Thursday, July 31, 2014

Two States and Several Canadian Provinces, Including Manitoba, Gear Up A System To Cut Carbon Emissions - Is a Carbon Tax in the Wind?


Massive highway repair and infrastructure renewal in Manitoba (above), 
clearly show the need for some sanity aimed at controlling emissions. PLT photo 
Washington State is poised to join California and several Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, in a carbon trading system, according to a Monday memoranda from the governor’s office. Details here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Studies Show Farm Chemicals Are Affecting More Than Bees. Bird Populations are Declining, Too.

Is modern agriculture’s hold on nature becoming a death grip? 
By Larry Powell
Another insectivorous species in decline, the purple 
martin. Are they becoming "neonic" victims, too?
PinP photo.

This summer, the tragedy of dying pollinators took on a new dimension. A team of Dutch researchers found that, in addition to bees, “significant declines in populations of insect-eating birds are also associated with high concentrations of neonicotinoids.”

“Neonics,” as they are commonly called, have become the most widely used group of insecticides in the world – and, the most infamous. As well as killing the crop pests they are supposed to, they’ve been implicated in the deaths of billions of honeybees from near and far, for well over a decade. The European Union even clamped a two-year moratorium on their use, last year.

Various formulations of the chemical are made by multinational corporations like Bayer CropScience, Syngenta and Monsanto. They’re used as seed dressing on crops ranging from canola, soya and corn, to potatoes. They are “systemic” poisons. That means they penetrate all part of the plant, even the nectar and pollen. But as little as 2 percent of the plant takes up the active ingredient. The rest gets washed off, contaminating both soil and water. “Neonic” use exploded onto the farm scene about two decades ago, on crops that now cover vast areas of the world’s farmlands.

The study, by scientists at Radboud University, was published in the journal, Nature. It concludes, the most widely-used “neonic,” imadacloprid, poisons not only insects harmful to the crops, but others which form an important part of the birds’ diets, especially during breeding season and while raising their young. These would include grasshoppers, butterfly caterpillars, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies (an important food source for fish, as well as birds).

“In the Netherlands, local (bird) populations were significantly more negative in areas with high surface-water concentrations of imadacloprid. In those cases, bird numbers tended to decline some 3.5% per year. (This would translate into a staggering loss of about 35% in a decade!) These declines appeared only after the introduction of imadacloprid to the Netherlands in the mid ‘90s. Our results suggest the impact of neonicotinoids on the natural environment is even more substantial than has recently been reported and is reminiscent of the effects of persistent insecticides in the past.”

This is an apparent reference to DDT,another persistent insecticide. It was banned in North America after Rachel Carson’s book, “Silent Spring,” exposed it in the 60s for the mass die-offs of both birds and fish on the continent. She also revealed its widespread and dangerous presence in various human organs.

Birds are much less vulnerable to neonics than insects. So, it is believed avian numbers are declining, not because of direct poisoning, but because the chemicals are killing off the insects they normally eat.

“A route to direct mortality.”

But, it’s also unlikely any bird that directly eats seed treated with “neonics” will stand a chance. One study concludes, “A single corn seed can kill a songbird.” Another finds, “Consumption of small numbers of dressed seeds offers a route to direct mortality in birds.” And some of the bird species included in the Dutch study, like starlings and skylarks, eat grain as well as insects.

Is this just a “faraway” problem? Not really!

(4) Last winter, a biologist at the University of Saskatchewan sounded a very similar alarm. Christey Morrissey is about halfway through a four-year study of the chemical in question. She told the CBC, “Huge amounts of 'neonics' are leaching into the millions of potholes that dot the landscape of the Canadian prairies. This can have potentially devastating impacts on aquatic insects such as mosquitoes and midges, both important food sources for birds. She says levels of the poison in the water have been found to be anywhere from ten to a hundred times above limits which are considered safe!
The barn swallow, now in rapid decline. A PinP photo.

Meanwhile, she notes, populations of insectivorous birds such as barn swallows, have plummeted some 70 percent over the past 30 years. She concedes other factors, like habitat loss, are contributing to the decline, too. But she still believes neonics are playing a significant role.

The Dutch study team suggests, “Future legislation should take into account the potential cascading effects of neonicotinoids on ecosystems.”

Ms. Morrissey offered this observation to the CBC.

“We all want to have food that we consume and enjoy. But, at what cost? Is that the cost of having no more birds around? Of having no more butterflies? Having no bees? People are thinking about that now.” 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fracking Chemicals Not on Canada’s Pollutant List


OTTAWA – Environmentalists and legal experts are criticizing the federal government’s decision to leave toxic fracking chemicals off a list of pollutants going into Canada’s air, land and water. Full story here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Disasters Poised to Sweep Away Development Gains

IPS Inter Press Service
UXBRIDGE, Canada - Extreme poverty and hunger can be eliminated, but only through far greater efforts to reduce carbon emissions that are overheating the planet and producing punishing droughts, catastrophic floods and ever wilder weather, said climate activists involved in talks to set the Sustainable Development Goals. Details here.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA US): Climate Change is Getting Worse

The Hill
Changes in the earth's climate are increasing at a steady rate, NOAA warned Thursday in a new report. Read more here.
Summer - 2014. This record flood in Brandon, MB shows a single street re-inforced by a dam, holding back water from a major shopping centre consisting of billions of dollars worth of big-box stores and merchandise in Manitoba's 2nd-biggest city. (PLT photo.)

Related: "Global Surface Temperatures Poised To Rise Rapidly"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

New Provincial Park For Polar Bears in Manitoba?

While talk of jobs and economy have reverberated through the media coverage of our Premiere’s recent throne speech, the province’s significant protected areas announcement has yet to draw the attention it deserves. With the recent discovery of hugely significant polar bear denning areas near Manitoba’s Hudson Bay coast, the province announced a plan to begin consultation on the creation of a provincial park to protect these iconic animals.

Blogger Invites Prominent Tories to Join Greens (Letter)

Dear Editor,

As a member of the Green Party, I'd like to invite two prominent Conservatives in my area, Ken Waddell, the publisher of the Neepawa Banner (formerly the Mayor) and Robert Sopuck, my Member of Parliament, to join the "Greens!"

I was delighted, Mr. Waddell, to read your recent column, supporting (or, at least inviting a debate on) a guaranteed minimum income, as embodied in the successful "Mincome" pilot project in Dauphin back in the 70s. It so happens my party has endorsed such a policy for years. I actually wrote a paper for the Green Party of Manitoba myself a few years ago, detailing the success of "Mincome" and pointing out what a "win-win" effort it was, enriching the lives of many poor and disadvantaged people in just about every way that counted.

And I don't think we need to agonize over how to pay for it. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Health Study Reveals Alarming Links Between Oil Sands Contaminants and Incidents of Illness in Alberta, Canada

The First Perspective
It is the first report of its kind to draw an associations between oil sands produced environmental contaminants and declines in community health and well-being in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta. Details here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

World Council of Churches Endorses Fossil Fuel Divestment

Fossil Free
Geneva, Switzerland - 11 July - The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), a fellowship of over 300 churches which represent some 590 million people in 150 countries, endorsed fossil fuel divestment this week, agreeing to phase out its own holdings and encourage its members to do the same. The WCC Central Committee is made up of dozens of influential religious leaders from around the world, meaning the decision could resonate far and wide. Full story here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Solar Has Won. Even if Coal Were Free to Burn, Power Stations Couldn't Compete

As early as 2018, solar could be economically viable to power big cities. By 2040 over half of all electricity may be generated in the same place it's used. Centralised, coal-fired power is over. Full story here.

PLT photo.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Kneeling in Fenway Park to the Gods of War

By Chris Hedges - Truthdig

BOSTON—On Saturday I went to one of the massive temples across the country where we celebrate our state religion. Full story here.

Governments and the Climate Crisis - Leadership Failure Bordering Madness.

I wrote this story almost three years ago. I am re-posting it because a flood similar to the "one-in-300 year-kind" we had in 2011 - in Manitoba - is happening again THREE YEARS LATER! I continue to be struck by how little things change. So-called leaders (and ordinary people) remain in a stupor - an unexplained state of mass delusion and denial - approaching our climate crisis from every direction but a rational one. 
A number of scenarios outlined below have now changed, but the general sentiment remains.
by Larry Powell

If a shrink were to examine the brains of North America's political leaders, what do you suppose she would find?

What parts of what lobes would be addressing the cataclysmic changes our planet's climate is undergoing?

Are the neurons of these leaders' brains actually transmitting, making them aware that Earth is going through a monumental crisis that needs their immediate attention? Or are they somehow "shorting out," as if each leader was sticking a finger in a light socket?

Here are just a few examples of what I mean.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Critics Say More Needs to be Done to Prevent Another (Canadian) Lac-Megantic Disaster

Canadian Press

OTTAWA – Periodic flurries of federal regulation, rule-making and reassurance followed the rail disaster last July that killed 47 people, destroyed dozens of buildings and contaminated waterways in a small Quebec town. Details here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Can You Say "Climate Change?"

by Larry Powell
A sodden farm field near Neepawa, Manitoba.
Another "severe weather event," this one a doozy, has just blown through my neck of the woods. Deluges of rain over a huge area of the Canadian prairies, driven by strong winds, have brought flooding, property damage and washed-out roads to scores of communities in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It left power outages, dangling live wires, trees on top of cars, evacuations (including at least one hospital and one care home), flooded basements (including my brother's in Regina) and human misery, galore. Ditches and roads turned into rivers and farm fields into rice paddies. They were all part of a package deal included in slow-moving electrical storms that lasted for an agonizing three days or so, from west of Regina through to eastern Manitoba.

The storms were made all the worse due to the extremely wet spring which preceded them. Already sodden ground left few places for the water to go.
Waters of the Whitemud River touch the bridge at Neepawa. 
A friend who lives near the southwestern Manitoba town of Virden, John Fefchak writes, "We are fine where we live, but the town of Virden, it's a disaster. In all my years (and there's been quite a few), I have never been witness to such flooding. There was huge flooding in 1969, and guess, where they allowed the most recent housing development. It's called 'Seventh Heaven,' right in the same place. Too bad people don't pay attention or heed warnings.  Mother Nature will smack you every time! All those residents were evacuated yesterday!"

John adds, "Our little prairie creek, (the one the province allows arsenic into) is now a raging, white rapids river, spilling into the swollen Assiniboine about 3 miles downstream. 

"Just for the record, we have had 4.6 inches of rain in the past 2 days, and for the month of June…..nearly 11 inches. Our yearly average has been 14 inches. Our car dealership, Mainline Motors, is flooded out."
More crop spraying is being done from the air because fields are too wet 
for ground applicators. I spotted this crop-duster just west 
of Neepawa this morning. (P in P photos.)
And it all happened, yet again, without anyone bothering to utter the dreaded phrase, "climate change." The closest I saw was on TV when a meteorologist (no not a climate scientist, but one who tells you what the weather will be tomorrow), was asked if this was part of the broader "trend" (which I took to mean "climate change). She answered, predictably, "You can't definitely connect any single incident to....the....trend."

How in hell can humanity be expected to do something about this defining environmental crisis of our time when we can't even utter the words?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Manitoba Crop Report

Manitoba Co-Operator

Many areas of Manitoba received significant amounts of rainfall over the weekend, adding to the rainfall already received over the past few weeks. Full story 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...