Ontario’s Disastrous Nuclear Energy Policy

Doug Ford

Before he was elected Ontario’s premier, Doug Ford promised to fire Hydro One boss Mayo Schmidt. “You can take this to the bank. The CEO is gone and the board is gone,” Ford said on April 12. The PCs now say removing Schmidt is not a priority. – Andrew Francis Wallace,Toronto Star

Ontario has the highest electricity cost in North America.  Prices are about to skyrocket.

Prices for nuclear power have risen by 84-109% since 2002 and are now many times higher than the market price of electricity in the province.  If Ontario Power Generation’s rates are approved, in 2026 electricity will be almost triple (2.8 times greater) today’s price. The Ontario Clean Air Alliance reports, “According to OPG, the price increases are needed to finance the continued operation of its high-cost Pickering Nuclear Station and to rebuild the Darlington Nuclear Station.”

To justify Ontario’s outrageous hydro bills, Ford claims they are because the previous government had signed long-term renewable energy contracts. 

Nuclear boosters keep repeating the benefits of “safe, reliable and affordable nuclear energy”. All three claims are false.

The cost of electricity is not a focus for the bureaucrats at OPG. Cost is not in OPG’s mandate. OPG is a nuclear energy booster because it supposedly provides a stable base energy for the grid. Except when it doesn’t.

When nuclear is up and running, Ontario has a huge energy surplus – a surplus that it has to sell below cost or give away. 

Nuclear power plants have to shut down annually because of mandatory safety inspections or frequent safety concerns. It takes time to shut down a nuclear power plant; it takes time for the inspections; it takes time to get nuclear up and running again. Then Ontario is forced to import electricity at prices well above average market price. 

OPG’s policy, unlike any other viable business on earth, is essentially ‘buy high/sell low’.

After Chernobyl and Fukashima, some of the world’s largest economies have abandoned nuclear power while redoubling their efforts to fight climate change.

Ontario’s response was different. In a token PR gesture, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) ordered OPG to distribute free potassium iodide (KI) pills to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer in the aftermath of a nuclear disaster at the Pickering and Darlington Nuclear Generating Stations. The supply, enough for 1.5 million people, was clearly inadequate for the 4.5 million people in the ‘target area’. 

With 10 reactors in the GTA, the distribution area did not even include the entire Greater GTA  As a gas, radioactive iodine can travel quickly and is easily inhaled. It did not include Prince Edward County–vulnerable because of the prevailing westerly winds.

Apart from the horrendous cost of decommissioning Darlington and Pickering, there remains the problem of what to do with the nuclear waste. Sierra Club warns, “The International Atomic Energy Agency says “On-site disposal of decommissioning waste is not a recommended practice.” The present plans are to ship it for deep repository storage to either Ignace or Bruce/Huron. However, our “independent” nuclear regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), wants to allow on-site disposal of nuclear reactors — facilities that will remain radioactive for thousands of years after shut-down.”

Energy expert Amory Lovins concludes that building new reactors, or operating most existing ones, makes climate change worse compared with spending the same money on more-climate-effective ways to deliver the same energy services. WInd, solar, Air source heat pumps, geothermal and hydro—the very options that Ford is dismantling—are readily available sources of cheap,  low-cost renewable energy

Ford should immediately dismantle the Pickering Nuclear Station after it closes in December 2024.  Electricity users could save anywhere from $1.1 to $7.4 billion per year by avoiding expensive reactor rebuild plans. Instead, improve efficiency. Import low-cost water power from Quebec. It doesn’t make sense to pay 16.5 cents per kWh for nuclear power when Quebec water power is available for one-third the cost. 

Still in the conception stage, Ford has bet on the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) to save his bacon. It will be ten years or more before we see proof of concept demonstrations. But we need immediate, drastic and unprecedented reductions of greenhouse gas now. 

The Canadian Environmental Law Association says that renewables – not small modular nuclear reactors – are the solution to climate change.

But Ford remains a nuclear booster.

 

 

 

 

 

Via Rail passenger train service cancelled between Montreal and Toronto

Mohawk protesters have been blocking the line near Belleville, Ont., to show support for Wet’suwet’en Nation

Mohawks from Tyendinaga moved a dump truck with a snowplow toward a rail line in a protest Thursday supporting the Wet’suwet’en opponents of a natural gas pipeline which faced an RCMP raid on Thursday morning. (Courtesy Oyohserase Maracle)

Passenger train service from Montreal Toronto is being cancelled again Sunday because of a protest near Belleville, Ont.

Via Rail says trains between Toronto and Ottawa, and Toronto and Montreal, will stay in the station until the situation is resolved.

The cancellations are not affecting the stretch between Montreal and Ottawa.

Members of the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory have been blocking the line as a show of support for the Wet’suwet’en Nation in British Columbia, which has been blocking construction of a natural gas pipeline.

Via Rail has cancelled dozens of departures since the demonstrations started on Thursday.

“We are aware that this situation, which is unfortunately beyond our control, has an impact on our customers and we apologize for the inconvenience this situation is causing,” the Crown corporation said in a statement Sunday.

CN Rail obtained a court injunction to end the demonstrations.

The injunction, which does not name any individual, was issued by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Toronto on Friday.

It forbids any continued interference with the rail line under the threat of arrest, and was served to demonstrators by CN police Saturday afternoon.

The train service says it will automatically refund everyone affected by the service disruption. If your reservation includes a return trip that you wish to cancel, customers are asked to call 1-888-VIA-RAIL (1-888-842-7245). SOURCE

 

 

Day 4: RCMP continue enforcement against Wet’suwet’en over pipeline injunction

More than 20 people have been arrested since enforcement actions began

RCMP are seen pulling an arrestee out of the warming centre area on Saturday, Feb. 8. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

t is day four of the RCMP’s enforcement of an injunction order in northern B.C. to ensure that Coastal Gaslink and its contractors can resume work in a disputed area of the pipeline route in the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

Since Thursday the RCMP have been moving in, kilometre-by-kilometre, camp-by-camp, down the Morice West Forest Service Road, to enforce the injunction against named Wet’suwet’en defendants and supporters.

The forest service road begins at a turn off from Highway 16 in Houston, B.C. It twists and curves, forking off in different directions and is a roadway Coastal Gaslink is depending on for construction work on a $6-billion, 670-kilometre natural gas pipeline that has received approval from the province.

Twenty First Nations band councils have signed agreements in support of the project, including five of the six band councils in the Wet’suwet’en nation.

However, the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say those band councils are only responsible for the territory within their individual reserves because their authority comes only from the Indian Act. The hereditary chiefs — who are the leaders of the nation’s governance system in place before the imposition of the Indian Act — assert authority over 22,000 square kilometres of the nation’s traditional territory, an area recognized as unceded by the Supreme Court of Canada in a 1997 decision.

First Nations and other organizers have been rallying in support of the hereditary chiefs across Canada — holding solidarity protests, putting up roadblocks and blocking railways across the country while others grow increasingly frustrated with the people defying the injunction order and want to see the pipeline go ahead.
Supporters of the Wet’suwet’en in Ontario are blocking a rail line in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs. Dozens of Via Rail are cancelled between Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. 3:42

More than 20 people arrested since Thursday

By Saturday night, police had arrested a total of 21 people. Eleven of those people were arrested on Saturday at a site referred to as the warming centre, after police announced it had become part of an expanded exclusion zone.

Police told the people at that warming centre on Friday night they have to leave the site by Saturday morning or face arrest for breaching the injunction. The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs objected to people being removed from the area and the relationship between chiefs and the police was visibly strained on Saturday.

“We’ve been fed a bunch of lies ever since we met you guys,” hereditary chief Madeek told RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield in a heated phone conversation on Saturday when the chiefs were being kept out of their territory at a checkpoint marking a expanded exclusion zone.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Madeek speaking to RCMP Chief Superintendent Dave Attfield on the phone while being prevented from crossing a police checkpoint into his territory. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC News)

RCMP say the exclusion zone was expanded on Saturday based on the actions of people at the warming centre in recent days “that could possibly endanger those who travel the road, and a blockade of parked vehicles.”

CBC has asked the RCMP for clarification about what precisely an “exclusion zone” is and has yet to receive a response.

Unist’ot’en next reoccupation site facing enforcement 

Much of Saturday’s police activity involved police removing people from the warming centre area.

As the injunction enforcement continues for the fourth day, there remains one main site where police have yet to take action — the Uniost’ot’en healing village.
It’s not clear how many people are staying there or what kind of obstacles stand in the way of Coastal Gaslink and its contractors.

Police said in a news release that members of the Indigenous Police Division and Division Liaison team approached Unist’ot’en “to facilitate conversation” on Saturday but said “the occupants of the Healing Centre declined to engage.

Social media posts and news reports from journalists embedded at the centre reported the police arrived by helicopter and that people at Unist’ot’en did not engage in conversation with the police because they were holding a ceremony.

Coastal GasLink has signed agreements with numerous Indigenous communities. But the Unist’ot’en clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation opposes the pipeline project through its traditional territories. (Chantelle Bellrichard/CBC)

Police said in their release that they travelled to the site “by alternative means of travel” because they couldn’t travel over a bridge leading to the site.

The bridge over the Lamprey Creek, about 20 kilometres away from Unist’ot’en, is impassable, said police. They’ve said a criminal investigation into the situation is going to be undertaken, saying officers noticed on Friday that support beams on the bridge appear to have been cut.

CBC is unaware of what kind of enforcement actions might take place at Unist’ot’en, and when, but will be watching for developments throughout the day. SOURCE

BC Ferries receives delivery of new hybrid electric Island Class ferries

BC Ferries' two new Island Class vessels are seen secured to the partially submersible transport vessel Sun Rise on Jan. 18, 2020. .

 BC Ferries’ two new Island Class vessels are seen secured to the partially submersible transport vessel Sun Rise on Jan. 18, 2020. . BC Ferries

BC Ferries’ two new hybrid electric vessels are slated to be unloaded in Victoria on Friday morning.

The new ships arrived at Ogden Point last week on a semi-submersible transport vessel and will now be unloaded at Point Hope Maritime, where they will be made ready for service.

The unique transport vessel carrying the ferries partially submerged overnight to let the ferries float freely.

READ MORE: BC Ferries awards contract for 4 more electric hybrid vessels to Dutch company

BC Ferries says tugs will move in to begin pushing the first ferry to Point Hope Maritime around 10 a.m., with the second ferry going around 2 p.m.

People who wish to watch the process are advised to head to Esquimalt Lagoon for a good view. MORE

 

Feds’ electric-car rebate uses nearly half its three-year budget in eight months

OTTAWA — Transport Minister Marc Garneau is thinking about expanding the government’s rebate program for people who buy electric vehicles after eager car-buyers gobbled up nearly half the funds in just eight months.

Garneau launched the incentive payments last May, offering up to $5,000 off the price of buying new electric and hybrid passenger vehicles to try and bring their price tags closer to those on similar gas models.

Ottawa funded the program with $300 million, on a first-come, first-served basis, over the next three years.

As of Jan. 19, Transport Canada reports that more than $134 million in rebates have already been issued to 33,000 Canadians. At that rate of uptake, the funds will be entirely gone before the end of this year.

“It’s very encouraging to see how many people are now thinking about and actually going ahead and buying (zero-emission vehicles),” Garneau said outside the House of Commons Monday afternoon.

While the government expected the program to be popular, the briefing book prepared for Garneau after he was reinstated as the transport minister after the fall federal election, says “the program has induced more new sales than projected.”

According to Transport Canada, overall electric vehicle sales jumped 32 per cent after the rebates were launched, compared to the same period the year before. In 2019, electric cars made up three per cent of all vehicle sales, up from two per cent in 2018.

That is still a long way from the goals the federal Liberals set last year to have electric cars make up 10 per cent of all light-duty vehicle sales by 2025, 30 per cent by 2030 and 100 per cent by 2040. It is a significant part of Canada’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, with light-duty vehicles emitting 12 per cent of all emissions in Canada in 2017.

Garneau noted his mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau instructs him to do more to meet those quotas, and he said looking at doing more with rebates is among the possibilities, including extending them to used cars as well.

“I’m certainly working very hard in that direction,” he said, though he wouldn’t speculate about the specifics about what an expanded program would look like. It’s likely any expansion would be included in the next federal budget.

Cara Clairman, CEO of the non-profit electric vehicle advocacy group Plug’n Drive, said a 2017 study by her organization found price to be the main deterrent for consumers when it comes to buying an electric car, so incentives are definitely helpful.

“There are people buying electric vehicles without them but definitely it helps,” she said.

She said a program in Ontario to offer $1,000 incentives to buy used electric cars spurred the purchase of more than 300 used electric cars since it launched in April. That program, run by Plug’n Drive with funding from the private M.H. Brigham Foundation, is expanding next month to add an additional $1,000 incentive to not just buy a used electric car but to scrap a gas-powered vehicle in the process. The scrapped vehicles will be disposed of by the Automotive Recyclers of Canada.

Canadian electric vehicle sales are still heavily concentrated in Quebec and British Columbia, which offer provincial rebates on top of the federal rebate. B.C. drivers can get up to $3,000 more back from the provincial government, and Quebec drivers can get up to $8,000 on top of the federal incentive.

Electric Mobility Canada reported late last year that 75 per cent of all electric cars sold in Canada were purchased in B.C. (29 per cent) and Quebec (46 per cent.) Twenty per cent were bought in Ontario, leaving the remaining seven provinces with just five per cent of all the sales.

Ontario had a rebate program until it was scrapped by the new Tory government in 2018, leading to a significant drop in electric car purchases in that province. Electric Mobility Canada says the sale of electric cars in Ontario fell 44 per cent in the third quarter of 2019, compared to that period in 2018.  SOURCE

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Top Tory contenders will fight carbon tax if they win leadership race

Peter MacKay, who is running for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, said he would ‘roll back the Trudeau carbon tax.’

The key contenders in the Conservative leadership race say they plan to keep fighting the federal carbon tax, if they win the party’s top job.

While Peter MacKay, Erin O’Toole and Marilyn Gladu have tried to distance themselves from other elements of outgoing leader Andrew Scheer’s election campaign, all confirmed to The Globe and Mail that on the carbon tax they agree with Mr. Scheer. The positions reflect the stark divide between the Conservative base’s opposition to the carbon tax compared with the strong backing it gets from Liberal and NDP supporters.

In a statement, Mr. MacKay said he would “roll back the Trudeau carbon tax.” In a separate statement, Mr. O’Toole said he would “scrap the federal carbon tax and focus on how Canada can become a global leader in zero-carbon technology like nuclear.”

Neither candidate was available for an interview.

Who’s running for the Conservative Party leadership? The list so far

Carbon pricing in Canada: A guide to who’s affected, who pays what and who opposes it

When Ms. Gladu first floated a leadership bid in December, she said she didn’t think it would be “profitable to try to take away” the carbon tax, noting “Canadians have said that they will accept it.”

Now that she is an official candidate, Ms. Gladu has changed her mind. She told The Globe she believes a carbon tax is “really not an effective way to get a reduction” in emissions.

“I will revoke the federal carbon tax,” she said.

According to the Ecofiscal Commission, an independent group that championed carbon taxes before it closed in 2019, the measure has limited or reduced emissions in jurisdictions such as British Columbia and Sweden.

Ruling out a carbon tax removes a key tool for tackling climate change and comes as Canadians put an increased focus on it. According to a December poll from Nanos Research, more than one-third of Canadians believe the environment should be the top priority in 2020.

After Doug Ford rode to power in Ontario slamming the carbon price, the Conservatives were hoping the same position would help them federally. Instead, more Canadians voted for parties that championed a carbon tax.

But as Ontario MP Michael Chong learned in his failed 2017 Conservative leadership bid, strong support for carbon pricing stops at the party’s doors. At the time, Mr. Chong was the only candidate to advocate for a carbon tax; in December, Mr. Chong said he didn’t know if he would still back it because the party should respect its members views.

On Wednesday, he ruled out a leadership bid, telling The Globe he concluded, “There’s no path to victory.” He said the next leader needs an “ambitious agenda to deal with our subpar environmental and economic performance.”

But he said that doesn’t have to include a carbon tax, which he called “the most economically efficient way to reduce emissions” but not the only way.

On Wednesday, Manitoba MP Candice Bergen also confirmed she would not make a leadership bid.

Conservative MPs John Williamson and Michelle Rempel Garner are still considering leadership bids.

The carbon tax is the most prominent and contentious part of the Liberal government’s climate plan, but it is just one part of more than 50 measures Ottawa has introduced to reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other policies include regulating methane emissions, incentives for zero-emissions vehicles and investments in green infrastructure and clean technology.

The policies still leave Canada well short of meeting its 2030 emissions targets; the Liberals have said they will introduce more measures to reach the goal.

The Conservatives will elect their next leader in Toronto on June 27.

In 2018, the federal government announced that all provinces would need to implement a carbon-pricing system by April 1, 2019 and those that didn’t would fall under a federal carbon tax. But what is carbon pricing anyway?   SOURCE
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Trump and the Trillion Trees

President Trump on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

President Trump, in his State of the Union address Tuesday night, talked about a new global effort to plant a trillion trees, although he didn’t mention the problem it was created to address: climate change.

“To protect the environment, days ago, I announced the United States will join the One Trillion Trees Initiative, an ambitious effort to bring together government and the private sector to plant new trees in America and around the world,” he said.

Earlier in the speech, though, he lauded American production of oil and gas, both fossil fuels that generate emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide.

Republican climate advocates said they weren’t surprised that Mr. Trump sidestepped direct mention of global warming. They said the president was trying to thread a needle by both promoting fossil fuels and declaring himself environmentally friendly ahead of the elections.

“No surprise at all,” said Jerry Taylor, president of the Niskanen Center, a conservative think tank that supports a tax on carbon-dioxide emissions. Republicans, he said, are “trying to solve a political problem, the perception that the party just doesn’t care one bit about climate change.”

Ted Halstead, the chief executive of the Climate Leadership Council, a policy group backed by two former Republican secretaries of state, James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz, said he also believed electoral math was driving Mr. Trump’s softening on the environment. He said he was hopeful the rhetorical shift would drive a substantive one.

“There’s a major Republican climate pivot, which is encouraging,” Mr. Halstead said. “The president is talking about a trillion trees, the House is talking about innovation. These are all encouraging steppingstones, but none of them are nearly enough.”

Mr. Taylor said he believed the shift was driven by “cold-eyed Republican realists in Trump’s re-election campaign” and that he wasn’t certain it would translate into progress in the battle against climate change. Solving the problem, he said, “would require a lot more than policies to promote ever greater use of oil, gas and coal — leavened by some trees.” SOURCE

How to Turn Your Yard Into an Ecological Oasis

Replacing grass with even a few plants native to your region can save insects and the ecosystems that depend on them.

For years, Toni Genberg assumed a healthy garden was a healthy habitat. That’s how she approached the landscaping around her home in northern Virginia. On trips to the local gardening center, she would privilege aesthetics, buying whatever looked pretty, “which was typically ornamental or invasive plants,” she says. Then, in 2014, Genberg attended a talk by Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology at the University of Delaware. “I learned I was actually starving our wildlife,” she says.

The problem, Tallamy explained, is with the picky diets of plant-eating insects. Most of these bugs—roughly 90%—eat and reproduce on only certain native plant species, specifically those with whom they share an evolutionary history. Without these carefully tuned adaptations of specific plants, insect populations suffer. And because bugs themselves are a key food source for birds, rodents, amphibians, and other critters, that dependence on natives—and the consequences of not having them—works its way up the food chain. Over time, landscapes that consist mainly of invasive or nonnative plants could become dead zones.

Top, Toni Genberg. Bottom, an enormous bumble bee (Bombus sp.) visits a wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) in Genberg’s Virginia backyard. Photos by Toni Genberg.

Croplands can be just as destructive, making up nearly 20% of all land in the United States. And that doesn’t even include the single largest irrigated crop in the country. Covering more than 40 million acres in the U.S., grass lawn consumes an area roughly the size of New England—land that, for the sake of habitat conservation, might as well be pavement.

Considering how little habitat and food these monocultures provide, and the incredible amount of resources they require, is there any wonder why the global insect populations are plummeting?

But there are solutions. One, at least in theory, is quite simple: Plant more native species. It’s a calling that has spoken to a growing number of park managers, home gardeners, and landscapers—many of whom trace a direct line of inspiration to Tallamy. His research has helped overturn decades of harmful horticultural practice, forcing us to rethink how we tend to both public and private spaces.

Savanna Syndrome

In lieu of monocrops, landscapes with a larger, more diverse biomass of native species help support pollinators, sequester carbon, capture runoff, and rebuild habitats. One recent study found habitats with two or three native tree species are on average 25% to 30% more productive than monocultures, meaning they contribute that much more food and energy to an ecosystem. Habitats with five native tree species were 50% more productive. Wildlife is drawn to lands teeming with native plants.

Doug Tallamy, a professor of entomology, works to promote the planting of native plants in place of turfgrass. Photo by Cindy Tallamy.

For individuals who’d like to live a more sustainable lifestyle, the simple message of planting more native species is both productive and rewarding—a refreshing contrast to consumerist exhortations that blame the collective problem of environmental collapse on individual shopping choices. Like anything else, real change has to happen at the macro level, especially when it comes to turfgrass—a crop with deep cultural, even evolutionary roots.

Sociobiologists refer to the preference humans have for vast swaths of low-cut grass as “Savanna Syndrome.” Open grasslands allowed our primitive ancestors to keep an eye out for predators. So even today, on a deep level, we feel safer when we can see to the horizon.

Lawn is the default landscape, but it doesn’t have to be.

Until the Industrial Age, the demands of agriculture kept lawns at bay. They were seen mostly as status symbols that said a person had enough money to brush off the territorial demands of farmland. The invention of the lawnmower democratized the lawn, and further embedded its pathological hold on our psyches.

But lawns require huge quantities of water and often chemical treatments to maintain them—not to mention the emissions produced by two-cycle lawnmowers. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, running a lawnmower for one hour emits as much air pollution as driving a typical car 100 miles. This resource allocation becomes more and more difficult to justify as climate change continues to dry up once-productive habitats. As a monocrop, lawns displace landscapes that could benefit people, plants, animals, and insects. It’s time for us to reconsider lawns on a grand scale, several researchers have concluded.

Considering how entrenched lawns are in the American imagination, to uproot them will require some give-and-take. Advocates say we need a culture shift as well as policies that support it.

“As climate change and droughts worsen, we might get to a point where there’s political support to outlaw lawns,” says Sarah B. Schindler, a professor of law at the University of Maine, who has written several papers about the legal authority of municipalities to ban lawns. “I do think we’re seeing a change in norms, and I think part of that is tied to rising awareness of climate catastrophe.”

Many native species flock to Genberg’s property, including American goldfinches that dine on the seeds of orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida). Photo by Toni Genberg.

Part of that work is simply raising awareness. Many people don’t think about the possibility of their yards as anything but turfgrass. As Tallamy puts it, lawn is the default landscape, but it doesn’t have to be. “People don’t realize there’s an alternative.”

Choosing Native Plants

Some communities are beginning to impose alternatives. In CaliforniaColorado, and Arizona, where water shortages are a growing crisis, cities offer rebates for each square foot of lawn replaced with native or water-saving landscapes—a process known as “xeriscaping.” In wetter climes, Washington, D.C., and cities in NebraskaWashington stateIowa, and Minnesota have implemented rebate programs for the planting of rain gardens, which capture and infiltrate more runoff than grass. The city of Alexandria, Virginia, recently changed its municipal mowing to allow for the growth of meadows and glades in city parks.

Throughout the country, local groups are advocating for the planting of natives on roadsides, medians, campuses, and parks. Some, like Food Not Lawns, encourage homeowners and neighborhoods to replace lawns with edible plants to establish food sovereignty and food security within their communities. Others take a more clandestine approach by planting “guerrilla gardens” or tossing “seed bombs” into abandoned lots and properties where they don’t have the legal right to garden.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds are often seen visiting the cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) on Genberg’s property. Photo by Toni Genberg.

“One thing that we’ve learned with our research is that there is room for compromise,” Tallamy says. Native planting doesn’t have to be all or none to make a difference. He gave the example of chickadee reproduction: If you have at least 70% native plant biomass in a given habitat, you can have sustainable chickadee reproduction. “That gives you 30% to plant perennials and exotics and other ornamental plants.”

Tallamy’s research into the relationship between native plants and insects has inspired gardeners to do more than just turn their yards into native oases. Many are now creating resources to empower others to do the same.

The National Wildlife Federation created a native plant finder web tool, which allows users to plug in a ZIP code to find trees, shrubs, and plants native to their region. Following her horticultural revelation, Toni Genberg created ChooseNatives.org, a resource to help users find, purchase, and learn about native plants. Since switching to natives, Genberg herself has seen all sorts of wildlife return to a property that, before, was only a suburban simulacrum.

Matt Bright founded the nonprofit charity Earth Sangha with the goal of propagating and restoring local native plant communities in the D.C. area. “We’ve set records for total plants distributed from our wild plant nursery for four years running,” he says. “And overall, the trend has been towards more demand from all corners, whether that’s from park managers and ecologists, homeowners, or landscaping companies.”

Biodiversity Among Buildings

But shifting away from lawns is complicated by the fact that municipalities have long adopted rules called “weed ordinances,” which require short ground cover for purely aesthetic reasons. This effectively mandates the planting and maintaining of lawns, as do many local zoning laws and HOA bylaws. And these rules aren’t always taken lightly. In Michigan a few years ago, a woman faced jail time for growing a vegetable garden in her front yard instead of lawn.

A long-horned bee visits an orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) in Genberg’s backyard. Photo by Toni Genberg.

 

People don’t want to be told that they can’t have their lawns, but they also don’t want to be told that they have to have a lawn.

The elephant in the room, of course, is property rights. Limits and requirements can inspire backlash. As Genberg points out, “Americans don’t want to be told what to do, especially when it comes to their properties.”

That’s why Tallamy has focused on talking to the public instead of advancing top-down regulation. Laws, especially bans, need public support to pass. To even think about regulating lawns you first need to change the culture around them. As people like Toni Genberg and Matt Bright show, Tallamy’s message is resonating.

“What you do on your property affects everybody,” Tallamy says. Nonnative or ornamental plants may not look like pollutants, but from an ecological standpoint, they are. Tallamy’s research bears this out: A new paper from his team shows just how effective nonnative plants are at destroying local habitats.

“We compared caterpillar communities in hedgerows that were invaded with non-natives versus hedgerows that were mostly native,” he explains. “There’s a 96% reduction in caterpillar biomass when they’re nonnative, so if you’re a bird and you’re trying to rear your young, you just lost 96% of your food.”

A bluebird taking off with its meal. Photo by Doug Tallamy.

But there’s a flip side, he says. If you take the invasive species out and put the native plants in, you’ve just created 96% more food.

And this isn’t some gardening trend reserved for America’s suburbs and conservation lands. In Manhattan, the most densely populated urban center in the country, officials converted an abandoned railway line into a public park called the High Line, with a policy of planting at least 50% native species.

“There are monarch butterflies there, there are all kinds of native bees, which really surprised me,” Tallamy says. “If you can do that in Manhattan, you can do it anywhere.” SOURCE

CLIMATE ACTIONS AND RENEWABLE ENERGY

Awarded for the best climate action and Innovative Politics in Europe.

ClimateArena in Ii.

Ii’s Innovative Low-Carbon Public Services won in 2017 the European Commission’s RegioStars Awards category in Energy Union: climate change. Ii was especially appreciated for innovativeness and for engaging the citizens. Also in 2017 the Nordic Council of Ministers identified Ii as one of the best Bioeconomy cases in the Nordic Region.

In November 2019, Municipality of Ii won the Innovation in Politics Awards / Ecology for encouraging everyone to take climate actions. Watch video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZAEfI4RPz0

EUROPE’S GREENEST TOWN?

How has a small place in northern Finland managed to become Europe’s most eco-friendly town? Ii has slashed its CO2 emissions by 80% and is producing 10 times more renewable energy than it consumes. This community project could be an inspiration for us all – but such rapid change is not without opposition. Watch BBC News Channel: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000cgm1

See more videoclips about our climate actions:

Climate Arena is the nation’s leading climate festival which invites everybody to participate in a common dialogue to find solutions and tackle the climate change together. Artists, scientists, celebrities, political leaders, citizens and business citizens all share the same stage to discuss the one thing that needs everyone’s actions, the climate change.  For two days in August the stages are filled with performances and panel discussions to engage the whole society and to have some festival fun. Welcome to Climate Arena!

SIGNIFICANT RESULTS IN REDUCING CO2 EMISSIONS

All energy produced in Ii is renewable: hydro, geothermal and wind power as well as bio-based fuels. Ii produces ten times more renewable electricity (water, wind and solar power) than it uses annually. One of Finland’s largest wind farms is located by the sea shores of Ii.

Municipality of Ii has set an ambitious goal to reduce 80 percent of carbon emissions by the year 2020, which is over 30 years faster than the EU climate target. Ii has managed to cut down oil consumption by 89% from 2010 level. Energy, heat and water data are collected in real-time from all public buildings.

Cost savings of renewable energy and energy efficiency investments are more than 0,5 M€ per year and as the payback time has been around six years. Tax revenue income from wind power is 1M euros per year.

MUNICIPALITIES AS PIONEERS AND CITIZEN ENGAGEMENT

Ii is part of Towards Carbon Neutral Municipalities (HINKU) -project that brings residents, experts and companies together to create and carry out solutions in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Significant renewable energy implications are being activated in the area producing new business opportunities and competence to entire Northern Finland. Ii is also part of Finnish Sustainable Communities (FISU) and CircWaste network.

With us innovative ideas are easily tested, measured, adjusted and piloted, which opens new opportunities for the companies working e.g. on energy storage development, solar and bioenergy or sustainable transportation systems.

Regional development company Micropolis ltd boosts green and sustainable growth. The expertise covers environmental engineering and profitability calculations, service design, business incubatoring and enhancing circular economy solutions. Significant renewable energy implications are being activated with the assistance of EU funding programs producing new business opportunities and competence in the Arctic region.

Municipality owned property company Iilaakso ltd let and develop industrial facilities and business premises for all size companies. As an active supporter of green innovations, Iilaakso is a piloting premise in a 5G trial system for future IoT services as well as next generation energy measurement systems.

LOOKING FOR INNOVATIVE GREEN PARTNER?

Please contact Ms. Leena Vuotovesi, CEO of Micropolis ltd
Tel. +358 40751 4318, leena.vuotovesi@micropolis.fi

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