Jonathan Brun

Circle of Life

I just graduated from engineering and am looking into getting into sustainability. The best website and company I have ever seen in this regard is Interface’s, which is a leader in the field. Their website can be found here: http://www.interfacesustainability.com/

I also found a website that carries informaiton about many different people in the field ranging from peace groups to microbiologists: http://www.big-picture.tv/

There is no doubt in my mind that sustainablity and capitalism go hand-in-hand. Yes, you can make short-term gains by polluting. But it is in your interest to mimick nature by being efficient, versatile, recyclable and inclusive. You save money by not wasting resources, every piece of paper has value. All matter, ideas and time represents energy and energy is the purest form of wealth. I will build on this idea in my next article. I have to go watch the world cup.

Published on June 30, 2006

Irak, News Media

Cool website which is in reality just a cartoon about media, irak and the usa. It is written by Anthony Lappé who started www.gnn.tv, a very cool news site that carries a lot of stuff you don’t see in mainstream media. Take if for what you will, but the articles often are very truthful and interesting.

The Comic strip is located at: http://smithmag.us/shootingwar/

Published on June 30, 2006

The Tipping Point

I recently read the book The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. If was pretty cool and disciussed many things of interest. Most notably, this book seems to have fallen into a new category of non-fiction, which I like to call: Synthesization. Meaning, there are these non-fiction books which have been topping bestseller lists despite their serious content. They do not actually present much new “data”, but rather, they take many different studies and synthesize them into a coherent image that is applicable to real life. Such books, which I have recently read are: The Inginuity Gap, The Tipping Point, Collapse, The White Man’s Buden, and The Weather Makers.

They have very broad relevence to society and science. Below is a brief email I sent to the author of Malcolm Gladwell, if you are familiar with the topic. Tell me what you think.

Malcolm Gladwell,

I have just read your book The Tipping Point, and found it quite interesting. What came to mind when reading the section about the Salesmen, Maven and Connectors was the new website called Facebook.com. Much like mySpace and other personal sites it displays peoples lists of friends and shows the different networks that they are part of. But what is of most interest is that some people may have upwards of 300 people listed as friends but have few wallposts, which are comments that are posted by users but are visible to the entire community. It has been said that you judge your love by the amount of people that love you, not the amount of people you love.

This brings me back to the point that as you discussed in your book, Connectors have a knack at making connections with people, but more than that they have knack at making connections that people remember. So some of these people who list 300 friends, but have 50 comments are unlikly to be connectors despite their apparent popularity; whereas someone with 150 friends, but 150 comments may in fact be much more connected. In other words, these people have deeper connections because it is other people who feel a need to contact that one person and not that one person to continuously stay in contact with all his 150 friends.

Another side note that I would have liked to see some case studies about is poverty. As far as I know there have not been any places where a Tipping Point has been reached regarding poverty. Many IMF and World Bank economists claim to be able to start a poor economy on the road to growth by injected an initial supply of capital, framing some key laws and regulations and then letting the country take care of itself. This has never worked despite claims to the contrary. Post WWII Japan took off because of western technology, but the ideas and laws regarding industry were largely home-grown. This failed idea of applying western thought to poor contries is well outlined in the book The White Man’s Burden by William Easterly. So do you think it is possible to apply the theory of the Tipping Point on a large society wide scale, particularly in a society to which you are not native to? Meaning, can you make a third world society sustainable by identifying the Tipping Points of that society with the help of locals and research and then applying your findings to the country as a whole? Just a few thoughts.

Hope your work continues well and that there are more interesting books and articles to come.

Regards,

Jonathan Olivier BRUN

Published on June 26, 2006

Fair Trade and Second Cup

Second Cup is Canada’s equivalant of Starbucks, though we also have them too. Second Cup’s coffee is not labeled as Fair-Trade and after reading an article about their CEO wanting to make them more friendly, I wrote to Second Cup about Fair Trade coffee. The following exchange occured between myself and Second Cup. Post your thoughts.

—–Original Message—–
From: Jonathan Brun [mailto:jbrun@adpmemorial.ca]
Sent: Sunday, June 18, 2006 3:29 PM
To: secondcupcustomercare@cara.com
Subject: Fair-Trade Coffee

Dear Second Cup,

As a once loyal customer, I came upon an article outlining the recent
acquisition of Second Cup by Cara and the new “friendlier” direction
that the CEO wishes to take Second Cup to. This tactic was desired
because it would allow Second Cup to differentiate itself from
Starbucks and other coffee chains. However, upon visiting a Second
Cup location, one thing that quickly became apparent is that Second
Cup does not seem to use fair-trade coffee. How can Second Cup claim
to be “friendly” when it does not even have the decency (which
Starbucks does – not to mention their health plan) to provide coffee
that came from a source who has sufficient revenue to live decently.
I will no longer visit second cup, or any Cara location until this
practice is changed.

Regards,

Jonathan Olivier BRUN
jbrun@adpmemorial.ca
514.712.0637

——–

On 19-Jun-06, at 1:40 PM, Campbell, Allison wrote:

Dear Jonathan Brun,

Thank you for your interest in Second Cup and our coffee sourcing practices.

Is it possible for a coffee to be fairly traded without the “Fair Trade”
trademark on its package? The answer is definitely “yes!” At Second Cup,
we define fairly traded coffee as paying premium prices for superior coffee
to co-operative mills and to farmers in coffee growing regions.

Our Second Cup sourcing philosophy is simple: we pay a premium price for
superior coffee beans. We understand that you cannot grow superior quality
coffee on an on-going basis unless you have sound practices that take care
of both your people and your land. Consequently, we are pleased to pay a
well-earned premium for the coffee we buy.

As we are focused on buying only the highest quality coffees, Second Cup has
spent years nurturing and developing long-term relationships with farmers,
co-operatives and processors in order to secure the world’s finest coffee.
The prices we pay are far above the current world market price and often
exceed the price offered by traditional non-profit organizations, coffee
companies and commercial roasters. Our specialty coffees are in a class of
their own and cannot be compared in any way, including sourcing practices,
to supermarket brands.

Second Cup buys only the best mountain grown Arabica coffee, and we purchase
the majority of our coffee from small farms. We work diligently to support
the best practices in procurement, and where possible, we commit to
multi-year contracts, up front, to ensure farmers a premium for producing
top quality beans for an extended period of time. Here are just a few
examples of our coffee partners around the world:

* Second Cup works with a number of “best practices
estates” such as La Minita in Costa Rica and Fazenda Vista Alegra in Brazil.
These farms promote quality conditions for their workers, including health
care, education, accommodation, and superior wages.

* Cafe Volcan Baru is one of the most respected farms in
Panama. In addition to paying premium wages to its workers, the family-run
business operates its own government-approved school, as well as health
programs for harvesters.

* Second Cup buys directly from cooperatives such as
Exportadora de Cafe Condor, which is primarily owned by 17,000 coffee
producers. Our relationship with this co-op ensures that the substantial
premium paid for exceptional quality is transferred to reward the producers.

While Second Cup pays a premium price for superior coffee, we understand
that trade can only go so far in helping improve lives in marginalized
communities. That’s why Second Cup has teamed up with Foster Parents Plan,
which is an expert in community improvement. Since 1996, Second Cup has
invested more than $800,000 directly into coffee growing communities through
Foster Parents Plan, and our efforts have supported everything from
essential vaccination and nutrition programs to improvements in health and
sanitation, agricultural training and school initiatives.

While Second Cup is the leader in specialty coffee in Canada, we recognize
that within both Canada and the world we are a very small player. However,
that has not stopped us from establishing some of the most progressive
approaches to sourcing and procuring the world’s finest coffee. Second Cup
offers one of several responsible options within the coffee industry. We are
very committed to our trading relationships and to advancing the well-being
of all those who grow and harvest our superior coffee beans. To us, it just
makes good sense. If you require additional information, please visit our
website at www.secondcup.com or stop by your nearest Second Cup cafe to pick
up one of our Solid Grounds brochures.

Best Regards,

Allison Campbell
Guest Services
Second Cup

——-

Hello,

I appreciate the quick and detailed response to my inquiry. Yes, of course it is possible to buy coffee at higher prices without going through the Fair Trade label and from what you have sent me, it seems like this is the case. I am not an expert on coffee sourcing or quality, but I do have some concerns remaining. Though I trust Second Cup as much as the next corporation, it is often difficult to take what certian companies say at face value.

For that reason, we have seen the emergence of various regulatory bodies set-up in different industries such as LEED for energy efficient buildings , Forest Stewardship council for forest management, Organic Foods Washington for Organic Foods, and Fair-Trade Coffee for fair trade. I am not one to say whether these organizations have the best practices and guidelines, though there is certainly always room for improvement. The important thing about these organizations is that they provide a clear certifiable guideline for both consumers and companies. There have been rival organizations that have been set-up by various companies to mimic these ones, but usually with less regulation – thus giving the consumer the illusion of proper sourcing, when it is not really there.

I have little choice but to trust what you have outlined above and hope that these practices continue. I would be very interested to see the actual prices that Second Cup pays for its coffee in contrast to other premium coffee sources. Is that available in the Investors Report of Cara? I assume Cara is publicly traded. Obviously you do not carry the same beans as Forgers, which would be rather innaproriate considering the price of a coffee at Second Cup. Again let me reiterate that I am very pleased with the practices outlined below and will probably visit Second Cup, but that you may want to consider the merits of a certification of some kind that is internationally recognizable, whether it is Fair-Trade or something else.

Regards,

Jonathan Olivier BRUN
jbrun@adpmemorial.ca
514.712.0637

Published on June 23, 2006

St. Jean Baptiste, Quebec’s National Holiday

With Quebec’s national holiday fast approaching, I decided to reflect upon what it means to be Quebecois and a Canadian. The celebrations that take place on June 24th across Quebec act as a reminder that being from Quebec, or living in Quebec, is a unique experience. Sadly, I came to realize that regardless of your religious beliefs, Quebec heritage and place of origin, it is difficult to feel truly part of the celebrations on our national holiday unless you are “pure laine” or at the very least, brought up in a French neighborhood at a French school.

Unless your mother tongue is “Quebec” French, the French community ostracizes you. This sad truth is a display of Quebecois insecurity with being different from the North American English community. Leading to the point that if you are not a “pure laine” you will not be embraced to the same extent at events.

In stark contrast, on St. Patrick’s day, Ireland’s national holiday, anyone can take part in the festivities regardless of their proximity to any Irish heritage. It is no mystery that Ireland and Quebec retain similarities; both were oppressed by the British, struggled to survive in a global community, possess their own unique culture and have similar rural origins. The difference is most visible in the way that they are capable of allowing people to be Irish on their national holiday. I distinctly remember a bunch of Irishmen in Brussells who demanded that my friend and I accompany them to a local Irish Pub. I had never really spent any time with people from Ireland and had only the stereotypes we see in movies: dancing on tables, singing, and drinking.

Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Promptly after arriving at the bar and ordering pints, we were singing and dancing. However, what struck me most was their welcoming attitude. They took in a couple of young, less than hip Canadians, for no particular reason. Somehow, I find this hard to imagine with a bunch of French Canadians doing the same, let alone on the National Holiday.

The main thrust of this brief cultural comparison is that Quebec should attempt to transform St. Jean Baptiste Day into a celebration of Quebec culture and values similar to that of St. Patrick’s day. It is true that St. Patty’s has become a reason for us to drink ourselves silly while we attend festive parades, but it also acts as a vessel to remind cities across the world of the existence of Ireland and the Irish people. Instead of promoting federalism in Quebec, perhaps we should promote Quebec in Canada and around the world.

Quebec has produced tremendous culture in the form of films, theatre, literature and music. The majority of high quality Canadian films come from Quebec. Tourists from around the world, and most notably from the United States come to visit our enclave of French liberalism. Many people have an idea of what Quebec is, great food, great culture and a certain “joie de vivre”; I am just not sure what Quebecois think Quebec is.

I recently listened to a sovereigntist radio station where they were debating the various merits of separation from Canada. It became quickly apparent that there was little to no consenus on why we should separate, how we should separate and what would happen afterwards. One guest suggested that a sovereign country would allow us to spend more money on social programs while another guest proposed that after a split, Quebec would have to become more economically right wing to show that we are capable of surviving on our own. Similar contradictions arose about Quebec’s possibilities regarding culture pre and post separation. More than disagreement, it was a display of a deep lack of understanding of what a sovereign state is, does and requires.

Most separatists simply want to separate on some fantasy that all will be better without a federal government, but fail to come to grips with the numerous problems that already exist at the provincial level and that we, as a community, have been unable to solve. They neglect to mention how they will build an army, embassies, and all the other responsibilities of the current Federal government. Sovereignty in and of itself is not necessarily a bad idea, but to be sovereign of Canada without a clear plan is.

Anyone in the third world would kill to come to Canada, let alone people in the first and second world. To separate from this great nation and try and improve on it, seems a little bit cocky. I also cannot stand the notion that two people, who do not share the same language cannot live and thrive together. If that were true, then perhaps Quebec should be separated into French and English enclaves where people can be at peace in their native tongue. Rather, it is the combination of French and English heritage that makes Quebec and Canada so strong. To give that up would destroy, not only Canada, but also Quebec.

Returning to the thrust of the essay; the idea that an English person cannot fully celebrate St. Jean Baptiste on June 24th is analogous to the concept that French and English Canadians cannot coexist. Our hesitancy to accept English-speaking Quebecers as Quebecers and French-speaking Quebecers as Canadians is not acceptable and is a pin in the Canada’s back. This pin, once removed, would allow us to move forwards with more power, drive and energy. We need start at a younger age and push the children more. We must encourage more exchanges between Quebec and other provinces, insist upon more French language courses at all Canadian schools and make French a prerequisite on all signs in Canada. Perhaps this year, French Quebecers can honor the memory of their patron saint and baptize all Canadians as Quebecers, if only for the the one day that is our national holiday.

Published on June 19, 2006