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Green Santa ratings 2009

Sustainable City's list of who's been naughty and who's been nice in Nova Scotia.

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Ho, ho, et cetera. I'm a big recycler with no qualms about regifting or giving people junk from my basement for Christmas. So: a recycled column idea. I'm serializing last year's Sustainable Santa. Here are the eco-naughtiest and earthly nicest Nova Scotian individuals and organizations of 2009, according to local environmental activists, entrepreneurs and green citizenry.

What a difference a year makes: The most oft-nominated environmental nice guys in '09 are Darrell Dexter's NDP government. They announced $75 million in September to buy land for conservation; implemented the climate action plan with historic hard caps on Nova Scotia Power; set a goal of 25 percent renewable energy by 2020 (clap for yourself, energy minister Bill Estabrooks) and banned uranium mining. Now let's write these green elves asking for a fully implemented and effective renewable energy policy for next year.

Still on the NDP, Halifax (rookie-of-the-year) MP Megan Leslie models environmentalism on Parliament Hill. She's got the eco chops and activist roots most MPs lack.

The Grainery Food Co-op, a non-profit volunteer-run retailer on Agricola Street, gets a nod for its affordable organic, locally grown, produced and sold produce. It's also involved with Food Not Bombs, the free veg meal folks.

Speaking of good food, how about Tarek's Cafe on Robie? Tarek buys local veggies and chicken, and donates to numerous environmental and social justice groups like the St. Joseph's Children's Centre's anti-idling program and the Sierra Club.

For the second straight year the Halifax Cycling Coalition has been a very nice little organization, continuing its advocacy work and outreach to drivers offering two-wheeled love. HCC threw a now-legendary street party to launch HRM's bike week in June.

Clean Nova Scotia gets props for its energy efficiency program for households and small businesses, run with Summerhill in Toronto. The program exchanges inefficient lightbulbs and Christmas lights with efficient new ones, creating 105 green jobs for six months. Working with large retailers in 169 stores across the province, the program put in nearly 400,000 bulbs, saving enough energy to power 35,000 homes for a year.

Another new initiative of 2009 was Dalhousie's College of Sustainability, which opened in September with 300 students being nurtured with hands-on sustainability education in several faculties. UNESCO recognized the college as the world's best in sustainability education.

The only nominee from the informal sector of the Halifax economy are the bottle collectors. These folks take recyclable bottles out of the trash and exchange them for change. I love it when they come to my door---it's a thankless job.

Like last year, I received more nice nominations than naughty, but the latter is trending up. Here in naughty village we have none other than Darrell Dexter's NDP. Environmentalists single out John MacDonell, minister of natural resources, for allowing NewPage Port Hawkesbury to clear-cut and burn public forests for "green" energy.

Halifax mayor Peter Kelly makes the list again, this time for reversing his earlier support for the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes wilderness, which is called for in the HRM Regional Plan. After years of research and consultation to put the plan together, it took Kelly eight nanoseconds to side with developers' request to rezone the area for suburban housing.

HRM By Design gets its own spot here:the multi-year consultation process was supposed to usher in a new age of progressive planning. Environmentalists warned that the consultation process was phony pandering to developers. The plan got royal assent in November and we're looking at a potential doubling in height of the convention centre twin towers early next year. The environmental impact might be justified if the current convention centre approached capacity use, but it doesn't. Not even close.

This year I received some media nominations, most notably John Risley, a Clearwater Foods executive and columnist with Atlantic Business magazine. Risley came out hard from the climate denial camp, demanding we all "park this Al Gore-inspired junk science." His rant failed to debunk the scientific evidence of human-caused climate change, which is as universally accepted as anything in science ever has been.

The Chronicle-Herald's Paul Schneidereit also gets a nod for his ongoing climate change denial. Here is his self-conflicted logic: the science is inconclusive, and we should use video technology to solve the problem. The problem that isn't real, that is.

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