Lessons from the Protest Papers

Anti-pipeline activists and Indigenous groups face the ‘chilling effect’ of government and industry surveillance. Will it stop them?

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Indigenous leaders led a march against the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. And the Protest Papers suggest CSIS was watching. Photo by Rogue Collective.

The “Protest Papers” released by the BC Civil Liberties Association are just the latest chapter in a five-year battle to determine if CSIS and the oil and gas industry are illegally spying on citizens’ groups.

The thousands of pages of documents, even in their heavily redacted form, suggest CSIS — the Canadian Security Intelligence Service — spied on opponents of the now-defunct Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, including Indigenous groups. And the spy agency shared the intelligence with oil companies and the National Energy Board.

“Our tax dollars are being used to spy on people on behalf of the fossil fuel companies.”

Alexandra Woodsworth, spokeswoman for Dogwood BC, one of the groups, called the surveillance and monitoring “a shocking betrayal” of peoples’ trust in their government.

“Our tax dollars are being used to spy on people on behalf of the fossil fuel companies,” she told Glacier Media.

What does this mean for those resisting pipelines like Coastal GasLink, which would bring fracked gas to Kitimat LNG plants? Or the Trans Mountain Expansion Project to bring greater amounts of bitumen to the Lower Mainland from Alberta’s oilsands? MORE

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Home truths, Part 2: Prince Edward County’s Airbnb problem

This is Part 2 of a five-part TVO.org series looking at how Ontario’s affordable-housing crisis is playing out beyond the GTA. Click here for Part 1; watch for Part 3 on Wednesday. 

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Prices are rising. Houses and apartments are becoming short-term rentals. Here’s why it’s getting harder to find a place to live in the county — and what locals are doing about it

PICTON — Zainab Mnyetto was thrilled when she got a job in Prince Edward County last summer. Then she started an apartment search.

“I could not find a place to stay,” says Mnyetto, a Queen’s University economics student. “They were either too far from downtown, or too expensive, or they were Airbnbs that would only allow me to rent on weekdays.”

It was an eye-opening experience for Mnyetto, both personally and professionally. After all, the job she’d accepted was as a housing adviser, researching affordable-housing solutions for the local economic-development office.

She did eventually find a place to live — she roomed in her colleague’s parents’ spare bedroom at a “family and friends” rate — but not everyone is so lucky.

Over the past 15 years, Prince Edward County has become a popular destination for day-tripping wine lovers and vacationers. The area’s first winery opened in 2001, and the region now hosts roughly 650,000 visitors per year; those visitors spend more than $115 million. At the same time, the county has begun to attract more retirees and city-dwelling professionals looking for cheaper housing and a more relaxed lifestyle.

Energy development vs. endangered species: winner takes all

The world is literally dying around us as we continue to pursue the myth of endless growth

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A cow and calf from the extirpated (locally extinct) South Selkirk caribou herd. Photo: David Moskowitz

Widespread species decline at the hands of humans is a powerful tale. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, more than 27 per cent of 100,000 assessed species are threatened with extinction. This disappearance is a warning that something is amiss on Earth.

The Anthropocene is the newly recognized geological epoch defined as widespread environmental change or crisis caused by human activity. Some predict history will remember it as the sixth mass extinction event on Earth.

Yet when the choice lies between protecting an endangered species or pursuing economic development, we almost always side with development. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise: as a species, we have evolved with a predisposition to favour growth over environmentally rational decisions. The world is literally dying around us as we continue to pursue the myth of endless growth. MORE

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Aquacalypse now: the end of fish

‘Nowhere to go.’ Iqaluit homeless stay in shacks, old boats amid housing crisis


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, takes part in an announcement with Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern in Iqaluit, Nunavut on Friday, Aug 2, 2019. File photo by The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick

Nushupiq Kilabuk wakes up every day in a shack on the shores Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit with only a lantern and a camping stove to keep him warm — but he says he’s one of the lucky ones.

Next to his shack, which he built himself a little over four years ago, there are two abandoned boats. One is a wooden fishing boat with a small front cabin, the other, an overturned canoe. Inside the fishing boat are sleeping bags and a jerrycan. Underneath the overturned canoe is a mat and an empty packet of cigarettes.

People have been sleeping in and under these boats at night — often several people crowded together to escape the elements.

That’s why Kilabuk believes he’s fortunate for his shack.

“I thank God for the abundance of what I have. But the people around me that are sleeping around in the boats … I have warmth. I’m lucky. I feel bad for them,” he said Friday.

“But I feel bad for myself too because I don’t have an apartment or running water or power.”

Kilabuk is one of many homeless Inuit living in dilapidated shacks along Frobisher Bay. Some are families with small children. Some are elders. Some, like Kilabuk, do have jobs and incomes, but simply cannot afford the steep rents for homes and apartments.

A Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation report published last year found the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Iqaluit was $2,648 in 2017.

There is also a major shortage of housing across the vast territory of Nunavut.

The federal government estimates Nunavut needs more than 3,000 units to meet its current housing demand, with over 4,900 individuals on waiting lists.

That’s why Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was keen to call a media conference during his two-day visit to the territory to announce a new housing agreement with Nunavut.

It will provide $290 million over eight years to “protect, renew and expand” social and community housing, as well as repair and build affordable homes across the territory.

“We recognize that this is a big step forward that is going to make a huge difference in creating thousands of homes and we know this is really going to make a tangible impact in the lives of people here in the North,” Trudeau said in Iqaluit.

The newly allocated money will flow to the territory under the Trudeau government’s previously announced, decade-long national housing strategy.

“A few of them have no other choice than to commit a crime and go to jail for the winter. They get themselves a criminal record just to stay in a warm place in the winter.”

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq and Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern stood next to Trudeau and expressed gratitude for the federal cash — but both also noted that more is needed.

“It is a housing crisis,” Savikataaq said. MORE

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New way to find relevant news on our environment and health

EHN.org launches new map and “Smart Search” to better access its reporting archive; thousands of stories available

Image result for EHN: New way to find relevant news on our environment and health

We drink from a firehose of daily information. Now EHN.org has a filter to break the daily news stream into relevant, manageable chunks.

EHN.org on Monday launched a new “smart search” and mapping function allowing users to quickly find stories of interest to them on a wide range of environmental health topics, from plastic pollution to biodiversity loss, endocrine disrupting compounds, toxics and more.

Every day, EHN editors and researchers hand-pick 50 to 70 top stories from around the world on our environment and health. The new map shows stories near you. The Smart Search allows you to sort that archive of thousands of stories by topic, author, source and more.

We live in a world awash in information. So much news flows by, from so many sources both trusted and questionable, that it’s easy to get overwhelmed, freeze up, and lose perspective. EHN’s mission, in many ways, is to fight that.

We offer a host of daily and weekly newsletters that feature the top 15 to 25 stories on a variety of topics, from a general environmental health summary in our daily Above the Fold to weekly aggregations of top news in plastics, population, energy, children’s health and more. See the whole list here.

Check out our map and smart search here. And let us know how it works for you by taking a short six-question survey here.   MORE

A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises

BANGALORE, India — Countries that are home to one-fourth of Earth’s population face an increasingly urgent risk: The prospect of running out of water.

From India to Iran to Botswana, 17 countries around the world are currently under extremely high water stress, meaning they are using almost all the water they have, according to new World Resources Institute data published Tuesday.

Many are arid countries to begin with; some are squandering what water they have. Several are relying too heavily on groundwater, which instead they should be replenishing and saving for times of drought.

In those countries are several big, thirsty cities that have faced acute shortages recently, including São Paulo, Brazil; Chennai, India; and Cape Town, which in 2018 narrowly beat what it called Day Zero — the day when all its dams would be dry.

More than a third of major urban areas with more than 3 million people are under high or extremely high water stress.

Groundwater is going fast

Mexico’s capital, Mexico City, is drawing groundwater so fast that the city is literally sinking. Dhaka, Bangladesh, relies so heavily on its groundwater for both its residents and its water-guzzling garment factories that it now draws water from aquifers hundreds of feet deep. Chennai’s thirsty residents, accustomed to relying on groundwater for years, are now finding there’s none left. Across India and Pakistan, farmers are draining aquifers to grow water-intensive crops like cotton and rice. MORE

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New York City’s first self-driving shuttle service launches today

A driverless shuttle vehicle in New York City's Brooklyn Navy Yard

Six autonomous six-seater shuttles will be offering free rides around a one-mile loop of New York’s Brooklyn Navy Yard.

If you can make it here … : It’s the first driverless car service to launch in the Big Apple (most trials in the US have taken place in Arizona). The yard offers rides on a set loop in a predictable environment, though, so we’re still a long way from setting the technology free in the famously chaotic streets of Manhattan.

That said: It’s a first step. The cars are being operated by Optimus Ride, a company that spun out of MIT in 2015. The service will operate continuously between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. every weekday.

Falling out of love: The hype around fully autonomous vehicles has subsided, as the breathless promises of launches in 2020 hit the hard reality of complexity and failure. A woman was killed by a self-driving car being tested by Uber last year, and three Tesla drivers have died while relying on their autopilot systems. So what, say the technology’s boosters? People are killed every day by human drivers. That’s true. But the reality is that most people are still reluctant to trust machines to drive them, and there’s a long way to go to persuade them otherwise. SOURCE