Baristas with developmental disabilities making brilliant coffee

Employees at the Coffee Shed's Surrey Place Centre location, from back left to front right: Mimi Yickman Yiu, Rachel Boardman, Paul Wong, Alexander Saab, Andrew Mathew.

At a local Toronto coffee shop, a group of baristas as tight-knit as you’ll ever find, brew up delicious coffee.  But more than that, the staff here are given purpose, life-skills, and a chance to make genuine connections with their peers.

 At the Coffee Shed, all of the baristas have developmental disabilities. And, thanks to an ingenious social enterprise model, they also run the place.

The Coffee Shed is part of the Common Ground Co-operative, which operates three such coffee kiosks in Toronto, a bakery called Lemon and Allspice that supplies the Coffee Sheds with their sweet treats, and a newly added toy-sanitization company, which sanitizes toys used in children’s behavioural therapy programs. The goal is for adults with developmental disabilities to call the shots and create their own workplace community: after training and apprenticing, staff members can get voted in as a “partner.” They draw an income and run the place as a business partnership.

And for the record — the coffee’s great.

Jennifer Warren, CBC

Check out this radio piece and article for more information, and how to support the Common Grounds Co-operative at their three Coffee Shed locations, and their upcoming bowl-a-thon fundraiser.

Nuclear Weapon Ban Signed at UN

Nuclear weapons are an existential threat to humanity. If they are used in violence it is likely that the planet would enter a period of nuclear winter – meaning that if you don’t die in the initial waves of explosions you’ll die from starvation. Not a good thing to think about.

Thankfully, yesterday 122 members of the United Nations signed a treaty committing them to a ban on nukes. Countries like the USA, France, and other nuke-loving countries didn’t sign it, still it sends a clear message: the rest of the world doesn’t want anybody to use nuclear weapons. The timing of the signing is quite symbolic given what Trump said during his speech at the UN earlier this week.

“The Treaty is an important step towards the universally-held goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. It is my hope that it will reinvigorate global efforts to achieve it,” he added, acknowledging the contributions made by civil society and the hibakusha – the atomic bomb survivors.

At the same time, Mr. Guterres, highlighted the difficult road ahead by recalling that there remain some 15,000 nuclear weapons in existence. “We cannot allow these doomsday weapons to endanger our world and our children’s future,” he said.

Read more.

Living Off the Grid in a Major City

Most people think living off the grid means living the countryside with your own well, reenable energy, and food source. The truth is that style of off the grid requires massive space to work (for example, a well needs a large area to collect water from), so that rural off the grid doesn’t work for everyone.

What is a person living in the city to do to get off the grid though?

Back in the 90s there was a competition throughout Canada to figure that out. One winner is still living in his house that is off the grid in Toronto.

“We promised to make the house self-sufficient and not use any non-renewable fuel,” Paloheimo said.

“Despite the home’s high-tech appearance, most of the products and systems are simple and straightforward,” said Chris Ives, CMHC project manager, said in a Toronto Healthy House report published after the house was built.

“Off-grid houses do not necessarily require hours of labour for upkeep. In fact, everything in the house is easy to maintain and available in today’s marketplace.”

Read more.

Learn Economics for Free in the Most Effective Way

carbon output

Economics is a large field filled with nuance – and assumptions. One of those assumptions is that environmental concerns and inequality are secondary to that of economic concerns. These assumptions are questioned in a new course prepared by an international team of economists called the core team. Their work is available for anybody around the world to download and use for free, unlike traditional economic textbooks. You can check it out at The Economy.

Traditional, wallet-busting introductory textbooks do cover topics like pollution, rising inequality, and speculative busts. But in many cases this material comes after lengthy explanations of more traditional topics: supply-and-demand curves, consumer preferences, the theory of the firm, gains from trade, and the efficiency properties of atomized, competitive markets. In his highly popular “Principles of Economics,” Harvard’s N. Gregory Mankiw begins by listing a set of ten basic principles, which include “Rational people think at the margin,” “Trade can make everybody better off,” and “Markets are usually a good way to organize economic activity.”

The core approach isn’t particularly radical. (Students looking for expositions of Marxian economics or Modern Monetary Theory will have to look elsewhere.) But it treats perfectly competitive markets as special cases rather than the norm, trying to incorporate from the very beginning the progress economists have made during the past forty years or so in analyzing more complex situations: when firms have some monopoly power; people aren’t fully rational; a lot of key information is privately held; and the gains generated by trade, innovation, and finance are distributed very unevenly. The core curriculum also takes economic history seriously.

Read more.

Trans Fats Ban in Canada Starting in 2018

fries

Trans fats are really bad for you and governments around the world are starting to ban them. Canada just announced that they too will be banning trans fats alongside the United States next year. The ban is expected to improve the health of the nation, the Heart & Stroke foundation claims that 12,000 heart attacks will be prevented in the next 20 years thanks to the ban.

Eat well everyone!

The oils are the main source of trans fats in foods that raise levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, which can take a toll on our heart health.


It will apply to all foods sold in the country, including imported products and foods prepared and served in restaurants and food service establishments.

Heart & Stroke said it will reduce the number of heart attacks in Canada and save lives.

Heart & Stroke co-chaired a task force with Health Canada in 2006 that first recommended the ban.

Read more.