Random Musings

The Blog of Katleya Young-Chin

keeping a positive green mind April 19, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kyoungchin @ 10:34 pm
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This year marks the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day. Every April 22, people around the world get together and host clean ups, have rallys for environmental causes, plant trees and generally try to create awareness for different environmental issues. Every day we see new studies confirming that we’re reaching out carrying capacity and climate change may or may not be reversible at this point.

It’s a bit scary to turn the news on and see another natural disaster (as a result of climate change) or a human-caused disaster such as the cruise ship that sank a few months ago. The Canadian Federal government is willfully ignorant to the fact that cutting environmental funding will not save anyone in the long run. It may save a few dollars in the short term, but the long lasting effects of cutting budgets, cancelling programs and changing long standing environmental legislation will be so detrimental, we probably can’t even fathom it at this point. The climate change deniers are still rampant in society and even on certain news programs and big industry seems to be carrying on with business as usual.

It’s a bit overwhelming, right? I know a lot of people who get depressed at the thought of all this piling up with no end in sight but sometimes the only solution is to keep your head down and focus on what you can change instead of what you can’t. Doing things in your own community can help change your mindset and put things into perspective. Worrying about things you cannot personally change (other than signing petitions and creating awareness) won’t do you any good. It makes more sense to focus on things you can change and once you accomplish those things you start to see a whole world of possibilities.

Personally, I volunteer for a non-profit organization in my community called Friends of One Mile Creek. It’s a small group that focuses on educating the community on the One Mile Creek that runs through our town. We’re dedicated to the revitalizing the creek and bringing it back to what it once was. We have 2 yearly creek clean ups; once for Earth Day and once in the fall along our Lake Ontario shoreline. The clean ups, while small, are great events that provide locals an opportunity to get involved and make a different in their community’s environmental well-being. We generally collect between 10-15 bags of garbage and at the end of the day it’s tangible proof that we’ve made a difference. This year, our clean up is on Saturday April 21, 2012 and we hope to have a great turn out.

So, this Earth Day, instead of feeling down about the state of things you cannot change, partake in a community event and surround yourself with like-minded, caring people. I’m sure it’ll boost your spirits!

For a list of Earth Day events in Canada please visit: Earth Day Canada


Cuba ’12

Filed under: Uncategorized — kyoungchin @ 2:04 pm
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This Reading Week I was lucky enough to visit Cuba. I would have preferred to take a more leisurely tour of the island but due to budget and time constraints I ended up buying an all inclusive package and went with my friend Serena, and her friend Sam.

The flight down arrived in the evening so our drive to the resort was in darkness. Having lived in Jamaica for the first 12 years of my life I had some idea of what the island would be like but I was still curious to see the area in daylight. Once we arrived and checked into our room we opened the patio door to see if we could hear the ocean. Little did we know that instead of  a warm sea breeze, we let in a huge cockroach! Frantic screams and a thrown shoe later, we finally killed the offending insect, tossed it back outside and went to bed.

The following morning we were greeted by the bright caribbean sunshine and our first real day began. We had breakfast and quickly made our way to the beach, fighting off other tourists for a spot on the lounge chairs. This is where we staked our claim for the rest of the week and every morning we made sure “our spot” was always secured with the strategically thrown towel and book. I’ve seen my share of beaches in various parts of the world, but this was definitely in the top 3. Beautiful white sand stretched out as far as the eye could see and the blue-green-teal water was warm and inviting.

There was a mangrove to the right of the beach that was truly an amazing thing to experience. I’ve never swam in a mangrove and snorkelling only a foot above the sea grass, fish and crabs was awesome. My only wish is that I brought a waterproof camera to snap photos of the underwater ecosystem.

I would love to go back to Cuba again soon, to visit the capital, Havana, and get to enjoy the people and culture more. Whenever I travel to a new country, I like to experience the culture through their food and the people, however in a resort setting it’s a bit hard to come by an authentic experience. Once I’ve saved up a bit more money, I think a second trip purely for the culture is in order.


Public transit for all! April 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kyoungchin @ 7:41 pm
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For the first time in 15 years since I moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), I was able to use public transportation. In all those years, it wasn’t for lack of trying, but instead a lack of actual means of getting from point a to point b without the use of a personal vehicle. I’ve been able to ride my bike in town to go to the bank, post office or the corner store, but being able to leave the confines of my quaint little town was absolutely impossible via that route. The highway is a good 20 minute drive and the nearest city, St. Catharines or Niagara Falls, is at least 30 minutes by car depending on your final destination. There are also many retirees in the town, many of whom don’t drive anymore and rely on friends or an expensive taxi ride to help them get to other parts in the region. There have been short-live shuttle services that were aimed at the elderly in the town to allow them to go into St. Catharines to run errands or just have a day outside the town, but all of them have failed leaving the community virtually stranded. It’s almost comical how even some developing country has some kind of transit system, yet NOTL in the great developed country of Canada is still stuck in the dark ages.

In addition to not being able to take public transportation in NOTL in the past, I’ve also been forced to pay for a UPASS bus pass in my 4 years at Brock University and also this one year at Niagara College. It’s part of a subsidy program where no one is allowed to opt-out. I remember being outraged in my first year at Brock – having to pay about $135 for the one year UPASS and also having to pay for a parking pass what was equal to or slightly more expensive than the bus pass. I understood that it was to give people who had access to transit the incentive to take the bus instead of driving, but when I made my case to the school, that I had absolutely NO way of having any use for the UPASS, they shut me down. There was no chance to opt-out, no chance for a slight reimbursement, maybe even a discount on my parking pass, nothing. I’ve since done a quick calculation and with all my Brock and Niagara College years combined I’ve paid almost $600 on a service I cannot use, even if I wanted to.

Well, in the beginning of April the Town of NOTL finally stepped out of the dark ages and into the light. The Town finally made a deal with Niagara Classic Cabs (a local taxi and specialty fleet service) to start NOTL Transit. Now there are buses that do a loop of Historic Old Town (mostly for tourists, but also some of the elderly local can benefit from the route), and another loop from the Old Town to Niagara College where users can connect to the other bus networks in the region.

On April 9th, 2012, I took the bus to school for the first time and I was the only passenger onboard. It was almost anti-climactic stepping onto the bus only to see a sea of empty seats. Nevertheless, it was a great ride, nice and smooth and fast, which isn’t bad for a ride that cost me about $600 (haha). It was nice to relax on my way to school and I was dropped off a good 15 minutes before class so I had time to grab a coffee before heading to my class.

Since then I’ve taken the bus once more and there were a couple more people onboard. I do hope that with more publicity and awareness, the bus becomes more travelled and they can branch out to new routes. It seems like the company has all the right communication tools in place so it’s just a matter of time before the bus from Niagara-on-the-Lake becomes an added fixture to the town. They have a twitter account @notltransit (I actually tweeted about my first ride and they retweeted me), commercials, articles in the local newspapers, and a new transit route app on the way. As their commercial says, they’re aimed at keeping our community connected and my greatest hope is they succeed.

NOTL Transit Commercial


Go Native! April 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kyoungchin @ 2:14 pm
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Ever feel like you’re wasting your money and precious water by turning on the sprinkler just to save your lawn from getting burnt to a crisp in the summer? That’s because you sort of are. The easiest way to get your lawn off life support is by getting rid of it all together. No more watering, no more weekly mowing, no more fertilizer or weed killers to keep it looking lush and green. The solution? Go native!

Native plants have adapted to this area over time so they can handle the climate, the soil, and local pests better than horticultural and non-native plants. They don’t need extra watering, or special fertilizers and therefore don’t require the constant care and upkeep of lawns and some non-native plants.

They provide great habitat for wildlife as well as food for pollinators, which are important to our own food systems. Birds and insects (especially bees) tend to prefer native plants and if there is a variety of different plants that flower at different times through the growing season, it is much more beneficial to them. In this area, we have vineyards and fruit orchards that need pollination to be successful. By planting native species, especially in highly urbanized areas you’re providing a supplementary source of food for them.

Along with habitat enhancement, native plants provide opportunities for water quality improvement. Especially in residential settings, a large patch of native wildflowers, shrubs and ground cover provides a better filtration system than your usual lawn. Water off roofs, driveways, and down spouts will travel much faster over a well manicured lawn (which may or may not have fertilizers and pesticides on it) This water then runs straight to the nearest storm water sewer, which can often flow out into a creek or lake. Even small patches of native plants on your property can act like sponges as they slow down the water and absorb a lot – helping to prevent flash floods.

Native plants come in different heights and sizes and you can chose various kinds that will flower during all times of the season so it’s always colourful. You just have to chose appropriate plants for your garden’s soil and sun conditions and leave the rest up to nature. So, if you want to help the natural environment through creating habitat for wildlife and providing an increase in water quality and saving yourself some valuable time, energy and cost, your best bet is to go native!

Spring has finally sprung – if you want to get a head start on your native garden but aren’t sure which plants to choose or where to purchase them, click here and here!


the apathetic shall inherit the earth? February 1, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — kyoungchin @ 11:01 am
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All this craziness with SOPA, PIPA, ACTA, and now the Canadian version, Bill C-11, is quite unsettling. The fact that governments are more concerned with the “well-being” of corporations and wealthy people gaining more wealth over real issues like environmental crises, health care, education, and job creation isn’t a surprise, but it doesn’t make it any less depressing.

I remember watching the documentary The Corporation my first year in university and just being so disgusted. It wasn’t a new concept to me, but what really struck me was the analysis of ‘if a corporation is a person under legal terms, what kind of person would they be?’ The way many corporations could easily check off all the boxes under ‘Psychopath’ was quite scary to realize.

Perhaps what is most unsettling in all this is the vast majority of people who are either ignorant to the issues around them, or do know but are just apathetic. Apathy is quite possibly one of the most dangerous of emotions, or anti-emotions, for lack of a better term. The lack of motivation, passion, and absence of concern is something I believe will be one of humanities greatest downfalls. Yes, greed, hate, and violence are all the worst parts of humanity, but the state of indifference is arguably just as bad.

These past few weeks following the online news of all these bills/acts that would put an end to internet freedom and promote censorship have been both an eye opener and disappointing. For every person who tweets, ‘likes’, reblogs and spreads the word about SOPA/ACTA, etc., there are 5 more people who don’t know about it, just don’t care, or think it’s pointless to fight back. If you’re anything like me, you’d want to do something, no matter how small.

Need more info? Want to know how you can help?

More info on Canadian Bill C-11: here

Take action on Bill C-11: here

More info on ACTA (worldwide): here and here

Petitions you can sign: here and here


a little bit about me January 17, 2012

Filed under: about me — kyoungchin @ 8:38 pm

Keeping a blog is supposed to be one of the simplest things we can do online, however once we’re told to write about ourselves for an assignment, it suddenly seems like such a daunting task. At least it is for me. I’m fairly accustomed to blogging, however it usually involves my opinions on the latest film or tv episode of my favourite show, so this will be an interesting change for me.

If the blog title didn’t give it away, I’m Katleya Young-Chin – Kat for short – but I do enjoy when people can pronounce my full name and it’s usually a pleasant surprise to hear it once in a while. I’m 26 years old and currently a post-graduate student at Niagara College halfway through the Environmental Management and Assessment program. If I had any ideas of what direction I wanted to pursue before, they’ve been replaced with a brand new set of ideas and possibilities. This program sort of reminds me of that film, Sliding Doors, where the main character’s life is split in two and we see the two different directions her life takes whether she caught a train or missed it. (Though I should note, I hope my life doesn’t become as drama-filled as the film!)

At the beginning of the school year, one of my instructors told us that this program will allow us the opportunity to get a taste of all aspects of the many environmental divisions and really open our eyes to avenues we probably never even considered. Man, what she right! Not only have I had the chance to learn about new environmental areas, but also it’s shown me that certain paths I thought were too hard or too boring to go into, are really interesting and I actually do quite well in them. Now, I feel like I’m standing in a hallway with a dozen doors, each of which hold any number of amazing and/or terrifying possibilities behind them. It’s exciting and scary, but I think that’s what our lives are supposed to be like at this point, right?

The path that lead me to Niagara College wasn’t a direct route and it certainly wasn’t planned from the get-go. I completed my undergraduate degree at Brock University earning a BA Honors in Environment with a concentration in Human Geography. While there, I was fascinated by my environmental topics but was never sure where I would be able to use my knowledge in the future. Receiving an internship at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) in my 4th year of university was one of the best turns my life could have made at the time.  It opened up the door to so much more and for the first time there was no doubt that I had made the right decision choosing the environmental field. I extended my degree by a year to finish my thesis, and in the meantime was also offered a contract position with the NPCA to be a field assistant for the Niagara Areas Inventory (NAI) project. Having a full-time job in my field was amazing and after my first contract ended I was lucky enough to be able to apply and be accepted for a second year-contract for the project.

During my time with NPCA I was able to become certified in Ecological Land Classification (ELC) for Southern Ontario, which was the essential system used in the field for plant and animal inventory. Along with ELC, I’m also certified in Ontario Wetland Evaluation Systems (OWES) and have attended several plant identification workshops and an intense 4-day wetland restoration course. I love being out in the field and would much prefer to be slogging through a mucky slough forest than sitting at an office desk for 8 hours a day. These courses and certifications have allowed me to continue to pursue field-based positions, however with the economic downturn the environment takes a back seat and the environmental job pool dried up a bit.

Fast forward to January 2011 when I just happened to stumble upon the Niagara College’s post-grad programs online and decided fairly spontaneously to apply. If you know me at all, I’m a cautious person by nature and rarely make big life decisions on a whim, however I’m so glad I did. I was accepted in February and now here I am almost a year later, well into the program and absolutely loving it. I love the variation of courses and the chance to explore new areas I never thought I’d be able to dip my toe into. I love having the opportunity to share this experience with my fellow colleagues in this program and learn from each other. I still don’t have a clear picture of what I want to do once I graduate, but I think once I complete the program, the door I should take will reveal itself in good time.



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