Saturday, 20 June 2020

Of Pandemics and Climate Calamity. An Opinion Letter.

by Larry Powell

I guess you could call this a“what if” letter.

Wildfire smoke from hundreds of kilometres away, clouds
this Manitoba landscape. A PinP photo. 
What if we humans would listen as intently to our specialists in the earth and climate sciences as we now seem to be doing to those in infectious disease? Except for a fringe few (like the wing-nut "Frontier Centre," which likens Covid-19 to a hoax), many of us have accepted that this is serious and lives will be saved if we follow public health directives during this virus's heartless rampage. 

Compare this to the attention given to the decades of warnings of climate collapse and eco-system breakdown from experts in the atmospheric sciences. The differences could not be more stark. 

While our Medical Health Officers and other specialists in the field of infectious diseases are, rightly, being hailed as heroes, climatologists and others in similar fields, have been ignored, at best, or threatened with death, at worst. 

Meanwhile, sea levels have not stopped rising, global heating has not taken a pause and neither have violent, destructive and costly weather events like wildfires and flash floods, or mass species extinctions, just because of the deadly pandemic. 

While greenhouse gas levels did drop significantly due to Covid-imposed lockdowns of travel and industrial plants, much more will be needed to make a lasting difference. Besides, those levels are already on the way back up with such restrictions being lifted in many places.

While a lot of hard-nosed Albertans will never admit it, Fort Mac, hit by a disastrous flood recently (on top of the tragic wildfires that ravaged the Town some four years ago) is, yet again, another tragic example of the cost of climate denial.

In an article I read recently, writer John Gibbons, puts it in a different, perhaps more effective way. 

“Imagine, for a moment  that our government and others around the world had been given detailed information and warnings about the coronavirus years, even decades before it finally erupted. Imagine also that experts had shown the path to minimizing or even avoiding this global disaster, but our political and business leaders, uneasy about the costs of taking action and possible disruption to commerce, chose to ignore the expert warnings as alarmist and carried on regardless.” 

The scenario Gibbons describes is pretty much the way governments have treated long-standing warnings of climate calamity - with contempt, indifference, neglect  or downright hostility. 

So, what if we begin to bring the same, respectful approach to alleviating our climate crisis as, largely, we've already with Covid-19? 

The sky, I do believe, would be the limit!


Saturday, 6 June 2020

Hog Watch Manitoba's Call to Action For A Just Green Recovery

Hog Watch Manitoba is a non-profit organization, a coalition of environmentalists, farmers, friends of animals, social justice advocates, trade unions and scientists. We are promoting a hog industry in Manitoba that is ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable.

There are many concerns about threats to the environment, inhumane conditions for the animals and unsustainable economics that have lead us to form Hog Watch Manitoba and to advocate for an alternative model for the hog industry.

The Covid19 pandemic has highlighted the lack of resiliency in Canada’s food system with the closure of several large scale slaughter plants due to outbreaks of Covid19 in the plants. The centralization of slaughter plants 3 decades ago has led to a loss of ability to ensure food sovereignty in each province as well as leaving farmers with no options where to take their animals for processing. The closure of most of the smaller plants and local abattoirs in the country in favour of the few large transnational corporate plants, took away the possibility of providing local markets with local products from local farms. The majority of family farms couldn’t survive as the move to produce more animals for less money took over. Producers are now paid significantly less per animal than they were paid 3 decades ago, when adjusted for inflation. The move to bigger farms with thousands of animals in each building has led to increased animal welfare concerns, greater environmental threats from amounts of manure produced, and unsafe working conditions for humans in the barns due to toxic air quality.

Hog Watch Manitoba is calling for the following in pursuit of a just, green recovery from the Covid19 crisis.

·    We support the establishment of several smaller slaughterhouses in each province that will allow the processing of local animals from local farms to meet local market demand. Regulations for these provincially inspected plants need to change to allow them to sell product to local stores. The workers in these plants must be paid a decent living wage and conditions in the plants need to be safe with slower line speeds.

·    We support alternative housing systems for pigs that includes family group housing for breeding sows and straw-based housing for all pigs.

·    We are calling for the phase-out, over the next decade, of all liquid manure systems. In the interim all liquid manure operations should immediately take the following steps:
1.have groundwater monitoring wells installed
2.treat the liquid waste through environmentally acceptable processes to kill off unwanted pathogens
3.phase out the use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics

·    We support the family farm and feel that the true family farm is one in which the family are engaged in the day to day labour and management of the farm and reside on the property. As a necessary component of promoting the family farm, we are calling for the reinstatement of single desk selling of hogs which provides equity, economic bargaining power and price transparency.

·    We believe that all workers, including agricultural workers, should be protected by labour legislation such as the Employment Standards Code.

Friday, 5 June 2020

New research suggests, zoos and aquariums in Canada do little to protect endangered creatures in the wild.

by Larry Powell

A Bengal, the commonest tiger species (but still endangered)
paces in its cage at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park zoo. 

A PinP photo.
A study just published in the journal, Facets, begins positively enough. It acknowledges that members of Canada's Accredited Zoos and Aquariums (CAZA - the private, non-profit charity representing thirty such institutions), do try to be leaders in researching this field and, that they do take part in programs aimed at species survival by breeding animals in captivity, then re-introducing them into the wild.

And on its own website,  CAZA claims, "We are behind some of the most remarkable conservation success stories. This includes, bringing species such as the Black Footed Ferret and the Vancouver Island Marmot back from the brink of extinction,” for example. 

However, in some key areas, the researchers (a team of two biologists from Laurentian University in Sudbury) suggest, CAZA and its members are falling short. 
Zoos and aquariums could be "important resources in mitigating biodiversity loss. And the credibility of zoos as conservation organizations can only be enhanced by the production of peer-reviewed science in this field."
Yet, while CAZA members are turning out more such research (still significantly less than their US counterparts and most in "zoo-centric" journals), most are not on the topic of biodiversity conservation at all, but on veterinary science, instead. 
"Few studies have explored their contribution to biodiversity conservation efforts and research productivity in general." 
Increasing collaboration with academic institutions would be one way for CAZA to overcome that shortcoming. So, “It is puzzling that collaborations between these groups are rare. Academics can use the unique environment zoos and aquariums provide for studying species, whereas academic research based on field observations may increase the success of reintroduction efforts led by zoos and aquariums.”

This new research comes to light against the backdrop of extinctions hanging over tens of thousands of Earth's wild species, “ due to widespread degradation of global ecosystems caused by humans.”


Sunday, 31 May 2020

Canadian Court Slams Trump Climate Advisor in Successful Libel Case


Dr. Andrew Weaver, Nobel
Prize-winning scientist & BC Green
Party MLA who Tim Ball disgracefully
tried, but failed, to libel & discredit.

Climate science denier and Trump transition team advisor Dr. Tim Ball, who a Canadian court earlier derided as incompetent, ill-intended, and apparently indifferent to the truth, has been further rebuffed in the British Columbia Court of Appeal and must now stand libel for a 9-year-old attack against prominent Canadian climate scientist (and outgoing BC Green Party leader) Dr. Andrew Weaver (above).

This blogger has been trying to sound the alarm over this climate rogue, Tim Ball, for years. More than nine years ago, my hometown newspaper, the Roblin Review, published this letter of mine, below, objecting to the space he'd been given in the paper previously. L.P
Dear Editor,

I am disappointed that a largely discredited individual like Tim Ball was afforded close a full page in the March 15th Roblin Review ("People need to understand plants need C02"), in which to spout his lies about climate change.

Dr. Ball is actually being sued by a Canadian climate scientist, Andrew Weaver, for libel. Dr. Weaver is a leading author with the Nobel-prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. A conservative website Ball wrote for has already apologized and retracted certain statements Ball made about Weaver, attacking his credibility. Indeed, the site now seems to have deleted many of the articles Ball had contributed.

The book, "Climate Cover Up - the crusade to deny global warming," describes Ball this way. "There are few 'skeptical scientists' with as little experience and as much ambition as the Canadian geography professor, Dr. Timothy Ball. Never a climate scientist, per se, Dr. Ball quit his position at the University of Winnipeg in 1995, ending an academic career that featured a lifetime output of just four peer-reviewed journal articles, none of which addressed atmospheric science."

Yet Ball continues to make a career out of manipulating media with his folksy style. He seems to have convinced way too many of them that he knows more about the subject than thousands of real climate scientists who now agree that global warming is real and caused by a buildup of greenhouse gases in the air which we humans continue to create through the burning of fossil fuels.

Ball's outright denial that the globe is not warming, but actually cooling, is outrageous. It runs counter to all authoritative evidence available.

A "go-to" agency for credible information on this subject is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a division of the US government. It keeps up-to-date, sophisticated and long-range weather data using computer models, thousands of monitoring stations and satellite readings from around the globe. (Where does "Dr." Ball get his information?)

Here is what NOAA has to say. "For 2010, the combined global and ocean surface temperature tied with 2005 as the warmest such period on record. 1998 is the third warmest year on record."

Meanwhile, ice cover in the Canadian arctic is receding, at an alarming rate.

So, just what are we to make of all those images we are seeing in the news of polar bears swimming for their lives, gargantuan ice shelves breaking away into the ocean and vast expanses of open water where thick ice-packs once were? Perhaps the media are "photo-shopping" each one, to present a false impression? Of course not!

Does he really believe there is some kind of conspiracy in the world to "cook the books" on this? What possible motive could they have?

Give me a break, Dr. Ball! Just how stupid do you think we are?

Or might he have an ulterior motive himself? Ball has always been mysterious about where he gets his funding.

As documented in the same book, "Climate Cover-Up," he used to be a front man for "Friends of Science," a shadowy group with a clever, but clear misnomer. Just who were the individuals behind its formation? They included geologists from the Calgary oil patch and some oil industry PR types.

So who would you rather believe? Credible scientists who spend their working lives at the world's leading universities studying these matters, or individuals who get their pay-cheques from an industry with a vested interest in selling as much of its product as possible?

Ball has been a hit as a speaker at livestock conventions in western Canada. But, he is surely revealing himself as anything but a friend to farmers. By actually telling them they "better hope for global warming," he is doing them a profound disservice. Rather than warning them that this phenomenon is likely spawning the very extreme weather events which are ruining their crops and pastures (something now widely believed in the climate science community), he is tacitly giving them the green light to continue the fossil-fuel-rich methods inherent in modern agriculture. Surely this only helps ensure that the problem will not only continue, but worsen.

Larry Powell,
Roblin, MB.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

At least 80 million children under one are at risk of diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio as COVID-19 disrupts routine vaccination efforts

World Health Organization
A WHO photo.
Agencies call for joint effort to safely deliver routine immunization and proceed with vaccination campaigns against deadly vaccine-preventable diseases. Story here.

Friday, 22 May 2020

A Major Oil Pipeline Project Strikes Deep at the Heart of Africa

In the line of fire? Giraffe in a Ugandan National
Park destined for major oil development.
Photo by DrexRockman.
Despite the global plunge in oil prices, a major pipeline that would carry oil 900 miles across East Africa is moving ahead. International experts warn that the $20 billion project will displace thousands of small farmers and put key wildlife habitat and coastal waters at risk.
Story here.

But it's a dry heat: Climate change and the aridification of North America


Photo by Red Charlie
Discussions of drought often centre on the lack of precipitation. But among climate scientists, the focus is shifting to include the growing role that warming temperatures are playing as potent drivers of greater aridity and drought intensification. Story here.

Measuring ecosystem disruption caused by marine heatwaves

 Nature Above, healthy bull kelp. Below, bull kelp degraded by a marine heatwave. DeWikiMan Marine heatwaves can displace therma...