How a flock of sheep protects one B.C. First Nation’s land


The Saulteau First Nation teamed up with Australian and French shepherds to replace toxic chemical sprays with the services of sheep. Photo by Emilee Gilpin

Did you know sheep can protect vulnerable tree seedlings better than chemical sprays?

The Saulteau First Nation sure does. Last year, the B.C. band invested in a herd of sheep and teamed up with two shepherds experienced in sheep veg-management to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in their territory.

Vegetation management is an important reforestation activity in that it involves preventing wild plants from stealing sunlight needed by young tree seedlings. The seedlings are planted in most new forest sites established in areas that have been logged or affected by wildfire, insects and disease. Toxic chemical sprays are one form of vegetation management, but there are non-chemical options available and growing in B.C.

The Saulteau First Nation invested in a non-chemical vegetation management plan that uses flocks of sheep, rather than toxic chemicals to protect young tree seedlings planted by forestry companies in their region. #FirstNationsForward

Sheep-based vegetation management is one of many positive ways their people resist the violent implications of oil and gas, mining and forestry companies. The Saulteau First Nation is located in the heart of the Peace River Region in northeastern B.C., also known as “the industrial zone,” Juritha Owens told me during an interview in her home. MORE

Ontario PCs Want To Stop Tracking Toxins. Experts Say It’ll Cost Us Our Health.

The government plans to repeal the Toxics Reduction Act, which makes companies report on their use of toxic chemicals and pollutants.

Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government's plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment.
Emissions are seen coming from an Ontario cement plant in this 2015 file photo. Experts say the provincial government’s plan to repeal a toxic substance regulation with affect human health and the environment. RANDY RISLING/TORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES

TORONTO — Environmentalists say Ontarians can expect more pollution if the Progressive Conservatives go through with their plan to repeal a toxic substances regulation.

“Exposure to toxic chemicals such as hormone disruptors and air pollutants adds billions of dollars in health care costs and significantly increases the burden of chronic diseases such as cancer and asthma,” Tim Gray, the executive director of advocacy organization Environmental Defence said in a statement.

“The Ontario government is not only undermining its own commitment to tackle pollution … it is also sending the wrong signal to industry and will encourage them to dump more toxics into our air, water and consumer goods.”

Schedule 5 of the government’s proposed Bill 66 repeals the Toxics Reduction Act (TRA). The 2009 act requires companies that use toxic substances, including those that can cause cancer, to create a plan to reduce that use. Whether or not they actually implement the plan, though, is voluntary. About 40 per cent of facilities have done so.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February...
Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Economic Development Todd Smith make an announcement in February 2019. Smith introduced Bill 66 on Dec. 6, 2018. TODD SMITH/FACEBOOK

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‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ book sheds light on everyday exposure to toxic chemicals

The new 10th anniversary edition of the book ‘Slow Death by Rubber Duck’ examines health impacts and calls for stronger regulations against toxic chemicals in Canada and around the world.

“Bruce and I poisoned ourselves so you don’t have to,” joked Rick Smith, speaking at the launch of the 10th anniversary edition of the book Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxicity of Everyday Life Affects Our Health in Vancouver on Wednesday.

Ten years ago, Smith and co-author Bruce Lourie set out to write a book about the insidious, invisible toxic chemicals found in the products consumers handle every day, from shampoo and shaving cream to non-stick frying pans.

They took an unconventional approach, and decided to become guinea pigs themselves.

Through a dozen experiments, Smith and Lourie examined the impacts of chemicals including Teflon, triclosan, and bisphenol A — better known as BPA — on their own bodies.

They sat in a new car for six hours to measure levels of volatile organic compounds, such as benzene. They slathered themselves in products containing phthalates and parabens. Lourie ate tuna for a day to see if it would lead to higher levels of mercury in his body.

Across the board, Smith and Lourie measured increased toxins in their bodies.

“If we took the science related to these toxic chemicals seriously, this would be a huge societal priority,” said Smith, who is also executive director of the Broadbent Institute, an independent research organization founded by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent that promotes democracy, equality and sustainability. “We’ve created an enormous problem for ourselves that’s at the root of a lot of the diseases our families experience.” MORE

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