WestFest 2008 I


in Daily updates, Music, Ottawa

WestFest 2008 main stage

For me, WestFest has been divided into two rather different elements: the volunteering portion and the event portion.


For the first time in rather a while, this let me feel like I was making an immediate and concrete difference in an outcome of some importance – that someone else could have done a lot worse at responding to the same conditions.

I should volunteer more.


Tonight’s artists were very talented and I will definitely need to investigate a few. Buffy Sainte-Marie was extremely powerful and impressive, though many of her songs raised difficult questions about the degree to which we can inherit guilt or grievance from our ancestors.

Tomorrow morning, I will be back among the volunteers.

P.S. Supposedly, the plastic cups and bottles being used by this festival are made from corn and biodegradable. I collected several dozen tonight to determine whether I will be able to find a method of biodegrading them.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

. June 15, 2008 at 12:22 am

Corn plastic is hyped as a green alternative to petroleum-based plastic polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the stuff of almost all consumer packaging. Wal-Mart, for example, introduced it in some packaging as part of their “big corporate goals for the environment.” Advocates tout that the corn plastic, formed from polylactic acid (PLA) resin, is biodegradable and can be composted into fertilizer. And it can. Under the right conditions. In the new issue of Smithsonian, writer Elizabeth Royte digs into whether the corn plastic is as good as it sounds. Apparently, it’s not.

. June 15, 2008 at 12:23 am

“(The president of compost research lab Woods End, Will) Brinton, who has done extensive testing of PLA, says such containers are “unchanged” after six months in a home composting operation. For that reason, he considers the Wild Oats stamp, and their in-store signage touting PLA’s compostability, to be false advertising.”

Emily June 15, 2008 at 10:47 am

The dozens of biodegradable used beer cups arranged neatly on the window-sill make a nice addition to the apartment.

Though, they do upset the apples we have tied to a string hanging from the hooks on the sill.

Maybe we need to reconsider our decor.

. June 15, 2008 at 6:48 pm
. June 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

Buffy Ste Marie – My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying

“Now that the pride of the sires receives charity
Now that we’re harmless and safe behind laws
Now that my life’s to be known as your “heritage”
Now that even the graves have been robbed
Now that our own chosen way is a novelty
Hands on our hearts we salute you your victory
Choke on your blue white and scarlet hypocrisy
Pitying the blindness that you’ve never seen
That the eagles of war whose wings lent you glory
They were never no more than carrion crows
Pushed the wrens from their nest, stole their eggs, changed their story
The mockingbird sings it, it’s all that he knows
“Ah what can I do?” say a powerless few
With a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye
Can’t you see that their poverty’s profiting you”

. June 15, 2008 at 7:09 pm

Sainte-Marie shines at Westfest
Patrick Langston, Ottawa Citizen
Published: Saturday, June 14, 2008

. June 16, 2008 at 8:46 am

“Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities.”

Aldous Huxley

. June 16, 2008 at 10:33 am

Aboriginals in Canada
Finding their voice

Jun 12th 2008 | OTTAWA
From The Economist print edition
Canada delivers an official apology to its increasingly assertive indigenous peoples

FEW would dispute that Canada’s shameful treatment of many of its aboriginals has left a stain on its image. Between 1870 and 1996, an estimated 150,000 indigenous children were wrenched from their homes and sent to Christian boarding schools, where many were sexually and physically abused. Yet until Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, rose in the House of Commons on June 11th to deliver an unqualified official apology to assembled leaders of Canada’s 1m First Nation, Inuit and mixed-race Métis people, no Canadian leader had taken this step.

. June 25, 2008 at 11:55 am

Any Way You Slice It
Corn utensils not helpful without widespread public composting
As an alternative to non-recyclable plastic and Styrofoam, some restaurants have begun offering corn-starch-based utensils and takeout containers. But does cornware really provide a guilt-free way to eat your vegesustainorganaturalocal meal? Though touted as compostable, corn-based utensils can’t just be thrown into your garden; they don’t biodegrade unless professionally composted at high temperatures. Thus, customers who take corn utensils away from restaurants usually end up contributing to landfills anyway, since they’re unlikely to bring cornware back to the establishment to be dealt with properly. And trying to boil ’em down yourself doesn’t work, as restaurant manager Casey Anderson can attest: “It’ll only turn the fork into a twisted-up, weird science experiment.”

. May 13, 2009 at 2:02 pm

Breaking Down Is Hard To Do
How biodegradable are biodegradable plastics?
By Nina Shen Rastogi
Posted Tuesday, May 12, 2009, at 11:31 AM ET

These days, you can also find a number of plastic products—not just cups but also plates, bowls, and straws—that trumpet their biodegradability. But because the federal government doesn’t regulate “biodegradable” as a marketing term (as it does for, say, “organic”), manufacturers can sometimes get away with being a little squirrely in their advertising. In fact, none of these products will magically disappear wherever you happen to toss them. Not all biodegradable cups break down at the same rate, or to the same extent, or in the same environment. (The Federal Trade Commission can take action after the fact when environmental claims aren’t backed up by “competent and reliable scientific evidence,” but it doesn’t pre-approve labeling.)

The best means we have to assess biodegradable products is by subjecting them to the standard tests of the American Society for Testing and Materials—an independent organization that has established various methods for measuring how plastics decompose in different environments, including soil, oceans, active landfills, and industrial composters. If you’re really, really dedicated, you might call up a cup manufacturer and ask if it has lab results from ASTM biodegradability tests or comparable tests from the International Standards Organization or the European Committee for Standardization.

Even these would be of limited use for most consumers, though. There’s not much reason to be concerned about what happens when your empties end up in the soil (since you know better than to litter, right?) or the ocean (unless you’re planning a booze cruise). The more important question is what happens in the landfill, where most of the disposable party paraphernalia ends up. But the corresponding ASTM data assume conditions in a “biologically active” landfill—one in which, say, the liquid that oozes out of the garbage pile gets recirculated to make the trash moist and hospitable to hungry microbes. In fact, modern landfills are generally designed to keep garbage as inert as possible, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of potentially toxic liquids that might seep out and contaminate groundwater. Trash is compacted tightly and covered daily with dirt and clay to reduce odor. While this approach may have some environmental benefits, it tends to retard the breakdown of virtually all biodegradables—even vegetable scraps. In a famous series of landfill excavations that began in the 1970s, University of Arizona “garbologist” William Rathje uncovered five-year-old heads of lettuce that were still in good condition.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: