Saturday, August 29, 2015 - 09:07 • James Wilt
Lizard Lake wildfire

Smokey haze, intense heat, encampments of evacuated residents next to the highway: these were the conditions that greeted Renee Lertzman when she recently drove through Oregon. It’s no wonder why the environmental psychology researcher and professor resorts to the term “apocalyptic” to describe the scene.

It was a surreal experience,” says Lertzman, who teaches at the University of San Francisco and Victoria’s Royal Roads University. “We’re all driving along and it’s so smoky and it’s terrifying. Yet we’re all doing our summer vacation thing. I couldn’t help but wonder: what is going on, how are people feeling and talking about this?”

It’s really the question of the hour. Catastrophic wildfires and droughts have engulfed much of the continent, with thousands displaced from their homes; air quality alerts confine many of the lucky remainder behind locked doors (with exercise minimized and fresh-air intakes closed).

Firefighters have been summoned from around the world to battle the unprecedented fires, which are undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change. Yet the seemingly reasonable assumption that witnessing such horrific natural disasters may increase support for action on climate change is vastly overestimated, Lertzman tells DeSmog Canada.

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Friday, August 28, 2015 - 09:33 • Judith Lavoie
Bill Bennett
Bill Bennett

Promises of a closer relationship between B.C. and Alaska and more consultation on B.C. mine applications are a good start, but, so far, Southeast Alaska has no more guarantees that those mines will not pollute salmon-bearing rivers than before this week’s visit by B.C.’s Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett, say Alaskan fishing and conservation groups.

Bennett, accompanied by senior civil servants from the ministries of Energy and Mines and Environment, took a conciliatory tone as he met with state officials, policy-makers and critics of what is seen as an aggressive push by B.C. to develop mines in the transboundary area, close to vitally important salmon rivers such as the Unuk, Taku and Stikine.

I understand why people feel so strongly about protecting what they have,” Bennett said in a Juneau news conference with Alaska Lt. Governor Byron Mallott.

There’s a way of life here that has tremendous value and the people here don’t want to lose it. I get that,” he said.

But promises of a strengthened dialogue and more opportunities to comment on mine applications fall far short of a growing chorus of Alaskan demands that the issue be referred to the International Joint Commission, formed under the Boundary Waters Treaty, which forbids either country from polluting transboundary waters.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 15:10 • Judith Lavoie
Taku Inlet
Taku Inlet

No fish in the car, warned the rental car attendant at Juneau airport, with the weary tone of someone who had cleaned too many fish guts out of returned vehicles. It was a warning underlined by signs in hotels pleading with guests not to clean fish in the hotel bathrooms.

Fishing is in the DNA of Southeast Alaskans, not only as a sport and common way of filling the freezer, but also as a driver of the state economy. So it is not surprising that the perceived threat presented by a rush of mine applications on the B.C. side of the border has brought together diverse groups who want B.C. to give Alaska an equal seat at the decision-making table and to have the issue referred for review to the International Joint Commission.

I can’t conceive of not being able to fish for salmon. The grief would be too much to fathom,” said Heather Hardcastle, co-owner of Taku River Reds who has been commercial fishing for most of her life.

We share these waters and we share these fish. There has to be an international solution,” she said.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015 - 00:08 • Kyla Mandel

Seismic airguns are being fired underwater off the east coast of Greenland to find new oil reserves in the Arctic Ocean. But this activity “could seriously injure” whales and other marine life, warns a new report conducted by Marine Conservation Research and commissioned by Greenpeace Nordic.

The oil industry is increasingly looking towards the region, as oil and gas reserves become more accessible as climate change causes large areas of Arctic sea ice to melt.

Global oil companies including BP, Chevron and Shell all own drilling rights in the Greenland Sea and are the likely customers for the data gathered by the Norwegian geophysical company conducting the seismic testing, TGS-Nopec.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 16:42 • Donald Gutstein

During her recent election campaign, Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley pledged to raise Alberta’s minimum wage from $10.20 an hour to $15 by 2018, which would make the province’s minimum wage the highest in the country — by far.

Not so fast, objects economist Ron Kneebone. In a National Post commentary a week after the election, Kneebone argues that raising the minimum wage will do little to fight poverty. He suggests other, less achievable, policies.

Notley’s platform also included a pledge to raise corporate tax rates, review oil and gas royalties and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Not so fast, objects economist Jack Mintz. In a National Post article published the day after Kneebone, Mintz asks, “how many times can you skin the cat?” If Notley raises corporates taxes, capital will take flight, he predicts. “Some companies are planning to shift profits out of Alberta if the rate goes up to 12 per cent,” he says, as if profits don’t already leave the province because the energy sector is mainly foreign owned.

A third promise Notley made was to promote the upgrading and refining of Alberta’s natural resources within the province to deliver better value to Albertans.

Not so fast, objects economist Trevor Tombe. In a National Post commentary six days after Mintz, Tombe calculates that oil and gas extraction adds more value per job than refining. But the real comparison should be refining in Alberta compared with refining — and adding value — elsewhere.

Aside from being economists, having serious problems with NDP proposals and getting major play in the National Post, Kneebone, Mintz and Tombe share something else: they are associated with the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy (SPP). Mintz is school director, Kneebone director of the tax and economic growth program, and Tombe an economics department academic who publishes frequently through the SPP.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 13:21 • Carol Linnitt

Raging wildfires and apocalyptic smoke. Huge algal blooms visible from space turn seafood on the Pacific Northwest toxic. California’s drought. Alberta’s drought. Alberta’s floods.

There’s no doubt: it’s hot and weird out.

According to officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) July was the hottest month ever recorded, putting 2015 well on track to beat out 2014 for the hottest year on record. Records date back to 1880.

NOAA climate scientists Jake Crouch said the new data “just affirms what we already know: that the Earth is warming.”

The warming is accelerating and we’re seeing it this year.”

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Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 10:56 • Judith Lavoie

Smooth lumps of translucent blue ice float alongside rock-encrusted icebergs that have broken from Shakes Glacier before drifting into the Stikine River.

There is little trace of the heavy hand of human disturbance as tourists on the jet boat scramble on to a small scrub island and gaze at the expanse of ice, snowy peaks and dark cliffs sweeping down to the wild Stikine, the fastest free-flowing river in the U.S.

You don’t have to go far to find a place where no human has set foot on it before,” said James Leslie, who has been navigating the river since he was nine years old and drives the jet boat for his family’s company.

It would be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Leslie grew up in the nearby community of Wrangell and, like many in the area, uses the river for fishing, access to moose hunting, work and recreation.

The “anything” that Leslie fears is a spill or accident at nearby mines on the Canadian side of the border.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 11:59 • Kai Nagata

This post originally appeared on the Dogwood Initiative blog.

I should confess: I talk to lamp fixtures.

I wink at ceiling vents, sing to the dashboard in my car, apologize to the people eavesdropping on my phone calls for how boring my conversations are.

I can’t pinpoint when this running joke began, but it was sometime after I left television journalism and began to publicly criticize the government. Now that I work at Dogwood Initiative — where we’ve actually been the target of homeland surveillance — the joke is less funny.

Last week Dogwood organizers testified at a secret hearing of the Security Intelligence Review Committee — the “watchdog” tasked with keeping CSIS on a leash. We allege not only that Canada’s spy service broke the law by gathering information on peaceful civilians inside Canada, but that government spying has put a chill on democratic participation.

Do you know that feeling, that you’re being watched? It’s like when you park your vehicle in a bad spot and have to walk there after dark. Or you come home after a trip and the door is unlocked. Or you peer into the webcam on your phone or computer and wonder, is anyone there?

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