Join Sea to Seed and “Over Grow the System”

by Bruce Mason

It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of localizing food systems, homesteading, organic farming, community building and permaculture.

So much time and so many resources are being spent fighting against something. Pick a cause and there’ll be placards, shouted chants, shared posts, too many marches, far too many speeches, ever more hand-wringing and much angst-ridden argument.

As essential as all these activities may seem, we won’t find the urgent solutions we seek, and need, in what we’re fighting against. Solutions will only be found in what we celebrate. That’s only logical or perhaps “eco-logical” is a better word.

The route to real change (long overdue) is not in the extreme growth economy or wresting back the power – and greedy lifestyles – from the tiny, highly organized minority who have grabbed it, stole it and otherwise usurped it from the vast majority of us, for whom ‘the system’ no longer works. The real power is on the ground, in the soil, in the sun and water and in the hearts, minds and hands of the disenfranchised 90+%.

Since 2013, every May, a crew of musicians, farmers, filmmakers, writers and photographers have set off on a month-long Sea to Seed Tour, a sailing adventure through the Gulf Islands and Salish Sea, which includes, of course, Vancouver and Victoria. The goal is to promote a culture of resilient, localized food systems through music, feasts and story-telling, and to create lots of ripples. And to spread seeds too, widely and joyfully.

As Naomi Klein has advised, “We live in a time of overlapping crisis and need to connect the dots because we don’t have time to solve each crisis sequentially. We need a movement that addresses all of them.”

That describes the mission of “Over Grow the System’s” Sea to Seed Tour: to connect farming communities, sown, nurtured and growing along the coast. It’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of localizing food systems, homesteading, organic farming, community building and permaculture, or engaging art and culture in supporting these wonderful initiatives. The music, farm-to-table feasts, educational forums and story-telling are creating positive change, rooted in the fertile soil of generative celebration, and cultivating a way of living with integrity.

Among the musicians is Atlanta-based Rising Appalachia, who are “beyond excited” to be part of Sea to Seed. For me, they were the hit of the 2015 Vancouver Folk Festival and because of high-demand, were brought back to town for concerts. Backstage they said, “We’re trying to take the glitz and glam out of the music industry and bring performance back to its roots… where musicians influence the cultural shift as troubadours, activists and catalysts of justice and aren’t just part of fast-paced entertainment.” (Common Ground, August, 2015, http://commonground.ca/slow-music-the-summer-of-transformation/)

Rising Appalachia has toured Europe, the Caribbean, Central America, the Indian subcontinent, US and Canada “to help the environment, change the ‘mal-distribution’ of wealth and to simply make the world better.” Their Slow Music movement, inspired by the Slow Food movement, utilizes ‘non-industry methods,’ such as linking communities, pursuing alternative venues, supporting local businesses and non-profits and exploring transportation alternatives, including trains, bikes, low-impact vehicles, boats, horses and now: sailboats.

In partnership with “Over Grow the System” are companies like Guayaki Yerba Mate and internationally-touring musicians. Joining the slow-travel, small-scale-living adventure are Dustin Thomas, Peia Bird and Tarran the Tailor.

Visit www.overgrowthesystem.org for more information about the Sea to Seed Tour, including a wealth of inspiring videos and a cornucopia of food for thought and activity.

Our greatest challenges are not global warming, resource depletion, politics, pollution or financial shocks, all symptoms of a system that is neither sustainable, nor fair. Our greatest challenge is our lack of connection with nature and with each other – a disconnection that has spawned an insatiable, ubiquitous greed.

“Over Grow the System” offers a life-affirming, alternative model. Be part of the evolution and support the Sea to Seed Tour.

The Sea to Seed Tour

As you read this, the tour is on track. It will touch down on Mayne (9th), Salt Spring (12th), Galiano (13th) Gabriola (14th) and Denman (18th) Islands. It will be in Lund on the 19th and on the Sunshine Coast the following day. It arrives in Victoria on May 22 and in Vancouver on May 23. Ticket info at www.overgrowthesystem.org

Citizen assisted genetic testing

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

Since I started working as a geneticist in the early 1960s, the field has changed considerably. James Watson, Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins won the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for their discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. Researchers then “cracked” the genetic code, which held promise for fields like health and medicine. It was an exciting time to be working in the lab.

More than 40 years later, in 2003, an international group of scientists sequenced the entire human genetic code. Researchers can now find a gene suspected to cause a disease in a matter of days, a process that took years before the Human Genome Project. As of 2013, more than 2,000 genetic tests were available for human conditions. Forty years ago, I never dreamed scientists would have the knowledge and manipulative capabilities that have become standard practice today.

Inner engineering

In a couple of decades, genetics has allowed for systematic inventorying of the world’s biodiversity. Canada’s Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph has the genomes of more than 265,000 named species identified with barcodes in its database. The cost to analyze a sample against this free public database is about $10.

Young citizen scientists in San Diego were recently able to help compile information about the area’s biodiversity through their local libraries. Kids signed out genetic testing kits… through Catalog of Life @ the Library.

People in Canada can also help identify seafood fraud with the LifeScanner service. Genetic testing helps consumers identify the species and possibly the origin of fish they buy, important for people who care about sustainability and health and nutrition.

Identifying and tracing seafood has long been a challenge, especially because about 40 percent of wild-caught seafood is traded internationally and labelling is often inadequate. Once fish are skinned, cleaned and packaged, it’s not always easy to tell what they are. If you buy something labelled “rockfish” in Canada, it could be one of more than 100 species. Often, labels don’t indicate whether the fish were caught or processed sustainably. Although the European Union and US require more information on seafood labels than Canada, one study found 41 percent of US seafood is mislabelled.

A European study found stronger policies combined with public information led to less mislabelling. People in Canada have demanded better legislation to trace seafood products. More than 12,000 people recently sent letters to government asking for better labelling.

SeaChoice (the David Suzuki Foundation is a member) is working with LifeScanner to register 300 people in Canada to test seafood, in part to determine whether labels are accurate.

With the help of citizen scientists, genetic testing can offer a powerful approach to righting environmental wrongs. Combining crowd-sourced scientific data, public policy reform and consumer activism is already showing positive results. The same approach could work in areas such as testing for antibiotics, pesticide and mercury residues and more.

Excerpted from “Citizen science and genetic testing yield positive results.” David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

John Horgan interview videos

interviewing John Horgan

Watch Common Ground’s in-depth interview with NDP Leader John Horgan

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Vote as if the environment mattered

by Theresa Beer

Imagine if environmental issues dominated BC’s election in May. Typically, the environment gets brought up as an afterthought or is relegated to a separate forum for discussion. Yet how we treat the environment affects every British Columbian, in much the same way that health care and education do. Without a healthy environment, economic opportunities, for example, will be heavily curtailed.

Here’s an idea: political parties could base all their policies on the principle of operating within the bounds of nature. This would lead to a different discussion about meaningful jobs and health care, education and housing priorities. That’s why, during the election, the David Suzuki Foundation will be watching what parties say about climate, transit, oceans, grizzlies and the right to a healthy environment.

On the climate front, parties should put forward detailed plans on how they would meet emissions targets. We’re looking for parties to offer policies that would raise the carbon tax each year beyond 2022 and apply it to more sectors. An effective and gradually increasing carbon tax provides incentives to switch to low-carbon energy solutions and fosters innovation and economic competitiveness. We believe it’s time to reinstate predictable, annual increases to the carbon tax to provide industry with a stable market signal to reduce emissions.

In terms of transit spending, the Foundation is encouraging the next BC government to commit to funding 40 percent of the cost for new public transit infrastructure. Metro Vancouver is gridlocked and transportation accounts for 25 percent of BC’s carbon emissions. Congestion costs in Metro Vancouver alone are estimated by the C.D. Howe Institute and Clean Energy Canada at between $500 million and $1.2 billion a year. Political leaders must prioritize and fund transit to address population growth, health, environment and the economy. Adequately funding transit improvements is one of our most effective ways to address climate change. Support for the Mayors’ Council Transit plan is a good place to start. This is an achievable, costed and regionally considered plan to get Metro Vancouver out of gridlock.

As one way to meet our province’s legislated emissions targets, we’d like to see parties introduce plans to accurately measure fugitive emissions from liquefied natural gas production and cut those emissions by 45 percent. The Climate Leadership Team crafted recommendations that put us on the right course for climate action. They would be a strong starting point for parties to support climate solutions.

One of the most powerful ways we can move to living within the bounds of nature is to support healthy and productive oceans. The Foundation urges parties in this provincial election to commit to working with the Federal Government and First Nations to implement and budget for marine planning and a network of marine protected areas. During a tour of coastal communities, we heard serious concerns about the impacts of climate change, fossil fuel shipping and pipelines, pollution and industrial fisheries. Residents told us that ocean management decisions must recognize healthy ecosystems as the basis for healthy communities. To meet these and other biodiversity goals, we are asking parties to commit to reforming regulations and laws to better protect coastal ecosystems and species at risk such as southern resident orcas.

We’re also calling on all parties to support an immediate ban of BC’s grizzly bear trophy hunt. We recommend that the ban avoid loopholes, such as the continuation of the ability to hunt grizzly bears for meat. The Foundation supports regulations that make it illegal to remove, sell, traffic or trade in any grizzly bear trophy items. British Columbians overwhelmingly support ending the grizzly trophy hunt.

The right to a healthy environment is the simple, yet powerful, idea that everyone in Canada has the human right to clean air and water, safe food, a stable climate and a say in decisions that affect their health and well-being. Ontario passed their environmental bill of rights in 1993 and Quebec included the right to a healthy environment in its Environmental Quality Act in 1978. We believe it’s time that BC joined them, and others agree. The Union of BC Municipalities, for example, passed a resolution in 2015 calling for provincial environmental rights legislation. Passing an environmental bill of rights would mean that projects such as the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion would receive greater scrutiny given their impact on the environment.

An environmental bill of rights would put more power in the hands of citizens by ensuring greater transparency and participation in environmental decision-making, which could help balance a system that is heavily influenced by corporate lobbying.

Regardless of the issues under discussion, our hope is that environmentally minded people in BC will get out and vote on May 9. See you at the polls.

Theresa Beer is senior communications specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation, www.davidsuzuki.org

Hidden health risks of glyphosate

glyphosate-molecule

compiled by Jasmin Schellenberg

The government calls it safe, but studies show it shouldn’t be used at all. Dr. Don Huber, Dr Stephanie Seneff, Anthony Samsel and Nancy Swanson found alarming correlations, in a list of over 30 human debilitating diseases, with the increased use of glyphosate (molecule shown above) , the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, and the increased prevalence of genetically engineered proteins in our food.

USDA administrators are unable to show any evidence of the safety of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) crops, though the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) doubled the amount of glyphosate allowed in food. Soybean oil is now allowed to contain 400 times the limit at which it can impact your health.

Glyphosate is not just an herbicide. It was originally patented as a mineral chelator. It immobilizes nutrients, making them unavailable in the body. It’s also patented as a potent antibiotic that can devastate human gut bacteria. Governments in Canada have clearcut areas sprayed with glyphosate. In BC, 10,000 hectares of publically owned land are sprayed with glyphosate every year.


Jack hirose 3 day mindfulness intensive in Banff


Dr. Seneff strongly suspects that glyphosate is getting into proteins by mistake in place of glycine. This has huge consequences to our health because the human proteins contaminated with glyphosate don’t work properly in their function in the body, and the glyphosate- contaminated food proteins tend to resist proteolysis, sticking around and causing autoimmune disease through molecular mimicry. This explains the epidemic in allergies to foods likely to contain high amounts of glyphosate contamination, such as gluten, casein and soy.

One molecule we can predict to be severely affected by glyphosate substitution for glycine is collagen, the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen is essential for cushioning the joints. Glyphosate contamination causes it to perform poorly, leading to joint pain and tendonitis, among other things. This explains why so many people suffer from chronic pain conditions, such as shoulder and back pain and why we have an epidemic in opioid drug abuse. Foods with high amounts of gelatin can be expected to be highly contaminated with glyphosate, including bone broth, ordinarily very nutritious. One must also consider the implications of glyphosate contamination in gel capsules.

Probably the most ominous consequence of glyphosate contamination in collagen is the implications it has for vaccines. Vaccines are injected directly into the body past all the normal barriers and this makes any toxic ingredient in the vaccine very problematic. MMR vaccine, in particular, was found to have much higher levels of glyphosate than other vaccines and this may well explain the association between MMR and autism that shows up in the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) database.

Adverse reactions to MMR are much more severe today than they were in the ‘90s when much less glyphosate was used on core crops. Dr. Seneff notes that, if nothing changes, we will have a one-to-one ratio of healthy to autistic children by 2032.

Do not use herbicides in your garden and avoid all GMO foods. Replace with organically grown products, vegetables and meats.

Compiled by Jasmin Schellenberg, www.pasture-to-plate.com Sources: Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon, www.westonaprice.org and and Dr. Stephanie Seneff. Visit www.pasture-to-plate.com or www.thegreengazette.ca for “Nourishing our Children” newsletters.

Mega-bridge, mega-bucks

Fraser Delta

BC Liberals push for a replacement for the Massey Tunnel at too high a cost to the environment and local government

by Nic Slater

The 67-year-old Massey Tunnel sits in the middle of BC’s largest river delta (photo of Fraser delta, above, by Evan Leeson). Over 320 square kilometres of former marshlands that occupy a sea level estuary along the Pacific Flyway, it is one of North America’s most important migratory bird routes. Most Vancouver residents are unaware of the importance of the Fraser River’s delta even though it sits in their own backyard. A birder’s paradise for decades, it is also a recreational waterway with untapped potential.

Replacing the four-lane Massey Tunnel with a 10-lane, $4 billion (before cost over-runs) mega-bridge has little to do with car traffic that is constricted by too many single occupant cars. The Vancouver ‘federal’ Port Authority has been the only significant proponent of a bridge that would facilitate dredging the Fraser another five metres lower than the existing tunnel, in order to accommodate some of the world’s largest ships. Fast forward to the BC Liberal Government’s LNG pipedream and a major LNG plant expansion in Delta for such ships that will require a minimum 200-foot bridge clearance.

In Richmond, directly across the river, Vancouver’s main jet fuel facility will be situated, and up the river in Surrey would be the newly proposed US coal export facility. Imagine, our mighty Fraser could soon be a major energy super highway and that is before one considers the constant threat of tar sands pipelines that have yet to find a home.

The Fraser’s increased dredged depth for the shipping channel has created a salinity problem for farmers in Delta and Richmond, due to the heavier salt water wedge forcing its way up to almost as far as the Alex Fraser Bridge. Irrigation of farmlands will fast become a thing of the past once the spring freshet wanes and allows the salt water wedge to turn the river’s fresh water into water too salty for farming. In fact, dredging to unprecedented river depths is an unknown that can only be determined through years of study, yet the Federal Government has refused to implement an Environmental Review of the project. That leaves what’s left of the Provincial Environmental Assessment to conserve the most abundant salmon bearing river in BC and Canada. Dredging the Fraser deeper may be good for the shipping industry, but it could potentially make the whole of the delta estuary a saltwater marsh that would no longer support the spawning of our salmon.

Tunnel costs vary depending on the design. Take for instance the M86 in Paris. Completed in 2010, it cost $320 million Cdn./mile for six lanes and it was one of the more expensive tunnels. Compare that to $4 billion for a 10-lane, one-mile-long Massey Tunnel replacement bridge and it seems costs have risen dramatically in seven years. Either that or the BC Liberal Government has lost any ability to build a cost effective transportation system.

Proponents of tunnels point out the existing Massey Tunnel is one-kilometre long. In Europe, between Denmark and Germany, an eight-lane, 18-kilometre tunnel is being built at a cost of $4.5 billion or $250 million/kilometre. The BC Liberals’ stated costs and reasons for a new bridge have no viable business case, something that has been requested through Freedom of Information (FOIs) and that the same government has refused to comply with.

Metro Vancouver does not support the BC government’s plans to replace the tunnel, stating a 10-lane bridge does not address traffic congestion problems and would download costly infrastructure work on local governments. Of the Metro Vancouver mayors, 23 of 24 voted against building a new 10-lane bridge. A new bridge would open the funnel up and allow traffic into Richmond more quickly, creating a bottleneck at the Oak and Knight Street bridges and, of course, further worsen Vancouver traffic.

The cost of this BC Liberal mega project is $1,000 for every man, woman and child in BC and that is before the financing costs are counted.

Reference: Article at tunneltalk.com: “Cost benefits of large-diameter bored tunnels.”

Nic Slater is a Vancouver activist and a Director of Fraser Voices. Facebook: Fraser Voices. Twitter: @Save_The_Fraser.

Liberals hell-bent on Site C Dam

hell-bent-on-SiteC-dam

by Ray Eagle

When the Peace River hydro-electric dam system was first conceptualized in the ‘60s, Site C was seen as just another river section that could provide additional power to augment the Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. There was no recognition of the attributes most now acknowledge: highly productive farmland, First Nations sacred sites, important animal habitat and a scenic rural landscape. There was only a determination by then premier W.A.C. Bennett’s Social Credit government to construct the dam; in 1971, BC Hydro began engineering studies.

Interestingly, energy Minister Bill Bennett made a recent admission, saying, “If I looked at it [the Peace] strictly as someone who loves the outdoors, it’s a beautiful place… But as somebody charged with the responsibility to help make sure we are meeting our future electricity needs, I also have to look at the valley as a very natural place for another dam.”

It was not until November 1983 that BC Hydro went before the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC), then newly created by premier Bill Bennett (W.A.C.’s son). A 315-page summary, while denying the dam’s immediate need because of BC Hydro’s abysmal forecasting ability, clearly had no concerns about eventual inundation of the valley: “While the Commission recognizes that major impacts will result from Site C, it concludes that they are not so large as to make them unacceptable… the impacts can be successfully and acceptably managed.”

BC Hydro was determined not to give up and on September 18, 1989, the Vancouver Sun reported, “BC Hydro has stepped up plans to build Site C hydroelectric dam… quietly reviving the multi-billion-dollar project shelved by the Provincial cabinet in 1983… Hydro’s move has projected needs, which may or may not be realized.”

In fact, it was merely a ramping-up of a state of readiness for when the go-ahead came from the BCUC, but controversy continued to follow the dam. On May 10, 1990, the Vancouver Sun reported remarks made by then Energy Minister Jack Davis at an Electric Energy Forum: “Power projects initiated by BC Hydro will be increasingly guided by environmental concerns because of mounting public pressure. We have the scope to be different without building Site C.” However, during a 1991 Social Credit party leadership campaign, the winner, Rita Johnston, declared in her policy statement that she wanted to accelerate construction of the ‘$3 billion’ dam. Johnston’s leadership was brief because the Socreds were defeated in October of 1991.

Despite these twists and turns, BC Hydro persisted and in the 20 years from 1990 to 2010, its staff worked diligently to keep the dam alive, continuing with advanced engineering studies. Questionnaires were distributed to assess impacts to the socio-economic life of the affected communities, studies were updated on forestry, wildlife, archeological sites and a whole range of issues, especially First Nations’ concerns. Public meetings were held and newsletters distributed to inform the citizens of BC Hydro’s intentions, as well as to offer reassurances. It was even stated, “It must be recognized that public involvement requires the provision of information, however incomplete…”

From 1990 to 2010, the public was mostly unaware of BC Hydro’s determination as its staff worked diligently to keep the dam alive, including its Northern point-man David Conway.

Through 2007 to 2009, Conway held a series of ‘stakeholders’ meetings that, again, engaged local people. At an October 20, 2008 meeting he bold-facedly told the assembly, “. . . no decision has been made yet to build the Site C project. We are in a multi-stage approach, regarding Site C as a resource option and are focused on project definition, which includes geotechnical, socio-economic, wildlife, fish studies and consultation.”

One of the concerns expressed was shoreline erosion, which, ironically, has recently become a major issue. Also while emphasizing the growing need for power, alternatives were quoted such as Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and wind projects. Conway also mentioned upgrades to both the WAC Bennett and Peace Canyon dams. Surprisingly, he admitted a good potential for geothermal, a concept dismissed by Energy Minister Bennett.

Whether the purpose was to placate the participants or to hide Hydro’s intensions, it is obvious that, back in Vancouver, company management and Premier Campbell had a different schedule.

Fast forward to April 19, 2010, when Campbell made his announcement from the W.A.C. Bennett Dam that Site C was on again, now claimed as a ‘clean energy project’ and “an important part of BC’s economic and ecological future.” Campbell’s ecological reference ignored any mention of the factors that now form today’s growing opposition.

Campbell claimed the dam would power 460,000 new homes and repeated the mantra of an increasing power demand of 20 to 40% in the following 20 years.

In 2011, Campbell faced a revolt over the introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST). It was rescinded, but with a 9% approval rating, on March 19, 2011, he resigned. However, for the wily Campbell, a sinecure awaited from Stephen Harper: that of Canada’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

When the ‘gung-ho happy face’ Christy Clark won the leadership in the May 2013 provincial election, she pushed LNG as the solution to BC’s economic woes and claimed Site C was now vital to power LNG plants, Campbell’s domestic needs forgotten. Were the voters influenced by the LNG bait? The forecast NDP win disappeared, though Clark lost West Point Grey to NDP’s David Eby and had to run in a West Kelowna by-election.

No LNG plants have emerged, though two are planned, perhaps: Prince Rupert’s Petronas and Woodfibre. In a recent desperate switch, Clark is now trying to sell Site C power to Alberta.

With her brash style, it is difficult to gauge Clark’s popularity, but she faces negative issues such as class-size, twice lost in the courts, the highest child poverty rates in Canada and the evidence of massive funding from the business sector, much of it out-of-province. And her approval of Kinder Morgan, aided by a company financial handout, will certainly raise questions.

With regards to Site C, Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg has written about politicians’ fascination with mega projects, describing the rapture they feel in building monuments: “Mega projects garner attention, which adds to the visibility they gain from them.”

This describes Christy Clark and her determination to build Site C while the call to stop it grows stronger, as proven by Peace farmer Ken Boon’s daily media bulletins. Approaching the May 9 election, opposition grows stronger (with the recent appearance of a very large white elephant!) in the determination to protect the many vital attributes along this historic river.

Ray Eagle first became aware of Site C in the mid ‘70s. He has helped fight it through the Wilderness Committee and many published letters in provincial papers. Wilderness Committee: wildernesscommittee.org, 604-683-8220. Contact Ray Eagle by email at r.eagle@telus.net or call 604-922-8507.

Facts and evidence matter

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

We recently highlighted the faulty logic of a pseudoscientific argument against addressing climate change: the proposition that because CO2 is necessary for plants, increasing emissions is good for the planet and the life it supports. Those who read, write or talk regularly about climate change and ecology are familiar with other anti-environmental arguments not coated with a scientific sheen.

A common one is that if you drive a car, buy any plastic goods or even type on a computer keyboard your observation that we need to reduce fossil fuel use is not valid, no matter how much evidence you present. Like the “CO2 is plant food” claim, it’s a poor argument, but for different reasons.

The statement that gas-fuelled cars cause pollution is true whether or not the person making it drives a car, just as a claim that automobile emissions are harmless is false, regardless of the claimant’s car ownership or driving habits.

Fossil fuels are useful for many purposes – from life-saving medical equipment to computer keyboards – so why extract, transport and burn them so rapidly and wastefully? Supplies aren’t endless.

Most people don’t have the time or expertise to read through and comprehend the massive volumes of peer-reviewed science on phenomena such as feedback loops, ocean acidification, extreme weather events, species extinction and sea level rise.

Fortunately, some excellent resources provide information for people with varying levels of knowledge and expertise: skepticalscience.com offers a big-picture approach by examining the peer-reviewed literature.

You can also find accessible science on the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Aeronautics and Space Administration websites. The American Institute of Physics offers a comprehensive history of climate science.

Media outlets with considerable, credible coverage include The Guardian and National Geographic and environmentally focused websites such as Grist, EcoWatch and the National Observer. Desmog Blog’s timely articles and extensive database shed light on what’s behind concerted efforts to downplay or dismiss the seriousness of climate change. Websites for environmental groups like the David Suzuki Foundation, Pembina Institute and others are also good information sources. Just Cool It!, a book coming out April 22 by Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington and me explains climate change and focuses on solutions.

It’s increasingly clear we can’t rely on politicians to get us out of the mess we’ve created. The current US administration is full of people who reject the overwhelming evidence for human-caused climate change. In Canada, our government has some good climate policies, but continues to approve fossil fuel infrastructure projects.

The silver lining of the irrationality that has descended on the US is that it has sparked a growing movement to promote scientific evidence and science-based solutions. The “March for Science” taking place in cities throughout the US and beyond on Earth Day, April 22, is one example.

We have scientific evidence and rational arguments on our side. Let’s use them to support solutions.

Excerpted from “Facts and evidence matter in confronting climate crisis.” David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Marvellous monarchs move Minister McKenna

photo of David Suzuki

SCIENCE MATTERS
by David Suzuki

Federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna had her mind blown recently. Remarkably, it had nothing to do with the political gong show south of the border. McKenna was visiting the hilltop monarch butterfly reserves in rural Mexico. There, she saw millions of monarchs clinging to oyamel fir trees in mind-bogglingly dense clusters, surprisingly well camouflaged for such colourful critters. She then wrote a heartfelt article calling on people in Canada to act before monarchs go the way of passenger pigeons and buffalo.

Since the 1990s, the eastern monarch population has declined by about 90 percent. More than a billion monarchs once made the journey to Mexico. In winter 2013, that dropped to 35 million. Modest increases since then have largely been erased. An intense late-winter storm wiped out more than six million monarchs last March and unfavourable weather conditions during critical breeding periods caused a 27 percent reduction over the past year.

Much of the overall decline has been pinned on the eradication of milkweed through widespread use of the herbicide glyphosate (known as Roundup) in the US midwest and southern Canada. Milkweed is a host plant and the only food source for monarch caterpillars. Extreme weather conditions… have exacerbated the decline.

In 2016, scientists estimated the monarch population has up to a 57 percent chance of “quasi-extinction” over the next 20 years. That means the population could hit levels so low recovery is impossible. Others suggest the migration into Canada could end. In November, scientists overseeing at-risk species in Canada said the government should list the monarch butterfly population as endangered.

Pre-eminent monarch advocate Chip Taylor estimates that more than a billion milkweed will need to be planted throughout the range if the population is to recover. That would require unprecedented co-operation and collaboration by agencies, groups and scientists throughout the monarch’s 5,000-kilometre migratory route… especially in the northern end of the range where 44 percent of the population originates, according to University of Guelph scientists.

In the US, plans have taken flight over the past few years. Federal and state agencies collaborated to develop an ambitious 10-year plan to increase the monarch population, providing more than 10 million for research and conservation efforts. Former president Barack Obama helped launch a plan to establish one million bee-and butterfly-friendly gardens across the continent, including butterfly gardens on the White House grounds.

In Mexico, government agencies, international organizations and local groups like Alternare are working diligently to protect the forests where monarchs overwinter.

What’s missing is action from Canada’s government. The good news is that the person with the most power to influence the plight of this imperilled species is Minister McKenna. Whether Canada legally protects monarchs, as recommended in November by federal scientists, is up to her. That’s why her newfound love of monarchs renews my hope.

If Canada is serious about saving the monarchs, the federal government needs to start now.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org

Christy, Justin, Kinder Morgan – Take a hike

Stanley Park seawall

The Burrard Inlet is a damn good reason to say “No” to the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. It’s our living room, meeting place, our Malecón and public square.

by Bruce Mason

Whenever our Premier (or PM) crave something “world class,” we recommend Vancouver’s Seaside Greenway, which includes the Stanley Park Seawall. As the planet’s longest, uninterrupted waterfront path, it’s one of humanity’s most inspiring Commons. Awe-inspiring, priceless and free, experiencing it does one a world of good.

But it’s never free from threat, much like many irreplaceable regions – the Peace, Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, Howe Sound, the once-mighty Fraser – and too many places where Clark recklessly proposes deadly fossil-fuel mega-projects. One has to wonder why anyone would risk screwing up, as the world embraces cheaper, renewable options and better jobs.

Long walks through sacred spots – in ‘our moccasins,’ work boots or flip-flops – should be leadership prerequisites. Contemplate before judging those who Christy calls the “Voices of No.” See clearly why her “Path to Yes” is the wrong direction and a sacrilege.

Disagree? Well, the Burrard Inlet is a damn good reason to say “No.” It’s our living room, meeting place, our Malecón and public square. It’s the stage for Vancouver’s 40th Annual Folk Festival and boasts championship fireworks, decades of polar bear swims, carolling ships and the Kit’s Showboat. Our outdoor rec room for beach volleyball, picnics or just chilling out, where a glimpse of one of 80 endangered orcas – our NHL team logo – is as thrilling as any overtime goal.

I count the freighters constantly at anchor in the port (a raison d’etre for Confederation). Fifteen, 20, more? Start at the head of the Kinder Morgan/Trudeau Black Snake. Christy says it’s now safe to triple pipeline-terminal capacity and increase tanker traffic seven-fold. All converging at the foot of a mountain and major university in a seismic zone. Yet someday, somehow, greenhouse gases will be cut. Highly unlikely (or is it Notley).


stop the pipeline start the music


The Burnaby Fire Department reports, it’s “…not the appropriate location for expansion…” noting, “…significant constraints to emergency/fire response, including safety and effectiveness of firefighters, evacuation, sulphur based gases, toxic smoke plumes and property protection.” Wise advice, recalling 2007 when the existing pipeline ruptured, spewing sludge 40 feet in the air, covering homes, trees and wildlife. It dumped 78,000 litres of crude and poisoned 15,000m of shoreline, requiring the evacuation of more than 220 residents.

Over four hundred Aframax tankers have been approved annually, each 245m long, 100m longer than the Spirit of Vancouver Island ferry at 167m. Longer than Vancouver’s tallest building, the Living Shangri La (200m). Try fathoming that between an index finger and thumb.

Other structural landmark comparisons include the ever-enlarging Alberta tarsands footprint, now the size of Florida. In Calgary, where many cheer the approval of more pipelines, the Husky Tower is only 191m tall, compared to the length of an Aframax tanker (245m). South of the border, outraged resistance rapidly grows in the shadows of the Seattle Space Needle, 60m shorter (184m).

The tankers’ huge mass, inertia and steering difficulty necessitate three tugs, a turning diameter of 2km, and 15 minutes to stop. Depth and beam restrictions restrict their travel to daylight hours and they must have a minimum one-mile-visibility, at a maximum six knots, at high tide, with a volume capacity of maximum 80 percent. They sit 13-metres deep, perilously close – 1.5m – to the prescribed maximum draft. Double-hulls, despite Rachel Notley’s assurances, are little comfort, having breached elsewhere.

According to the independent group, Concerned Professional Engineers (www.concernedengineers.org), it is “a gross negligence of decision makers to not evaluate risks and consequences of hitting Second Narrows Bridge.” Warning of a catastrophic severing of our main transportation artery, they remind us of previous “collisions with the railway bridge by much smaller vessels; twice knocking out service, requiring re-building.”

The possibility conjures up the nightmarish collapse during construction of the Second Narrows Bridge on June 17, 1958, indelibly etched in the minds of those alive then; 19 workers plunged 30m (100 ft) to their deaths. In honour of the lives lost, it was named Ironworkers Memorial Bridge.

Now, the cargo: dilbit. Short for bitumen (asphalt) diluted with petro-products to enable pipeline flow. The exact mix of ingredients is an unexamined trade secret, but tankers hold 30 Olympic-size pools of highly corrosive toxins that sink, unrecoverable, in inevitable spills.

“New approvals are problematic… bordering on irresponsible,” says Wendy Palen from SFU’s Biological Sciences. From universities across North America, she’s just one author of new peer research of more than 9,000 studies.

Their conclusion: claims that a spill can be effectively cleaned up or mitigated are unfounded. No ocean-based studies exist of how dilbit behaves in marine environments, rough seas and changing temperatures.

Christy? Justin? “World leading” science? Is Trudeau’s promised $1.5 billion taxpayer-funded response and recovery a deceitful fantasy? “Permission granted” is a surprise to disapproving mayors and First Nations. Two-thirds of those along the 1,150-kilometre route also disagree; 120 nations from both sides of the border drafted a Treaty Alliance Against Tarsands Expansion. As Trudeau/Clark “conditions” are studied – carefully, this time – numerous court cases are prepared.

This shortsighted, national economic fix is just that: a quick shot-in-the-arm for oil addiction, from stranded assets. From the tens of thousands of jobs promised – mere mumbo-jumbo – 50 permanent may materialize. Millions of dollars for the Canadian economy boast foreign owners, who would turn a barely contained trickle through Canada’s third largest city into their very own gusher, shipped through the Georgia and Juan de Fuca Straits to foreign markets.

From the seawall – built to buffer, but also to enjoy, nature – their deal resembles the long-ago sale of Manhattan for $24 in beads and trinkets when public land, like air and water, wasn’t considered saleable by native inhabitants. A decade ago, a storm devastated Stanley Park. Now, oceans and winds are rising. To risk people’s livelihoods for something that few people (customers) want is way, way too risky. Especially since Trump has approved Keystone XL.

In 1986, I wrote a feature for the Province entitled, “Miles of sea and sand.” I had the incredible experience of talking to folks at many of our beautiful beaches – Wreck Beach, Spanish Banks, Locarno, Jericho, English Bay, Ambleside, Dundarave, Eagle Harbour and Whytecliff. Over and over, people expressed the importance of these landmarks in their everyday lives. For me, these conversations are as memorable and transforming as Expo 86.

Some people know the price of everything, but the value of nothing. With all due – but decreasing – respect, take a hike!


Change agents worth following

Poll after reliable poll shows that the majority of people in BC oppose the Christy Clark/Justin Trudeau fossil fuel mega-projects, as much as two-to-one.

by Bruce Mason

The 1% who have pocketed, and hidden, half of the world’s wealth are delighted by people who think nothing will ever change. In that context, mere optimism is a political act. So, too, is pessimism; acquiescence is one form of obedience. To look at the myriad difficult problems facing humanity directly in the eye, as challenges and opportunities to create a better world to leave to our grandchildren, is somewhat radical in these dark times.

Some say we are in a tomb; others think of it as a womb and suggest we breathe and push. One bright light to follow in our ongoing global rebirth is Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), afnd spokesperson for the international Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion.

Recently, in the fight against pipelines, he has wisely warned: “This is a global movement and not just a fight against another dirty pipeline… This is not simply an indigenous issue; climate change and the catastrophic impacts that we have witnessed to date and the potential impacts that will manifest in the future, are a matter of grave concern of all people around the world.”

The UBCIC

For their rapidly growing number of friends and allies, the UBCIC have created the “Coast Protectors Pledge” at coastprotectors.ca. Another site is RAVEN (www.raventrust.com). However, once again, Phillip notes, “People shouldn’t become too focused on the indigenous efforts and the dimension of the issue and court battles. It creates a false sense of security amongst the general population that they don’t have to be overly concerned because the indigenous people will take the lead and save the day.”

Another person to pay attention to and support is the seemingly indefatigable Shirley Samples whose non-stop posts reached some 20,000 followers on two Facebook pages: “Stop Kinder Morgan” and “We Love This Coast.” Her posts are a clearinghouse of current news and opportunities to fight back.

It is past time to do more than just share information, sign petitions and hit send. Show up and donate as well. Poll after reliable poll shows that a majority in BC oppose the Christy Clark/Justin Trudeau fossil fuel mega-projects, as much as two-to-one.

Here are just some of the organizations to look up on the Internet: Sierra Club of BC, Greenpeace, STAND (previously ForestEthics), Dogwood Initiative, Georgia Strait Alliance, Western Canada Wilderness Committee, Living Oceans Society, Raincoast Conservation Foundation and the Council of Canadians, as well as smaller grassroots groups such as BROKE (Burnaby Residents Opposing Kinder-Morgan Expansion) and NOPE (North and West Vancouverites Opposed to Pipeline Expansion).

Bruce Mason is a Vancouver and Gabriola-Island based five-string banjo player, gardener, freelance writer and author of Our Clinic. brucemason@shaw.ca

seawall photo © Steve Smith