Jimmy Thomson

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Jimmy Thomson is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist. Since completing his master’s in journalism at UBC he has reported from eight counties — six in the Arctic — on topics ranging from war refugees to climate change to the Chinese environmental movement. He has won awards from the Canadian Association of Journalists and the American Society of Professional Journalists, among several others, and recently was awarded the Royal Canadian Geographical Society’s Erebus medal in recognition of his part in finding one of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships in the Arctic.

The Site C Dam: a Timeline

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. 

What the Heck Is Acid Drainage, and Why Is It Such a Big Deal?

What is that yellow goop in the water?

Polar Bears Chosen as a Bizarre Symbol to Deny Climate Change, Scientists Say

Polar bears have long been a symbol of a warming climate, a visible victim of shrinking sea ice cover and changing weather patterns. The bears’ loss of habitat was among the early signs of climate change, and one that was easily communicated to the public.

But in recent years, a sprawling network of climate change deniers are, strangely, using the symbol of the polar bear in their fight against climate science.

If you tell a lie big enough, often enough, people will begin to believe it,” says Ian Stirling, a prominent polar bear biologist.

Q&A with Chris Turner on the People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oilsands

Chris Turner The Patch Oilsands

Chris Turner’s new book, The Patch: The People, Pipelines and Politics of the Oil Sands, opens with a story about ducks. 

Actually, in the context of the oilsands, it’s the story about ducks: more than 1,600 ducks migrating through northern Alberta died after landing on a tailings pond in 2008. It brought worldwide condemnation of the industry, and acted as a catalyst for environmental protests that are ongoing today. 

The Patch is the story of what happened long before, and since, the turning point brought about by the ducks: how the industry came to be, how it scraped by through its infancy to become the roaring engine of Canadian industry in the early 2000’s; how its cycles of boom and bust have built fortunes and shifted the gravitational centre of Canada to a once-quiet patch of Boreal forest; and how the same ambitious industrial vision that stoked the fire may yet snuff it out. 

This B.C. First Nation is Harnessing Small-Scale Hydro to Get off Diesel

Wuikinuxv Elder George Johnson

The rain comes down in a dense mist as John Ebell shows off the construction site of the Nicknaqueet River Hydro project, high on a hillside above the Wannock River in Rivers Inlet, a fjord on the central coast of B.C.

It’s the perfect weather, he says, to illustrate why a small-scale hydroelectric project is so perfect for the area.

There’s a lot of rainfall here, and there’s a lot of mountains,” Ebell, project manager with the Barkley Project Group, told DeSmog Canada. “So we have drop, and we have rainfall. That’s a perfect combination for hydropower.”

‘No World-Class Spill Response Here’: Heiltsuk First Nation Pursues Lawsuit One Year After Tug Disaster

Bella Bella Diesel Spill Clean Up October 29, 2016 Tavish Campbell

Kelly Brown was awoken at 4:30 a.m. on October 13, 2016, by the kind of phone call nobody ever wants to receive: an environmental catastrophe was unfolding a 20-minute boat ride up the coast from his home in the community of Bella Bella.

I had to call this guy back because I wanted to make sure — because I’m half asleep — wanted to make sure that I heard him right, that there’s a tug that ran aground in our territory,” he recalls.

Brown is the director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management department, the branch of the Heiltsuk government in charge of the environmental stewardship of the First Nation’s traditional territory.

Two hours later he was on site with a team ready to respond.

It was total chaos,” says hereditary chief Harvey Humchitt.

Christy Clark's Answer to B.C.'s Early Forest Fires? Burn More Fossil Fuels

Christy Clark LNG

Christy Clark is our province’s very own natural gas salmon, swimming gamely upstream against the advice of evidence and experts from multiple fields, determined to spawn B.C.’s LNG business in the heart of the province and give it the best start she can — everything else be damned. Or dammed, or whatever.
On a visit this week to Fort St. John, which is currently on fire, the premier bragged that producing and burning LNG will help prevent wildfires by causing a net decrease in carbon emissions as it displaces coal in China.
“If there’s any argument for exporting LNG and helping fight climate change, surely it is all around us when we see these fires burning out of control,” she told reporters at a press conference.

Does National Unity Have to be a Casualty of Canada's Energy Debate?

Workers are laying down their tools across the Canadian oilpatch as the price slump draws on. Alberta had a net loss of nearly 20,000 jobs in 2015, with skilled workers being laid off and little hope in sight. The reaction, then, to talks of climate action has been often hostile, with people fearing more economic damage from carbon pricing or other new environmental regulation.
But for some there is an upside to the glut of out-of-work skilled people: it’s an opportunity to shift gears and put them to work in a growing green sector. Former oilsands tradesman Lliam Hildebrand started a non-profit group, Iron & Earth, to get oilpatch workers back to work on the next generation of green energy projects. (Investment in clean energy now doubles that of fossil fuels world-wide.)
“We have the skills to build the renewable energy infrastructure required for Canada to meet their climate target,” Hildebrand told CBC News. “That will open up a huge amount of opportunity for us if we can start diversifying our energy grid and it would ensure that we are less vulnerable to price fluctuations.”
The new organization brings a fresh perspective to a longstanding perceived tension between climate action and its spinoff benefits and the fear of damaging existing emissions-intensive industries.

In a panel discussion last week Environment Minister Catherine McKenna assured Albertans that the Liberal government would not risk damaging “national unity” by acting quickly on climate change. For some, her comment begs the question: when exactly will the Liberals be ready to start acting on their emissions reductions targets?

The Unsexy Climate Solution That's a Total No-Brainer

There’s a new kind of building going up in an old East Vancouver neighbourhood. An eight-storey, 85-unit rental housing development is nothing new for a city that is constantly being torn down and built higher, but an apartment here comes with a perk.
“You could technically heat that apartment with a hairdryer,” says Ed Kolic, the developer behind The Heights, the new Passive House-certified development. When completed, it will be the biggest of its kind in Canada, second only to a new building in New York.
Low-energy houses like this could make a serious dent in Canada’s carbon emissions, cutting up to 2.7 per cent from the total, while simultaneously becoming an engine for economic growth.
“In all of the climate change literature globally, the quickest and fastest way to take action on climate change is to look at the energy use in buildings,” says Charley Beresford, director of the Columbia Institute.

Low Expectations for Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s High Emissions

The summer of 2010 was a bad year for Saskatchewan. Record floods, winds, and hailstorms led to 175 communities declaring states of emergency, and costing the province over $100 million. “The Summer of Storms” also made it the worst year ever for insurers, with $100 million in crop insurance payouts.
Premier Brad Wall, a man once described by Maclean’s as “standing athwart history yelling ‘I’m not sure about this!’ ” responded to the string of natural disasters with a telling quote: “The one thing the province cannot control is the weather,” he said.
Unfortunately for Saskatchewan, the type of extreme weather that cost it so dearly in 2010 is symptomatic of what models predict for the province under a changing climate.
Sure enough, extreme weather was yet again making headlines and shutting down entire cities in 2014.
On carbon emissions, the province is Canada writ small: both are small emitters in their larger contexts, yet large emitters per capita. Saskatchewan is the biggest carbon source per capita in the country, with three quarters of the province’s energy coming from coal and natural gas, although it plans to reduce that to 50 per cent by 2030.
Wall’s philosophy on climate change appears to be to downplay the significance of actual emissions while encouraging innovation in Canada that can be exported to larger emitters — tackling carbon on a larger scale than what can be done in the Canada’s relatively small arena.