Jimmy Thomson

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Jimmy Thomson is a Yellowknife-based freelance journalist. He has worked as a CBC videojournalist and has bylines in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Canadian Geographic, Hakai Magazine, National Geographic and elsewhere. Since completing his master’s in journalism at UBC he has reported from nine countries — seven in the Arctic — on topics ranging from war refugees to climate change to the Chinese environmental movement. He has had a neuroanatomy paper accepted in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, two films accepted at the Dead North Film Festival, and was a contributor to the #1 nonfiction bestseller book in Canada, The Canadaland Guide to Canada. He has won awards and fellowships from the Canadian Association of Journalists, the American Society of Professional Journalists, the Norwegian government, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Canadian International Development Agency, and several others.

Why a Small Alberta Oil and Gas Town is Pursuing Geothermal Power

Geothermal Energy raetur_jardhita

Like many towns across Alberta, the landscape around Hinton is a pincushion of oil wells. At the bottom of some of the deeper wells, temperatures can reach upwards of 120 degrees Celsius, and that geothermal heat could be about to spur the town on to its next energy windfall.

A plan is underway to pump water up from deep underground, capture the heat it brings to the surface, then re-inject that water into the ground. The captured heat could warm a dozen municipal buildings or even eventually provide electricity.

That’s attainable, that’s not a huge technical challenge. The question is at what cost,” Jonathan Banks, a research associate in geoscience at the University of Alberta, told DeSmog Canada.

Canada Pledges $12 Million to Research Endangered Killer Whales, But Critics Say Urgent Action Still Needed

Southern Resident Killer Whale

The federal government has announced over $12 million to enhance protections for endangered whales on the West Coast, especially the endangered Southern resident killer whale.

That population, at 76 animals, is at its lowest point since live capture for aquariums was banned in 1975, prompting urgent calls for federal intervention.

Canada’s Overall Emissions Are Going Down But We’re Further Away from Meeting Our Climate Goals. Guess Why.

Canada climate targets

Canada is getting further away from meeting its climate target under the Paris Accord, despite an overall reduction in emissions, according to the government’s latest submission to the United Nations as part of its reporting requirements under the international climate treaty.

While most sectors of the Canadian economy have reduced their carbon output, the latest report shows growth in oil and gas and “demographic changes” are responsible for a widening gap between Canada’s greenhouse gas output and the country’s 2030 climate targets.

Canada Pledges $170 Million to End Water Crisis in Indigenous Communities. But Is It Enough?

Kwakwaka'wakw Hereditary Chief Bill Wilson

Cape Town, South Africa is running out of water.

Compared to Gilford Island, a Kwakwaka'wakw First Nation reserve on B.C.’s temperate rainforest coast, that sounds like an upgrade — at least in Cape Town they still have some water to drink.

Kwakwaka'wakw Hereditary Chief Bill Wilson’s mother is from that reserve. For 50 years, he has watched the water quality decline — first, as logging removed the island’s natural filtration systems, then, as a series of bungled procurements failed to deliver a water filtration system that worked.

Strange bedfellows: Greenpeace, CAPP Team Up in Court Case on Alberta's Abandoned Wells

The Alberta government and an unlikely crew of allies — including Greenpeace, an oil lobbying firm, Ecojustice and attorneys general of four different provinces — are squaring off with ATB Financial in a Supreme Court case that could let polluters off the hook when they go bankrupt.

The question being tried is whether creditors, like banks, can pick and choose the best assets an oil company owns when it goes bust, or whether governments can use a company’s good assets to pay to clean up its messes before the banks get paid.

Nova Scotia’s Dirty Secret: The Tale of a Toxic Mill and The Book Its Owners Don't Want You to Read

Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper Mill

Lighthouse Beach, a white sand crescent on the north coast of Nova Scotia, was once considered the jewel of the region. People would flock there from New Glasgow and Pictou on summer weekends, visiting the lobster bar and swimming in the clear waters of the Northumberland Strait.

There had been plans for a twice-daily train that would carry visitors between the seaside, a hotel and a local yacht club. Dreams began of a destination national park. But all of these plans were choked off by the introduction of a giant pulp and paper mill in 1967 that literally transformed a large part of Pictou Landing into a toxic dump.

You can smell it usually before you can see it: clouds of sulphur belching from the Abercrombie Point Pulp and Paper Mill smokestacks. For decades, the plant pumped contaminated water into the strait, using Boat Harbour, once an idyllic tidal lagoon used for fishing and clam digging, as a settling pond for highly toxic effluent.

‘There Isn’t Time’: Endangered Orcas Need Emergency Intervention, Coalition Tells Ottawa

Time is running out for the remaining 76 orcas that make up B.C.’s Southern Resident killer whale population and the federal government should take action to intervene, say a coalition of environmental groups petitioning Ottawa for an emergency order under the Species At Risk Act. 

The groups say the petition is coming now because they believe the endangered population is at a critical juncture. 

Why New Bike Lanes Are Good For Everyone — Yes, Even Drivers

bike lanes Canada

Protected bike lanes are a favourite punching bag for Canada’s pundits and politicians.

Lawrence Solomon recently called for Toronto to “ban the bike” in one of his three columns on the subject in the span of a month. Rob Ford made a career out of condemning the “war on the car” and ripping out bike lanes. Loren Gunter of the Edmonton Sun accused the city government of inflating its usage statistics in favour of elite bike riders, then arbitrarily cut the number of riders in half to make the point that they were a waste.

Fortunately, while they may be entitled to their opinions, that privilege doesn’t extend to facts. Countless studies have been published over the years to test the impact of bike lanes — and the results are pretty clear.

Is Canada Fudging the Numbers on its Marine Protection Progress?

Canada's Marine Protected Areas DeSmog Canada

Canada has made significant progress in the last year toward meeting its international commitment to protect 10 per cent of its oceans by 2020 — at least on paper. 

The government now claims to have set aside 7.75 per cent of Canada’s oceans for protection, up from under one per cent in 2016.

But a closer look at the numbers that make up the total shows that, far from establishing sprawling new protected areas, new accounting is responsible for much of the growth — and whether all of the areas will ultimately be eligible to count toward Canada’s international target is still up in the air.

The Site C Dam: a Timeline

Site C construction

The Site C dam has lived many lives before its approval today by Premier John Horgan, from a twinkle in the eye of some BC Hydro engineers, to the target of multiple lawsuits, to two damning reports by the utilities regulator, to “the point of no return.”

Below, we've collected a few of the key moments in its life up to now.