The government agency at the centre of B.C.’s old-growth logging showdown

BC Timber Sales has become a lightning rod for controversy, with many expressing dismay over the NDP’s ‘business as usual’ approach to logging

A BC Timber Sales old-growth clearcut in Thursday Creek, Upper Tsitika Valley. Photo: Louis Bockner / Sierra Club BC and Wilderness Committee

The expanse of ragged stumps, stretching up a steep slope beside Schmidt Creek, on northeast Vancouver Island, serves as a graphic example of controversies over old-growth clearcuts approved by BC Timber Sales and a growing push-back from those who want better protection for intact forests.

The clearcut, above the world-famous Robson Bight orca rubbing beaches, has drawn the ire of conservation groups, whale biologists and First Nations provoking questions about how BC Timber Sales is assessing parcels of old growth for auction.

BC Timber Sales, which was created in 2003 by the Liberal government, manages 20 per cent of the province’s annual allowable cut, making it the biggest tenure holder in B.C. This year, the government agency plans to auction off about 600 hectares more old-growth forest on Vancouver Island, an area about 1.5 times the size of Stanley Park.  The agency has plans to auction off another 8,800 hectares in future years.

Old-growth trees are at least 250 years old and are prized by timber companies. As they become increasingly rare, BC Timber Sales is auctioning off parcels close to communities or recreation areas, meaning conflict is more likely, said Jens Wieting, Sierra Club BC’s forest and climate campaigner.

“They are running out of places to find timber where they can log without conflict, so they end up pursuing what I call extreme old-growth logging,” Wieting told The Narwhal.

Floods, droughts and fires are also shining a spotlight on the impacts of climate change, made worse by logging.

“These forests provide clean water, clean air and carbon storage,” Wieting said.

The mandate for BC Timber Sales puts the standalone agency in a straitjacket, Wieting said.

“Auction 20 per cent of B.C. volume no matter what. So, instead of using BC Timber Sales to develop and implement best practices in the midst of climate and species emergencies, they behave like a machine designed with a single purpose: find the fibre,” he said.

That is not how BC Timber Sales sees its mandate and, in an emailed response to questions from The Narwhal, a spokesperson said forestry practices are rooted in the precautionary principle and failing to auction off 20 per cent of the allowable annual cut would “put the integrity of the timber pricing system at risk.” MORE

Alberta oilsands mine in public interest despite ‘significant adverse’ effects: panel

In a colonial neoliberal system economic development always is given priority over human rights and earth rights. We need to change everything.

An oil worker holds raw sand bitumen near Fort McMurray, on July 9, 2008.An oil worker holds raw sand bitumen near Fort McMurray, on July 9, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

A federal-provincial panel says a proposed northeastern Alberta oilsands mine would be in the public interest, even though it would likely significantly harm the environment and Indigenous people.

Vancouver-based Teck Resources Ltd. aims to build the $20.6-billion Frontier mine near Wood Buffalo National Park in two phases.

READ MORE: UNESCO gives Canada new deadline to preserve Wood Buffalo National Park

Its total capacity would be 260,000 barrels of oil a day. More than 290 square kilometres of land would be disturbed.

Teck has said it aims to start producing oil in 2026, with the mine lasting for more than four decades.

“While the panel has concluded that the project is in the public interest, project and cumulative effects to key environmental parameters and on the asserted rights, use of lands and resources for traditional purposes, and culture of Indigenous communities have weighed heavily in the panel’s assessment,” said the report released Thursday.

It said the project would likely result in significant adverse effects to wetlands, old-growth forests and biodiversity, as well as to Indigenous people in the area.

“The proposed mitigation measures have not been proven to be effective or to fully mitigate project effects on the environment or on Indigenous rights, use of lands and resources, and culture.”

READ MORE: Mikisew Cree First Nation official says Frontier oilsands mine deal includes vote on future development

The panel’s report includes several dozen recommended conditions for Teck and the federal and provincial governments.

They include mitigating harm to wildlife, monitoring pollutants and taking feedback from nearby First Nations into account.

But the panel also said there are economic benefits. Over the project’s expected lifespan, the federal government could expect to reap $12 billion in taxes and Alberta could rake in $55 billion, with another $3.5 billion in municipal property taxes, it said. SOURCE


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Greta Thunberg: ‘They see us as a threat because we’re having an impact’

The climate activist answers questions from famous supporters and Observer readers, with an introduction by Ali Smith

‘Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed’: Greta Thunberg photographed in her home city, Stockholm, March 2019. Photograph: Michael Campanella/The Guardian

reta Thunberg. This time last year she was unimaginable. Then, pretty much from nowhere, there she was: small and slight, a girl just turned 16, the way-too-young odd person out on a panel of adults sitting in front of the world’s economic powers at Davos last January. Unshowy and serious, careful, firm, she said it. Our house is on fire.

The ancient Greeks had a word for this: parrhesiastes. It means a person who speaks truth to power: you should not be behaving in this way. Don’t. More specifically it suggests someone in whom directness of expression and access to truth coincide; and it means someone of very little power who’s risking everything – because they can’t not, there’s no option – to speak ethical truth to powers so entrenched that they’re close to tyrannical, because telling this truth is about moral law. “Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular know exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue to make unimaginable amounts of money, and I think many of you here today,” she said to the World Economic Forum conference, “belong to that group of people.”

Thunberg is Swedish; she was born in 2003 and lives in Stockholm with her younger sister Beata, her mother, a singer, and her father, an actor. There’s a picture of the family somewhere online taken when she was much younger; her mother and father are smiling broad old-fashioned smiles at the camera – doing what you do when you have your photo taken. Both the children, only waist- and knee-high, regard the lens with utter seriousness and inquiry. At eight years old, Greta Thunberg heard about climate change. She wondered why no one was doing anything to stop it. At 11 she stopped speaking, in protest; now she sees that “selective mutism” as the first step to understanding the power and necessity of speaking at all.

She was 15 when she began taking days off her education to sit in front of the Riksdag in Stockholm, declaring she’d do this till Sweden reduced carbon emissions in line with the Paris agreement. She gave out leaflets: “I am doing this because you adults are shitting on my future.” She made a couple of speeches internationally that tapped into a profound unspoken understanding in young people; in just six months, nearly one and a half million children across the world were schoolstriking for action on climate change. Her Instagram post on these strikes reads: “Time is much shorter than we think. Failure means disaster. The grown-ups have failed us. And since most of them, including the press and the politicians, keep ignoring the situation, we must take action into our own hands. Starting today. Everyone is welcome. Everyone is needed. Please join in.”

Earlier this month Opec declared Thunberg, and with her the other young climate activists, the “greatest threat” to the fossil fuel industry. Thunberg tweeted them her thanks. “Our biggest compliment yet.” Hers is a voice totally unlike the world’s usual power-cacophony: clean, simple, inclusive, the voice of someone refusing to beguile. She talks ethics to politics without flinching. She cuts through the media white noise and political rabble-rousing to get to the essentials. This is a communal voice and Thunberg is its lightning conductor, and no wonder: when you hear her speak or you read her speeches you know you’re in the presence of the opposite of cynicism – of a spirit, in fact, that rebuffs cynicism and knows that the way we act, every single one of us, has transformatory impact and consequence. “The real power belongs to the people.”

This voice lets us know we’re in disavowal, and that we’d better wake up. Then it tells us, clear as anything, how to do this. Ali Smith

Questions from famous fans


What can people reading this do today to make an impact?
A great start is to inform yourself. To read and try to understand the problem. It is very depressing but absolutely necessary. Once you fully realise the situation then you will know what to do. And then spread that information to others. Then there are lots of things you can do in your everyday life. Going vegan, stop flying and have shop-stop for instance. Of course we need a system change. But I believe that you cannot have system change without individual change. In today’s debate climate, a lot of people will not listen to you unless you practise as you preach and live by example. And we need everyone to listen. So making some personal changes is very much worth it. MORE


The new political story that could change everything

To get out of the mess we’re in, we need a new story that explains the present and guides the future, says author George Monbiot.

Drawing on findings from psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology, he offers a new vision for society built around our fundamental capacity for altruism and cooperation. This contagiously optimistic talk will make you rethink the possibilities for our shared future. (15:16)


Google X and the Science of Radical Creativity

How the secretive Silicon Valley lab is trying to resurrect the lost art of invention

Image result for google x self-driving car
Google’s own design for self-driving cars, which will drive people around without a steering wheel or pedals. It’s the latest project from Google X, the company’s skunkworks group headed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin.

Entrepreneurship may have grown as a status symbol, but America’s start-up rate has been falling for decades. The label innovation may have spread like ragweed to cover every minuscule tweak of a soda can or a toothpaste flavor, but the rate of productivity growth has been mostly declining since the 1970s. Even Silicon Valley itself, an economic powerhouse, has come under fierce criticism for devoting its considerable talents to trivial problems, like making juice or hailing a freelancer to pick up your laundry.Breakthrough technology results from two distinct activities that generally require different environments—invention and innovation. Invention is typically the work of scientists and researchers in laboratories, like the transistor, developed at Bell Laboratories in the 1940s. Innovation is an invention put to commercial use, like the transistor radio, sold by Texas Instruments in the 1950s. Seldom do the two activities occur successfully under the same roof. They tend to thrive in opposite conditions; while competition and consumer choice encourage innovation, invention has historically prospered in labs that are insulated from the pressure to generate profit.

The United States’ worst deficit today is not of incremental innovation but of breakthrough invention. Research-and-development spending has declined by two-thirds as a share of the federal budget since the 1960s. The great corporate research labs of the mid-20th century, such as Bell Labs and Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (parc), have shrunk and reined in their ambitions. America’s withdrawal from moonshots started with the decline in federal investment in basic science. Allowing well-funded and diverse teams to try to solve big problems is what gave us the nuclear age, the transistor, the computer, and the internet. Today, the U.S. is neglecting to plant the seeds of this kind of ambitious research, while complaining about the harvest.

No one at X would claim that it is on the verge of unleashing the next platform technology, like electricity or the internet—an invention that could lift an entire economy. Nor is the company’s specialty the kind of basic science that typically thrives at research universities. But what X is attempting is nonetheless audacious. It is investing in both invention and innovation. Its founders hope to demystify and routinize the entire process of making a technological breakthrough—to nurture each moonshot, from question to idea to discovery to product—and, in so doing, to write an operator’s manual for radical creativity.

Engineer holding salt in her hands.

Malta: Storing renewable energy in molten salt

…One of the latest breakthroughs… is an energy project code-named Malta, which is an answer to one of the planet’s most existential questions: Can wind and solar energy replace coal? The advent of renewable-energy sources is encouraging, since three-quarters of global carbon emissions come from fossil fuels. But there is no clean, cost-effective, grid-scale technology for storing wind or solar energy for those times when the air is calm or the sky is dark. Malta has found a way to do it using molten salt. In Malta’s system, power from a wind farm would be converted into extremely hot and extremely cold thermal energy. The warmth would be stored in molten salt, while the cold energy (known internally as “coolth”) would live in a chilly liquid. A heat engine would then recombine the warmth and coolth as needed, converting them into electric energy that would be sent back out to the grid. X believes that salt-based thermal storage could be considerably cheaper than any other grid-scale storage technology in the world. MORE

How melting plastic waste could heat homes

Breakthrough means less pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions 

 Domestic plastic waste for recycling. Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

It is a problem bedevilling households across the UK: what can we do with the mountains of food-spattered plastic waste left in our bins?

Now a group of scientists say they have the answer – by using the detritus of domestic life to heat homes.

Researchers at the University of Chester have found a way to use dirty plastic waste to produce hydrogen, which can heat homes and fuel cars without producing greenhouse gas emissions. The process uses a glass kiln, heated to 1,000C, to instantly break down unrecyclable plastic to release a mix of gases including hydrogen.

The technology will be used commercially for the first time at a plant near Ellesmere Port in Cheshire later this year after a pair of “waste-energy” companies agreed to invest.

Peele Environmental, the owner of the plant, said the project could help keep 25 million tonnes of “contaminated” plastics, which cannot be recycled, from ending up in landfills or the ocean. Hydrogen could play a key role in helping the UK meet its climate targets by replacing traditional gas used for decades in stoves, radiators and boilers. It could also re place petrol and diesel in cars, vans and buses.

“Surely the world must wake up to this technology,” said Professor Joe Howeof the University of Chester. “It will make waste plastic valuable with it being able to power the world’s towns and cities, and most importantly it can help clean up our oceans of waste plastic now.”

However, similar plans have raised concern among environmentalists in the past. Although hydrogen is not a greenhouse gas, the process of creating it from plastic releases potent greenhouse gases including methane.

The Cheshire project plans to trap the gases and pipe them into a power plant to generate electricity. This would not be any more polluting than the UK’s existing gas-fired power plants, and would avoid the need to extract more gas from the ground. MORE


Cities could one day power homes and fuel cars with plastic, a giant step toward solving the pollution crisis

Mahdah Urf (Earth song revival) Official video

The official video for the feel-good song of the year. Artist from all over the world going under the name of ‘The Mahdah Urf Collective are joined on the video by people and artists from all over planet earth for the emergency call-out to do something now about climate change, the environment, and humanity.

This is a truly global video musically and visually lead from Jamaica by Della Danger Drummond and his team and Stevie Eagle E and Shlepp Entertainment. The video is produced by Shlepp Entertainment/Dangerzone Music Group. Directed by Stevie Eagle E. The video stars (in order of appearance) Jane Maria, Esco, Della Danger Drummond, V8nam, Richie Spice, Onika Best, Jah Fabio, Natalia, Stevie Eagle E, Zululand Gospel Choir, Raven Reii, Quezia Brazil, Sir Baily, Ladee Dread, Maiyalee, Popin, Kaos Mc, Sultan, Aleighcia Scott, Mo’Sax, Peter Doc B, Talis, Andrew Robinson, Kymmi. The video was shot on locations in USA, UK, Sweden, Switzerland, Africa, Brazil, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico and China. Get your copy now!