WestFest 2008 I

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.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

10 thoughts on “WestFest 2008 I”

  1. 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.

  2. “(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.”

  3. 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.

  4. 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”

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

    Aldous Huxley

  6. 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.

  7. 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.”

  8. 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.

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