Alberta's Unprotected Foothills Forest No Longer a Refuge for Threatened Species

By Chris Wood. This article originally appeared on The Tyee

The sound of water is loud in a land muffled by snow. No human sound penetrates this broad valley between tapering extensions of the Rocky Mountains, 100 kilometres southwest of Grand Prairie, Alberta. A stray beam from the low winter sun washes the landscape in pink. A young doe caribou makes her way to the water. She's thin, ribs visible beneath her winter coat. At the water's edge she lowers her head to drink.

Suddenly grey shapes burst from the shadows. The swiftest comes racing over her own hoof-trail, leaps and sinks sharp teeth deep into her haunch, lacerating ligament. Within minutes, the doe's struggle is over. The wolves settle in to eat.

For Alberta's foothills caribou, death row is a fraying triangle of pine, spruce and aspenforest and meadows, stretched along the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains and running roughly from Banff, west of Calgary, some 630 kilometres north and west over the provincial border into British Columbia. A broad thumb of forest thrusts east toward Slave Lake.

A second area with a similar ecological community, not quite as large, straddles the provincial borders north of Fort St. John, B.C. Anchored on Alberta's Chinchaga Wildland Park it holds the headwaters of the Hay River. The two areas are isolated from each other by the trans-border Peace River and its development corridor of gas fields, forest mills and a soon-to-be-built third hydroelectric dam and reservoir on the river.

Fossil Fuel Industry’s Bad Behaviour in Spotlight During Run-up to Paris Climate Negotiations

As leaders from around the world head to Paris in December for the COP21 UN climate negotiations, they do so with the burdensome knowledge that this is it: the big year. More than 190 nations will try to reach an internationally binding climate agreement to prevent the globe from warming to catastrophic levels.

Such high stakes haven’t pressed upon the negotiations since 2009’s Copenhagen climate summit, widely regarded as a failure after wearied countries fled the conference without producing a strong international agreement.

Perhaps that’s why this year there is little patience for the influence peddling of the world’s major fossil fuel companies, all of which are eager to play a role in the conversation.

Nearly 400,000 people have signed a petition to bar “big polluters” from the talks.

The petition, organized by Corporate Accountability International, argues the summit should be protected from corporate interests and becoming a platform for companies intending to “block progress, push false solutions and continue the disastrous status quo.”

The petition is just one of a number of public efforts designed to showcase the negative influence of industry groups on climate talks, their historic bad behaviour and a growing international impatience for meaningful climate action.

New Report Shows “Systematic Dismantling” of Canada’s Environmental Laws Under Conservative Government

A new report released Wednesday chronicles the changes made to Canada’s environmental laws under the federal Conservatives since they formed government in 2011.

The report, released by West Coast Environmental Law and the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, highlights “the repeal or amendment of most of Canada’s foundational environmental laws since 2011” and suggests many of the changes were a “gift to industry.”

The record suggests that industry lobbied hard for removing environmental protections that it believed were impeding business,” the report states.

Major changes include the weakening of the Navigable Waters Protection Act, which removed 99 per cent of Canada’s lakes and rivers from protection, as well as changes to the Fisheries Act and the Species at Risk Act.

Weakening of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act means approximately 90 per cent of major industry projects that would have undergone a federal review no longer will, according to the report.

Karine Peloffy, director general of the Quebec Environmental Law Centre, said Canada’s environmental legislation is intrinsically tied into the fabric of the country’s democracy.

Our waters, species, and our very democracy have been put at risk by changes made to our environmental laws since 2011,” Peloffy said.

B.C. Plans to Cull Wolves for Next Decade While Failing to Protect Caribou Habitat From Industry

B.C. will continue to kill wolves for at least a decade in an attempt to save endangered caribou according to government documents released this week — but new research re-confirms that caribou declines are primarily caused by industrial development.

The province recently finished the first year of its province-wide wolf cull, which resulted in the killing of 84 animals. But documents released to the Globe and Mail indicate the B.C. government is aware habitat destruction is at the root of declining caribou populations.

Ultimately, as long as the habitat conditions on and adjacent to caribou ranges remain heavily modified by industrial activities, it is unlikely that any self-sustaining caribou populations will be able to exist in the South Peace [region],” the document says.

The Reality of Stephen Harper vs. The Reality of Carbon Taxes

stephen harper, carbon tax

Last night Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his house band, the Van Cats, took to the stage at a Conservative Christmas Party in Ottawa. Seated at the keyboard, the Prime Minister warbled through a performance of the Guns n’Roses classic ‘Sweet Child of Mine.’

Less than 24 hour earlier that the Prime Minister was singing a different tune.

Earlier in the day, the Harper railed against the concept of carbon taxes and regulation of the fossil fuel industry during Question Period in the House of Commons. In response to questions from NDP environment critic Megan Leslie about the Conservative’s 2007 pledge to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, he replied:

Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy — it would be crazy economic policy to do unilateral penalties on that sector; we're clearly not going to do that. …In fact, Mr. Speaker, nobody in the world is regulating their oil and gas sector. I would be delighted if they did. Canada would be there with them.”

All of the above are indeed words, but when used by the Prime Minister in this combination they give a result that’s completely and egregiously incorrect.

Education, or Advertisement?


When artists depict the future, we should take the time to listen. What if they’re warning us of something that could be avoided?

Brawndo! It’s got what plants crave!”

This slogan for the popular sports drink ‘Brawndo’ is the mantra of citizens in Mike Judge’s 2006 film ‘Idiocracy.’ It’s information everyone has memorized, word for word, ready to trump anyone who would dare to question their precious ‘Thirst Mutilator!’ And because they believe so absolutely in the claim, they can’t understand why their plants won’t grow when they stop watering them altogether, instead feeding them only Brawndo – since, of course, it’s got what plants crave.

The film depicts a society so degraded in educational norms, and so smitten by emboldened advertisement, that its members passively accept the most powerful and obvious ideas thrust upon them. The words are so loud and the font is so bold; how could it be a lie?

Education was replaced by advertisement. No one needed the slightest botanical leanings, since everyone knew that Brawndo was all that plants need. The ad had taught them this; the ad had made it clear.

What does it matter to us? We needn’t worry; it’s all comedy or science fiction. It’s just a joke.

Yet every now and then, black comedy becomes reality.

BC Natural Gas Industry Could Produce Carbon Pollution to Rival Oilsands by 2020

BC Natural Gas

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) development in British Columbia could produce 73 million tonnes of carbon pollution per year by 2020, according to the Pembina Institute. This would bring the carbon footprint of LNG development in B.C. to three-quarters as much as that of the oilsands, currently Canada's fastest growing source of climate pollution.

Alison Bailie of the Pembina Institute writes in The Tyee, that the estimate is at the “lower end” of the development scenario required to realize the B.C. government's hopes for annual revenue from LNG exceeding $4 billion. The province would need to produce four to six trillion cubic feet of shale gas per year by 2020 to reach that number.

The scale of that kind of natural gas production would require five to seven LNG facilities and over 10,000 wells with an accompanying network of roads, pipelines, compressors and gas processing plants.

Harper Government Hires Firm for $22 Million International Ad Campaign Promoting Oilsands

The Harper government has hired an international public relations firm to oversee a $22 million advertising campaign to promote the oilsands and Canada's natural resources sector around the world.

The Canadian arm of PR firm FleishmanHillard won a bid for the initial $1.695 million contract to conduct the first phase of the ad campaign, reports the Toronto Star.

The first phase of the ad campaign will reach the United States, Europe, and Asia this year. If the firm's contract is renewed for 2015, it could be worth up to $4 million, with the remaining $18 million reserved for media buys.

Industry Cash Delays Oilsands Environmental Management Agency Closure One Month

Alberta oilsands tar sands Kris Krug

The impending closure of a key multi-stakeholder group that provides advice to Alberta and the federal government on the environmental effects of the oilsands was unexpectedly delayed by an injection of money from oil companies.

The funds come at a time when the future – and the purpose – of the organization, which involves the participation of aboriginal, industry, government and environmental groups, is increasingly uncertain. 

The Edmonton Journal reports that the 12-year-old Cumulative Environmental Management Association (CEMA) was to be shut down on January 1, which would have resulted in layoffs, eviction from their offices, and the termination of contracts with scientists working on issues ranging from speedier land reclamation in the oilsands to the improvement of water quality.

Pretty Little Industrial Liars, Pt. 2

Emissions Stacks Smoking Away

Big Industry has committed some of the most atrocious crimes against the environment in Canada and around the world with little fear of reprisal. This is Part Two of a two–part series highlighting some small and large-scale instances of industrial–environmental greenwashing and misdirection in an attempt to better hold conglomerates accountable to the Canadian public.

The Industrial Bait and Pollute
Like an environmental fairy tale, it has been thrust into our consciousness for more than a generation – carpool, recycle, take shorter showers, unplug electronics, and shop green, we’ve all got a part to play in conserving the planet for future generations.
The Citizen’s Guide to Pollution Prevention – a report from the Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy published in collaboration with the federal government, is a perfect example of this institutionalised emphasis on the role individuals are to play if the devastating effects of climate change are to be mediated.


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