A personal view of Knowlton, Quebec, the Eastern Townships most beautiful village.

Laughercize Arrives in Eastern Townships
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After the successful Laughercize presentation at the Brome Lake Theatre that literally had people laughing in the aisles, Albert Nerenberg will be offering Laughercize classes right here in Knowlton! Just what we could all use about now is a good old fashioned knee slappin' laugh in order to rise above all the you know what that surrounds us! Laughercize begins January 14th at the Brome Lake Community Centre. To sign up call 450-242-2927or email info@laughercize.com

New technique harnesses laughter for health, happiness and fitness
Laughercize, a new exercise fad, which unleashes the beneficial effects of laughter to fight depression, heart disease and fatigue, arrives this January in the Eastern Townships.

Fight the winter blahs
Laughercize is a fun form of group exercise developed by film director and journalist Albert Nerenberg, while researching a TV documentary about contagious laughter. Nerenberg said he realized that the Laughter Yoga people were onto something after studying with some of the originators of Laughter Yoga and Laughter Therapy.

“Science is just now uncovering how good laughter is for you,” said Nerenberg .It improves circulation, protects the heart, and strengthens immunity and even helps you get fit. But don’t take my word for it,” said Nerenberg. “Just looks it up on the internet.”

Laughercize is a more accessible and active form of Laughter Yoga, which was developed by a Mumbai Doctor, Maidan Kateria.

Nerenberg recently put on a slide show presentation at Theatre Lac Brome titled Laughing May Be The Best Medicine, where he explained the science behind Laugher Yoga and Laughercize and demonstrated the basics of both. At the event, Nerenberg asked the sizable audience if they felt the techniques had worked with the vast majority voting yes.

Don't agonize, Laughercize!
Common sense dictates that laughter makes us feel good but deriving substantive benefits is a bit a tougher. The catch. You need to get people laughing for reasonable amounts of time. Nerenberg says Laughercize has closed that gap. In Laughercize it’s not uncommon for people to laugh for half an hour non-stop.
Laughercize works on promoting a different kind of laughter that one might experience at a comedy club. Laughercize works off a series of exercises that produce natural contagious laughter.

Nerenberg developed Laughercize in Toronto along with several health therapists. He says it was not his goal to develop a fitness fad but was amazed with the process.
“This is something that gives people results within half an hour,” he said. ”Also people don’t need to be taking courses forever. Once you master it, it lasts a long time. And there’s no charge for laughter. It’s free. Within a few weeks you get it, and hopefully you never lose it.”

Nerenberg says he hopes to teach the course as well as train others to be Laughercize instructors. He believes the Townships could become a centre for the arts of joy. “Good air, good people, beautiful scenery,” he said. “What more could you ask for?”

Nerenberg is the director of a number of acclaimed feature comic documentaries including Stupidity and Let’s All Hate Toronto. He is CBC Radio Noon’s official “Laughologist” has been the subject of retrospectives at le Cinematheque Quebecoise and the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal. Laughercize is being in conjunction with Brome Lake Fitness.

Laughercize begins January 14th at the Brome Lake Community Centre.
To sign up call 450-242-2927. Or email info@laughercize.com


For background on the therapeutic effects of laugher:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughter#Therapeutic_effects_of_laughter
http://laughercize.com/
Laughing May Be The Best Medicine

Paul Martin Trades Trees For Tees
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Paul Martin steps all over the landscape with his big rich boots! FORE !Paul Martin, one of Brome Lakes more well-known residents, who used to be the Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada and Minister of Finance, or "Head Taxman" has suddenly been dubbed the "Axe Man" for being responsible for the downing of trees on his property without authorization to make room for, of all things, a private golf course. Martin & his contractors who were building the course without consent on his Brome Lake property were reprimanded in the media and also fined by authorities for illegally cutting down trees along a brook on what is zoned as purely agricultural land. The fact that the trees were cut down to build a pitch and putt didn't put Martin on the Christmas Card list of anyone from the Green Party, that's for sure!

The small fine was because Martin's contractors disobeyed environmental procedure and cut down trees to make way for his private golf course but it appears that the construction on the property is actually being undertaken without even having the proper authorization from the local environmental authorities, know as the CPTAQ “Commission de protection du territoire agricole du Québec” . Even when this commission responsible for evaluating Martins golf-course project came out against the project last September it seems that initial refusal didn’t stop Mr. Martin from “getting jiggy with it”! Word in the press is that Martin ignored the timelines for disputing the commissions’ rulings and told his contractors to be like Nike and “Just do it!”

The actual fine levied by the Town of Brome Lake, a paltry two thousand dollars, was towards Huxham Golf Design Inc who were doing the landscaping for Mr. Martins private six-hole golf course. The trees were along a brook and cannot be cut down without proper authorization. Part of the penalty imposed on the contractor responsible for the destruction of the river bank is that they will be required to plant bushes and other greenery along the brook where the trees were destroyed.

Sure…once the trees are down and you’ve got your private golf course what can anyone do? Drop another fine? Ok..so Martin will likely pay any fines without batting an eye and shrug it off with a smile and move on with piloting a golf cart across the smooth expanse of his own private Idaho. The CPTAQ was worried that by granting permission to Martin for a golf course on land that is zoned as agricultural it would set a precedent for neighbors who may feel like Martin that having a pitch and putt beats the hell out of owning a piece of some riparian zone any day! I guess Martin didn't feel that such concerns should concern him and preferred to have work on his little playground go ahead with the "ask for a pardon instead of permission" philospohy which works well for many people especially those who have money or friends in high places!

If Martin can strong arm his way right past the rules and regulations that normal folks have to obey then doesn't it actually set the precedent for anyone else to start building a private little Never-Never Land in Lac Brome and then tell the local officials to stuff it if they don't like it? How I wish that these days we'd see a bit more of Jay Ingram and a bit less of Donald Trump?

Paul Martin took advantage of his time close to Bono to appear like he really cared. I guess it was where the streets had no name?It seems like only yesterday when then Prime Minister Paul Martin was posing with green rock star Bono saying that he planned to press the issue of global warming at the G-8 Summit, including speaking "forcefully" to U.S. President George W. Bush, who hasn't signed on to the Kyoto accord. That was two-short years ago when the summit of the leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations took place at the plush Gleneagles golf resort in Scotland. Martin spoke gravely about the environment saying the Earth is getting warmer and that world leaders must recognize man is a key contributing factor. "Obviously, accepting the validity of the science is the first step toward dealing with the issue," said Martin. Now…it looks like it’s another case of saying what people want to hear as I guess Paul Martin has obviously gathered the scientific proof that chopping down trees to make room for more golf courses will help. Can someone please tell Al Gore!

The timing of the announcement of Paul Martins flagrant disregard for environmental norms coincided with the release of the Brome Lake Action plan which stressed the importance of protecting our natural environment. Some residents expressed anger at yet another example the brash disregard for established environmental guidelines by property owners like Paul Martin; felt it underscored how some wealthy people bullied their way over laws if it suited their own desires and whims.

When the Town of Brome Lake unveiled the much anticipated Action Plan to deal with the worsening state of Brome Lake the firm who created the plan, Teknika-HBA, stressed the importance of everyone of us doing our part to help solve the problem. This includes allowing shorelines to be more naturally constructed and to maintain filtering marshes and improve practices of maintaining forested zones to minimize the impact of urbanization and to help control erosion.

If people feel that their wealth and power positions set them above the laws that are designed to protect the environment then it makes the whole process of spending money to come up with an Action Plan look like nothing more than a political puppet-show designed to appease the poor little tax-payers who desperately want to believe that the people in charge are listening to their concerns about the environment. The ex-prime minister’s actions are typical of an attitude that is prevalent among many people which is much like an ostrich burying his head in the sand.

But ole Paul isn’t the only one; there are a number of ostentatious homes and developments around Brome Lake where shorelines have been devastated into some sort of perverse expanse of urban kitsch the likes of which would make Edward Scissor Hands cringe. Last week in the Tempo, Lac Brome's community newspaper, there was a story how one resident had several trees legally cut down because it was spoiling the view. Apparently the trees were in "bad shape" and so the inspector gave the go-ahead to trim out the trees but some folks objected to the ease at which the living forest can be knocked down at the whims of property owners.

But let’s be fair…we’ve all probably seen some residents in Lac Brome, who could hardly be accused of living a life of opulence, who have contributed in some questionable ways to the environmental problem… so let’s not just try and shoot golf balls at easy targets like the Mayor or the ex-PM.

The Town of Brome Lake discussed how thye needed to stop erosion and talked tough about new practices for building amnd maintaining the runoff coridoors...but...Remember last summer Renaissance Lac Brome invited Robert Lapalme to discuss protecting the watershed and one concept he discussed was maintaining highly vegetated shorelines and drainage ditches. He explained how a drainage ditch that was lined with clay or rocks was basically a fast moving sluice gate that acted like a raceway for water and sediments to fill rivers and lakes polluting them with phosphorous and other elements that can lead to blue green algae. Later the Town talked about their implementation of stricter measures to ensure that such practices would be put into place. But is presenting an aggressive attitude towards positive environmental changes merely a PR stunt? On one hand the Town was saying how they were dedicated to reducing the pollution flowing into Brome Lake but on the other they were literally ripping out the filtering plants out of ditches only meters from the Coldbrook right in Knowlton!

Apparently one Knowlton resident who rides a lawn tractor several times every week during summer in his compulsion to insure his lawn never protrudes more than 1/8th of an inch above the ground incessantly phoned city hall complaining about the cattails that were growing at the edge of his property. I guess the lovely tall plant life in the drainage ditch along his property was an eye-sore? The calls to city hall continued regularly until they sent in a large shovel to literally strip the ditch bare to the clay...and the rain the next day flowed in a torrent...carrying all manner of roadside runoff directly into the lake.

Send in the machines! The Town says it wants to help Brome Lake but still tears out essential filtering marshes? This picture shows how the Town caved in to one resident who felt the tall growth in the brook near his property should be removed!This picture shows the wide swatch of lovely filtering marsh that was ripped out by the Town to appease the boistrous land owner who felt the tall growth was keeping his household from achieving a good night sleep! The Town moved in and removed a large wide section of plant material much to the chagrin of other residents who saw their grassy sidewalk reduced to only a few inches, not to mention the sudden gaping floodway that suddenly appeared! Doesn't this picture look exactly like what the Town promised not to do?

The town sent in the machines early one morning to completely eradicates all manner of filtering plant life from this drainage passage thae fed the brook leaving nothing but bald clay. Wasn’t maintaining proper drainage techniques part of their plan to reduce pollution in the lake? Didn't the Town deliver press conferences all summer that were designed to put the fear into anyone who dared mess with the lake? So why wasn't this overly zealous resident told the reason why his ditch was filled with plants and the essential environmental reasons why it should be left intact instead of repeating something that was like an environmental version of the 1968 raid on Czechoslovakia?

An Action Plan without action is like a brassiere on a wheelbarrow; it's useless.

People need to feel that protecting the environment comes before a game of golf or buying a second car or having a pristine front lawn. The Town, the province and each and every one of us needs to have the gonads to stand up to people who are contributing to the destruction of our important natural resources. Time after time we've had experts come in and explain it to us...how many times does someone need to point to the obvious before we start to understand?

Any government, local or provincial, has a hard time imposing rules on the very group that pays their wages via taxes. Lac Brome must rake in a good sum from the wealthy land owners like Mr. Martin and the gaggle of wealthy residents who toss handfuls of golden coin into the coffers every year to help pay the bills so it will be a touchy situation if the Town suddenly starts insisting that these folks have to conform to restrictions that may, heaven forbid, restrict their view of the hill or hinder the use of "Big Bertha" on their private fairway. The CPTAQ will beat their chests and the Town will impose their little fines on such scofflaws and then both will carry on being the large bureaucratic entities that are known to initiate positive change at the speed of glacial ascension.

Is change even possible? Is this whole lake improvement plan an exercise in futility? Until people agree to put their own self interests behind the collective well-being of our watershed then it just might be all a waste of time. The Brome Lake Action Plan points out that the first step is educating people...In a way it’s like we're going back to school again and maybe people like Mr. Martin will be stuck in the remedial class with all of the other thick knuckle-draggers who just don’t get it!

Teknika - Brome Lake Action Plan Released
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The Plan has arrived!There has been such a build-up of anticipation over the last several months ever since la Ville De Lac Brome announced early this year that they had mandated Teknika-HBA, an engineering firm, to undertake the job of creating a Lake Action Plan to deal with the problems of Brome Lake and the cyanobacteria that has been closing the lake on an almost regular basis so now that it is finally here it feels almost too good to be true!

On Thursday night, during a blustery snowstorm, the Brome Lake Community Meeting Hall was filled almost to capacity as Mayor Wisdom and Pierre Bertrand revealed the action plan to the public in a meeting that lasted over two hours. Mr. Bertrand gave a polished presentation that summed up the action plan and did a good job of keeping his explanations fairly simple; he surmised excellently the major theme and direction the action plan would take without getting too bogged down in to the complicated science of it all...it was the first public presentation of the plan after all and not an in-depth analysis.

He emphasised the three-tiered approach that must be used to reduce the phosphorus concentration to under 20 micrograms per liter which would be a fifty percent reduction from current levels: sensitize the population to the problem and solution, initiate reglementation to ensure adherence to desired practices and intervene when necessary by changes policy and enacting laws to ensure that private and commercial citizens reduce their harm on our watershed.

We have all heard about the problem inherent in an overabundance of phosphorous in lakes (thanks to a lot of media attention being focused on the issues Quebec's lakes have been having in recent years) so it was to be expected that a good part of the Teknika presentation revolved around discussing and explaining the "four-letter" P word. While some folks in the crowd seemed to have their eyes glaze over during the meeting it was certainly well presented so that any newbie coming on board would be able to understand the basics and Bertrand kept things moving to try and cover as much territory as he could.

The plan was interesting in that it basically throws down the gauntlet and holds up a mirror to our faces and says "we are all a big the problem". Perhaps it wasn't as blunt as that but Pierre Bertrand highlighted some of the problematic areas in human urbanization that have led to problems in our lake and watershed. There was no blaming or finger-pointing, which many residents and the media have been doing for months and we're likely hoping to hear, instead it was synopsis of why the problem has developed and what needs to change.

While some cynics will say the report is really nothing new it must be given time to be fully digested and understood so that concrete steps can be defined for the future. The lake plan may be the catalyst we need to start to make the changes required to actually make a difference. Teknika's report is calling for a real paradigm shift in how humans develop and maintain populations in a natural environment and that is an exciting prospect as it challenges everyone from citizens to leaders to start making new guidelines and introducing new methods of living and functioning in the world so that our increasing population won't lead to a complete destruction of the environment.

Is that a tall order? Certainly is, but we're not only talking about trying to un-do decades of poorly-controlled urban growth and inefficient agricultural techniques we're talking about everyone of us taking stock of how we live and our impact on the planet. This lake action plan helps under-score the key role each of us must play in order to collectively repair the lake and the watershed and it is a daunting task! It's easy to blame the politicians or the golf courses or the farms in the area but the blame really comes down on all of our shoulders.

Details of the icons used on some of the large maps from the presentationThe action plan discusses using ponds, filtering marshes and storm water basins to help reduce the amount of phosphorous entering the lake. As well, using the natural landscape to divert watershed tributaries to allow natural decantation of phosphorous and the use of sediment collection basins was touched upon. An impressive set of maps was exhibited showing the recommended areas for such storm water basins and the best local areas to be candidates for re-stabilization of shorelines and riverbanks. There was no talk of boats or, as Renaissance Lac Brome had suggested, the installation of new sewer lines for 300 lakeside residents; instead the evening discussed the incredible amount of work that needed to be done most of which revolved around changing our fundamental attitudes and practices.

Some people have grumbled that this plan of action was a waste of money stating that information was available already and even suggesting solutions could be integrated fairly quickly to remedy the problem. This is not realistic. With all due respect to the hard work of Renaisance Lac Brome or other parties who have financial or other vested interests in the lake it is not by going to court, or writing letters to the editor or having press conferences to release lake saving data that changes will happen. Teknika has a solid reputation and track-record as is well respected within Quebec provincial politics due to the numerous large projects throughout the province they have been involved with. Having an Action Plan from a respected firm like Teknika will allow the Town of Brome Lake to have the proper ammunition to take shots and some of the existing laws and policies that need to be changed in order to save our lake. When an angry mob of students bang tam-tams and block traffic in front of Jean Charests office to protest rising University fees do you think it actually helps their cause? A good cause needs a good lobbyist and if Teknika can help in the end, and even if this report cost $300,000 dollars, then surely the means will justify the ends!

Now that we have a well-written document from a reputable engineering firm maybe it's time to work together instead of being self-righteous or arrogant. This is the kind of document that could really make a difference. This is a solid plan not just another press release or sensationalistic presentation of a magic bullet product that will save the lake.

Sure...lakeside residents need to respect the shorelines instead of feeling it is their right to have a fertilized lawn right to the edge of Brome Lake; many properties along the lake have perfectly manicured lawns and the unhealthy fetish with such lawnscapes has got to stop. Why blame the golf course when they are just giving the people what they want...a perfect treeless expanse to whack a ball around...maybe the people who play golf should be targeted more than the golf courses?

The land development around Brome Lake is nothing exceptional, such properties exist around lakes all over Canada, and aren't most waterfront properties owned by wealthy people? So why don't we blame the wealthy people who have homes so close to the lake for causing the problems? After all...look at the size of some of these homes! Much of the natural waterfront shoreline has been destroyed, septic fields are within a hundred meters of the lake, and lawns, ponds and decorative walls are all around Brome Lake. Do these wealthy people also play golf? Do they own two three or four vehicles? Maybe it's the rich people who are to blame? Maybe we should get our tam-tams and start blocking traffic and burning BMW's?

See...it is way too easy to point the blame when almost all of us are just following the path that was drawn out us from older generations. But sixty years ago almost no-one was giving a tinkers damn about lake quality or air quality like they do today. Now, as we are learning that our forefathers were basically doing things wrong,it will be very hard to convince us to change our ways. People want to have big houses and nice big properties with a sunset over the lake and a boat and more and more just like their mama and papa taught them. But now...what are we teaching our kids? The lessons we give to our children are likely the most important way we can help to better protect our environment!

Farming has evolved over the centuries and the key was always trying to increase productivity and decrease costs the issues of the concern of the negative effects of agricultural practices on the environment are fairly new. Even though the Teknika report showed that raising corn crops contributed the most phosphorous than any other activity in our watershed, blaming the corn farmer doesn't help because farmers are acting under accepted Government standards and practices. Sure these practices need to change but it is not by raising torches and gathering a mob to march on city hall that changes will happen. What we need is cool heads and an intelligent long-term approach. The Brome Lake Action Plan may be just the sort of document needed to help shape policy.

Map of Knowlton, Quebec showing areas of interest for lake rehabilitation.Bertrand said that 300 kg of phosphorous falls into Brome Lake just from the rainfall that hits the water! Much like the acid rain of the seventies taught us that restrictions on emissions needed to be imposed or else catastrophic environmental consequences would result; the fact that so much pollution enters our lake from the very heavens is a sign that this problem is on a global scale. The proliferation of toxic blue green algae and other water problems are symptoms of a sick planet that is reacting to human mismanagement. Whew!

Pierre Bertrand said that when Teknika-HBA presented the preliminary action plan to the government for analysis last month he was told it went far above and beyond any existing Quebec government document on lake issues that had ever been written and was congratulated for such a comprehensive package. This means that the Brome Lake Action Plan may actually be a precedent setting document. Lac Brome has taken the time to get this cutting edge study completed and now is poised to be the example for problem lakes not only in Quebec but all over Canada.

Maybe this Action Plan will put Knowlton and Brome Lake on the map as a progressive "green" municipality. This could be the chance for Knowlton to actually become an example. Imagine the good press we would have if we all worked together and changed our behaviour and attitudes enough to reverse the damage we've done to our Lake? That would put Knowlton on the map! Let's face it "Green" is the new "black" so if we can create promote our natural environment and our respect for it we will have a serious edge over crass commercial areas in the Townships.

Is that a ridiculous pipe dream? Maybe...but this could be an incredible chance to move beyond the traditional way of presenting Knowlton with the cute festivals, antique curiosities shoppes and the Victorian history into promoting a region where we have a progresive leadership where environmental responsibility has been given top priority. There is a huge potential for marketing Brome Lake if residents in the watershed can come together to make real changes and a opportunity for Knowlton to be at the helm. After-all a "watershed" is also defined as a landmark: an event marking a unique or important historical change of course or one on which important developments depend. Why not make Knowlton the landmark, or watershed, for Quebec and become an example for other communities! Sure that's a big challenge but if we're not up to a challenge then changes won't happen...and it goes beyond the residents who live on the waterfront...it goes deep into what we all consume and what we think and what we buy and what we throw away and the resources we use to keep our way of life.

Brome Lake sparkles under a blue summer sky. Another reason why Knowlton has a magical charm worth discovering!
As Bertrand said, the first step is to make people understand and become sensitized to how their behaviour and consumption patterns contribute to the problem. Mandatory regulations rules and fines should be a imposed later and only once we can educate leaders and make changes in policy. This is not going to be a quick fix and there is much work to be done. The Town said on Thursday they would be starting by issuing booklets and informational guidelines to residents to help with the education part of the plan.

This is going to be a long process and we all need to work together so we should put our positive energies together and just leave the negative, muddy boots at the door for a change! Town Council will look at ways to start implementing the action plan at the next council meeting on December 17th. Call city hall (450) 243-6111 for more details.

For anyone interested in learning more visit the Ville De Lac Brome official website and see the Teknika Lake Action Plan for yourself. Then, take some time and look at your lifestyle and ask yourself if there is anything you can do to help become a part of the solution. Hopefully someone will spend a couple hundred extra dollars so the report can be translated into English as well.

Comments or feedback on the Lake Plan can be sent to the DestinationKnowlton Editor by email

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