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What the hake? B.C.'s largest fishery is turning fish into fish meal

Healthy Oceans | July 30, 2015 | Leave a comment
Photo: What the hake? B.C.'s largest fishery is turning fish into fish meal

Hake: food or feed? (Credit: Artizone via Flickr)

By Scott Wallace, senior research scientist

Few Canadians know that the largest fishery on B.C.'s coast is for Pacific hake. Although it's a food-grade fish, the federal government granted permission last week, for the first time in nearly 30 years, to allow catches to be converted into fish meal.

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Rouge park deserves the same protection as other Canadian parks

Science Matters | July 30, 2015 | Leave a comment
Photo: Rouge park deserves the same protection as other Canadian parks

(Credit: kaeko via Flickr)

By David Suzuki

In fall 2011, politicians, farmers, environmentalists and local advocates met in Toronto to get the ball rolling for Canada's first urban national park, in the Rouge watershed on the city's east side.

It was a remarkably diverse gathering. Senior federal government members, including then Environment Minister Peter Kent, and provincial and municipal politicians from across party lines sat with representatives of farming and environmental groups, and local advocates who have fought for more than 30 years to protect wetlands, farms and forests stretching from the greenbelt to Lake Ontario.

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The joy of converting brown to green

Healthy Oceans | July 29, 2015 | Leave a comment
Photo: The joy of converting brown to green

By Anuradha Rao, Marine Planning Specialist

I remember the first time I helped clean up a brown site devoid of nature. A month later, the new growth was overwhelming, as if all the plants were saying, "Thank you." This sparked my interest in ecological restoration.

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Don't bee fooled: neonics are still toxic to honeybees

Photo: Don't bee fooled: neonics are still toxic to honeybees

(Credit: Sandy & Chuck Harris via Flickr)

By Lisa Gue, Senior Researcher

Did you hear that the honeybee crisis is over? This bold and surprising pronouncement appeared in Margaret Wente's July 22 Globe and Mail column, Good news: There is no honeybee crisis. Wente cites the latest survey statistics from the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists, which indicate fewer losses of Canadian honeybee colonies this past winter than the previous one. It is good news — although overwintering losses in Ontario were still double the level beekeepers suggest is sustainable.

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How to help bumblebees

Queen of Green | July 28, 2015 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to help bumblebees

Learn how to make a bumblebee nest! (Credit: Lindsay Coulter)

Did you know that there are about 250 species of bumblebees and they all need our help? To identify one, just look at the colour of its tail — and a few other details!

There are three kinds of bumblebees, those that nest:

  1. Underground
  2. At ground level
  3. Above ground

In addition to pollinating wild plants and food plants like tomatoes and blueberries, bumblebees that nest in the ground benefit your garden by:

  • Improving soil quality
  • Increasing water movement around plant roots
  • Mixing up soil nutrients
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Premiers' energy strategy doesn't go far enough

Science Matters | July 23, 2015 | 1 comment
Photo: Premiers' energy strategy doesn't go far enough

(Credit: Kris Krug via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation's Senior Editor Ian Hanington

On July 15, a state-of-the-art new pipeline near Fort McMurray, Alberta, ruptured, spilling five million litres of bitumen, sand and waste water over 16,000 square metres — one of the largest pipeline oil spills in Canadian history. Two days later, a train carrying crude oil from North Dakota derailed in Montana, spilling 160,000 litres and forcing evacuation of nearby homes.

At the same time, while forest fires raged across large swathes of Western Canada — thanks to hotter, dryer conditions and longer fire seasons driven in part by climate change — Canadian premiers met in St. John's, Newfoundland, to release their national energy strategy.

The premiers' Canadian Energy Strategy focuses on energy conservation and efficiency, clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change. But details are vague and there's no sense of urgency. We need a response like the U.S. reaction to Pearl Harbor or the Soviet Sputnik launch!

The premiers seemingly want it both ways. Despite its call to "Build on the ongoing efforts of individuals, businesses, governments and others to improve energy efficiency, lower the carbon footprint, and improve understanding of energy in Canada," the strategy promotes fossil fuel business as usual, including expanded pipeline, oil sands and liquefied natural gas development, including more fracking.

The premiers' plan is a non-binding framework, described as a "flexible, living document that will further enable provinces and territories to move forward and collaborate on common energy-related interests according to their unique strengths, challenges and priorities." It doesn't include specifics on how to revamp our energy production and distribution systems, but buys time until the next elections roll around.

Although the language about climate change and clean energy is important, the strategy remains stuck in the fossil fuel era. As Climate Action Network Canada executive director Louise Comeau said in a news release, "Governments discriminate against smoking and toxics in food and consumer products. What's needed now is discriminatory policy against fossil fuels if we are going to drastically reduce the carbon pollution putting our health and well-being at risk."

Fossil fuel development has spurred economic development, created jobs and provided many other benefits, but the risks now outweigh those benefits. The costs in dollars and lives of pollution, habitat and wildlife degradation, pipeline and railcar spills, and climate change — all getting worse as populations grow, energy needs increase and fossil fuel reserves become increasingly scarce and difficult to exploit — have become unsustainable.

Even job creation is no longer a reason to continue our mad rush to expand development and export of oil sands bitumen, fracked gas and coal. Many fossil fuel reserves are now seen as stranded assets that will continue to decline in value as the world shifts to clean energy and the scramble to exploit resources gluts the market. The Climate Action Network points out that Clean Energy Canada's 2015 report on renewable energy trends showed that "global investors moved USD$295 billion in 2014 into renewable energy-generation projects — an increase of 17 percent over 2013."

Yet, many of our leaders are still pinning their hopes on rapid oil sands expansion, massive increases in fracking for liquefied natural gas and new and expanded pipelines across the country — with benefits flowing more to industry than citizens.

It's refreshing to see provincial premiers at least recognizing the threat of climate change and the need to address it through conservation, efficiency and clean technology, but we need a far greater shift to keep the problems we've created from getting worse. There are many benefits to doing so, including more and better jobs, a stronger economy, healthier citizens and reduced health-care costs, and greater preservation of our rich natural heritage.

The recent spate of pipeline and railcar oil spills, along with disasters like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, are the result of rapid expansion of fossil fuel development, as industry and governments race to get the dirty products to market before demand dries up.

Canada's premiers should take these issues seriously and commit to a faster shift from fossil fuels as they continue to develop their energy strategy. They must also stress the importance of having similar, stronger action from the federal government — and so should we all.

How to get your yard off grass

Queen of Green | July 21, 2015 | 8 comments
Photo: How to get your yard off grass

Bumblebees, native bees and butterflies love lavender. And it's deer resistant! (Credit: David Zeni)

Lawn history is rooted in wealth and status.

In 17th century England, only rich landowners had lawns (a monoculture of short, manicured grass). Work once done by sheep increasingly shifted to human labour, especially closer to the house. Before lawnmowers, only a few could afford to hire people to scythe and weed their grass.

Lawn's purpose? Purely decorative.

Given today's reality...

  • Water shortages
  • The health benefits of digging in dirt
  • Our passion for clean, local food
  • A desire to waste less
  • How busy we say we are
  • No need to show how much money you make

...I think society is ready to question, even ditch, the lawn habit.

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