#WhatIReallyReallyWant: GIRL POWER!

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July 16, 2016

Whenever I hear the phrase “Girl Power”, the first thing that comes to mind is the Spice Girls posing together, flashing peace signs. Although the phrase was coined prior to Spice Girl mania, there is no question about the fact that the Spice Girls were the ones responsible for popularizing the widespread use of the term, during the mid-1990’s. The phrase grew to become so popular that it actually landed itself a home in the dictionary, where it’s defined as “the idea that women and girls should be confident, make decisions, and achieve things independently of men.”

Girl power rests upon the fundamental notion of female empowerment. And for that reason, I find it absolutely brilliant that The United Nations Global Goals For Sustainable Development managed to work the Spice Girls into their latest campaign to promote awareness for Goal 5, which seeks to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.

As part of the Global Goals campaign for girls and women, Project Everyone, Getty Images, and the global cinema advertising association SAWA partnered together to produce an amazing music video titled “#WhatIReallyReallyWant”. The video uses the famous Spice Girls hit song “Wannabe”, and features female artists from around the world. Throughout the background of the video, there are images calling for some of the things girls and women “really, really want”, which include ending child marriage and violence against girls, quality education for all girls, and equal pay for equal work. These are some, but not all, of the targets outlined by the United Nations in Goal 5.

The video is very well done. So well done that former Spice Girl members and other celebrities began endorsing and sharing the video, declaring their support for gender equality initiatives, and reiterating the important messages the video aims to deliver.

Along with the video, this campaign seeks to encourage girls and women to share a photo of themselves (or a piece of paper) stating what they really, really want for girls and women, using the hashtag #WhatIReallyReally. All images featuring that hashtag will be shown to the world leaders meeting at the UN in September 2016.

Goal 5, Gender Equality, became part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in September of last year, when leaders from around the world gathered in New York at the United Nations Headquarters. The leaders in attendance reached an agreement on 17 specific goals and targets to achieve by year 2030, which are referred to as the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (also known as SDG’s or Global Goals). These goals tackle a wide range of issues, and highlight the need for transformative and universal change on behalf of not only the national leaders, but everyone around the world.

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Thanks to live streaming capabilities, I was able to virtually attend both the Women Deliver Conference and The United State of Women Summit a couple months ago, where  the importance of investing in women and girls was a topic that was repeatedly brought to the table. A conversation I never get sick of hearing.

During the Women Deliver Conference, Dr. David Nabarro, Special Advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development touched directly on the topic of investing in girls and women, and how this is one of the most important investments. Dr. Nabarro described the 2030 Agenda as “a plan that is like a tapestry, that goes right across the totality of human experience, and right at the centre, is girls and women”. Nabarro argued that unless girls and women are given the best possible support and investment, they will be unable to contribute to the future of our world in the way they need to:

“It’s investing in girls and women that’s the key. In order to do that, what’s the most important thing? It’s for girls and women to be able to enjoy good health, to be able to make reproductive choices, to exercise their rights, and if that is done than the economic gains are huge – at least ten times greater return on investment. And at the same time, the countries themselves, if they’ve got healthy women who are able to enjoy well-being and to exercise their reproductive rights, they will be able to undergo the kind of development that is necessary for the future of our world.”

To me, it’s an absolute no-brainer to invest in girls and women, because the unfortunate reality is that millions and millions of girls and women around the world are unable to fully contribute to progressive development, as a result of denied access to education, forced harmful practices from a young age, and feelings of disempowerment as a result of their circumstances and cultural traditions. Due to such, we are missing a very large portion of the population which could be participating and contributing to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals, and this is extremely problematic. Imagine what we could do if we had an extra 60,000,000 girls and women helping us work towards these global goals? The possibilities are truly endless. Plus, we all know there is no force more powerful than a strong, educated, and empowered woman!

Please join me to help make some noise in order to raise awareness for the Gender Equality Sustainable Development Goal. Get your friends and family involved too! Use the hashtag #WhatIReallyReallyWant, and tell the world what issues matter to YOU! The more noise we make, the more pressure placed on national leaders to adopt and enforce concrete legislation promoting gender equality at all levels, and in all countries. When women do better, everyone does better…so what are you waiting for?!  Let’s get to it!

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Proud About Pride

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June 13, 2016

On June 1st, I was joyfully tweeting about how excited I was that June had been officially named Pride Month – something that has never happened before in this country. Even more exciting was that on this same day, another first in our country’s history took place. June 1st 2016 also marked the first time a Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, took to Parliament Hill to raise a Pride flag, and announce he was looking forward to attending Pride parades across the country this summer. This was a truly beautiful moment. I can only imagine how amazing this moment must have been for everyone who has fought so hard to have their voice heard, and LGBTQ rights acknowledged.

When you think back to the 1981 bathhouse raids that happened in this city, we have certainly come a long way. Even thinking back to two years ago when former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford snubbed the World Pride festival, and was the only person to vote against a proposal to help gay homeless youth, our new Mayor John Tory is definitely making a much more progressive statement now. The legislative accomplishments over the past year are also worth noting. I am really proud to have witnessed more and more legislative change in favour and support of the LGBTQ community, and The Torontoist wrote a great article detailing all of these legislative accomplishments that have occurred since June of 2015 in the City of Toronto. Despite these accomplishments, I know it is quite obvious we still have a lot of work to do. Although our country still has quite a ways to go in certain respects, we must not discount the progress that has been made. This progress shows that change is in fact occurring, and I think this sends a positive message of hope to those fighting for the recognition they so rightfully deserve.

At the end of last month, I attended the Liberal Biennial Convention in Winnipeg as a youth delegate, where I was glad to observe a similar theme. In one panel discussion held by the Young Liberals, they expressed support for defending transgender rights. They also urged the necessity of passing legislation prohibiting gender identity as a basis for discrimination, which would be included and protected under the Canadian Human Rights Act. The discussion included a moving speech by a gentleman from Lebanon, who recalled the difficulty of growing up gay in a country where homosexuality is unfortunately widely unaccepted and discriminated against. Listening to the Young Liberals discuss their plans to organize in order to achieve full equality for the LGBTQ community, was very empowering and inspiring. Seeing young people becoming so passionately and actively involved in politics and doing their part to advance change from a young age, is absolutely amazing, and we definitely need more of this not only in Canada, but also around the world.

I think one of the main problems associated with homophobia and discrimination of the LGBTQ community, is that these people who discriminate don’t fully understand this community, and therefore, disagree with the choices this community makes. I personally don’t understand how people can have so much hate towards a person or community who are doing absolutely nothing wrong. Everything about this is problematic. Not all couples look a certain way, and it is unfair to discriminate against those who choose to love a different gender or sexual orientation than you do. While some couples may look unfamiliar to you, it most certainly does NOT make them any less human, or any less of a couple, and they are DEFINITELY not inferior to you in any sense. It is okay to hold your own personal view of what you think a couple should look like, but it is NOT okay to discriminate against those who don’t fit your mould. All people should be treated equal no matter who they love, and it is a sad reality that this is not yet the case…even in the year 2016. It is 110% unacceptable that because of someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity, they are unfairly discriminated against. This makes no sense whatsoever. At the end of the day, we are all human. Each and every one of us deserves the freedom of being authentically true to ourselves, and the freedom to love and be with whomever we want!!!

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While exciting things are happening in my country and city this month to celebrate and honour Pride Month, unfortunately the LGBTQ community in other areas of the world are not being welcomed with the same reception. Yesterday morning I woke up to the horribly devastating news of Orlando’s hate crime, which has been named the deadliest mass shooting to ever take place in the United States. In this senseless act of violence, a 29 year-old man named Omar Mateen, opened fire at a gay nightclub called Pulse, leaving 50 killed and an estimated 53 injured, many of which are quite severe. While some people were quick to deflect attention from this tragedy and turn this into something about gun violence and Islam, we must not stray from the fact that this is an attack specifically targeted towards harming the LGBTQ community. This breaks my heart. As President Obama wrote in his statement regarding this shooting: “The place where they were attacked is more than a nightclub – it is a place of solidarity and empowerment where people have come together to raise awareness, to speak their minds, and to advocate for their civil rights.” Many have taken to Twitter to describe how important having a place like Pulse is to them, expressing their fears of holding hands or showing affection towards their partners in public. I can’t comprehend how some people remain so close-minded in terms of accepting others who are different than them, and how one could go so far as to hurt innocent people who are happily enjoying themselves, causing no harm to anyone. My ultimate dream is to live in a world where we all openly celebrate and respect each other’s differences, rather than judge, discriminate and hate people because of them.

We cannot continue to lose the lives of innocent people to these horrible instances of hate. We cannot continue to judge one another because we have different preferences. We cannot afford to lose any more lives to something so ridiculous, and we most certainly cannot have the LGBTQ community living in fear of these sorts of things happening to them. The bottom line is this community exists and it will continue to exist and flourish, and neither bigotry nor hatred can change or stop this. Love is love, and we must stand united and speak out on the importance of defending the safety and rights of the LGBTQ community. Our voice must be louder than ever before. I am going to use my voice to stand up for the LGBTQ community, and express the fact that attacks like this are not okay, they are not humane, and they shall not continue. I would like to send my condolences to all of the families and individuals who have been affected by this horrible tragedy. To these families, and to everyone who is part of the LGBTQ community, I am mourning with you and I wish you all the strength and courage during this difficult time. Do not let this terrible attack on your community silence you or cause you to live in fear…that is the exact intention of the perpetrator and you must not play into this. Stand tall, stand proud, and continue to be unapologetically YOU!

Although I can’t do much to stop people like Omar Mateen, what I can do is work towards removing this sexual stigma, and helping to prevent history from repeating itself. What I can do is show the LGBTQ community that as a straight woman, I fully support them and I stand united in this fight to achieve equality and fight to have their rights as humans recognized. What I can do is devote some of my time to attending events in the community, and learning more about specific issues that are pressing to the LGBTQ community, and find out ways I can help use my own voice to make a difference. What I can do is spend some time educating myself on issues that I don’t know much about, so I can help educate others. This is what this month is all about for me. I am looking forward to meeting some of the heroes in the LGBTQ community and listening to them tell their inspiring stories. I’m looking forward to joining forces with the LGBTQ community and getting involved in this fight for justice.

There are tons of amazing events taking place throughout the city of Toronto during Pride Month (June 1st-July 3rd), and I am really looking forward to attending some of these. Unfortunately I am unable to attend all of the cool events I would like to due to my schedule, but I am eager to attend two human rights panels in particular: BeyondQueer Politics – 35 Years of Women’s Activism at the Intersections (June 21st), and Blackness and Queer Politics (June 29th), and I am looking forward to attending my first ever Pride Parade!!!!!!

For all things Pride, head over to PrideToronto to find out more about all the events, marches, and parades taking place this month, as well as ways to get involved volunteering. You should also check out some of the great merchandise Bobo Academy has created for this year’s festivities (I really need to pick up the pink “You Can Sit With Us” shirt). I would like to wish you all a very happy Monday, and a wonderful week ahead. Let’s stay strong and remain positive, and remember to always stand up for what you believe, and speak out when things aren’t right!

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A Nightmare Better Known As The Brock Turner Verdict

June 7, 2016

Incase you haven’t heard anything about the Brock Turner case over the past couple days; I will fill you in on the disgusting and deeply disturbing series of events. Brock Turner is a former Stanford University student, and star swimmer. More than a year ago, two witnesses found him assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious (I repeat, unconscious) female outside of a frat party on campus. Ever since last Thursday, when the judge sentenced Brock to an extremely lenient 6-month sentence and three-year probation period (when he was set to face 14 years), there has been an outrage across all social media channels and news outlets for good reason.

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In a bone chilling 12-page victim impact statement, the victim (who has withheld her name for privacy reasons), provides a detailed description of what this experience and trial has done to her life. What I took away from her statement is that every waking moment of her life since the night of the attack, has been absolute torturous hell (which is me putting it nicely). It was extremely tough to get through all 12 pages, as I felt both my heart aching in agony, and every inch of my body slowly fill with rage.

What I find to be so confusing is that the concept of this whole thing is really quite simple. So I’m sort of stumped as to why many people (including Brock, his father, his best friend, and Judge Aaron Persky) are having difficulty grasping this idea. If you murder someone, you are a murderer. If you steal something, you are a thief. If you rape someone, you are a rapist. Period. Rape is a criminal offence, and Brock doesn’t deserve to get away with a slap on the wrist because of his athletic ‘potential’. He should serve the time he rightfully deserves for committing such a despicable act. For me, it is extremely hard to swallow the fact that people are strongly defending someone who is so indefensible. As the victim impact statement pointed out:

You are guilty. Twelve jurors convicted you guilty of three felony counts beyond reasonable doubt, that’s twelve votes per count, thirty-six yeses confirming guilt, that’s one hundred percent, unanimous guilt.

Aside from what happened on the night of the assault, there are a number of other deeply disturbing instances, which have resulted from this case. One, neither Stanford University nor Brock Turner issued an apology to the victim. Two, Brock Turner’s father, Dan Turner, wrote the most cringe-worthy and jaw dropping letter, which epitomizes and encourages rape culture. The letter details how the verdicts have shattered and broken his son. Hmm. His letter paints a picture of his son being the victim, with no consideration whatsoever of how the real victim’s life has been affected. He also mentions how Brock will never be the same…maybe your parenting should have included that lesson about how it is  explicitly unacceptable to rape an unconscious woman? Most disturbing of all, is this excerpt from the letter: “That [the verdict] is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life”. 20 minutes of action? It is absolutely heinous and downright insulting to classify something as serious as rape as “20 minutes of action”.

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What is extremely infuriating to myself, and the many others expressing outrage over this case, is the fact that if you are a star athlete at a prestigious U.S. university then everyone is quick to hop to your defence and work extremely hard to cover up the case, and get you off the hook. Do we not see that something is wrong here? Brock Turner’s extremely lenient punishment was based on the fact that he has “potential” as an athletic swimmer, rather than the crime he was found guilty of committing.

We saw the exact same thing happen with another high-profile university athlete rape case featuring Jameis Winston. Winston was a star football player and Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State University, when he was accused of violently raping a female in the name of Erica Kinsman. Despite DNA evidence, and Erica filing separate reports with police and the university, the investigation was suspended for no reason. Erica’s case, unfortunately, is the sad reality of what actually goes on when victims try and report sexual assault to their educational institutions. There is a documentary titled The Hunting Ground, which reveals the lengths universities go to, to cover up and lie about rape cases in order to uphold the image of their school, and not deter prospective students.

These two cases, along with hundreds of thousands of others tell an extremely important story. These are not one-off events that happen once in a blue moon. There is an obvious pattern of campus rape, and the severity of this problem cannot continue to be overlooked. We cannot continue to let rape become a cultural norm – this is morally intolerable. Although sexualized violence against women is one of the world’s most common human rights offences, this isn’t an issue about just women. This is a basic human rights issue for males, females and transgenders alike. For all of the people who quickly hopped to the defence of Brock Turner, I personally guarantee your sentiments and statements would tell a much different story if this had happened to your own sister, daughter, or wife. The scary thing is, Brock Turner actually has a sister, Caroline Turner, and she also released a statement in his defence, which speaks volumes to the parenting job Dan Turner and his wife have done. It couldn’t be more crystal clear that the verdict of this case is utterly unacceptable for numerous reasons. The verdict explicitly violates the integrity the U.S. Judicial System is required to uphold, demonstrating privilege and extreme bias in favour of someone who has been proven 100% guilty.

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The grim results of this trial as well as the Jian Ghomeshi trial add more fuel to the rape culture fire. These verdicts aid in discouraging those who want to speak out, for fear of experiencing similar repercussions. This is extremely problematic because this can lead to many victims being more reluctant to report rape. This is not okay, and silencing survivors doesn’t make this issue go away.

Growing up as a female, both my school and my parents taught me how to avoid being raped, and what I should do when a male is attacking me or trying to sexually assault me. What’s ironic is that males are never explicitly taught or educated on why it is wrong to rape women, and this may be the root of the problem. It is something that goes unspoken. Parents talk to their sons about the danger of having unprotected sex, but not about the importance of consent. This is something that needs to change NOW. Because of what I have been taught about rape growing up, I have lived my teenage years and early adulthood somewhat paranoid about ever being in that type of situation, and always thinking about how to avoid it. If young teenage boys are taught that rape is a crime and are educated on the repercussions they would face if they were to rape a girl, perhaps they too would have carried around the same paranoia I did. Perhaps this paranoia would deter them from engaging in rape, or better yet, significantly reduce the number of rapes that occur.

I could honestly go on writing about this forever, and how white privilege plays a huge role in this, and that I find it no coincidence Judge Aaron Persky used to be a Stanford athlete himself. But instead, I would like to end this post on a more positive note. As I mentioned above, this post isn’t just about females. I am here to stand up for all the survivors of sexual assault: transgender, male and female. I want everyone to know that I am on your side, and I stand united in this battle to seek justice and put an end to rape culture and the judicial system’s encouragement of it. Know that I am actively fighting for you, and I will continue to do so everyday. No matter what you are told, or made to believe by your perpetrator(s) or an institution, you and your story ARE important. NEVER let anyone try to silence you, tell you your story is petty, or try and trick you into thinking that what happened is your fault – because it most certainly isn’t. Although you may feel weak at times, you are in fact not weak at all. You are strong, and courageous, because you are a survivor. You are no different than cancer survivors, or those who have survived war…you are just a survivor of a different type of battle, and for that I commend and honour you. Filed under my Sabatage Approved page, you will find some resources I have gathered regarding sexual assault, and reporting sexual assault. I intend to grow the list of links, and will continue to work on developing these resources. If you agree with the unfair verdict, there is a petition against Judge Aaron Persky you can find here, which has been drawing wide support. Please share this post, and feel free to leave a comment regarding other resources you may be aware of!

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Why Being WILD is Always Better…

June 5, 2016

Step3Today, June 5th 2016, marks this year’s World Environment Day (#WED2016), which is currently being hosted in the seventh largest African country, Angola. Differing from that of Earth Day, World Environment Day is specifically focused on calling attention to not only the environment, but mainly, to the issue of environmental sustainability. The theme and slogan of this year’s World Environment Day is “Go Wild for Life”, which emphasizes the importance of preserving the remaining endangered wildlife for future generations. WED2016 also strives to shed light on the tragic repercussions that result from illegal wildlife trading and wildlife crime.

While many of us are aware of the illegal trading of wildlife products, and the horrific abuses associated with such, I feel as though we often times push these issues towards the back of our mind because it is rather foreign to us, and these issues are something we don’t experience first hand, or hear covered in the news on a regular basis. Although we are all aware of the illegal trading of wildlife and wildlife products, I think we often times forget the bigger picture: the illegal wildlife trading market isn’t just an issue that effects the endangered wildlife left on our planet, but it is an important piece of a much larger, much more serious, puzzle. As the website for this year’s World Environment Day highlights:

The booming illegal trade in wildlife products is eroding Earth’s precious biodiversity, robbing us of our natural heritage and driving whole species to the brink of extinction. The killing and smuggling is also undermining economies and ecosystems, fuelling organized crime, and feeding corruption and insecurity across the globe“.

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If you’re still thinking “meh, this stuff isn’t really that important to someone like myself” consider this: how would you feel if you could no longer indulge in some of your favourite foods such as honey, wine, coffee, chocolate, and seafood (to name a few) because of environmental damage that prohibits the production of these goods? Then would this stuff become important to you?  NDTV Food wrote an eye-opening article detailing how along with the wildlife, those beloved foods just mentioned, are on a very similar path to extinction due to our own environmental negligence. I don’t know about you, but the thought of no more chocolate is enough to scare me straight!

Despite the designated theme of this year’s World Environment Day, today is not only about waging a war on poachers. It is also about the deforestation crisis, reducing the effects of climate change and global warming, preventing global food shortages, and everything else that falls under the large umbrella of environmental preservation and conservation.

So what can you do to become involved? The answer is LOTS. The three most important ways to get involved are listed below:

1) Spread the Word: The most important thing you can do, begins with spreading the word! Tell your friends, family, co-workers, and fellow classmates and help educate others on important environmental issues they may not know about. You can also dedicate some of your own time to reading up on other environmental issues you are more unfamiliar with. While we may not have the ability to influence government leaders to enforce tougher policies from an individual standpoint, by starting a conversation and becoming engaged in the discussion, you automatically help create and generate a heightened awareness of these issues. The larger the discussion, the more pressure placed on government officials to implement change, and invest in conservation efforts.

2) Get Involved Locally: Another great way to contribute to a greener environment is to get involved at the local level in your own community. For example, make it a point to become familiar with your neighbourhood’s Community Environment Days, to ensure safe recycling and disposal of household items, which helps reduce the amount of unnecessary waste that ends up in landfills. It also doesn’t hurt to stop by your nearest Community Centre, Constituency Office, or sign-up for the newsletter from your City Councillor to find out about the types of events your community is taking part in, and to learn more about how you can help out your local environment (i.e. garbage pick up days).

3) Volunteer: If you have some extra time to donate, volunteering is always an amazing way to give back and help out your community, plus there are a number of fantastic environmental-focused organizations  you can join forces with! One example of a great organization in my city is Evergreen. Evergreen is a Canadian charity centered upon restoring public spaces, and their efforts to do so not only help to strengthen local environments, but also help encourage and promote sustainability in the surrounding community.

On a daily basis, you can also adopt a number of habits to help transform your lifestyle into a more green one, and at the bottom of my Earth Day post, you can find a list of Sabatage tips I created to assist you with such. In honour of World Environment Day, I want to take a moment to further elaborate on one tip I mentioned in that post: Food Waste. Many of us are unaware or oblivious to how serious of an issue this really is, and how detrimental food waste is to environmental sustainability. Did you know nearly half of ALL food produced worldwide is wasted? How disturbing is that?! What many people forget to consider when throwing out food, is that they’re not only tossing away the food. Along with the food, they’re also tossing away all the resources that were used to produce the food, and transport the food to wherever they purchased it from. Here are a couple of my own tips, as well as some from the environmental legend we all love David Suzuki, to help cut back on food waste in your household.

Sabatage Tips to Eliminate Household Food Waste:

  • Save and ACTUALLY eat your leftovers!
  • Make sure you are properly storing all your food in airtight containers.
  • Be mindful of the foods you are throwing away on a regular basis, and modify your habits accordingly (i.e. start recording expiry dates, purchase smaller quantities of things you notice you are frequently tossing etc).
  • Buy only what you need (aka learn to shop smarter). This may seem like a simple concept, but you would be amazed by how many people do not shop smart. Buying exactly what you need, also helps to cut grocery bill costs. You can kill two birds with one stone by downloading apps, which help you plan out your weekly meals and grocery lists to help avoid this exact issue! (Check out MealBoard Meal and Grocery Planner App).

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I hope everyone is having a beautiful World Environment Day today, and remember to appreciate and respect the environment not only today, but always!

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Earth Day 2016: #ParisAgreement

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April 22, 2016

Today marks a very important day for two reasons. One it is Earth Day, the most important day of the year for environmentalists and the environmental movement as a whole. Two, the signing of the Paris Agreement (which may very well be one of the most significant global accords of our generation) is taking place today, making this years Earth Day one of the most important in history.

I am filled with excitement knowing that today, leaders from 160 countries around the world will be gathering at the United Nations in New York to officially sign the Agreement. It is predicted that this will be the largest same-day signing in the history of international accords, which I find very fascinating. Furthermore, this accord is unique in the sense that it is essentially the first of its kind to take action in uniting such a large number of countries.

The Paris Agreement not only requires these countries to undertake commitments to action (aka ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’) regarding global emissions. But further, it necessitates countries to review and re-evaluate these pledges every five years, beginning with “global stocktaking” in the year 2023. Another beneficial clause worked into this agreement is that countries are actually unable to lower their targets, and instead, they are pressured to elevate their commitment with each year that passes.

Although the first adoption of this was in December of last year, today marks the actual singing, thus resulting in the countries officially accepting the agreement. After the agreement is signed and accepted, the final step is uniting at the national level by way of executive and/or legislative action. As the UN Foundation Blog notes:

For the agreement to “enter into force,” it must be accepted by at least 55 countries that together produce 55% of the world’s emissions. China and the United States alone, who recently announced that they would join the agreement, produce nearly 40% of the world’s emissions between them. Then comes implementation, when countries “put their money where their mouths are” and act upon the specific national commitments they’ve made.

You can learn more and follow the conversation by using the hashtag #ParisAgreement. Another great way to stay informed today is to check out the live UN stream of the signing, which is what I’ll be doing!

It was instilled upon me from a young age that Earth Day was a very important day. I have flashbacks to an elementary school assembly where teachers spoke about the importance of recycling and the conservation of energy, which was followed by us going outside and spending the rest of the afternoon picking up garbage. I know that this stuff is still taught to children in school, but I can’t help feel as though it bears less weight in todays fast-paced, modern, technology-based society. We are too caught up in our individualistic habits, that unfortunately, we too often take this beautiful planet for granted. We are all aware of this sad reality. The fact that we need this sort of an agreement, and the urgency associated with such, really does speak for itself.

I urge you all to please use today as a reminder to take a step back from your busy schedule, and devote some time to admiring and appreciating the earth. There are many activities we do every single day that are negatively affecting the planet on a much larger scale. Our actions shouldn’t just matter for the purpose of today, they should matter everyday. Today should be a reminder that we all, myself included, can and should be incorporating and practicing green initiatives more frequently in our everyday lives.

                Sabatage Earth Day Tips:                                               CgOlFRDUMAEKajG

* Reduce your food waste. This is number one on my list, and a personal priority at all times! Approximately 35% of food goes uneaten in developed countries, which deeply disturbs me. Having worked in the restaurant industry, I witnessed way too much food being wasted and it always struck a nerve. In Toronto, we have an amazing organization called Second Harvest, which picks up donated or surplus food which would otherwise go to waste, and delivers the food to agencies around Toronto. Dedicate some time to tracking down something similar in your community!

*Stop using plastic water bottles. Swap your plastic water bottles out for a reusable one.

*Bring reusable bags to the grocery store. You can purchase reusable bags at nearly every supermarket, and this helps you save money as well.

*Buy a reusable lunchbox and/or reusable coffee mug for work. Bringing your lunch in reusable containers, and using washable vs. plastic utensils also helps cut down on waste.

*Eat less meat. One vegan meal saves more water than skipping 176 showers, as we all know the meat industry consumes a large amount of energy. If you are unable to sacrifice meat entirely, challenge yourself to cutting meat out of your diet once a week (i.e. ‘Meatless Mondays’).

*Buy local grown food. This cuts down pollution created by transportation.

*Avoid purchasing pre-packaged food. A lot of the packaging and plastic wrap on food and groceries is unnecessary and ends up in the garbage. Try not to be persuaded by attractive packing.

*Walk, bike, or take the public transit to work.  This one is pretty obvious, but a lot of us are guilty of not practicing this often enough.

*Reduce the number of one-time-use items you buy.  I.e. paper towels. Keep several rags or cloths handy as an alternative.

*Unplug!  Even though you may not be using your phone charger to charge your phone, if it remains plugged into the wall, it is still using energy. Try to be mindful and make it a habit to unplug the cords you aren’t using.

*Apple x Earth Day.  Apple’s ‘Apps for Earth’ section has a number of apps that have been overhauled in support of Earth Day. This is a partnership with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and all proceeds go directly to supporting environmental conservation.

 

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POST UPDATE:

Check out the links below for two great speeches from the Paris Agreement Opening Speeches! Theres a ton of other great videos from todays ceremony which can also be found on www.webtv.un.org.

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/leonardo-dicaprio-un-messenger-of-peace-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857658536001

http://webtv.un.org/topics-issues/global-issues/climate-change/watch/getrude-clement-tanzania-youth-representative-high-level-signature-ceremony-for-the-paris-agreement-opening-session/4857502757001