Vaughn Palmer: Veil of secrecy over Wet’suwet’en deal extends to elected chiefs

VICTORIA — New Democrats remain confident that the agreement with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs is in good hands, though one of the elected chiefs has yet to even see a copy.Still on the outs is

He’s one of several elected leaders who put out a statement last week complaining that they had been left out of the talks among hereditary chiefs and the federal and provincial governments.George says he’s still being kept in the dark by the hereditary chiefs, before a meeting scheduled for the end of this week.

Wet’suwet’en hereditary leader Chief Woos, centre, Crown-Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett, and B.C. Indigenous Relations Minister Scott Fraser arrive to speak to reporters in Smithers on March 1. JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS 

“I’ve seen part of it that got leaked out,” George told host Carol Off on CBC’s As it Happens, Monday. “But I’m not sure if it’s the right one. They’re keeping it confidential until our meeting on Friday.”

The B.C. minister of Indigenous relations and reconciliation, Scott Fraser, helped negotiate the agreement with his federal counterpart, Carolyn Bennett.

But he’s refused to discuss the contents, saying it was negotiated in camera and it is up to the Wet’suwet’en chiefs to share it with their people.Now it turns out that a prominent Wet’suwet’en leader can’t see a copy either.Is the NDP government comfortable with that?“The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs committed to bringing the proposal to all Wet’suwet’en clan members through their Wet’suwet’en governance process,” said the reply Tuesday from Fraser’s ministry.

“They have advised us that they are engaged in those conversations with their clans, and have held several community meetings to date.”

But in any event, as the ministry made it clear, Fraser does not regard himself as accountable for the ratification process.“It is our expectation that any decision on the proposed arrangement will be based on a legitimate process consistent with Wet’suwet’en laws and governance systems, that is recognized by Wet’suwet’en peoples as representing their nation.“The chiefs are accountable for that ratification process and we do not intend to interfere,” said the ministry in its statement.

Chief George is rightly suspicious of the hereditary chiefs who negotiated the agreement. He is one of the founders of the First Nations LNG Alliance and a strong supporter of the Coastal GasLink project (“of course, I do”) having negotiated a generous benefit sharing agreement with the company.

Most of the hereditary chiefs oppose the pipeline. Nor did the federal and provincial governments oblige them to give up their opposition as part of the one-sided negotiations that led to the agreement.“I don’t think they’re representing the best interests of our people,” said George when asked about the hereditary chiefs. “I think the province and the federal government were wrong to go in there without us elected chiefs.”Now that the process of consulting the Wet’suwet’en people is underway, how does the ministry feel about the continued exclusion of elected leaders like George?“This question would be better directed to the hereditary chiefs,” said the statement. “We are not aware of the specifics of this circumstance. As we understand it, not all clan meetings have yet occurred.

The hereditary chiefs are working to have full conversations and dialogue at their clan meetings, the ministry maintains. “It is our expectation that that process will include elected chiefs. “George is approaching Friday’s meeting without knowing what to expect, both in terms of the contents of the agreement and the attitude of the hereditary chiefs.“I’m not sure of the position of the hereditary chiefs until I start meeting with them and where their stance is going to be,” he told the CBC.“My position is that I’m not signing no title and rights agreement. We need to figure out our governance structure within the hereditary chief system first and foremost. All these protests started because of our governance system. So it must end with our governance system also.”

Still, he tries to remain optimistic. “If we can come together and create a governance system and work together, I think that’s the only silver lining that can come out of this.”Time is running out. In hailing the agreement as a major step forward last week, Fraser said he’d been assured by the hereditary chiefs that the ratification could be concluded in two weeks — meaning by this weekend.But when I asked if that were still the date for completing the process, his ministry hedged.“It was not a hard and fast deadline,” said the statement. “We respect that this is a very important community conversation, and intend to be responsive to the ratification process of the hereditary chiefs, however long it takes.”

Officially, the federal and provincial governments remain optimistic about ratification. But even there, the statement from the B.C. ministry hedged slightly.“If the proposal is ratified by the Wet’suwet’en clan members, we would proceed with the negotiation process, as agreed, on how to implement rights and title and how we will work together as the three orders of government going forward.“Another important piece of this work would be consultation with stakeholders and the public.”Yes, the public.

If and when the deal has been reviewed and ratified by the Wet’suwet’en people — “however long it takes” — the federal and provincial governments plan to make the terms public.

Only then will British Columbians discover what Fraser negotiated and signed on their behalf. SOURCE

RELATED:

Disagreement continues over who speaks for the Wet’suwet’en
 

The ‘solar coaster’ and how green jobs rise and fall with changing governments

Provincial flip-flops on climate change policies left fledgling sectors with winners and losers

Solar panels from EVOLVSolar are shown on a cold Feb. 2019 day in Calgary, Alta. (Tracy Fuller/CBC)

Companies trying to grow in Canada’s renewable energy sector say they face difficult and uncertain futures when provincial governments such as Alberta or Ontario change their methods of addressing climate change.

That includes Michael Daciw, who told CBC Radio’s The Cost of Living that installing solar panels was not his first calling.

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After a career in Calgary’s oil-and-gas sector, he decided to strike a new path in the renewable energy sector when economic conditions seemed ripe for a green boom in 2016.

“At the time there were some incentives in place in Alberta that helped lower that payback period, and that was incentivizing a lot of growth,” recalled the 40-year-old Daciw, who was an actuary before his career in the energy sector.

“There were over 100 companies doing solar installations in Alberta for the two, two and a half years that that program was in place.”

According to Daciw, at his company’s busiest point it had about 40 projects at various stages of development.

The cyclical nature of the the rebates and financial incentives … they actually call it the ‘solar coaster’ in the industry.– Michael Daciw, EVOLVSolar

Today his company, EVOLVSolar, is one of only a handful still in operation in the province despite the work in Alberta having mostly dried up.

“Yeah it’s kind of scary,” said Daciw. “Just with the cyclical nature of the the rebates and financial incentives, that’s part of the business and they actually call it the ‘solar coaster’ in the industry, which is very apt.”

So what caused this sudden change of direction on the “solar coaster?”

Politics.

Kenney, Ford governments reversed green policies

Albertans elected a new government in 2019, giving Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party a majority mandate. Its first order of business was to repeal the carbon levy, seen as the centrepiece of the previous NDP government’s Climate Leadership Plan.

“We kind of saw the writing on the wall with the election,” said Daciw, who then decided to pivot his company to focus on expanding into Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

Michael Daciw said his company, EVOLVSolar, is one of the remaining outfits in Alberta’s solar industry after incentives were cut by a changing government. (Tracy Fuller/CBC)

 

Despite the pivot, Daviw still had to lay off staff in Alberta.

And it was the same story across the province when the UCP government decided to scrap the various energy efficiency subsidies encouraging Albertans to install solar panels or retrofit their homes with green upgrades such as tankless water heaters.

One day those jobs were growing but the next day, they were gone.

It’s a familiar experience for Dianne Saxe, Ontario’s former environmental commissioner. According to Saxe, she witnessed an entire sector grow and wither within months of a change in government in 2018.

Soon after sweeping the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park, Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government cancelled a range of climate change related policies, including the province’s cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions.

Dianne Saxe’s position as Ontario’s environmental commissioner was eliminated by Doug Ford’s government. (CBC)

 

“We had a large and growing clean tech sector. It was one of the healthiest in the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development],” said Saxe.

“We had a huge number of people in renewable energy and clean tech, a whole range of innovators and entrepreneurs that we need for the green economy. We also had a lot of interest from international funders,” she said, adding all of it is “pretty much gone” now due to the sudden flip in strategy.

Let the free market decide?

Critics of green subsidies question their merit.

From that perspective, if enough people want to install solar panels on their roofs, a market will emerge to provide services at competitive prices.

Government incentives are partly there to back up some of the policies that they’ve come up with since they want consumers to act in a certain way.– Raja Bajwa, Economics Society of Northern Alberta

Under that framework, it makes no sense for the government to intervene. The number of green jobs which disappeared once subsidy or incentive programs ceased only reinforced skepticism on the part of free market proponents.

“Government incentives are partly there to back up some of the policies that they’ve come up with since they want consumers to act in a certain way,” explained Raja Bajwa, head of the Economics Society of Northern Alberta.

“One would look at this as more as trying to help kickstart a certain market that’s not there or that that’s fledgling,” he said.

“The hope is that really there’s going to be economies of scale. There will be a technological breakthrough and this will eventually lead to cheaper products and a market that can be sustained.”

At the same time, Bajwa acknowledged the theory that sometimes, in his words — “governments aren’t great at picking winners and losers.”

What about the future?

Beyond the loss of some 750 renewable contracts in Ontario, Dianne Saxe said the consequences of a green policy flip-flop have a long-term effect.

“It makes a permanent difference when you lose researchers, you lose businesses, you discourage students, you drive away investment,” said Saxe.

Solar panel installation company EVOLVSolar had to lay off staff in Alberta after the provincial government eliminated some incentive programs. (Tracy Fuller/CBC)

 

She likened it to personal relationships.

“If you burn your friends and your neighbors even if you apologize a couple of years later and try to go straight, they’re going to take quite a while to watch before they sure they can trust you again. Breaking trust, breaking contracts, it takes a long time to recover,” Saxe warned.

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In Calgary, Michael Daciw believes the “solar coaster” will rise again, and renewables will become more efficient and affordable over time.

“The capital is there, the willingness is there,” said Daciw.

“We’re hoping over time, more and more of Canada gets on board.” SOURCE

See Asia’s largest organic rooftop farm — located in the middle of Bangkok

This green roof and farm offer a Swiss army knife of solutions — flood control, solar energy, fresh produce, green space for city dwellers, jobs, learning opportunities, and more — to some of our most pressing urban problems. Landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom tells us how it works.

Landprocess

Could cities actually be designed to improve the environment? Bangkok, Thailand, landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom, a TED Fellow, thinks so. Her imaginative work challenges the prevailing thinking that urbanization has to have a negative impact on the planet, whether it’s in the form of flooding due to paved surfaces, excessive energy use, disrupted biodiversity or the heat island effect.

With her firm Landprocess, Voraakhom has designed a new green roof on the Rangsit campus of Thammasat University, about 25 miles north of central Bangkok. Bangkok is extremely vulnerable to catastrophic flooding — in fact, according to the World Bank, nearly 40 percent of the city, which is built on a river delta, may flood annually by 2030, and this situation has been greatly exacerbated by paved-over earth and intensifying rainy seasons.

The Rangsit green roof is the follow-up to Voraakhom’s award-winning Chulalongkorn University Centennial Park, an 11-acre green space in downtown Bangkok that can capture and hold one million gallons of water in its retention pond and storage tanks and prevent it from submerging the city. (Watch her TED Talk: How to transform sinking cities into landscapes that fight floods.)

As if that weren’t impressive enough, Voraakhom’s new 236,806-square-foot structure — which opened in December 2019 — encompasses a flood-water management system and also Asia’s largest rooftop organic farm. “We’ve combined the principles of modern landscape architecture with traditional agricultural knowledge to create a Swiss army knife of environmental solutions, integrating water management, green energy, green public space, and more,” says Voraakhom. “Meanwhile, by 2050, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities, and water will be a scarce commodity. We need to start using city spaces more efficiently to ensure a secure and sustainable source of food production.”

The green roof, containing an H-shaped lush landscape, looks like a futuristic hill with a brick building nestled snugly beneath it. “The hill features an intricate pattern of zigzagging terraces of planted beds, leading all the way down to the bottom,” says Voraakhom. “When rainwater hits the roof, it cascades down the zigzags cut into its slopes while being absorbed by the soil in the beds.” The excess water is channeled into four retention ponds – with a capacity of up to 3 million gallons  at the bottom of the mound. “The process slows down the flow speed of rainwater runoff by 20 percent compared to a normal concrete rooftop. This keeps a large amount of water out of the sewage systems, preventing the area from flooding during heavy rains,” she explains. The shape of the building also pays respect to one of the founders of the campus, economist Puey Ungphakorn. “‘Puey’ means ‘mound under the tree’ or ‘nourishment’ in Thai,” she adds.

Inspired by Thailand’s rice-growing tradition, the terraced structures were constructed using the ancient rammed-earth technique and are Voraakhom’s nod to the agricultural history of this region. “When I was thinking about this project, I tried to think back to what I could remember of this area from childhood — and rice terraces came to mind,” she explains. “A century ago, this area was outside of the main part of Bangkok city, filled with forests and swamps. A hundred years ago, King Rama V decided to devote this region to growing rice, so Thailand could become a major rice producer for the world. The king commissioned canals to control the water, and the region became known as Rangsit Fields, famed for its terraced hills of rice.”

The city’s concrete urban sprawl took over throughout the 20th century, culminating in major redevelopment when Bangkok hosted the 1998 Asian games, according to Voraakhom. The fields were dug up to accommodate hundreds of thousands of people. Afterwards, the university moved a branch of its campus to the site, and dense commerce and industrial development sprang up around it. “Today, the university wants to demonstrate its commitment to environmental sustainability in its infrastructure as well as its curriculum, and I wanted to bring the agricultural landscape and tradition back to Rangsit Field as a source of food,” she says.

Voraakhom’s wish has come true: Rangsit Fields now boasts a 1.73-acre rooftop farm. The dome’s stepped terraces are filled with organically grown crops – including a drought tolerant variety of rice, and many indigenous vegetables and herbs, including red and green oak-leaf lettuce,Thai eggplant, green roselle, Thai red pepper, dill. “We’ve planted almost 50 species of vegetables, herbs and rice. We’ve already had a round of harvesting, and the farm will be able to supply the canteens on campus with 20 tons of rice, herbs and vegetables a year, providing approximately 80.000 meals,” says Voraakhom. “The food waste is composted to fertilize the farm, and water from the retaining ponds is used to water plants, creating an entirely localized, circular system.” Since all the plants are grown organically, there’s no synthetic pesticide pollution. “The farm also creates a habitat for pollinators, restoring biodiversity, and reduces the need for food transport, contributing to environmental health as well as healthy living,” she says.

The farm serves as an outdoor classroom and a source of local jobs, too. Staff hired by the university tend to the crops, and farmers offer workshops on sustainable agriculture, permaculture and nutrition as part of the university’s sustainability curriculum. “Students and community members are invited to participate in seasonal seeding, harvesting, and so on,” says Voraakhom. “Farming is a crucial part of our country’s heritage. The urban farm is training a new generation of organic farmers with real-world skills. It also fosters a sense of community.”

Not only does the building offer a patch of green in the city, it’s fueled by green power. Integrated into the roof design, photovoltaic panels installed at the top of the mound generates 500,000 watts of electricity per hour. This is used to power the building, including the water pumps that pull water up from the retaining ponds to irrigate the crops during the dry season. Thanks to built-in passive cooling, there is less need for energy-intensive air conditioning: The roof works to insulate the building from heat. Meanwhile, breezes blowing across the retaining ponds cool the air before it enters the building. “When the wind blows over the water in the ponds, it creates a microclimate that also cools the atmosphere around the building, helping to reverse the urban heat island effect, says Voraakhom.

This project, which cost roughly $31.6 million US to build, offer a compelling demonstration of what’s possible as we rethink how we can live and thrive in our urban areas. Is it possible to build climate resilience — and even food production and community well-being — into all future cities? Voraakhom believes that many aspects can serve as a template for urban planners and architects who are striving to build sustainable cities. “The green roof and urban farm at Thammasat University show how climate resilience-focused development can perhaps begin to contribute more environmental benefits than problems,” she says. “And maybe even help resolve some of the problems of the past.” SOURCE

Watch her TED Talk here:

 

Coronavirus work-from-home policies give climate plans a boost

(Shutterstock)

Google has asked all of its North American employees to work from home until at least April 10 to stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s the most drastic in a spate of similar recommendations from Facebook, Twitter, Apple and many other big tech companies.

These companies employ hundreds of thousands of people. Given the scale, it could have a big impact on the climate.

Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in North America, and a lot of that comes from commuting.

For example, if the four-million-plus people in Canada whose jobs could be done from home did so twice a week, it could remove the equivalent of 385,231 cars from the road and cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by 1.9 million tonnes, according to a 2011 report from the Telework Research Network commissioned by the City of Calgary.

“There’s no quicker, easier, cheaper way to reduce your carbon footprint than not drive,” said Kate Lister, lead author of that report and president of Global Workplace Analytics, a U.S.-based firm that helps companies plan for the future of work.

In the longer term, emissions savings can be even greater, as telework policies allow companies to reduce the amount of office space they must heat, power and equip. That also saves money.

That’s why many cities, including CalgaryVancouverSaskatoon and even smaller communities like Halton Hills, Ont., include telecommuting as one of their plans to reduce climate change.

But the climate benefits go beyond mitigation. Telecommuting infrastructure also instils resilience against the extreme weather that’s increasing with climate change. And it’s part of the climate change adaptation plans for some cities, such as Waterloo, Ont.

A decade ago, the federal government invested $800,000 in WORKshift, a program to support telework throughout the Calgary region. When the city was hit with a massive flood in 2013 that forced a lot of people to work from home, many were already equipped to do so.

“It played a big role in the continuation of government in that flooding situation,” Lister said. “Employers already had the experience, and that’s really key.”

She noted that enabling telework isn’t necessarily simple. It means buying and configuring equipment like laptops, enabling secure file and resource access in the cloud and, importantly, training. “The biggest thing is training managers to manage by results rather than butts in seats,” she said.

She added that the longer employees work from home, the more likely it is that employers start to realize other benefits. That can include cost savings, higher productivity, fewer unscheduled absences, better employee retention and greater flexibility to scale up and scale down, because doing so doesn’t hinge on costs like office space.

Lister said support for telework often fizzles after events like floods are over. But coronavirus could be different. “It almost feels like this one could be a tipping point,” Lister said, noting that up until now, telework has been growing slowly and steadily at about 10 per cent a year.

She said she’s already hearing hints from companies such as global office real estate giant CBRE that this could “fundamentally change” the nature of workplaces and offices in Asia. And it seems to be spreading to other continents.

“I do think,” Lister said, “this coronavirus is going to leapfrog the trend.” SOURCE

Rich countries could be asked to pay billions to protect biodiversity

NGOs express disappointment with ambition of UN talks on global nature agreement

 The Amazon rainforest is a key life-sustaining ecosystem. Photograph: João Laet/The Guardian

Wealthy nations could be asked to make significant financial contributions to biodiverse countries such as Brazil under proposals put forward during talks on a global agreement to halt and reverse biodiversity decline.

Paying countries with life-sustaining ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest billions of pounds a year for the services those ecosystems provide for the world was proposed during negotiations on a Paris-style UN agreement on nature in Rome last week.

Conservationists hope the eventual agreement will provide an accessible, science-based global goal on biodiversity loss, equivalent to targets to limit global heating, following warnings from scientists that humans are driving the sixth mass extinction event in Earth’s history.

Delegates from more than 140 countries were responding for the first time to a draft 20-point agreement that includes proposals to protect almost a third of the world’s oceans and land and reduce pollution from plastic waste and excess nutrients by 50%.  MORE

Revealed: Monsanto’s secret funding for weedkiller studies

The research, used to help avoid a ban, claimed ‘severe impacts’ on farming if glyphosate was outlawed

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used weedkiller. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s cancer agency, the IARC, declared that it was probably carcinogenic. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Monsanto secretly funded academic studies indicating “very severe impacts” on farming and the environment if its controversial glyphosate weedkiller were banned, an investigation has found.

The research was used by the National Farmers’ Union and others to successfully lobby against a European ban in 2017. As a result of the revelations, the NFU has now amended its glyphosate information to declare the source of the research.

Monsanto was bought by the agri-chemical multinational Bayer in 2018 and Bayer said the studies’ failure to disclose their funding broke its principles. However, the authors of the studies said the funding did not influence their work and the editor of the journal in which they were published said the papers would not be retracted or amended.

Glyphosate is sold by Bayer as Roundup and is the world’s most widely used weedkiller. The World Health Organization’s cancer agency, the IARC, declared that glyphosate was “probably carcinogenic to humans” in 2015 but several international agencies, including the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), subsequently came to opposite conclusions.

Last year courts in the US ordered Monsanto to pay damages of up to $2bn (£1.5bn) to individuals with cancer and faces many more lawsuits. Bayer said it “stands fully behind its glyphosate-based products”.

The new revelations centre on studies published in 2010 and 2014 by researchers at ADAS, an agricultural and environmental consultancy in the UK. The analyses concluded “the loss of glyphosate would cause very severe impacts on UK agriculture and the environment”. They suggested a 20% fall in wheat and rapeseed production. However, other researchers at another consultancy, the Andersons Centre, said: “[We] believe that this may be rather high.”

Glyphosate weedkiller allows planting without ploughing, which helps stop carbon being released to the atmosphere. The ADAS research indicated a 25% increase in greenhouse gas emissions – a rise of 12m tonnes a year – if glyphosate was banned.

The ADAS research was used by the NFU in lobbying against an EU ban in 2017 when the renewal of the licence for glyphosate was being considered. The industry lobby group, the Glyphosate Task Force (now renamed the Glyphosate Renewal Group), also used the research, as did the Crop Protection Association.

Despite a petition from 1.2 million citizens calling for a ban, the pesticide licence was renewed for five years. However, this was far shorter than the 15 years that had been sought.

The secret funding of the ADAS studies was uncovered by a German transparency campaign group, LobbyControl. In December, LobbyControl revealed two pro-glyphosate German studies that were partly funded by Monsanto and published in 2011 and 2015 without the funding being declared.

“This is an unacceptable form of opaque lobbying,” said Ulrich Müller at LobbyControl. “Citizens, media and decision-makers should know who pays for studies on subjects of public interest. The studies also used very high figures for the benefits of glyphosate and for possible losses in case of a ban. These extreme figures were then used to spin the debate.”

The tendency of the results of scientific studies to favour their funders – called funding bias – is widely recognised in research on chemical toxicity, tobacco and pharmaceutical drugs.

A spokesman for Bayer said the company always disclosed its funding of third-party scientific publications. “The lack of reference to the funding of these studies does not meet Bayer’s principles,” he said.

He added: “Glyphosate-based herbicides have been used safely and successfully for more than 40 years. They are one of the most thoroughly studied products of their kind. We have no reason to doubt the methods, content or results of the studies conducted by ADAS.”

Sarah Wynn, at ADAS and one of the authors of the studies, said: “As with other companies in our field, it is entirely normal for external organisations to fund research studies. However, it has always been our core principle that our research is never influenced in any way by those that fund us.” ADAS is now leading another project on glyphosate that was partly funded by Monsanto.

Leonard Copping, editor of the journal Outlooks on Pest Management, in which the studies were published, said: “The authors did not advise me of the source of the funding. For this reason it was not disclosed. Conflict of interests is important but not relevant in this case. The papers will not be amended or retracted.”

However, following an enquiry from the Guardian, the NFU has amended its glyphosate material. “We are happy to add a line to the online article stating that the research on this occasion was funded by Monsanto,” said an NFU spokesman.

Bayer said farmers around the globe rely on glyphosate to provide enough food for the world’s growing population. But campaigners claim Monsanto has defended the product by ghostwriting research papers for regulators and using front groups to discredit critical scientists and journalists. In 2017, the Guardian revealed that EFSA based its recommendation that glyphosate was safe on an EU report that copied and pasted analyses from a Monsanto study. SOURCE

 

Plans for a massive hydro plant on the shores of Georgian Bay have residents ‘devastated’

Bob Baranski estimates the main section of the proposed plant will be 500 metres from his nearly completed retirement home in Meaford, and its large transformer station and high-tension wires much closer.

Bob Baranski and his wife Kathy spent a decade planning their retirement dream home. They saved money, canvassed home shows and pored over designs. Never in doubt was its location — on the pristine shores of Georgian Bay, where they have owned land for 40 years.

Last summer, after spending most of their retirement savings, only finishing touches remained to fully realize their dream — a spacious two-storey home with large windows facing the turquoise expanse of the bay.

The couple looked forward to moving to their Meaford bayside property full time from their home in Fergus, Ont.

“It’s a gorgeous spot,” says Baranski, an energetic 70-year-old watching snowfall turn his property into a winter postcard on a February morning.

The first ominous sign came at the end of last summer, when he found a neighbour’s handwritten note taped to his front door: “It said, ‘Did you know there’s going to be a power plant next door?’ ” Baranski recalls. “That got my attention.”

When he learned the size and general design of the project, he felt his retirement dream shatter, and feared for the shoreline’s environment and natural beauty.

“We’re devastated,” says Baranski, who co-owns a company that makes pallets and crates. He estimates the main section of the proposed plant will be 500 metres from his home, and its large transformer station and high-tension wires much closer.

“Everything that we have strived for in our life, all that we built and looked forward to, is going to be basically destroyed.”

If approved, TC Energy’s $3.3 billion “pumped storage” hydro facility would easily be one of the biggest industrial developments Georgian Bay has ever seen — and the Save Georgian Bay residents group has been formed to stop it. The group’s online petition to stop the hydro proposal has been signed by more than 23,800 people — an impressive figure given the population of Meaford is 11,000.

TC Energy — the Calgary-based company building the controversial Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in B.C. — stresses it’s still studying the feasibility of the project and has yet to conduct environmental impact studies or finalize the facility’s design.

Company documents note that at night, when demand and cost of electricity is low, gigantic intake pipes will suck 20 million cubic metres of water from the bay, using 1,000 megawatts for 11 continuous hours to fill a reservoir almost two kilometres away, on a plateau 150 metres above the shore.

The pumped water — equal to the amount rushing over Niagara Falls during a two-hour period — would be flushed back down through turbines to create electricity when demand and price are high. TC Energy expects this pumping and flushing loop to be repeated pretty much daily.

John Mikkelsen, the company’s director of power business development, calls the facility “a clean energy project.” It works like a gigantic battery, storing energy in the reservoir until needed.

Ontario has a surplus of power at night, forcing exports to the U.S. or other provinces — some 14 terawatts in 2016 — at cut-rate prices, TC Energy says. But in peak daytime hours, it runs gas-fired facilities to meet the higher demand.

Flushing the proposed hydro facility’s reservoir when energy is most needed would create 1,000 megawatts of continuous electricity for eight hours, enough to fuel almost one million homes for that length of time, Mikkelsen says.

Filling the reservoir requires more energy than created when emptying it. But the company points to an economic assessment by the Navigant consulting firm, commissioned by TC Energy, which estimates the facility would reduce the need for gas-fired energy and lower CO2 emissions by 490,000 tonnes per year — equal to removing 150,000 cars from the roads.

“If you’re concerned about climate change, I think this project is something you’re very interested in,” Mikkelsen says in an interview, adding that $250 million would be saved annually through a more efficient electrical system.

If given the green light after federal and provincial impact assessments — including on the environment and Indigenous treaty rights — the company expects construction to require 800 workers, take four years, and be completed by 2028.

How the project would work

The first hurdle is the Department of National Defence. The company hopes to build the facility, including the reservoir, on Meaford’s military base — the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre.

The department is consulting Indigenous groups and local residents until July 31. It will then decide whether giving up 3 to 5 per cent of its base would seriously disrupt military training, which includes firing machine guns and tanks. It’s assessing whether the training on that piece of land can be moved, says Peter Crain, DND’s director portfolio requirements, whose team plans infrastructure for Canada’s military bases.

If DND can’t accommodate TC Energy’s proposal, “then everything stops,” Crain says.

The other group with veto power is the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, which has a long-standing claim on unceded land and water that includes the Bruce Peninsula, the area between Goderich and Collingwood, and part of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron.

In an October 2019 letter to SON chiefs, TC Energy executive vice-president François Poirier stated the company won’t start construction “unless the Saugeen Ojibway nation is supportive of the project.” He offered a “commercial partnership”; Mikkelsen says it would likely be part-ownership of the facility.

In an information sheet for community members, SON’s chiefs and councils cited as risks the potential impact on water flow, Indigenous cultural and archeological sites, and fish. (Whitefish is important to SON’s commercial fishery.) Part-ownership, however, “would mean a significant financial benefit for the communities,” the chiefs added.

Greg Nadjiwon, chief of the Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation — one of two Indigenous communities that make up SON — says in an interview it’s too early to say if SON will be on board. But anything that reduces reliance on nuclear plants is worth considering, he adds. (SON recently rejected an Ontario Power Generation proposal, and $150 million, for an underground nuclear waste storage site at the Bruce nuclear plant on Lake Huron.)


Bob Baranski stands next to the fence that borders between his property line and the tank range, used for Defence Department training.

Bob Baranski’s property ends where the military base begins. He sometimes hears heavy machine-gun fire and explosions during training, but Georgian Bay’s beauty more than makes up for that.

He notes TC Energy hasn’t calculated the “enormous” greenhouse gas emissions that will be produced to build its facility. And he dreads the blasting, digging and kicked-up dirt the four-year construction will cause.

“It will pretty much be uninhabitable,” he says of his dream home. “I’m not a young man anymore and those four years are precious to us.”

He imagines with alarm the continuous noise and bright security lights of the plant when it’s finally running, and the impact the constant pumping and flushing will have on fish and the bay’s crystal-clear waters.

“What TCE is proposing will forever impact the Georgian Bay and Niagara Escarpment,” the Save Georgian Bay petition says. “Fish spawning habitat will be replaced with massive stone breakwaters and concrete structures.

“Bird habitat and nesting areas will be destroyed along the pipeline and transmission corridors. The clarity of the water that makes this area of Georgian Bay so beautiful will become turbid with silt and clay by the endless ebb and flow of water to and from the plant.”

Mikkelsen says engineers are working on design solutions for residents’ concerns. “We won’t build this project unless it’s environmentally acceptable,” he says.

TC Energy says its $100 billion worth of assets, including pipelines and energy facilities, directly produced 13.5 million tonnes of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. It points to the proposed project as an example of its commitment to reduce such emissions. But Bruce Rodgers is skeptical.

“They’re painting a nice, greenwashed story to get people to buy into the argument,” says Rodgers, who owns a four-season cottage near the proposed site and is CEO of an environmental consulting firm.

Rodgers, a member of Save Georgian Bay, describes the proposed facility as “a huge vacuum sucking everything up,” adding that whitefish spawn where the company will put its intake pipes. “The fish mortality could be huge.”

He notes the proposal is based on a 1,785-megawatt facility that began operating in 1972 on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, near Ludington, Mich.

A landmark study in 1980 — a baseline for mitigation requirements by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the U.S. — estimated that the plant’s six intake pipes sucked up and killed 532 million fish annually. About 99 per cent of the fish killed were larval and juvenile fish.

The deadly vacuuming process is technically called entrainment.

“The change in pressure essentially ruptures the fish,” says Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional executive director for the Virginia-based National Wildlife Federation. “It’s not a pretty thing.”

The shocking level of fish kills resulted in the federation and other environmental groups filing complaints with the regulator in 1982 and, later, a lawsuit against the plant’s owners, Consumers Energy Co. and DTE Electric Co. The state of Michigan also sued, seeking compensation for fish loss.

Under order of the regulator, the utilities have installed — during non-winter months since 1989 — an almost four-kilometre, semicircular net in front of the intake pipes to reduce the number of fish sucked up.

Legal battles ended in a 1995 settlement. The companies paid $5 million (U.S.) to set up the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust and a scientific advisory team. Consumers Energy also gave the trust 10,000 acres of land it had planned to use for another pumped storage plant.

“Given the extensive environmental damage, they realized they would never get a facility like that permitted again in Michigan,” says Mark Coscarelli, manager of the Great Lakes Fisheries Trust.

The settlement also includes annual payments by the utilities to the trust for estimated fish losses — a total of about $55 million (U.S.) so far. In 2019, the utilities paid $2.4 million (U.S.) in compensation.

The trust made another $20 million (U.S.) by selling the 10,000 acres — 70 per cent became part of a national forest. Over the years, it has granted almost $90 million to programs mitigating fish loss.

The profitable Michigan plant received a new 50-year licence in June. It followed an agreement for utilities to continue mitigation efforts and annual payments for fish losses.

The U.S. regulator and other agencies involved with the Michigan plant are unable to say how many fish are killed annually since the net was installed. However, studies suggest the net has significantly reduced entrainment of larger fish while it’s in place during non-winter months.

For Shriberg, it’s one thing to renew the licence for an existing pumped storage plant, quite another to build one today.

“I wouldn’t place good money on 50-year-old technology to be the thing that we need for the next 50 years to store energy,” says Shriberg. “Given the advances in battery storage and other ways to store power, it seems very unwise to invest in something that’s got such a big impact on the ecology and scenery of a place that’s as spectacular and fragile and unique as Georgian Bay.” (The biggest lithium-ion battery in the world is a 100-megawatt one in Australia, which can power 30,000 homes for one hour. Bigger ones are being designed.)

He also argues that a different design, known as a “closed loop” pump storage system, is far more environmentally friendly. That design uses two reservoirs — an upper and lower one — and continually pumps and flushes the same water between them rather than sucking up water from the lake or bay.

Mikkelsen told the Star a closed-loop system is one of the designs being considered. But in a reply to residents’ questions — which remains on the company’s website — TC Energy makes clear that option has been discarded because it reduces the project’s benefits.

Mikkelsen discourages comparisons with the Michigan plant, arguing technology and environmental standards have greatly improved in 50 years. The company notes the U.S. has more than 30 pumped storage facilities, and OPG has a 174-megawatt one in Niagara Falls, built in 1957.

For his part, Coscarelli of the fisheries trust sees the Ludington plant as an uncomfortable tradeoff between the advantages of clean energy and the deadly impact on fish. “We’re not crazy about it,” he says. “But we sleep better at night knowing we’re doing what we can to minimize the damages while compensating for those that we can’t do anything about.”

Next Stop: Parents rally for electric school buses

Electric School buses manufactured by Quebec’s Lion Electric. Handout photo by Lion

Just days after Prince Edward Island pledged to make the province’s entire school bus fleet all-electric, a network of parents has launched to convince other provincial governments to follow suit.

The new organization, For Our Kids, is starting in British Columbia where the provincial government is actively looking to accelerate climate action to meet its targets.

The call for electric school buses was supported by Dr. Melissa Lem, a mother and board member of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment.

“Reducing our kids’ exposure to harmful diesel fumes is good for their lungs and the planet,” said Dr. Lem. “Children are among the most vulnerable members of society health-wise, so we should be prioritizing solutions like electric school buses.”

Paul Shore, a father of two in Whister B.C. says he got involved with For Our Kids because his family had switched to an electric car and even an electric snow blower but every school day he had to watch as the local kids were breathing diesel fumes to get to school and back.

“B.C. says it wants to be a leader on climate change so what’s the hold up? Electric buses are readily available and being adopted all over North America, from Virginia to California to Montreal.”

Shore is planning a presentation to his local school board and is already in touch with parents in other regions. “Every new fossil fuelled school bus we buy from this point forward locks our children into many more years of climate pollution and negative health impacts.”

B.C’s Ministry of Education issued a news release following the launch of the For Our Kids campaign. The ministry announced that, “school districts will now have the option to purchase electric school buses through the Bus Acquisition Program.”

The statement specified that, “The 2020-21 Bus Acquisition Program provides $13 million for 31 school districts to buy 101 new buses, including up to 15 electric buses. Districts that buy electric buses will also have access to provincial funding for charging station infrastructure.”

Galen Armstrong, a For Our Kids spokesperson responded that, “15 electric buses out of 101 new ones is a great start, but it also means buying 86 diesel buses that lock us into years more pollution for our kids and the climate they’ll inherit,”

“This is why we’ll keep involving parents around BC in the campaign to make all new school buses electric and to transition the existing fleet by 2030 to help BC meet its climate targets,” Armstrong said.

Buses charge up

Electric cars get most of the attention but there are large climate and health gains being made by electrifying buses. And there are several Canadian companies in the space including Quebec’s Lion Electric, North America’s largest supplier of electric school buses. Other Canadian companies include Quebec’s Nova Bus, Winnipeg’s New Flyer, and B.C. based GreenPower.

The world leader in electric bus adoption is in China where the city of Shenzhen has switched its entire transit fleet and now has over 16,000 (not a typo) e-buses in operation. Bloomberg estimates that, thanks mostly to China, by the end of 2019 electric buses were displacing a cumulative 270,000 barrels of diesel demand per day, “more than three times the displacement by all the world’s passenger electric vehicles.”

Several Canadian cities have tested electric buses in winter conditions and are moving forward. Following successful trials, Montreal bought 42 e-buses and has mandated 100 per cent zero emission transit by 2040. Edmonton has bought 25 and the Toronto Transit Commission will purchase only zero emission buses after 2025.

For Our Kids

Galen Armstrong, the For Our Kids organizer, says electrifying the school bus fleet in British Columbia is the new organization’s first project. “I’m a new dad and want my kids’ ride to be clean and green by the time they go to school. We’re calling on moms and dads around B.C. to use their voice to contact Minister Fleming to ask him to make B.C. a leader in electric school buses.” SOURCE

Arctic tundra is 80 per cent permafrost. What happens when it thaws?

The climate crisis is transforming ground that has been held together by frozen water for millennia — and scientists are working overtime to figure out what that means for the future of the north and the planet itself

Coastal Erosion Permafrost Roger McLeod NRCan

Canadian scientist Philip Marsh and I were flying along the coast of the Beaufort Sea, where the frozen tundra had recently opened up into a crater the size of a football stadium.

Located along the shoreline of an unnamed lake, the so-called thaw slump was gray, muddy, and barren, in sharp contrast to the brilliant russet and gold of the surrounding autumn tundra. These retrogressive thaw slumps, or landslides — formed as warming temperatures rapidly thaw permafrost — are increasing across the Arctic, including the kilometere-long, 100-meter-deep Batagaika Crater in the Yana River Basin of Siberia.

The tundra of the western Canadian Arctic has long been carpeted in cranberries, blueberries, cloudberries, shrubs, sedges, and lichen that have provided abundant food for grizzly bears, caribou, and other animals.

Now, however, as permafrost thaws and slumping expands, parts of that landscape are being transformed into nothing but mud, silt, and peat, blowing off massive amounts of climate-warming carbon that have been stored in the permafrost for millennia.

Struzik-permafrost-slump

A permafrost slump, the size of a football stadium, on the shore of an unnamed lake in the Canadian Arctic. Photo: Ed Struzik / Yale Environment 360

If this had happened in an urban area, it would have resulted in dozens of buildings being swallowed up.

If it had happened along a pipeline right-of-way, it might have resulted in an environmental disaster.

Arctic fastest-warming region on Earth

As the Arctic warms faster than any region on Earth, public attention has largely been focused on the rapid disappearance of Arctic sea ice. But major changes are also taking place on land, and one of the most striking is the thawing of vast swaths of permafrost that have underlain these polar regions for millennia.

That thaw is taking a toll in complex ways that are not clearly understood, and scientists such as Marsh are now intensifying efforts to grasp how these changes will play out this century and beyond.

Coastal Erosion Roger MacLeod NRCan

The landscape slumps into the water. Photo: Roger MacLeod / Natural Resources Canada

Permafrost Roger McLeod NRCan

Exposed permafrost. Photo: Roger MacLeod / Natural Resources Canada

What we do know is that if the Arctic continues to warm as quickly as climatologists are predicting, an estimated 2.5 million square miles of permafrost — 40 per cent of the world’s total — could disappear by the end of the century, with enormous consequences. The most alarming is expected to be the release of huge stores of greenhouse gases, including methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide that have remained locked in the permafrost for ages. Pathogens will also be released.

But less well appreciated are the sweeping landscape changes that will alter tundra ecosystems, making it increasingly difficult for subsistence Indigenous people, such as the Inuit, and Arctic animals to find food.

‘The frozen ground literally falls apart’

The disintegration of subterranean ice that glues together the peat, clay, rocks, sand, and other inorganic minerals is now triggering landslides and slumping at alarming rates, resulting in stream flows changing, lakes suddenly draining, seashores collapsing, and water chemistry being altered in ways that could be deleterious to both humans and wildlife.

“We’re seeing slumping along shorelines that can drain most of the water in a lake in just days and even hours,” says Marsh, a former Canadian government scientist who is now a professor of hydrology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario.

“It’s not surprising when you consider that as much as 80 per cent of the ground here consists of frozen water. When that ice melts, the frozen ground literally falls apart.”

Permafrost

Coastal erosion reveals the extent of ice-rich permafrost underlying the active layer on the Arctic Coastal Plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve, Alaska. Photo: Brandt Meixell / USGS

As a result, says Marsh, Indigenous communities, the resource industry, and the government need to better understand how a warming climate is impacting water resources and permafrost ecosystems.”

As the helicopter pilot circled Marsh’s research site searching for a dry spot to land, I could see the Husky Lakes in the distance. This is a unique treeline/tundra transitional zone where grizzly bears have been known to kill or mate with polar bears and where sea-going belugas swim into brackish inland lakes.

From the helicopter, the research camp below looked like a stick man.

Trail Valley Creek research station in the western Canadian Arctic

Aerial view of the Trail Valley Creek research station in the western Canadian Arctic, situated along the Mackenzie Delta. Photo: Ed Struzik / Yale Environment 360

Narrow wooden boardwalks connect weather stations, snow, and rain gauges, and instruments that determine how much carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are being absorbed by tundra plants and how much of these gases is being emitted into the atmosphere. The boardwalks were laid down so that the scientists’ boots won’t disturb the thawing peat and permafrost or skew the recordings.

Solar panels and a back-up generator kept everything powered, including an electrified fence designed to keep out both grizzly and polar bears.

Marsh, who has conducted field work in the Arctic for more than four decades, established this research station in Trail Valley Creek in 1991. Not only is it situated in the most rapidly warming region on Earth, but it is also the site of a new Arctic highway, hundreds of now-dormant exploratory oil and gas drilling sites, and some of the most important bird nesting territory in the Arctic.

Like all permafrost scientists, he and his colleagues have worked in arduous conditions, fighting off hordes of biting flies and mosquitoes in the summer, and measuring snowpack and ground temperatures in bitter winter cold.

Struzik-permafrost-weather-station_web

Branden Walker, a researcher from Wilfrid Laurier University, gathers data from a weather station on the tundra in the Northwest Territories. Photo: Ed Struzik / Yale Environment 360

One of the largest carbon sinks in the world

Marsh’s research in the Canadian Arctic has already led him to conclude that climate warming will result in hydrological changes this century that will dry up 15,000 of the 45,000 lakes in the Mackenzie River Delta, one of the largest deltas in the world.

He also expects to see more of what Antoni Lewkowicz, a geographer and permafrost expert at the University of Ottawa, is seeing father north on Banks Island in the High Arctic of Canada. Lewkowicz recently reported a 60-fold increase in slumping along 288 lakes that he has monitored with satellite imagery from 1984 to 2015.

Slumping can occur with sudden catastrophic force.

In one notable case that was captured on time-lapse photography in 2015 by Steve Kokelj, a permafrost expert with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, a rapidly thawing cliff bordering the shores of a tundra lake collapsed into the Peel River watershed in the Northwest Territories. The waterfall that was created drained approximately 800,000 gallons of water from that upland lake in just two hours.

Heavy metals in the permafrost, such as mercury, were flushed downstream along with silt and peat, tainting the river system for miles downstream.

Permafrost occurs in areas where the temperature of the ground remains below the freezing mark for two years or more. About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere’s landscape fits this definition.

Most of the world’s permafrost is found in northern Russia, Canada, Alaska, Iceland, and Scandinavia. Much of it underlies peat ecosystems. But like peat, permafrost is also found in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and Alaska, the Alps, the Himalayas, the high-altitude Patagonia region of South America, and the high country of New Zealand.

The rapid thawing of permafrost has enormous implications for climate change. There are an estimated 1,400 gigatons of carbon frozen in permafrost, making the Arctic one of the largest carbon sinks in the world. That’s about four times more than humans have emitted since the Industrial Revolution, and nearly twice as much as is currently contained in the atmosphere.

According to a recent report, a 3.6-degrees Fahrenheit ( 2 degrees Celsius) increase in temperature — expected by the end of the century — will result in a loss of about 40 per cent of the world’s permafrost by 2100.

Greenhouse gases on the tundra are released in two ways. As permafrost thaws, once-dormant microorganisms break down organic matter, allowing methane and carbon to be released in the atmosphere. Thawing can also open pathways for methane to rise up from reservoirs deep in the earth.

Mackenzie River NWT frozen NASA

The Mackenzie River system is Canada’s largest watershed, and the tenth largest water basin in the world. Parts of the watershed sit atop permafrost, which makes the area vulnerable to climate change. Photo: Joshua Stevens / NASA Earth Observatory

Once-dormant pathogens coming back to life?

The permafrost thawing that is leading to the release of greenhouse gases is intensifying across the Arctic.

Much of the permafrost degradation that has occurred on Canada’s Banks Island took place after some of the warmest years on record, according to Lewkowicz.

In 1984, the island had 60 active slumps. By 2013, there were 4,000. Lewkowicz expects that the island may see as many as 30,000 new active slumps in the coming years.

This thawing will have a profound impact on the flow and chemistry of lakes and streams, as well as those parts of the Arctic Ocean into which rivers drain. Lewkowicz’s satellite data, for example, shows that the colour of many of the lakes on Banks Island has changed from blue to turquoise, indicating that the once-clear water has become filled with sediments.

Scientists suspect that some of the slumping may be giving new life to pathogens capable of killing muskoxen, caribou, and nesting birds as warmer temperatures nudge the pathogens out of their dormant state. Massive die-offs of muskoxen on Banks and Victoria islands in Canada, as well as reindeer in Siberia, appear to be related to once-dormant pathogens that are coming back to life.

Scientists are also finding that hundreds of sumps excavated by the oil and gas industry in the 1970s and 1980s are now thawing. Toxic petroleum waste that was supposed to be permanently contained in 200 frozen pits in the Mackenzie Delta, for example, is migrating into nearby freshwater ecosystems.

At Trail Valley Creek, Carolina Voigt, a post-doctoral geography researcher, and Oliver Sonnentag, a hydrologist at the University of Montreal, are using manual and automated sensors to measure how climate change affects greenhouse gas activity on the tundra.

Evan Wilcox, a geography PhD candidate at Wilfrid Laurier University, has made important discoveries about the role that the rapid expansion of shrubs in the Arctic — the result of rising temperatures — is playing in the thawing of permafrost. All across the warming Arctic, shrubs are expanding into tundra where grasses, sedges, and lichens once prevailed. Not only are the taller shrubs shading out the smaller plants below, they are also changing the hydrology of the ecosystem.

“We’re finding that the date when snow melts is the key to determining the rate at which the active-layer permafrost thaws,” says Wilcox. “The snow in tundra areas where you have shrubs such as dwarf birch tends to melt a week earlier than it does in areas where there are no shrubs. This results in more permafrost thawing. As the shrubs expand into the tundra, we’re likely to see an acceleration of thawing.”

IMG_0992_Struzik-permafrost-core_web

Researchers Evan Wilcox (left) and Niels Weiss extract ice-rich permafrost cores from the tundra. Photo: Ed Struzik / Yale Environment 360

IMG_1018_Struzik-permafrost-core-sample_web

Evan Wilcox holds a permafrost core sample. Photo: Ed Struzik / Yale Environment 360

Wilcox bores steel probes — as many as 3,000 one recent summer — into the ground to determine the depths of ground thaw.

Arduous as that is, Niels Weiss, a postdoctoral fellow working with Marsh, has a much tougher time hammering into the solid ice to get the sample he needs to determine how much and what kind of organic material is contained in the permafrost.

Weiss has conducted permafrost research in Siberia, Scandinavia, and Canada, and he and others have found that carbon storage and the ways gas is released from these ecosystems depend on a variety of factors such as soil composition, groundwater flow, and whether trees, shrubs, or grasses are predominant.

What’s clear, he says, is that even in the coldest places in the Arctic, permafrost is thawing at accelerating rates.

Although much remains to be discovered about the impacts of thawing permafrost in the region, Marsh says one thing is becoming increasingly clear: In the coming decades, the tundra landscape will look much different than it does now.

That change was evident as we bushwhacked through 8-foot-high willows en route to retrieve a water gauge swept away during the spring flood. Thirty years ago, lichen and sedges dominated this landscape. Today, willows and shrubs are proliferating across the tundra. Abundant caribou once fed on the lichen, their numbers on the Tuktoyaktuk Peninsula hitting 3,000 in 2006. Now, only half that number remain.  SOURCE

Arms show announces intention to proceed despite coronavirus pandemic

Shock Doctrine alert!

Image: Brent Patterson

Amid public health concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, warnings against non-essential travel, new rules around public gatherings of more than 250 people, and the cancellation of awards shows and sports seasons, one thing must apparently carry on.

The organizers of CANSEC have just announced that they intend to proceed with their annual arms show in Ottawa this coming May.

The CANSEC website boasts that it will bring together 12,000 people from 55 countries at the EY Centre in Ottawa.

It has also highlighted that the arms show will bring together “18 MPs, Senators and Cabinet Ministers” and “600+ VIPS, generals, top military & government officials.”

What could go wrong?

Apart from the harm that comes with the fighter jets, tanks, missiles, guns, bullets and bombs that are adverstised, bought and sold at CANSEC, there is now an additional public health risk.

Furthermore, the Ottawa Citizen has reported, “Department [of National Defence] spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said the Canadian Forces and DND is still participating in CANSEC [May 27-28] and the outlook conference [April 7-9] being held by CADSI.”

It would appear that in their view, the buying and selling of weapons trumps public health.

It’s unknown at this point if Mayor Jim Watson will rescind his invitation to CANSEC participants “to explore the Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame and the Barbara Ann Scott Gallery at City Hall, as well as the revitalized Lansdowne park, its restored heritage pavilions, and new TD Place, home of the Ottawa REDBLACKS CFL team.”

Let’s hope so.

There were already concerns about exhibitors at CANSEC like General Dynamics Land Systems (the builders of the weaponized light armoured vehicles that are sold to Saudi Arabia) and Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Saab (which are trying to land a $19+ billion contract with the federal government for energy intensive, heavily polluting fighter jets).

And it has also been highlighted that billions of dollars in Canadian-made arms have been sold to dictatorships over the years, that the US military (the largest buyer of Canadian-made armaments and technology) is one of the largest polluters in history and that the billions the government intends to spend on the military is a misallocation of public funds better spent on a Green New Deal and a transition to a clean energy economy.

But now we have this.

The United Nations says that the pandemic’s global death toll has reached almost 5,000 people, while the global number of cases has surpassed 132,000.

The New York Times reports, “Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to one projection. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die.”

Arms dealers may be in the business of selling weapons that kill people, and those weapons are fuelling a climate crisis that also kills, but now we can add to that the intention to continue with a trade show that brings together thousands of people in an indoor space during a pandemic.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to #CancelCANSEC. SOURCE

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