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Seaweeds of Ireland

Seaweeds of Ireland

The seaweeds of Ireland are a vital nutritional food source for this North Atlantic island nation. Therefore, Irish researchers at Teagasc, the national Irish agriculture and food development authority, drive exploration into bioactive components from seaweeds grown off their coast.  These bioactive components enhance properties 

Quadra Island Kelp Forests

Quadra Island Kelp Forests

Although I have visited this northern Gulf island on the east coast of Vancouver Island many times, I never appreciated how important Quadra Island kelp forests are. The kelp forests have sustained marine life and coastal inhabitants for thousands of years and continue to do 

Grey water recycling

Grey water recycling

Grey water recycling remains important as water shortages loom with climate emergency. Rising temperatures that limit snowpack accumulations for water reservoir levels in cities, plus residential pressures for wells in rural areas influence community members to recycle 50-80% of household wastewater for irrigation, toilet flushing, washing and other uses. Although this article will not address toilet or black water recycling, it will focus on grey water recycling in two design types: diversion and treatment storage.  Of course, provincial and municipal policies already regulate grey water recycling from public health and maintenance perspectives; therefore, every homeowner should be aware of these prior to investing in any system.

Diversion grey water recycling system

grey water recycling washing machine
Washing day at the Seaweed cabin

Diversion method of grey water recycling remains the simplest and cheapest method, requiring no water treatment. At the Seaweed cabin on laundry day, we collect the laundry water in a large 4 litre pale to divert to our toilet or to our plants outside. My neighbour drains her laundry water directly into a cistern connected to an outside hose to water her garden. Of course, we are careful to use low phosphorous, boron, sodium and chlorine detergents that could promote the growth of microorganisms or have direct consequences on our plants.

Grey water recycling: treatment and storage

grey water recycling storage and treatment
Courtesy Sanicon Energy Solutions

We would need the storage and treatment method of grey water recycling for our kitchen sink wastewater. There, organic solid contents and microorganisms require biological extensive treatment: the wastewater must first go through primary treatment in mulch or sand to remove the large solids then pass through gravel with plants such as bulrushes and reeds that clear the wastewater microorganisms through the soil surrounding their roots. Potential problems of clogging, growth of invasive plants, too fast flow and overflow need ironing out in this system. Other treatment methods involve chlorination, backup connections to potable water and filters depending on their design. However, we prefer a simple organic system to water our lawn and plants.

B.C. Policies and Regulations

Grey water recycling falls under the B.C. Provincial Waste Management Act, Municipal Sewage Regulation (MSR 1999) and Reclaimed Water Guidelines of 2013. A licensed plumber must install any building grey water diversion system according to the B.C. building code; furthermore, all pipes must be purple and properly labeled along with signage. Obviously, the public health officer becomes very interested in your system if you recycle it for potable water.

Grey water recycling: veggie irrigation

grey water recycling veggie irrigation
Although below ground is prefered, surface drip irrigation is acceptable.

This year, we will design a grey water recycling system to irrigate our vegetables. According to the Ministry of Health Grey Water Reuse 2017 Guidelines, grey water should be discharged below ground; however, the following recommendations exist for surface discharge: apply grey water evenly, avoid contact with the vegetable foliage, avoid ponding or run-off onto the street or storm drains, and post signs for the public to avoid contact. As usual, our system will be simple, effective and complement the rain barrels and cisterns we already use to collect water from our roof.

Ultimately, whatever system you design for grey water recycling, the goal is to conserve precious water in a safe and feasible way. Diversion method remains the simplest and cheapest system without the need for chemical treatments. Simple systems exist if you reuse the water for irrigation or toilet flushing; however, systems for potable water or from high solid and microorganism wastewater such as  from the kitchen sink, require more complex designs and jurisdiction from local authorities.

seaweed thickeners

seaweed thickeners

Most seaweeds act as thickeners. The agarophyte red algae have the polysaccharide, agarose, which forms the supporting structure in their cell walls.  Agarose together with smaller molecules called agaropectin form the gelling agent of agar, a vegetarian alternative to gelatins. Kanten is similar to agar 

Sous seaweed recipes

Sous seaweed recipes

“Sous seaweed” recipes utilize the technique of sous vide cooking without adding plastic to our environment. Sous vide involves cooking any food in a vacuum sealed plastic bag at low water temperature for hours.  This ensures that vital nutrients are retained in the food and 

Deep Adaptation for Climate crisis anxiety

Deep Adaptation for Climate crisis anxiety

Jem Bendell’s (2018) conceptual paper, Deep Adaption: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy, resonates with my experience as a palliative care physician for 25 years; I faced some of the toughest challenges in helping patients and their families accept the inevitability of death, discuss their emotions and if possible, make space for alternative hope in whatever way they defined it. In his paper, I found similar psychological reframing to help those with climate crisis anxiety accept the inevitability of social collapse, face their fears and emotions, grieve and hopefully regroup in ways that may help their resilience, capacity for relinquishment and restoration. By listing how the under-reporting of destruction by climate scientists has not adequately prepared society for the non-linear changes our world faces, he explains why sustainability experts semi-censor this information, perpetuating denial. Then, despite what the majority of climate crisis research presents, he outlines how the Deep Adaptation Agenda for acceptance of inevitable social collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction can alleviate anxiety, allowing us to give time for more meaningful reflection and evolution of our approach to climate crisis.

Deep adaptation in a post-sustainability situation

Firstly, he criticizes how current climate adaptation literature overemphasizes how to sustain our current societies as they face “manageable” climate problems. Indeed, he argues that our climate problems are not manageable, leaving us in an unstable post-sustainability situation (Bendell, 2018). Furthermore, he accuses the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) of underestimating the degree and pace of change until their most recent revelations of inevitable marine ecosystem failure induced by global warming and loss of sea ice (IPCC, Sept. 2019). With the loss of sea ice come exponential, non-linear, “runaway climate change” of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, decline of marine food webs and biodiversity, and increase in natural disasters that have a negative impact on agriculture.  Subsequently, climate change has and will continue to bring about starvation, destruction, migration, disease and conflict for resources. He slightly counters this bleakness with some hope in biological carbon capture through planting trees, restoring agricultural topsoil, seagrass and kelp forest restoration and no-till intensive grazing rotation for healthy grasslands. However, he further notes that there is no scientific consensus, nor adequate monitoring on emissions or risk of release of methane (a greenhouse gas far more potent than CO2), especially methane hydrates frozen on the arctic sea floor, that would seriously escalate social collapse.

Creative deep adaptations

Bendell intends to encourage emotional processing and psychological opening of space for “creative deep adaptations” (Gosling & Case, 2016) or “radical hope” (Gosling, 2016), a redirected alternative hope in the face of the inevitable social collapse which is counter to the underestimation or “erring on the side of least drama” (Brysse et al., 2013) that most climate scientists report. This hope has potential for humanity to seek a post-consumerist way toward closer relationships with nature and people (Eisenstein, 2013). In his 25 years of experience as an academic lecturer, he finds that mature students can transcend the initial emotions of depression, anger or apathy; shed their concerns about conforming with the status quo; and eventually go forward with new creativity and collective kindness (Bendell, 2018). He argues that this, however uncomfortable but necessary, approach aligns with fewer people today believing that their children will have a better future (Stokes, 2017). He further argues that climate scientists and academic institutions have for too long fostered a social norm to appear effective and progressive with sustainability despite decades of investment not producing net positive outcomes for our populations and ecosystems (Bendell, 2018). Simply said, they have instead fostered denial.

Framing after denial

Thus, in his section “framing after denial”, the author outlines the Deep Adaptation Agenda with conceptual maps to foster resilience, relinquishment and restoration. Already, organizations such as the IPCC, UN Global Adaptation and Paris Accord lead Global Goal on Adaptation (2015) focus on strategies to increase capacity for societies and economies to adapt to climate change under a new umbrella of “disaster risk reduction”. Although these efforts to spur renewal and innovative thinking, at times drawing from complex biological ecosystems observed to overcome disturbances (Brand & Jax, 2017), can increase capacity, he warns that  focus should be directed toward psychological resilience rather than material progress. This psychological resilience or “bouncing back” (Bendell, 2018) from adversity, trauma, tragedy or threats requires some creative reinterpretation of identity and priorities, or a relinquishment of valued norms and behaviours in order to survive and not make matters worse. For example, decreased expectations for consumption, withdrawal from coastlines and shutting down of industries that we have relied on but must now let go of are required. Subsequently, restoration of a way of life our ancestors lived in harmony with our ecosystem may emerge through rewilding of our lands, non-electronic play, and connection with the seasons in what we eat and how we live.

Future research

Finally, as in all academic papers, he addresses the future of research in this Deep Adaptation Agenda. Ironically, he admits that whether his concepts of social collapse from climate change ring true or not, his future career as an academic, amounts to a lose-lose situation for future funders and research partners. Despite his career being at stake, Bendell found redirection in taking an unpaid sabbatical to write this occasional paper: occasional papers are released by the Institute of Leadership and Sustainability at the University of Cumbria, UK, to promote discussion on themes that matter most to staff and students. Subsequently, he stopped research on corporate sustainability. Instead, he focuses now on political leadership and communications, and he works on systems to enable re-localisation of economies, local currencies such as neighbours bartering products for services, and support for community development. Indeed, the future for academics such as him is to not waste more time seeking prestigious publications but reflect on how their findings might inform efforts for more massive and urgent pursuit of resilience, relinquishment and restoration (Bendell, 2018).

In all, Bendell forces a paradigm shift in climate and sustainability research to accept inevitable social collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction in order to pave the way for resilience, relinquishment and restoration in the face of climate crisis. His perspective may be unpopular, but it can redirect hope for those facing climate crisis anxiety in a more helpful way.


Bendell, Jem (2018) Deep adaptation: a map for navigating climate tragedy. Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS) Occasional Papers Volume 2. University of Cumbria, Ambleside, UK. 

Brand, F. S., and Jax, K. (2007), Focusing the meaning(s) of resilience: resilience as a descriptive concept and a boundary object. Ecology and Society, vol.12, issue 1, p.23.

Brysse, K., Reskes, N., O’Reilly, J. and Oppenheimer, M. (2013), Climate change prediction: Erring on the side of least drama? Global Environmental Change, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp.327-337.

Eisenstein, C. (2018 ), Climate – A New Story, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.

Gosling, J. (2016), Will we know what counts as good leadership if ‘Things Fall Apart?” Questions prompted by Chinua Achebe’s novel, Leadership, vol.13, Issue 1, pp.35-47.

Gosling, J. and Case, P. (2013) Social dreaming and ecocentric ethics: Sources of non-rational insight in the face of climate change catastrophe, Organization, vol.20, issue 5, pp.705-721.

IPCC, 2019: Summary for Policymakers. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.- O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N. Weyer (eds.)]. In press.

Stokes, B. (2017), Global Publics More Upbeat About the Economy, But many are pessimistic about children’s future, Pew Global, 5 June.

File:Resilience Enhanced through Adaptation, Action-learning and Partnerships (REAAP) (26389812893).jpg. (2018, July 31). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 22:14, October 15, 2019 from,_Action-learning_and_Partnerships_(REAAP)_(26389812893).jpg&oldid=313081447.

Biomimicry inspired sustainable innovations

Biomimicry inspired sustainable innovations

Biomimicry, design ideas that biological forms and processes refined through evolution, can inspire sustainable innovations provided that the designs incorporate product life cycles and ecosystem limitations. E. Kennedy, D. Fecheyr-Lippens, B-K Hsiung, P. Niewiarowski and M. Kolodziej (2015) in Biomimicry: A Path to Sustainable Innovation 

Climate Change and Mental Health in Canada

Climate Change and Mental Health in Canada

K. Hayes, P. Berry, and K. Ebi in Factors Influencing the Mental Health Consequences of Climate Change in Canada (2019) provide an insightful scoping review of peer-reviewed and grey source literature to support their assessment of mental health risks and impacts from climate change. More 

Eelgrass meadows: nurseries  and carbon storage all in one

Eelgrass meadows: nurseries and carbon storage all in one

Eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows provide food and protection for over 80% of commercially important fish, crabs and shellfish, serving as spawning grounds, nurseries and habitats. Instead of finding soggy diapers in these nurseries, you may only see slimy greenish brown thin strands waving in the water or lying on the sand at low tide; however, they are as vital as rainforests to halt climate change. In fact, they capture and store carbon even more than terrestrial forests. Salt marshes and eelgrass meadows of B.C. sequester the equivalent of the emissions of 200,000 passenger cars (Island Trust Conservancy 2014). Although eelgrass and seaweeds make up only 0.05% of the biomass available on the earth, they can provide 50-71% of the world’s storage of carbon (Chung et al., 2011).

eelgrass Gabriola

Mapping Eelgrass Meadows on Gabriola Island

Luckily, there are many resources to help protect these sensitive habitats. For one, Islands Trust Conservancy mapped eelgrass meadows extensively until 2014 on almost every shoreline of Gabriola Island and other southern Gulf Islands of B.C. From their website, one can see continuous, patchy, sparse and potential restoration areas around Gabriola (see Figure 1). Subsequently, Sea Change Marine Conservation Society reported the following about Gabriola in their 2017-2018 Gulf Islands Habitat Survey Report: Degnen Bay required removal of underwater debris, and along with Descanso Bay and Sandwell Bay, require designated boat moorage with signage about eelgrass habitat both on shore and in the bay on floats.

Eelgrass Gabriola Island west
Eelgrass Gabriola East
Figure 1 Gabriola Island eelgrass meadow maps (Courtesy Islands Trust Conservancy, 2013).

Attention Boaters and Beachcombers

Furthermore, Sea Change Marine Conservancy Society’s website, state that boat anchors and their lines scour eelgrass meadows and leave large swaths of barren tracks. For boaters who fish, essentially, their anchors are destroying the valuable fish stocks they seek. Also, mooring buoys and swimming docks can cause the same damage. Moreover, Mayne Island Conservancy Society website,, provides information for boaters such as anchoring at depths greater than 6 metres (20 ft.) and avoiding dropping anchor  in the same area if the anchor or prop pulls up eelgrass. Most responsible boaters use a conservation buoy consisting of a helical screw anchor, buoyant anchor line, or a float to keep the line from dragging on the bottom. Likewise, beach combers should control their dogs and resist trampling the eelgrass.

Sea Change Marine Conservancy Society video on protecting and restoring eelgrass meadows

Unfortunately, other pressures such as water pollution, shoreline erosion and global warming also contribute to loss of eelgrass meadows.

Now, the next time you scan an eelgrass meadow at low tide, reflect that you are witnessing a nursery, spawning ground, and one of the most efficient biological processes to halt climate change. Learn to recognize and protect these sensitive yet vital ecosystems.


Chung, I.K., Beardall, J., Mehta, S., Sahoo, D., Stojkovic, S., (2011). Using marine macroalgae for carbon sequestration: a critical appraisal. J. Appl. Phycol. 23 (5), 877–886.

Interior Storm Windows

Interior Storm Windows

Interior storm windows offer energy savings comparable to replacement windows but at more than half the cost. Our rustic cabin has some very old period windows that add charm but also leak heat. Also, we live on an island with no window supplier. To us,