spills and leaks, poisoned water, lost habitat, and human suffering). We know there is a risk of dirty tricks and intimidation tactics to try and scare the campers away. The more support we give, the less likely those tactics will work.

Click here to help Unis’tot’en Camp and defend the land defenders.


Winter camp in the path of the pipelines

Winter is coming to Unis’tot’en Camp, and a crew is working to finish the roofs and walls on two traditional-style pithouses so visitors stay snug and warm when the snow comes.

The blockade camp is on guard every day. Hundreds of good-hearted people are contributing their time, labour, and funds to make this community what it is today – a force to be reckoned with. Please support the winter camp!

At this point, it looks like one of the pipeline projects that was “approved” to go through Wet’suwet’en territory has fallen drastically behind schedule. There’s no official announcement yet, but work was supposed to start in earnest a year ago. Could it be all the publicity and support for the Unis’tot’en blockade in the pipelines right-of-way scared the investors away? Or did we slow them down enough that a competitor beat them to the finish line? Stay tuned!

Protect the Sacred Headwaters from coal mining


The Sacred Headwaters is the birthplace of Stikine, Nass, and Skeena, three of Northern BC’s major salmon-bearing rivers. Thousands of people from the northern interior to the coast depend on these watersheds for their livelihood and for the well-being of their families and communities. Now Fortune Minerals is actively test-drilling Klappan Mountain for an environmental assessment for a coal mine in the heart of the Sacred Headwaters.

Sign the petition. Pledge to join the Klabona Keepers. Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition
Photo: Rally in Victoria, August 31, 2013 by Ann Jacobs


Unis’tot’en defenders evict pipeline crews from their territory

Great news: The caravan is back from the no-pipelines blockade at Unis’tot’en Camp and it was amazing. Thank you to everyone who helped make it happen! It’s great to see our circle expanding. The caravan was only the beginning – the real solidarity work is still ahead of us.


A few days after the caravan left, the camp came under more pressure from pipeline companies trying to push into unceded indigenous territory. On July 19, the Unis’tot’en defenders evicted yet another pipeline crew from the territory. This time it was a two-person team that came in by helicopter.

This is the third time the defenders have sent surveyors packing and warned them not to come back. It seems the higher-ups have decided to ignore the warnings.

We’re ramping up to support the defenders. It looks like they are going to need all the help they can get. Here’s what we’re planning this summer and fall:

– Backcountry hiking and mapping
– Renewing the legal defense fund
– Benefit events for the camp

Join us! We’re getting ready to respond when there’s a call for a day of action. It’s a great opportunity to get with friends and build the resistance to pipelines and oil tankers.

Make a pledge to stop the pipelines.
Big cheers to everyone who contributed to support the caravan. Thank you for being part of this growing movement.


Grassroots Wet’suwet’en people vs. the pipelines

The latest pipeline proposal for the “Energy Corridor” between Prince George and Kitimat has shifted the route to pass south of Unis’tot’en Camp.Center: Wedzin Kwah (Morice River), the point where grassroots Wet’suwet’en people are making a stand to stop pipeline companies from entering their unceded territory.

Top to bottom: Unis’tot’en Camp (star), Morice River West Forest Service Road (white line), fracking pipelines Pacific Trail (red) and Coastal Gas (blue); Enbridge Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline (black).

Last year, indigenous activists built two homes on the pipeline route on the bank of Wedzin Kwah. This year, the activists are expanding the defense of their land.

The last time a pipeline surveying crew tried to come in was November 2012. The crews were given trespass notices and escorted back across the bridge, off Unis’tot’en Clan land.

Join the summer action team. Donate to the caravan.

More about Unis’tot’en Camp.

Harper’s wrecking crew


Last year, 2.5 million lakes and waterways were protected in Canada.

Today that total is 62 rivers and 93 lakes.

The San Juan River is not one of them.

The San Juan River is home to four salmon runs, ducks, geese, swans, otters, seals, and eagles.

Goldstream River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.


Cowichan River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.

Cowichan Lake and its fish habitat are no longer protected.

Chemainus River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.

Sooke River and its salmon runs are no longer protected.

In 2012, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Omnibus Budget stripped away the rules that protected our rivers, lakes, and habitat for decades.


Now, entire ecosystems can be bulldozed, blasted, and paved over without consultation.

That’s just one reason why indigenous people are rising up across the country.

Now is the time for all of us to defend the land, the water, the animals, and all living things.

Stand with the defenders of the Wild Coast.

Photos: San Juan River by Zoe Blunt

Unis’tot’en Camp


Indigenous people in the path of the pipelines are evicting oil and gas crews from their land. Last summer, the Lhe Le Liyin defenders and the Unis’tot’en and Likhts’amisyu clans of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation put out a call for solidarity to stop the clearing and bulldozing of the pipeline route. We responded with a busload of volunteers and a convoy from BC, Ontario, Alberta, Colorado and the NW US, and we helped build the no-pipelines camp.

Support the action camp to stop the pipelines
Tar sands oil threatens land, water, human rights, wild salmon, migratory birds, shellfish beds, and all interior, marine and coastal species.

A more immediate threat than tarsands pipelines, the Pacific Trail pipeline would carry liquefied natural gas from the fracking fields of eastern BC to Kitimat for export. Pacific Trail would pump flammable LNG along much of the same route as the Enbridge line, through wetlands, forests, streams and wildlife habitat. The fracking pipeline was approved in spring 2012, and Pacific Trail announced work would start this fall. Crews started surveying along the Morice River earlier this year.

Worthy. Wonderful Photographer in Cuba

Nine Questions for Arien Chang Castán, a Photographer from Havana

A small portrait of Firuzeh Shokooh Valle

Arien Chang_Ciudad

I was looking for someone. After my first foray into illustrated interviews, I wanted more. So, my editor Solana Larsen suggested a friend, Arien Chang Castán, a photographer from Havana, Cuba. As soon as I saw his beautiful website filled with old people, seas, solitudes, cities, colours, darknesses, I wrote to him.

The questions in this interview are based entirely on what I observed of his photos and what I read about him on his website. The questions, and answers, were given in an email exchange that took several weeks. I would need more time and closeness to be able to describe and tell the story of Arien Chang, but in the absence of this, below, a photographer in/from Havana.

Global Voices (GV): Tell me the story of your last name. 

Arien Chang (AC): My grandfather came to Cuba as an illegal immigrant in 1927. He moved to Old Havana, very close to where I have lived my whole life. He started out in the business of casinos, gaming houses, bars, he even joined a political party that brought together many Chinese immigrants that, like him, had come to Cuba with the hope of new opportunities. Some had even used Cuba as a bridge to cross to the United States (a bridge that we still use…) Of course, working and living in Old Havana, he fell in love with a mulata, who ended up being my grandmother; hence the mix of races and the last name.

Chang is one of the most common family names in China. I had the opportunity to verify this first hand in February, thanks to “Red Gate,” a well-known institution that offers grants to artists from all over the world. For two months I was working on my project, which involved trying to find my roots, the place where my grandfather was born and raised – not because I feel rootless or that I need to find an identity in China, but rather because of the impatience that pursues us and makes us believe that we exist, simply, because we know where we come from.

As a photographer I’m always looking – in my house, in my neighbourhood, in my country – for a new image, a new concept, something that indicates why we exist, where we are going. Photography is my medium and my last name might seem exotic on this island, but that’s what is magnificent and photogenic about Cuba: the races, the ages, the history of a whole people are mixed together in its streets. And what’s more, in Cuba we use two family names, the father’s and then the mother’s. My second family name is Castán, which comes from Arabic, and that’s a whole other story of roots and immigrants.

Arien Chang_Bailarina

GV: Photographer, why? 

AC: I don’t think there is a ‘why’, but I can tell you a bit about how I started, how my life, or rather, how photography changed my life or how my life became photography.

It all started during the hot summer of 2003 (not as hot as it is now), in the América Theatre, a spectacular construction representative of Art Deco, in Galiano Avenue in the centre of Old Havana. They were offering a photography course, along with other unrelated courses like massage and hairdressing, but I just wanted to learn how to use a camera (in those days I didn’t even think about light). It was a very basic course, but in it I finally learned how to use the Russian camera that my father had brought from the Soviet Union, it was a Zenit that had been in a drawer in my house since I was little. I used to play with it and move its controls, it all seemed very fun, of course back then I never imagined that photography would become my life, but I already knew that I liked having a camera around and pushing the shutter.

When I finished the course in the América Theatre, I discovered that I did indeed know how to work the controls but I didn’t know a thing about taking photos. Since I’m a bit stubborn and when I get my mind set on an idea I have to do it, I discovered that the best school for me was on the streets of Havana. Documentary photography is what I wanted to do, what I have done and will continue to do; I’m a photography addict and it’s too late to fix that, now all I can do is surrender myself to this addiction and feed it each day with more work. Photography exists and people can see it, but it must be discovered.

GV: Cuba has been the object of countless photographers. So many that it has developed an image difficult to reinvent. How do you photograph Cuba from the inside?

AC: Photographing Havana from the inside is very easy… you just have to have a Libreta de Abastecimiento (ration booklet) and permanent residence, an ID card or anything that allows you to live here for a while.

The life of a Cuban is not reduced to going to work in the morning and coming home in the evening, people in this country go through an odyssey every day. They are constantly tried by the dynamic of life that we have in this country, to put a name to it. The (non-)transport, the (non-)money, and all the other “nons” that each Cuban faces every day leave marks on their faces, in their clothes, in their spirit, sometimes of desperation, sometimes of fun, but they always reflect a story that if you don’t live it yourself or you don’t know how to read it, you can’t take the photo. We can add to this the incredible architecture, that as we all know is frozen in time and sometimes makes us believe we are in the 40’s. It is this apparent disguise that makes Havana easy and not-so-easy to photograph. This damned Havana is a double-edged sword, which I thank for who I am and what I do.

To create an image you must live it, you must suffer it, and that is why you can sometimes find photos of Cuba that are very well composed, with an impeccable use of colour and light, but at the end of the day they are empty, they are nice little postcards, because the photographer cannot go beyond the impression that Havana makes at first contact.

You have to touch Havana every day, handle it, enjoy it, you have to understand it.

Arien Chang_Viejo

GV: Why take portraits of old people?

AC: For their experience, their tranquility and their wrinkles.

Old people don’t mince their words, they have lived enough to have nothing to lose. In my photos you can see sweet expressions and also looks of hate-disgust at having the lens pointed directly at them. Elderly people, like children, say what they think, they act and get by without fear of the future, because the future for them is already the past.

The series “Longevity”, which I started to develop a few years ago, consists of taking photos of people over 100 years old. A century is a lot of history, even for a country, someone over 100 years old sometimes has less to say with words than with their feelings, expressions.

Old age is intriguing, I don’t expect to live long enough to take my own self portrait and add it to the series; but to photograph someone over a century old is always impressive for me.

Arien Chang_Malecón

GV: Tell me about the sea.

AC: It’s impossible to ignore the sea in photography, especially if you live your whole life on an island. Since I was a kid I would escape from school with my friends to go and swim at the Malecón (waterfront esplanade) and like me, generations and generations of Cubans have grown up using this coast-beach, full of reefs, dog-tooth (sharp rocks), as we call it here. Getting to the Malecón, taking off your school uniform and throwing yourself from the highest, most dangerous, deepest part, is less an action than a sense of belonging, a power relationship, you use the sea, sometimes it uses you. Thousands of accidents have happened on Havana’s Malecón, but even so, no-one is afraid of it. The Malecón, or “el Bleco” as we neighbourhood locals affectionately call it, is there and always will be, sometimes calm and sometimes agitated, like the idiosyncrasies of Cubans themselves. It has learned to live with us and us with it, though I hope that the prohibition on swimming at the Malecón doesn’t last.

I miss the sea, when I don’t see it for a few days I miss it, my whole life it has been near me, near my city. The Malecón series, the one that carries the name “el Bleco” in honour of my childhood, is my reconciliation with this city, with this country. It is a debt that I owe it for being Cuban, for being from Havana, for living in it for part of my childhood, my adolescence, for being part of my life.

GV: Black and white or colour? 

AC: I don’t think I could choose one, that would be like choosing between two pretty girls, the difference is that I don’t have to choose just one, I can stay with both and be happy.

When I started out in photography my work was all in black and white, analogue and processed in a “laboratory”, that is, the room where I was born on the corner of Monte and Ángeles streets, without any way to close it off, often without water; but with a good enlarger, from the beginning of the 20th century, which allowed me to do my own prints, control my own image from another perspective. There I learned more than anywhere else about lights, shadows, composition and I really enjoyed doing the whole process to my photos.

I spent seven years doing just black and white, even when I made that much-feared change to digital, I still didn’t use colour. It’s only in the last few years that my photos have started having “some” colour. I have always believed that colour is a very difficult technique in documentary photography, the dramatic quality of a black and white photo is always more attractive; but the use of colour when it is necessary, when the image practically cries out for it, has an undeniable strength. But, really, when you see photography you can tell when it is in colour and when it is in black and white. It’s only now that I am trying to understand the language of colour, translate it, I am searching for a personal style; always basing myself on those years that I worked only in black and white, but that helped me begin to understand colour in a different way, I’m trying to reinvent it in these colourful streets of Havana.

I can say that recently I have developed a certain fetish for colour, I really like it a lot and I don’t know… the black and white phase hasn’t ended but I think that in the future colour will predominate my work, that’s my intention.

Arien Chang_Ventana

GV: A bleeding window?

AC: That bleeding window only has one culprit: The Havana Biennial. This kind of big party was happening at that moment, with artists on the streets of Havana, where they intervene in spaces with different art forms, I simply passed by that street, that house. The bleeding window, a coincidence, I saw the image, the dress, the sandals, the contrast of colour with the window, the yellow wall, so I took the photo.

If the window had been another colour or hadn’t been bleeding, or the woman hadn’t been there, maybe I wouldn’t have taken a photo or maybe I would have, but of course, it would be a completely different one. I didn’t seek it out, the window came to me and that is what’s incredible about documentary photography, the spontaneity of the moment.

Arien Chang_BN

GV: Solitude permeates your photography. 

AC: That’s an interesting question because no-one has ever spoken to me that way about my photography. I just do photography and that’s what I see, maybe it’s the solitude and abandonment of this city that has so many needs, so much history, so many bad memories, and good memories too, but those are secondary.

Solitude, you say, permeates my photography, but being a documentary photographer is a kind of solitude too, it’s a way of being alone, even when you are surrounded by thousands of people, only you know what you capture with your camera that only you can control. What can I say, there are people who are solitary, sad, bitter, just as there are people who are happy, fun, sociable; I simply try to capture their feelings, the stories that they drag around often without realizing that in the way they walk, talk, move around the world, they carry their own load, their own particular solitude.

GV: What is your relationship with the city, Havana?

AC: I really feel as if I were wearing pijamas on the streets of this Havana that has watched me grow and that I am constantly looking at and looking at again and rethinking. I get home, after a whole day of moving around out there, and then, instead of resting, I take my work home because at the end of the day that’s what we photographers are, slaves to our own way of life. I download the photos, I edit, I edit again, I look at them, look at them again, you never know what surprises Havana has in store for you. Sometimes I feel like I violate her, that I am taking advantage of her, that I use her for my own good, but in the end I always thank her with my photos, or at least I try to.

Rediscovering Havana is my main project, my constant aspiration, because sometimes just going out onto her streets is not enough, you have to go into her houses, go up to her roof terraces, talk with her domino players, with the ones who have fighting cocks, with the woman who sells on the corner, and the child who plays ball. In short, my relationship with Havana is very simple: to wake up every day and go out…