Thursday, 13 February 2020

Regardless of the decision, Teck Frontier proves the system is still broken

This company has now withdrawn its application for the mine.

The Pembina Institute
Canada is facing a decision on the biggest oil sands mine proposal in almost a decade. Alberta’s Frontier oil sands mine, proposed by Teck Resources, has gone through a lengthy regulatory process culminating in a recommended approval from a joint federal-provincial review panel and is now under consideration by the federal cabinet. A casual observer might assume that given the potent environmental and economic impacts, this process would have been comprehensive. Yet, the panel's report, which shares the reasoning behind the decision, is remarkably weak on its consideration of climate impacts. More here.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Climate change to create farmland in the north, but at environmental costs, study reveals

High Alpine Tundra in Noatak National Preserve, Alaska. 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
In a warming world, Canada's north may become our breadbasket of the future - but this new "farming frontier" also poses environmental threats from increased carbon emissions to degraded water quality, according to the first-ever study involving University of Guelph researchers.  Story here.

Global financial giants swear off funding an especially dirty fuel.

The New York Times
The Alberta tar sands. Source: "Beautiful Destruction."

Some of the world's biggest financial institutions have stopped putting money behind oil production in the Canadian province of Alberta, home to one of the world's most extensive and dirtiest, oil reserves.  Story here. 

Friday, 7 February 2020

Why bumble bees are going extinct in time of 'climate chaos'

Tricoloured Bumble bees - Bombus ternarius - forage on chives
in an organic garden in Manitoba. Circa 2000. A PinP photo.
When you were young, were you the type of child who would scour open fields looking for bumble bees? Today, it is much harder for kids to spot them, since bumble bees are drastically declining in North America and in Europe.  More here.


Thursday, 6 February 2020

This is the age of the megafire – and it’s being fuelled by our leaders

Tim Flannery for the Guardian
Bushfires spire from Yuraygir National Park,
Australia. Photo by European Space Agency.

In the face of the climate disaster it helped create, the Australian government has given us only lies and denial. Story here.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Our warming world turns vast areas of the Arctic green.

High Alpine Tundra in Noatak National Preserve, Alaska. 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
New research techniques are being adopted by scientists tackling the most visible impact of climate change—the so-called greening of Arctic regions. STORY HERE. 

Farming as nature intended. A “dynamic duo” from south of the border, brings a message of hope and radical change to producers on the Canadian prairies.

by Larry Powell

A conventional farm in Manitoba. A PinP photo.
"You're tilling too much!"
That was Ray Archuleta's blunt message to about 50 people at a meeting this week in the small, agricultural community of Shoal Lake, Manitoba. The brilliant, affable Archuleta operates a small ranch in Missouri. His partner. Gabe Brown, whose "down home" personality has apparently earned him the monicker, "Farmer Brown," runs a big, mixed operation in North Dakota.

Both men are on the same mission - convince as many farmers as they can to move away from conventional production. That's how countless producers in Canada, the U.S. and developed countries around the world, have, for decades, practised this predominant style of agriculture. They rely on heavy and expensive "inputs" of fertilizers, pesticides, machinery and "mono-crops," all designed to produce the highest yields possible. 

Ray Archuleta conducts a so-
called "slake test."
Archuleta, a soil and water scientist, worked for the U.S. government for many years. He says too much tillage 
makes the land more vulnerable, not only to the kind of erosion that blows farmers' soils away in massive dust storms, but to devastating floods and droughts, as well. He adds, neglect of soil biology has gone on for so long, it has resulted in farm soils becoming "the most destroyed eco-system there is!" 

In a demonstration for his audience (similar to the one shown, l.), Archuleta had volunteers drop different samples of the same type of soil into clear, plastic tubes. Some of those samples were from fields that had been tilled and treated with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Others had not been tilled, but planted with cover crops that kept them constantly green and fed with valuable nutrients. When water was added, the first soil group rapidly disintegrated. The second kept their shapes for a prolonged period and absorbed the water into their pores, instead. This was indicative of healthy soil that would hold moisture and nutrients for the plants growing in it.

Archuleta says, after working for the government for a long time, promoting the kind of system he now campaigns against, he saw the light and quit to start ranching and spreading the word of a new and better way called Regenerative Agriculture. He sees too many conventional farmers going broke and doesn't like it. He calls them "The poorest millionaires I know," due to the tremendous debt they carry for expensive infrastructure. In his words, "The money goes to the tool-makers," meaning the machinery and farm input manufacturers.

He believes producers like himself, who emulate nature (a process called "bio-mimicry"), are the ones who are now making the money.
Gabe Brown in his field, with several
cover crops growing at once.
His partner, Gabe Brown (r.), says cover crops hold the secret to healthy soil and crops. On his five thousand acre farm near Bismark, Brown keeps his fields diversified with a constant cover of green during the growing season; before, after and during development of the main crop. 
An example is intercropping - planting several grain crops in the same field, then harvesting and separating or using the mix for feed.Brown says, too many inputs (like pesticides and artificial fertilizers), even on "zero-till" fields, can, over time, turn soil into virtual "bricks." These can result in "ponding," rather than absorption in heavy rains. He wonders whether the disastrous flooding which ravaged vast parts of the U.S. midwest this summer, might have been as bad had the soils in states like Iowa, not been turned into "crap" by misguided farming practises over many years.

Brown isn't impressed with the high yields many conventional farmers get, either. His advice, "Stop giving awards for yields, instead of profit." He suggests yields really don't matter much if your profits are eaten up with high input and machinery costs.

Brown notes, for every harmful pest farmers face, there are 17 hundred beneficial ones. This obviously means, it probably makes more sense to nurture the beneficial ones, than kill the bad one! So he grows lots of flowering plants on his land which attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. He even has a beekeeper operating on his property, to produce honey which he buys and sells at a profit. 

He also raises beef cattle which are carefully herded through fields to avoid overgrazing. Hogs and chickens range outdoors. 

The event which brought the two men to Canada, was sponsored by Agriculture Canada and the Living Labs Project.      

One of the local organizers, Michael Thiele, tells PinP,  there are many producers beginning to think about or are making the first small changes towards a regenerative model. Over the 4 workshops this week we spoke to over 300 producers. Huge interest."



Does your place of residence make you immune from climate calamity? I think not! (Opinion)

by Larry Powell I wish I had a nickel for every time I heard one of my fellow "prairie dogs" remark, how "lucky" or...