Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Member of Parliament Plays Both Ends Against the Middle. (Opinion)

Methinks my Member of Parliament, Robert Sopuck (above), speaks with forked tongue. The Honourable Mr. Sopuck (Conservative, Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette) recently rose in the Commons to brag about his government's multi-million dollar "national conservation plan." The plan, he promised, "will mobilize action across all regions for stewardship and conservation." 

But, alas, in his last mail-out to householders, he sings a different song. In it, he once again "cheerleads" for the re-opening of the long-closed Mt. Agassiz ski resort in Riding Mountain National Park. 

This would entirely reverse an earlier plan to remove the aging ski-lift infrastructure and return the site to its natural state. And never mind that the re-opening is opposed on several grounds by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. CPAWS is one of our nation's main watchdogs trying to make sure our parks are managed in a way that leaves their natural heritage unimpaired for future generations. 

Creatures of the park who obviously register, not on Mr. Sopuck's radar screen, 
but in his gunsights. PinP photos.

But simply re-opening the resort apparently isn't enough for Mr. Sopuck. He's all atwitter now about developing the entire eastern slope of the park, even for year-round pursuits! He invites entrepreneurs "not only in Manitoba, but across Canada," to get in on this "opportunity." 

What do you have in mind, Mr. Sopuck? Midways? Carnivals? Candy-floss vendors? Beer stores?

I guess I'm not really surprised given that Mr. Sopuck's government continues to approve tar sands projects that are driving entire herds of caribou extinct in the boreal forests of Alberta - and bulldozed ahead despite massive opposition, with a wacky and tawdry scheme to allow a U.S. multi-national to build a massive, glass-bottomed viewing platform in Jasper Park.

In fairness, it is not only the Harperites who have shown they are prepared to place Canada's once-proud conservation ethic on life support. Other governments at other levels have done it, too. I'm just worried that Mr. Sopuck may actually be prepared to pull the plug!

Hypocrisy, thy name is Robert!
In this YouTube video below, apparently produced by Mr. Sopuck himself, he portrays himself as a rugged outdoorsman and hunter. In short, a legend. 

Hunter? Outdoorsman? Legend? Perhaps! 

A conservationist? Well, maybe not so much!

Let's Kill Off the Most Criminal Corporation in the World

Hey wild one,
The next issue of Adbusters, hitting newsstands worldwide in a couple of weeks, is our CORPO issue. It asks this one profound question: in the age of Citizens United, can civil society — we, the people — still work up some leverage over corporate power?

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Will Free Trade Agreements Allow Chlorinated Canadian Beef to Be Exported to Europe?

The European Union has already banned imports of meat dipped in a bleaching solution which kills all germs and bacteria. Will the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) allow this same practice - except this time with beef? Details here.

Related: Free Trade. Path to Prosperity or Back Road to Corporatism?

Monday, May 26, 2014

This Fracking Zeal Overshadows the Perfect Energy Solution – Solar


The (UK) government ignores the drawbacks to shale gas, while its erratic policies around solar frustrate budding entrepreneurs. Details here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"Tide is Turning" as Two Oregon Counties Vote Overwhelmingly to Ban GMOs

Common Dreams
Ronnie Cummins: "These victories make it clear to agribusiness giants like Monsanto and Dow that the day has come when they can no longer buy and lie their way to victory." Details here.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Coming Clean - Canada to Reduce Unregulated Use of Antibiotics in Farm Animals.

Manitoba Co-Operator. Laura Rance
PLT photo
Canadian health and veterinary authorities have been discussing the virtually unregulated and poorly monitored antibiotic use in farm animals since the late 1990s. Full story here.

California Drought Will Cost Thousands of Farm Jobs, Study Says

Sacramento | Reuters – California’s drought will cause thousands of workers to lose their jobs and cost farmers in the state’s Central Valley breadbasket US$1.7 billion, researchers said in the first economic study of what may be the state’s driest year on record. Details here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cattails for Clean Community Waterways

International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
A PinP photo.

WINNIPEG: In 2013, the City of Winnipeg and IISD embarked on a project to turn locally harvested cattail (Typha) and native prairie grasses into pellets to burn in a pellet stove located at the Living Prairie Museum, a facility run by the City. This video documents the process of harvesting, processing, pelletizing and burning the plant materials.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Full Episode: Flight of the Bees (Video)

Global TV -  "16x9" 
PLT photo.

In this episode of 16×9: Honeybees in crisis – dying by the tens of millions. But it may be the human factor – our trust in science – that’s killing the species. Watch video here.

PinP Publisher Larry Powell to Take Part in a World Conference on Investigative Journalism in Winnipeg This Summer.

I am pleased to have been chosen to serve on a panel during the "Holding Power to Account" conference, at the University of Winnipeg, on June 13th, 14th and 15th. The event will explore the importance of the news medias' role in exposing corporate and political wrongdoing. There will be scores of speakers from no less than 5 continents. Among the featured speakers will be Peter Mansbridge, host of CBC TV's The National, Diana Swayne, the CBC's senior investigative correspondent and Carl Bernstein, part of the Washington Post team which exposed the Watergate scandal several years ago. 

My panel will provide "a showcase of co-operative and public radio pioneers and their work in holding the powerful to account." It is scheduled for 2.15 on the afternoon of Sat. June 14th. Please consider attending!

Unprecedented Glacier Melt in British Columbia, Canada Seeps Into Climate Change Concerns

CBC News

Some B.C. glaciers losing 22 billion cubic metres of water. Full story here.

Further east, the massive 
Columbia Icefield in Alberta, 
(r.) is receding, too. PLT photo.

Alberta Health Warns of High Levels of Mercury -a Potent Neurotoxin - in Northern Alberta Birds' Eggs

CBC News

Alberta Health has issued a health warning about eggs from two northern lakes downstream from the oilsands after they were found to contain dangerous levels of mercury. Details here.

Related: Manitoba's Declining Wild Berries and Medicinal Plants Found To Be In Sickly Condition; Farm chemicals remain the prime suspect. First Nations Researchers. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Quebec Farmers Oppose Release of Genetically-Modified Alfalfa

Montreal Gazette

Sale of controversial seed delayed after protests across Canada. Details here.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Reports Honeybee Death Rate There "Too High for Long-Term Survival!"

EcoWatch: Over the past winter—a season when honeybee hives are most vulnerable—the U.S. lost 23.2 percent of its hive honeybee population. That is lower than the previous winter’s 30.5 percent death rate, but the cumulative impact on honeybee populations over the past eight years poses a major threat to their long-term survival, as well as the country’s agricultural productivity, the USDA said. Details here.

PLT photo.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Manitoba's Declining Wild Berries and Medicinal Plants Found To Be In Sickly Condition. Farm Chemicals the Main Suspects - First Nations Researchers.

By Larry Powell

A tale that is all too tragic. And familiar 

For centuries, the aboriginal people of North America’s great plains have gathered wild berries and plants for food and medicine.

Now, members of two First Nations in Central Manitoba have not only observed declines in the abundance of such crops, they have documented unhealthy foliage and severe deformities in many of them. These include chokecherries, raspberries, Indian breadroot, saskatoons, cranberries and hawthorns.
Deformed chokecherry in study area.
Unhealthy saskatoons.

After obtaining federal funding for a detailed study, several band members gathered hundreds of samples in and around Swan Lake, southwest of Portage La Prairie, and Rolling River, southeast of Riding Mountain National Park. The study was done almost three years ago but not made public until now.

For years, elders have watched as harvest areas shrink and overall quality declines. Where sage and sweet grass once flourished, there is now very little. In addition to an overall decline in the food and medicinal plants, grasses and tree leaves have become  discoloured and wilted.

As one elder on Long Plain (correct) First Nation and one of the study co-ordinators, Dave Daniels puts it, “Wild plums that grew along fields have disappeared. There are islands of plants isolated by agricultural fields. Diversity is being lost."

The people of the region are convinced their food and medicine is being contaminated by pesticides which farmers are applying to their oilseed and cereal crops, both on and around the reserves. This, in turn, they believe, is contributing to increasing incidents of cancer and diabetes among the Anishanabe people.

So the researchers gathered fruit, flowers, bark, leaves and even soil from the six plant species in and around their reserves. They had them tested in the Winnipeg laboratory, ALS to see if they contained residues of any of some 18 different kinds of pesticides. Most were herbicides used to kill broad-leafed weeds.

Of all the samples tested, however, only a single chokecherry flower collected at Swan Lake contained a detectable level (0.124 parts per million) of 2,4-D, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world.  No chemicals were detected in any of the other samples.

This, however, has done little to allay the suspicions of the people involved.

The study team notes that 2,4-D was one of the components in “Agent Orange,” a deadly substance used by the military to defoliate the jungles during the Viet Nam war. One Elder even claims, when 2,4-D was used to kill mustard seed near Ninette, Manitoba several years ago, it had disastrous effects, also killing hawks, rodents and rabbits in the area.

Besides, the team further reports, there are reasons the tests turned up so little pesticide residues. “In speaking to farmers, the chemicals like herbicides have a short field life. The damage is done within a short window of time. The residuals soon break down in the soil or water like dew/rain. Some of the chemicals do the damage to the targeted plants within hours.”

In other words, once the damage is done, the residue is difficult, if not impossible to detect. Nor do the lab results mean there were no chemicals in the samples. Rather, they mean that the levels, if any, were below what the lab equipment was capable of detecting.

Literature on the effects of pesticides often state that they are well-regulated and that the risks are low. However, it is also suspected that, when used together, a “cocktail” of chemicals can act “synergistically,” in ways that are more dangerous than if applied separately.

Here is what was observed during the course of the study which causes band members to still believe that they are being poisoned and that pesticides are behind the decline in plant quantity and quality.

·      An increase in the frequency of both ground and aerial spraying over the years around areas where the edible fruit and herbs are picked.
·      In addition to the degradation of several plant species, the number of people of all ages diagnosed and dying of diseases; such as diabetes and cancers is greater than before.
·      The closer to field (conventional crop) edge, the greater the damage to leaves, bark, flowers and fruit of the samples.
·      The further from the agricultural area, the better the quality of sample.
·      Only half a cup of saskatoons was found in both communities.
·      Only a few hawthorns and small chokecherries were found.
·      Wild strawberry flowers were found, but no fruit.

As the research team ominously concludes, "It is very clear that within the community and surrounding areas, something is very wrong.”

Meanwhile, the team has obtained  more funding for a follow-up study – one it hopes will shed further light on the problem.
FOOTNOTE: This unfortunate tale is not news to historians. The excerpt below was taken from a paper published on a website of the Food and Agriculture Organization called "An Overview of the Use of Plant Foods by Indigenous Peoples in Canada," back in 1990. l.p.
"Today, populations of native plants and animals, and the ecosystems they inhabit, are more vulnerable to destruction than ever before. Modern practices of clearcut logging, strip mining, open range livestock production, and large-scale agriculture have drastically depleted the extent of natural habitats and the plants and animals living within them. Urban expansion, industrial development, widespread use of herbicides and insecticides on forests and farmlands, and the introduction of aggressive weeds and animal pests have taken a further toll on native plant and animal resources. Because of all these pressures on wild biological populations, extreme care must be taken to conserve and maintain natural habitats and native species."
Related: "Washington Investigates Pesticide Illnesses Related To Fruit Trees"

Industrial Agriculture: Too Big to Succeed

An estimated one billion small farmers scratching out a living growing diverse crops and raising animals in developing countries represent the key to maintaining food production in the face of hotter temperatures and drought, especially in the tropical regions, says Sarah Elton, author of the book, “Consumed: Food for a Finite Planet.” Full story here.

Backyard chickens on a small, 

organic farm in Manitoba. PLT photo.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fracking's Effect on Water Not Properly Monitored, Canadian Report Finds

The Downfall of the Plastic Bag: A Global Picture

Earth Policy Institute

Worldwide, a trillion single-use plastic bags are used each year, nearly 2 million each minute. Usage varies widely among countries, from over 400 a year for many East Europeans, to just four a year for people in Denmark and Finland. Plastic bags, made of depletable natural gas or petroleum resources, are often used only for a matter of minutes. Yet they last in the environment for hundreds of years, shredding into ever-smaller pieces but never fully breaking down. Full story here.

Diesel vehicles in oil sands operations contribute to regional pollution

EurekAlert Wildfires, cigarette smoking and vehicles all emit a potentially harmful compound called isocyanic acid. The substance has been l...