Monday, April 30, 2012

The Big Secrets of Canada's Big Banks

                                   Cdn Centre for Policy Alternatives - Apr 30 '12 David MacDonald
 Estimating government support for Canadian banks during the financial crisis. Read full story here.

PLT: Please also read: "How Ethical are Canada's Ethical Funds? Conscientious Investments and the Tar Sands Connection." 

Environmental Rules Should be Better, Not Easier

Science Matters by David Suzuki 
Few people would argue against making environmental review processes and regulations more efficient - as long as they're effective. But changes announced in the recent federal budget don't do that. Instead, they make it easier for the federal government and industry to push through projects that could harm the environment and the economy, and limit the ability of ordinary Canadian citizens to have a say in matters of national importance.

Based on the budget announcement you'd think delays and duplication in the environmental review process are the biggest issues. They're not. As the Pembina Institute points out, the equivalent of one major oil sands mine has been approved in each of the past five years, and the pace is increasing. Some people, including former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed, suggest we'd benefit by slowing down - for economic and environmental reasons. When there are setbacks in the review process, they're often caused by industry's reluctance to provide timely data or by a lack of capacity within the government itself. The latter is getting worse as funding for basic monitoring and enforcement is subject to further cuts.

Eliminating environmental reviews for some projects altogether, shifting responsibility to the provinces, and severely cutting back on staff and agencies that provide management and information are not ways to make processes more efficient; they're ways to accelerate approval of major projects, making the short-term interests of industry a higher priority than protecting the air, land, and water we all need to stay healthy.
Vermillion River - Dauphin, MB. PLT photo
 Provincial regulations are not always consistent, they're often weaker than federal rules, and they don't necessarily take into account the impact of decisions in one province on people in others. Remember also that B.C. approved a mining company's proposal to destroy Fish Lake near Williams Lake, but a subsequent federal review rejected it.

Other changes that could profoundly affect the way industrial and environmental concerns are considered include a move to restrict participation in environmental hearings to those "directly affected" and a proposal to shift decision-making authority for major energy projects, including the Northern Gateway Pipeline, from the National Energy Board to the federal cabinet. This could mean these decisions will become increasingly political rather than based on the best scientific information, expert advice, and public concern.

A democratic government committed to openness and transparency will ensure our shared resources are used - or not - in a way that provides maximum benefit and minimum harm to its citizens. That requires listening to what experts, community members, and the organizations that represent them have to say. That's true regardless of whether those organizations speak for the interests of people who see the environment as a priority or those whose biggest concern is tax dollars.

Besides putting the environment and the human health that depends on it at risk, these changes to policy and regulation could actually make review processes more inefficient and time-consuming. If people lose trust, we could see more conflict and court challenges. Recently, the Nuxalk First Nation of Bella Coola withdrew from the Northern Gateway hearing - hereditary Chief Charlie Nelson argued that the government has already made up its mind to approve the project. Instead, aboriginal leaders say they will consider going to court to defend their rights and stop the project.

The government should work to make environmental rules more effective, improving efficiency as one of a number of objectives. A consultative and transparent process that engages a range of interests, information, and expertise would work best. The opportunity to achieve this was there when a parliamentary standing committee was charged with reviewing the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act last year. But the Canadian Environmental Law Association says that process was rushed, poorly implemented, and anything but 'comprehensive' in nature.

We all want a free and democratic country with a healthy environment and strong economy. The best way to guarantee that is to encourage scientific research and knowledge, open discourse, and respect for a range of viewpoints. There are ways we can improve efficiency of decision-making, such as clearer environmental rules. Sometimes - but not always - it may take longer to reach a decision, but at least we'd be confident it is made in the best interests of all Canadians.

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Editorial and Communications Specialist Ian Hanington.

The May 2012 Insurrection

Adbusters , 26 Apr 2012
Hey you dreamers, strikers and new left redeemers out there, for thirty-one magical days beginning this Tuesday, May 1, we take the plunge and strike! Details here.
Occupy Winnipeg Oct.  2011 PLT photo

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Climate Change Denial Should be a Deal-Breaker

By Andrew Mitrovica, The Ottawa Citizen April 26, 20
My brother, Jerry, is a genius. He will, I’m sure, be upset that I have publicly described him as such. But, brother, it’s true. Details here.

Today's Chuckle

(That's Harper in Black!) PLT

First Nations Resist Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline With Cross-Canada Freedom Train

Alexis Stoymenoff - Vancouver Observer - Apr 28th, 2012
The Yinka Dene Alliance departs on Monday for a nationwide journey on the Freedom Train, to storm Enbridge's AGM in opposition to the Northern Gateway pipeline. Details here.

Crews Race to Contain Raging Grass Fires - Roblin Area has its Own, Close Call

By: Melissa Martin - Wpg. Free Press - Apr. 29'12
Plumes of smoke loomed over the southern Manitoba horizon on Saturday, as grass fires blossomed across the bone-dry prairie. Details here.
Above, Roblin's volunteer fire department gains the upper hand with a grass fire east of the west-central Manitoba town, after it burned dangerously close to buildings on Saturday. (PLT photos.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

'Agent Orange Corn' Debate Rages As Dow Seeks US Approval Of New Genetically Modified Seed

Posted: 04/26/2012 Huffinigton Post
WASHINGTON -- A new kind of genetically modified crop under the brand name of "Enlist" -- known by its critics as "Agent Orange corn" -- has opponents pushing….details here.

PLT: Rest assured, Canadian "regulators" will be slavering at the prospect of rubber-stamping this Frankenfood here, as well!

The RM of Shell River Will be Told About New Technology for Waste Disposal. Will it Listen?

Dear Editor,

I'd like to extend a challenge to my local government, the Rural Municipality of Shell River. 

(Please read earlier story here.)

I'd like you to prove to myself and my community that you are living in the 21st century and determined to be the best that you can be. So far, you've been moving quietly ahead with plans to build a major, new, earthen sewage lagoon, using technology that is, at least, decades-old.

An expert in the field of waste treatment and water pollution, Prof. Bill Paton of Brandon University, says such lagoons "Do not perform well in Manitoba's climate.
I have not found any Manitoba lagoons that meet effluent license requirements. Many of them also leak to groundwater!"

And a former potato farmer I have talked to, Al Baron, says he had to abandon his farm near Carberry years ago when expansion of a nearby lagoon contaminated his land, making it unfit to carry on as a producer.

You didn't tell us much about the project when we appeared before one of your Council meetings earlier this month.

Is there not better technology than the kind you are considering, we asked?  Well, not really. Maybe in Europe, was your vague reply.

Well, it turns out, there is a Manitoba company called Blue Diamond Technologies (BDT), which already has a system up and running, treating hog waste at a barn south of Winnipeg! Furthermore, this company believes its technology can apply to sewage, would be more environmentally friendly and even cheaper than the lagoon you are persuing at a possible cost of $2 million!

I've talked to an official of BDT myself. He says they are quite prepared to meet with your Council, to talk about this promising technology. 

I now understand you have agreed to hear from them at your next meeting.

I am encouraged by this. And I sincerely hope you will actually listen carefully to the presentation and treat it as more than just a formality.

While the lagoon may be built less than a mile upwind of our country home (we are not sure, since you won't tell us the results of the soil-tests done there), that is not really the point. I believe you owe our entire community your best efforts in doing this thing right, no matter where it goes.

As you have apparently held at least one in-camera meeting to discuss this, there are many other details that remain unanswered.

Has there been any kind of detailed study on the need for this project? (Rumours that it was needed to serve a new cottage subdivision being planned for Lake of the Prairies, seem to have been just that - rumours.)

While you do say a feasibility study is underway, you won't commit to making it public when it is finished.

Will there be an Environmental Impact Statement?

Will there be a public hearing?

You have not given us clear answers to any of these things.

On the one hand, we are told not to worry, because everything is "preliminary." On the other, you  are dropping hints that you need to proceed quickly because you may lose government infrastructure money, if you do not.

Which is it?

All I ask is that alternatives be considered more carefully than they appear to have been, to date.

Thank you.

Larry Powell
Roblin, MB

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Report Highlights Hidden Costs of Factory Farms

Sarah Schmidt, Postmedia News  Apr 24, 2012
OTTAWA — Poultry waste fed to cattle, pigs pumped with growth-promoting antibiotics, and mounds of manure dumped in ditches. Details here.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Apple - Introducing Coal! (Greenpeace Video)

Canadian Pasture and Shelter-Belt Program to Wind Down (Co-operator,April 19) (Letter)

On the chopping block to save money, but not a murmur about the gold-plated Pension Plan that the MP’s have saved for themselves.

Well, it's apparent that Gerry Ritz, born in 1951, never had to deal with the dry and wind years of the 1930’s,when never-ending dust clouds, grasshoppers, and no rain settled on the prairies. 
The settlers of those years knew if they were to survive, changes had to be taken in their farming methods and stop their land base from being blown away. 

The tree and shrub belts were a beginning, but also a challenge, as the scarcity of water, even for themselves and livestock, resulted in many failures and setbacks. But eventually, conditions improved and the trees and shelter belts began to flourish. And they were successful. 
For not only to help prevent the loss of precious topsoil, shelter belts became a refuge and a haven for wildlife, a nesting area and food for birds.
Yes, with modern farming methods and large machinery, they have become somewhat of a nuisance to the aggressive farmers of to-day, so they are ripped away, piled and burned.

The Minister has now proclaimed that shelter belts and pastures are not the way of the future, in that stubble fields and continuous cropping is the salvation for to-day’s producers. 
Guess he's been in touch with Nature at the highest level, and been assured that drought years and winds are a past memory and will never return to challenge, even the modern farmers of to-day.
His crystal ball is due for a cleaning and a complete overhaul. 

If we don’t learn something from lessons of the past, it’s difficult to venture into the unknown future.

John Fefchak,
Virden, Manitoba.

Please also read: "Harperites Chop Trees in Latest Austerity Revelations!"

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jellyfish Populations on the Rise in Coastal Ecosystems

By Nathan Planetsave - April 23, 2012

Jellyfish populations are growing in the majority of the world’s coastal ecosystems, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia. Details here.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Pacific Islands Face Severe Water Threat, UN Says

Bangkok, 23 April 2012 – Climate change will exacerbate water stress in Pacific Islands, particularly small islands that rely on seasonal rain for their freshwater needs, according to a report released by the UN Environment Programme today. Details here

Will the Rural Municipality of Shell River Brush Aside Better Technology in Favour of Another Sewage Lagoon?

by Larry Powell 

Is Council Withholding Crucial Information?

Shell River surrounds the Village of Roblin, in west-central Manitoba. It's where my wife and I live, on a peaceful, rural acreage.

In mid-March, the RM quietly sent in a drill truck to test the soil less than a mile upwind of half-a-dozen rural acreages, including our own, with a view to building a new sewage lagoon. (Read earlier story, with photos, here.)

Test results, we were told, would be known in a couple of weeks.

So, on April 13th, almost a month later, my wife and I appeared before Council.

Well, no, we were told, we couldn't have the test results yet because, according to Deputy Reeve Joe Senderewich, who chaired the meeting, "They were not yet official!"

We weren't sure if that meant they didn't know, or weren't telling us!

Now, after another 10 days and at least one "in-camera" meeting, we understand via the grapevine, that Council may make those results public this Friday, the 27th!

So Council seems to be proceeding quietly with plans for a project which may cost $2 million dollars and have profound effects on us, on others, the groundwater and the environment, without really "coming clean" about what's going on!

Does Council Actually Want to Know if There is a Better Way?

We also asked, is there not better technology available than the old-style, earthen lagoons which, I understand, have been around for a hundred years.

I then told them the story of a potato farmer at Carberry, Al Baron, who had to abandon his farm years ago after local authorities expanded a sewage lagoon, contaminating his land and making it unfit for growing potatoes.

I also know an expert in groundwater contamination, Prof. Bill Paton at Brandon University. He told me, "Manitoba sewage lagoons as designed and loaded do not perform well in our climate. I have not found any Manitoba lagoons that meet effluent license requirements. Many of them also leak to groundwater." (I didn't tell them this part, but should have!)

Anyway, Council told us, there really isn't better technology available here...maybe in Europe.

Not long after that, we learned there is, indeed, a Manitoba company called Blue Diamond Technlogies which has a system already up and running, treating hog waste on a Hutterite colony south of Winnipeg! An official of that company, Devron Kobluk, (originally from Inglis) tells me he believes that technology can apply to the treatement of sewage here and that it would not only be cleaner, but cheaper as well!

Mr. Kobluk tells me his company is quite prepared to meet with the RM of Shell River, to brief them on this. Question is, will they listen?

The most regrettable part of all of this is - we were told this Council knew about Mr. Kobluk and his technology some time ago, and seems to have ignored them!


Will this Council now agree to hear from Mr. Kobluk's company?

I intend to find out! 

FOOTNOTE: The point is not whether this project proceeds on the site close to me, or somewhere else. I don't think it needs to go anywhere, at least until two things are considered, it really needed and, if so, is other, better technology available. l.p.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stop the Mass Death of Bees! Tell EPA & USDA to Ban Bayer's "Neonic" Insecticides!

Organic Consumers Asn.
PLT photo  Commercial beekeepers have filed an emergency legal petition with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend use of a pesticide that is linked to massive honey bee deaths. The legal petition, which specifies Bayer's neonicotinoid pesticide clothianidin, is backed by over one million citizen petition signatures. Click "Go!" to add your voice. Take Action Now!
PLT: An open challenge to Canadian about similar action here?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Ocean Acidification Definitively Linked to Oyster Failure

By Nathan - Planetsave On April 13, 2012
The collapse of a commercial oyster hatchery in Oregon has now been linked definitively to an increase in ocean acidification. Details here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Canadian Researchers Open a Door to Saving Threatened Bats

Bat Conservation International.

Dear supporters,

A research team led by the University of Winnipeg in Canada recently confirmed that the Geomyces 
destructans fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome in North America originated in Europe, where it is still found but does not cause mass deaths of bats. This suggests that European bats may have faced WNS sometime in the past and the bats that survived evolved to have immunological or behavioral resistance to the disease.

This research also demonstrates that the WNS fungus was almost certainly carried, inadvertently, by humans from an infected European cave to North America. Since it was first reported on the muzzles of little brown bats in New York’s Howes Cave, WNS has killed more than 5.7 million bats, according to federal biologists.

This new evidence that humans can carry and spread the fungus reinforces the need for targeted closures of caves used by bats, as well as strict adherence to decontamination procedures outlined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. We must all do everything we can to prevent or at least slow the spread of this tragic disease. We will continue sending you the latest updates on all White-nose Syndrome developments.

Best regards,

Nina Fascione
Executive Director

P.S.  Learn more about WNS and bat conservation on our website.

Friday, April 13, 2012

How the European Commission is Responding to the Sahel Food Crisis

European Union - Europa - Apr 12 2012
1. How big is the food crisis in the Sahel in 2012?
This is one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world today. Details here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Harperites Chop Trees in Latest Austerity Revelations!

By: Jennifer Graham, CP
SASKATOON - Canada's agriculture minister is defending the government's decision to put a pasture program and a shelterbelt tree program on the chopping block to save money. Details here.

PLT shelterbelt photo.
PLT: Trees are the latest declared "enemies" of the Harperites. What's next? Motherhood?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

How the Big Energy Companies Plan to Turn the US & Canada Into a Third-World Petro-State

Alternet Apr '12                       

Will North America become not just the next boom continent for energy bonanzas, but a new energy Third World? Details here.

Geese fly over an open pit mine in the Alberta tar sands. Courtesy of Beautiful Destruction

Friday, April 6, 2012

Surface Water Strategy is Imperative

By: Henry Venema 04/4/2012 - Winnipeg Free Press
What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, all of southern Manitoba was in various stages of panic as forecasts revealed just how bad the 2011 flood might be. 

Details here.                                 Shellmouth dam - flood of 2011. PLT photo
PLT: I defer to your expertise on this topic, Dr. Venema. But I do have a question for you, if you read this. Did the IISD itself not (prophetically), a few years ago, come out with a report(s), warning of increased extreme weather such as floods and droughts on the Prairies, DUE TO ANTHROPOGENIC CLIMATE CHANGE? You do not mention this in your article, this time. Is this not rather significant? Such climate change is caused by humans, burning too many fossil fuels, is it not? Have you and the Institute given up on reminding the public that this is a fact of life? I'm sure what you suggest in your article is valid - managing our surface waters in a sustainable way. But just how far will such measures go if we do nothing to attack this root-cause? Would love to hear your comments on this!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Texas Tornadoes Spark Climate Change Discussion (Video)

PLT: Right! Seeing loaded semis hurtling through the air is not that unusual, is it? Only in the fevered brain of a climate-denier!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Harperites Cast a Long Shadow Over Canada's Natural Places

Last week, our Finance Minister stood up in the House of Commons and made good on the rumours. The federal government is going to use the budget to change Canada’s environmental laws and speed up approvals          Jasper Nat'l. Park PLT photo 
for “major economic projects” – including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline and other industrial development. Details here.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Federal Budget a Disaster for the Environment, MPs Say

John Size, Staff  
The federal budget dealt a massive blow to the environmental movement and will result in protests across the country, two opposition MPs say. Details here.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...