Opinion

Fracking, Industrial Activity Threatens Blueberry River Nation's Way of Life

Industrial activity has profoundly affected the Blueberry River First Nations in northern B.C. A recent Atlas of Cumulative Landscape Disturbance, by the First Nations, the David Suzuki Foundation and Ecotrust, found 73 per cent of the area inside its traditional territory is within 250 metres of an industrial disturbance and 85 per cent is within 500 metres.

In other words, in much of the territory, which once supported healthy moose and caribou populations, it’s difficult if not impossible to walk half a kilometre before hitting a road, seismic line or other industrial infrastructure. Local caribou populations are threatened with extinction mainly because of habitat disturbance caused by industrial activity and ensuing changes to predator-prey dynamics.

The Future of Hydro in a Warming World

W.A.C. Bennett Dam

People have harnessed energy from moving water for thousands of years.

Greeks used various types of water wheels to grind grain in mills more than 2,000 years ago.

In the late 1800s, people figured out how to harness the power to produce electricity.

Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, hydropower has expanded, producing about 17 per cent of the world’s electricity by 2014 and about 85 per cent of renewable energy — and it shows no signs of slowing.

According to the online magazine WaterWorld, “An expected 3,700 major dams may more than double the total electricity capacity of hydropower to 1,700 GW within the next two decades,” — including in my home province of B.C., where the government has started a third dam on the Peace River at Site C.

Hydropower is the most important and widely used renewable source of energy,” the U.S. Geological Survey says.

But how “green” is hydropower and how viable is it in a warming world with increasing water fluctuations and shortages? To some extent, it depends on the type of facility.

The Grizzly Bear Trophy Hunt is B.C.’s Great Shame: Martyn Brown

By Martyn Brown for the Georgia Straight.

“Harvest.” Such a beautiful, bucolic word.

Imagery abounds.

Golden fields of swaying wheat. Lush green vineyards of plump, perfect grapes. Acres of apples, all red and delicious.

Harvest: so suggestive of humans in harmony with the Earth.

So redolent of life.

So much more super and natural than, I don’t know — slaughter? — the word that more accurately describes British Columbia’s annual grizzly bear trophy hunt.

Enbridge Northern Gateway: ‘First Nations Save Us Again’

First Nations save us again.”

That was the message of a text I received from a friend after they heard of the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn the Harper government’s approval of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

And it’s true: First Nations have borne the social burden once again of calling out undemocratic, law-breaking government actions that threaten the climate, the environment and human health.  

Alongside the many First Nations that brought a legal challenge against the Northern Gateway pipeline approval were several environmental organizations that brought attention to the ways the project threatened endangered species and marine life.

But it was the former government’s tragic lack of First Nations consultation that caught the court's attention.

Why the Site C Dam Fails Economic Test: NDP Critic

Site C dam construction

This is a guest piece by Adrian Dix, the MLA for Vancouver-Kingsway and the NDP critic for BC Hydro and ICBC.

BC Hydro and the provincial Liberal government are playing a reckless game with British Columbians. They are building the Site C dam even though it is apparent that we do not need the power.

The consequences will include lost jobs, higher electricity rates and long-term damage to BC Hydro and provincial finances.

Does Premier Christy Clark think BC Hydro's customers in this province would support a $9-billion-plus project to offer subsidized power to American and Albertan consumers? Could this ever make any sense?

B.C. has seen this story before with respect to Site C, but with a very different ending.

What I Learned From Being in a Focus Group Led by Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

By Laura Bouchard for CANADALAND.

A few weeks ago, Bruce Anderson, a popular pundit and pollsterwrote an opinion piece criticizing the NDP’s Leap Manifesto as a clumsy political misstep. Canadians, Anderson argues, would never go for bold action addressing climate change. We’re a mild people. A simple people. He wrote:

Canadians want 'pro-growth environmentalism.' They want to tap entrepreneurship, innovation, technology, science, capital and yes, capitalism, to help create ideas that marry our desire to put food on the table, money away for our kids’ education, and some sense of security about how we’re going to live in retirement.”

This last sentence caught my eye. If you read it closely, you’ll notice two lists. First are the feel-goodisms the oil industry likes to drape itself in: innovation, science, entrepreneurship; second are the actual anxieties of average Canadians. Rather artfully Anderson has fused the interests of everyday Canadians with the rhetoric of the oil patch; perfectly aligned and indistinguishable.

B.C. Government Quietly Undercuts Province's Ability to Feed Itself

If California’s farmers ever run out of the water needed to irrigate their crops, we’ll be in for a rude awakening.

With 70 per cent of British Columbia’s imported fruits and vegetables coming from the sunny U.S. state, any climatic disaster there would almost certainly result in dramatic run-ups in food prices here.

Our elected leaders know that such a scenario may be close at hand. But they’re not talking much about it — perhaps because to do so would be to admit that many of the government’s policy choices are at direct odds with the very idea of promoting domestic food security.

Unprecedented Wildfires in Western Canada Call For Serious Climate Action

This is a guest post by Jens Wieting, forest and climate campaigner with Sierra Club B.C.

The wildfires currently raging uncontrolled in Alberta are not within the range of what’s normal.

As of May 29, 854,984 hectares have burned this year in Canada, mostly Alberta — almost 10 times the 25-year-average amount of forest lost by this date (89,391 hectares).

And summer hasn't even started.

Warm temperatures and low humidity mean that, for the time being, there is no end in sight. A similar situation is taking shape in British Columbia.

The correlation between higher average temperatures and wildfires in Canada has been well-researched, but the extremes now underway still come as a shock. Leading climate scientists have compared the urgent need to prevent further overheating of our planet to a person with a dangerously high fever. Our body temperature is normally about 37 degrees. If it increases by two degrees to 39, you have fever. If it goes over 41, you might die.

David Suzuki: How Do We Feed Humanity in a Warming World?

Calculating farming’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions is difficult, but experts agree that feeding the world’s people has tremendous climate and environmental impacts. Estimates of global emissions from farms range widely. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency puts them at 24 per cent, including deforestation, making agriculture the second-largest emitter after heat and electricity.

Agriculture contributes to global warming in a number of ways. Methane and nitrous oxide, which are more potent than CO2 but remain in the atmosphere for shorter times, make up about 65 per cent of agricultural emissions. Methane comes mainly from cattle and nitrous oxide from fertilizers and wastes. According to the World Resources Institute, “Smaller sources include manure management, rice cultivation, field burning of crop residues, and fuel use on farms.” Net emissions are also created when forests and wetlands are cleared for farming, as these “carbon sinks” usually absorb and store more carbon than the farms that replace them. Transporting and processing agricultural products also contribute to global warming.

Eating Less Meat Will Reduce Earth’s Heat

Will vegans save the world? Reading comments under climate change articles or watching the film Cowspiracy make it seem they’re the only ones who can. Cowspiracy boldly claims veganism is “the only way to sustainably and ethically live on this planet.” But, as with most issues, it’s complicated.

It’s true, though, that the environment and climate would benefit substantially if more people gave up or at least cut down on meat and animal products, especially in over-consuming Western societies. Animal agriculture produces huge amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, consumes massive volumes of water and causes a lot of pollution.

But getting a handle on the extent of environmental harm, as well as the differences between various agricultural methods and types of livestock, and balancing that with possible benefits of animal consumption and agriculture isn’t simple.

Pages

Subscribe to Opinion