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HEAVEN & EARTH COLLAPSIBLE
This one may be super-convenient to pack up come wintertime, but it'll totally disappoint you if your ground's not level. Plus, some stores sell a version that's made of vinyl (softened with hormone-disrupting phthalates), which is a bad idea. If you do get an H&E barrel, make sure to opt for one made of polyester or nylon. $99.
I tested out this rain barrel last summer, and it drove me nuts. Yes, the spigot provides clearance for watering cans. But without a second spout at ground level, it's impossible to empty this sucker out without turning it on its head, so a lot of funky water can fester on the bottom. I thought I'd drained it completely, but I hadn't, and it froze and split over the winter. Did I mention that the diverter is a pain in the ass to install, since a hole saw isn't included? Made in the U.S. No recycled content. $160.
There are a lot of fake wood rain barrels on the market. This flat-backed one, made in Canada, will work just fine if you have room to rest it directly under your downspout. Otherwise, it's not the barrel for you, since it doesn't offer a diverter. You also have to clean the screen periodically to keep it from clogging. There's only one spigot and it's low to the ground, so this barrel has to be put on a stand to access the 189 litres it holds. $120.
Let's face it, most rain barrels are not the prettiest things. Algreen's are probably the most style-conscious out there and great for high-visibility spots. Plus they have planter-friendly lids for cascading greenery. These barrels (from 190 to 380 litres) are built to withstand Canadian winters, meaning they shouldn't crack like others do. They're made an hour outside Toronto, and the charcoal and brown models have 15 per cent recycled content. Bonus: the company offers a cool pump kit to help get H20 from the barrel out through a hose. $199.
If you're in the market for a new rain barrel and aren't so fussed about its appearance, look for one that gives twice - once to the earth (by recycling rain) and once to charity. Rainbarrel.ca sells über-eco upcycled food barrels (most are 220 litres and $60) largely through non-profits as a fundraising tool. To find a barrel near you or a DIY barrel kit, head to this website.
RiverSafe barrels raise funds for the non-profit water protectors at RiverSides. These are super-sturdy and hold 460 litres, and the black ones are 100 per cent recycled. (You can score one at Evergreen Brick Works or riversides.org.) $225.
Facing a Water World
What if we had a South Africa-style truth and reconciliation process for the earth?
If you've entered Toronto's underbelly to catch a subway this spring, you've likely spent time making eye contact with souls standing knee-deep in floodwaters.
Before the Drowning World photo exhibit (part of Contact) wraps up on May 31, a panel of leading-edge thinkers, moderated by Catherine Wright, toured the installation in the Queen's Park subway station and gathered at MaRS on Sunday, May 25, to dig into some big-picture Qs on climate change. Ecoholic talked to the panelists about the coming deluge and what we can do to rescue humanity.
"Western industrialized cultures have lost a sense of our deep connection with and dependence upon earth's biological and geological systems. We see ourselves as separate from everything else, as the only subjects with rights. Accordingly, we developed economic and cultural practices that sanctioned a profound exploitation of earth's ‘resources' and disruption of earth's self-sustaining systems.
"We need to reinvent the human, radically, at the species level so that our economic, cultural, political and social systems and institutions operate in ways that are mutually enhancing for humanity and the rest of creation."
theology and environment prof, U of T
"Our drowning world is a direct result of over-consumption. A small proportion of the world's population - mainly those in the affluent and developed world - use up most of the world's resources and produce most of the greenhouse gas emissions.
"We will have to reassess the global obsession with ‘growth.' But the problem is that the impacts of climate change can feel distant. Often people will only respond to important global issues when they begin to feel close to their lives. Some sort of mass global movement is needed, but I do not have any easy answers about how this might happen."
award-winning photographer of Drowning World
"We've changed the chemistry of the atmosphere and ocean so much through burning fossil fuels that we've destabilized both weather patterns and the planet's reserves of ice. Result: gushers of rain where it used to be dry; ocean where it used to be shore.
"It seems to me that it's not just the world that's drowning: we are, too - but in guilt, blame, anger, fear. These are powerful, paralyzing emotions that keep us from moving on and finding solutions.
"So I've been toying with the idea of forgiveness. It's capable of transforming all that negative energy into a flood of relief and a conviction that it's possible to move on. What would it feel like if we could forgive ourselves for what we've done to the planet? Forgive each other? What if we had a South Africa-sytle truth and reconciliation process for the earth?"
science journalist and author of Sea Sick
"Humanity appreciates the earth as merely an intricate machine with a limitless capacity to buffer our industrial aspirations.
"Our lifeline will be the cultivation of biospiritual moral imaginations, fed by empirical data from modern science and the meaningfulness of sacred wisdom traditions. This will allow humanity to appreciate the earth anew and learn to live in ways that will allow abundant life for all in our planetary community."
eco-spirituality teacher, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association
"Like a frog in a pot of slowly warming water, we're paralyzed. It's literally difficult to believe climate disruption is as bad as it is, and easy to deny. It runs counter to so much of our world view: tomorrow will be better than today, human ingenuity knows no bounds, nature is ours to control, and so on.
"Our minds will play lots of tricks to keep us from absorbing the uncomfortable truth that we're in deep, deep trouble. Add to denial's siren song the deep commitment of our institutions to keep existing capital and profits flowing.
"We need to wake up and find new ways of talking about climate that get past our cognitive block. Then change the rules of the market by putting a fee on carbon. That's it."
clean tech guru, author of Waking The Frog