Road Trip Summer 2009 1062

1.3 billions of gallons of mining waste flows into waterways

Road Trip Summer 2009 1062

According to Think Progress, a tailings pond leak near Mount Polley copper and gold mine was breached, spilling 1.3 billion gallons of slurry into nearby waterways. Tailings ponds hold a mix of water, minerals, and chemicals, forming “mining waste”. Included in the chemicals are arsenic, mercury, and sulfur. The immediate gush was into Hazeltine Creek in the Cariboo. The leak is the equivalent of 2,000 Olympic sized swimming pools.

Water bans are in effect for Likely, BC and others living near the spill, including Polley Lake, Quesnal Lake, Cariboo Creek, and the Quesnel and Cariboo River systems. Officials are still determining how far this effluent might travel and are hoping it doesn’t make its way to the Fraser River, which links to the Quesnel.

The area of the spill is not very populated, which makes response efforts tough, and the effects on the local watershed could be huge. Chief Anne Louie, from the Williams Lake Indian Band, said that the spill was a massive environmental disaster, and Robin Hood, president of the Likely Chamber of Commerce, told the Province that the spill was a “big disaster” for his town and that it poses a major risk to the region’s salmon-spawning grounds.

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Callout for contributors to Great Bear Rainforest project

Moon Willow Press, which runs BC Rainforest, is working on a special project, named The Enchanted Rainforest, to culminate in 2015-2016. This rainforest project will celebrate the Pacific Northwest Temperate Rainforest with a video/school project, printed book, and e-book and will include information from our Great Bear Rainforest Series as well as contributor quotes and stories.

You are invited to become a contributor to The Enchanted Rainforest! Together we will inspire people to care more about preserving the “lungs of the earth,” the largest, intact temperate rainforest on our planet. Moon Willow Press describes this ancient realm:

Marked by lots of rainfall, misty horizons, glacier-fed rivers and inland lakes, moss-laden forest floors, mature trees, fjords, and great biodiversity, the forest could be described as sacred. The area boasts some of the oldest and most mature trees on the planet, including Sitka spruce, Douglas fir, red cedar, and western hemlock. The fir and spruce can reach up to 300 feet tall. The western red cedar can grow 19 feet in diameter. Myriad species interact in this region–which combines freshwater, terrestrial, estuarine, and marine geography–including salmon, marine-diet wolves, black and grizzly bears, eagles, orcas, sitka deer, marbled murrelets, foxes…

The project will also educate people about how the Northern Gateway, other pipeline projects, logging, and mining could threaten (if they haven’t already) this most beautiful but also critical habitat area for rare and/or endangered species.

What we are looking for:

  • Photos
  • Quotes (from people who have visited the area)
  • Story contributions: do you live in the area, or have you visited it; perhaps you would like to write a brief testimonial about your experiences
  • Corporate support for traveling to the rainforest in late 2014 or early 2015

All organizations and individuals helping to bring this project to completion will be credited in the book and video.

A portion of book sales will be donated to a non-profit working toward rainforest conservation. Interested non-profits may send letters of interest to Moon Willow Press.

Rowan berries

Thor’s helper

Oh how I love some mythology that comes along with my favorite trees. Out front we have a Rowan tree, Sorbus aucuparia. It’s called a Mountain Ash around here, but I prefer Rowan as it’s an Old Norse name for tree, or raun. Celtics also called it the Traveler’s Tree. The tree has a lot of other names too: variations of Quicken, Ran/Roan/Roden, Sorb apple, Whispering tree, Whitty, Wiggen, Wiggy…wait, what?

But my favorite of its nicknames is Thor’s helper. According to legends written at Anna Franklin’s website, in Scandinavian mythology:

Thor was trying to get to the land of the Frost Giants when an evil sorcerer caused the River Vimur to overflow just as he was trying to ford it.  A rowan tree bent down so that he could grasp it and scramble to safety; consequently the rowan became known as ‘Thor’s helper’ or ‘Thor’s tree’. The tree may have been conceived of as Thor’s wife Sif who is usually associated with the golden grain of the harvest, though rowan fruit matures at the same time. Sometimes, the rowan is said to have sprung from a lightening strike, and to embody the lightening. Norse ships had one plank of rowan wood inserted into the hull to protect them from the wrath of Ran, the sea goddess, in the belief that Thor would look after his own.

Also, because the wood of the tree is very thick, it’s good for making walking sticks, magician staves, and druid staffs. I need one of those!

Rowan berries

Rowan trees typically grow their fruit, little orange pomes, in late summer. We’ve not really had much of warm summer, but I noticed today that the berries are here now.

The species is native in Europe, western Asia, and north Africa in the mountains of Morocco. I’ve seen it quite a bit in British Columbia too. There’s a good deal of information here about its habitat and relationships with forest plants and animals.

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What’s new in the rainforest?

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Climate change scene, licensed for use by Can Stock Photo

We have been very busy this summer promoting our other project, a site that has been cataloging nature and climate themed fictional books as well as notable nature essays since August 2013. Our newest branch of this site is a new community discussion group for writers and readers of environmental-themed books, whether cli-fi, sci-fi, speculative, literary, or non-fiction. All are welcome to join; all we ask for is topical and civil discussions. Still a fairly new community, we are still up to 65 members currently and growing! We would love your input and contribution, whether you are an author or reader!

In other news:

The Parksville Qualicum Beach Newspaper reported that very small and old hedgehog and tapir fossils have been found in northern British Columbia in Driftwood Canyon near Smithers; this area was a lake bottom in the early Eocene.

Pam Mullins was named BC Photographer of the month for her wildlife photography in the Great Bear Rainforest, according to HuffPost BC. Mullins lives on the Sunshine Coast.

Global News reports the province has released its 5-year species-at-risk plan.

American Bullfrogs are invading BC, according to E Canada Now. The frogs are deemed too large to be native to Canada.

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Cli-Fi Books expands to include nature fiction

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Clark’s Nutcracker, courtesy Wiki Commons

BC-based Cli-Fi Books is expanding its focus to “Nature Fiction” in order to include other nature-themed books and prose. Though the current domain will not change, the archive is now also directing the NatureFiction.com URL to its site. This expansion will hopefully attract more readers and authors since the climate change community is still fairly small and sometimes exclusive. The website plan is to continue to focus on climate change fiction but include other nature-themed fiction at the site. Cli-Fi Books is gracious for patience as they find a way to keep the genres separate while still equally accessible. They are committed, as they have been since the site’s inception, to helping climate fiction authors promote their books and find a place to call “home”. Expanding to include other nature books will widen the audience, merging the climate change and eco/nature fiction genres into one place, perhaps bringing more attention to both important categories of literature.

Nature Fiction’s Google discussion community and Twitter profile have also changed their titles. They will continue to focus on climate change literature while allowing other nature fiction topics. All who are involved in these genres are welcome to come and promote their books and discuss with others anything from the writing process to publishing tips to reviewing books they love.

The website notes that this expansion will happen over time, but it has already begun.

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Rainforest news

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Yellow cedar foliage and cones. Photo by Walter Siegmund.

Preemptive to a short holiday, here is a summary of rainforest news:

  • Cedars Threatened by Climate Change, Logging Would Be First Alaska Tree Ever Given Federal Protection: Biological Diversity reports that Conservation groups filed a formal petition today to protect yellow cedar trees under the Endangered Species Act because of ongoing threats from climate change and logging. Vast swaths of yellow cedars have died off in the past century, with more than 70 percent of these long-lived, beautiful trees now dead in many areas of Alaska. If approved, yellow cedar would be the first Alaska tree species, and only the second plant in the state, protected by the Endangered Species Act. Yellow cedar (Calliptropsis nootkatensis) are killed as the climate changes, spring temperatures warm, and snow melts: A lack of snow exposes their fragile roots to freezing temperatures, resulting in root freezing and tree death. Despite the trees’ decline, timber sales selectively target remaining living yellow cedar because of the wood’s high quality and market value.
  • Canada’s Court’s Lands Right Rights Ruling Could Affect Oil, Gas Pipelines: The Epoch Times reports that on June 26 the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s claim on roughly 700 square miles of land—and, by extension, expanded the basis of all Aboriginal land claims in Canada.
  • Islands of Orcas and Eagles: Wendy Lemlin, a freelance author, writes about her experience at the San Juan Islands.
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Another milestone for the Northern Gateway

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Spirit bear, courtesy Wiki Commons

Updates: Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford has given Engbridge’s Northern Gateway federal approval, subject to the 209 recommendations already made by the Joint Review Panel–this after several years of planning and preparation. The news is heavy for those of us categorically opposing the pipeline due to: First Nations objections to these twin pipelines in their territories; a future of supertankers and oil spills on our coast; an increase to carbon emissions during a climate change crisis; and the lack of concern for all life relying on the ecological health of our rainforest–some species considered rare and endangered, many being critical to one of the last and great temperate rainforests in the world.

What is the Northern Gateway?

The Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal would involve building a 525,000 barrel per day pipeline from the Alberta oil sands hub of Edmonton to Kitimat, British Columbia, on Canada’s Pacific Coast. The route would cross salmon-bearing streams and rivers, First Nations territories, and portions of the Pacific Temperate Rainforest. The pipeline exports would introduce mega-tankers to the coast, which will ship this oil out every day. A twin pipeline would transport would import natural gas condensate (the chemical/petroleum based mixture used to dilute tar sands) from the coast to Alberta. Read more about the negative aspects of this project in our Great Bear Rainforest series, Oil Sands Overview and Oil Sands Aren’t Forever.

Some key milestones
Sources: Save the Fraser, Reuters, and National Energy Board – Public Registry

  • March 6, 2002 – Enbridge makes initial plan for project
  • April 14, 2005 – Enbridge signs deal with PetroChina
  • July 15, 2005 – Enbridge begins research and engineering
  • Oct 3, 2005 –  Shipping support results in larger diameter pipeline
  • Sept 29, 2006 – National Energy Board releases Joint Review Panel draft
  • Oct 14, 2005 – Enbridge selects Kitimat, British Columbia, as terminus due to its deepwater port
  • June 27, 2006 –  Enbridge dismisses First Nations concerns about the project, projects 2010 as operational date
  • Nov 1, 2006 – Delay in Northern Gateway plan as US exports are prioritized
  • Feb 21, 2008 – Demand prompts rekindling of Gateway
  • Oct 6, 2009 – Announcement of rising costs
  • Dec 4, 2009 – National Energy Board announces Joint Review Panel agreement and terms of reference
  • January 20, 2010 – The National Energy Board announces establishment of the Joint Review Panel
  • March 23, 2010 – First Nations declare pipeline is too dangerous to environment and vow to block the pipleine
  • May 27, 2010 – Enbridge files Northern Gateway pipeline proposal with the National Energy Board
  • Nov 2010 – Yinka Dene Alliance signs the Save the Fraser Declaration
  • Jan 20, 2011 – China’s Sinopec Corp is announced as one backer to fund pipeline
  • Aug 24, 2011 – Northern Gateway terms agreed upon by Enbridge and its shippers
  • Sept 22, 2011 – Joint Review Panel gives more time to speakers
  • Dec 2, 2011 – Gitxsan First Nation becomes first aboriginal partner for Northern Gateway project (the deal collapses one month later)
  • Jan 4, 2012 – Suncor Energy Inc, Cenovus Energy Inc, MEG Energy Corp, Nexen Inc and Total SA back Northern Gateway
  • Jan 9, 2012 – Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver accuses Northern Gateway pipeline opponents as foreign-funded radicals
  • Jan 10, 2012 – Joint Review Panel hearings open in Kitimat
  • Jan 18, 2012 – Gitxsan First Nation no longer backs Northern Gateway
  • Feb 10, 2012 – Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper backs pipeline
  • June 5, 2012 – Enbridge claims it has 60% of First Nations (who live along proposed route) approval
  • July 20, 2012 – Enbridge pledges new safety measures
  • July 23, 2012 – British Columbia government lays out 209 conditions for pipeline
  • Sept 26, 2012 – Environmental groups sue Canada over Northern Gateway
  • April 12, 2013 – Joint Review Panel issues draft conditions
  • May 31, 2013 – Government of British Columbia rejects Northern Gateway
  • Nov 5, 2013 – Alberta and British Columbia announce framework agreement
  • December 5, 2013 – The Yinka Dene Alliance (YDA) welcomes a new signatory for the Save the Fraser Declaration and announces Solidarity Accord (PDF)
  • Dec 19, 2013 – The National Energy Board releases its Northern Gateway decision
  • June 17, 2014 – Natural Resources Minister Greg Rickford approves the Northern Gateway project, subject to the 209 recommendations already made by the Joint Review Panel

The Great Bear Rainforest

Moon Willow Press hosts an ongoing series about the Great Bear Rainforest. Update: We are working on a book and video about the rainforest, which will be published in 2015. After this time, we will continue with the series. Read more here.

The Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia (BC), Canada, is part of the Northwest Pacific Temperate Rainforest and was named by environmentalists campaigning to protect and conserve this 70,000 km2 kilometer area. Temperate rainforests are rare, and the Great Bear, along with the rest of the rainforest, makes up one-fourth of all temperate rainforests in the world. It’s also special because it is the largest undeveloped temperate rainforest on the planet and has a number of unique species. Moon Willow Press’s goals are to educate people about the forest and about threats to the area, including the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project, which would run twin pipelines through a portion of this forest as well as introduce more tankers, along with supertankers, to the coastal ecosystem that makes up the Great Bear.

Note that some of these articles date back a few years, and links inside have changed but originally were intact. We make attempts to find where URL archives have been changed.

Read more: Part 1: Oil Sands Overview | Part 2: Ancient Realm | Part 3: The Spirit Bear | Part 4: Wolves Lost in Time | Part 5: A Journey in the Making | Part 6: The Old-Growth | Part 7: Serengeti of the North | Part 8: Oil Sands Aren’t Forever | Part 9: Wild Salmon  | Part 10: People of the Rainforest, Since Time Immemorial | Part 11: Inside and Outside of the Skeena

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Vancouver-based climate change short story contest

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New: Short story submission form

As announced today at the Vanpoet’s blog, we will be hosting Vancouver’s 3rd annual 100,000 Poets for Change event–an event that takes place around the world in hundreds of cities simultaneously. This year, unlike in past years, we will be hosting a virtual event in the form of a short story contest. The contest begins whenever you are ready (now if you want!) and ends sharply at August 30, midnight EST. I will try to get the Vancouver authors I know on board, but this contest is global and EVERYONE is welcome to join. Even though we’re based out of Vancouver, we need to stand together from all corners of the Earth when it comes to climate change. In a potential multi-media presentation, Vancouver will be represented well.

Visit the Vanpoet’s blog above or join our newly formed Cli-Fi community group on Google to stay updated!

Here are the contest rules. Please follow them. I’d hate to see any disqualifications. Click here to submit your story.

  • The stories will be due at midnight EST, August 30, but in order to carefully read the stories, we will not announce the winner until September 26, the day before  the 100,000 Poets for Change event. We’ll have a big to-do about it on the 27th, the big day of the event. (Keep in mind “poets for change” is for all artists–short story writers included!)
  • The winner will receive $100.00 USD (there is no entry fee). The award is offered via Paypal, or, if you prefer, as an Amazon gift card.
  • The story must be between 3,500-5,000 words.
  • Your story must relate to climate change and must be fiction.
  • The story must be your own. You may not plagiarize another story.
  • The story will be judged by Mary Woodbury, of Cli-Fi Books. If available, we may get a panel to help judge the stories.
  • The submission form requires you to upload your story (and optionally a photo, explained below) and check off a few boxes that say you agree we can host your story at our site. For instance, the story must not have been previously published. While you retain copyright, we want to host the story at Cli-Fi Books for a short period of time after the contest ends.
  • You must be at least age 18, and if not, you must send in writing a permission form signed by your parents to Cli-Fi Books.
  • For each story submission, there will be extra credit given if you also submit a photo of your city showing any nature scene, environment being impacted, climate change impact, or something similar. The photo doesn’t need to synch with your story, just with your city!
  • The photo you provide MUST be one that you have taken and have the rights to share. You will be credited as the photographer.
  • Permissions to use these photos in a collage, on the website, and potentially in video, must be given. While it will help if the photos are in early (you can submit any time), they are due no later than August 30.
  • Your full name and email address is required for the stories and photos to make it into this contest! Your email must match either a Paypal or Amazon account so that we can properly transfer you the reward if you win. Only one entry per person. Your email address will not be published.

Republished from Cli-Fi Books

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Consumers can support ethical treatment of food animals

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Holstein cow, courtesy Wiki Commons and Agricultural Research Service

Recently CBC reported that an undercover employee at Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Canada’s largest dairy farm, videotaped other employees blatantly abusing cattle at the business. The undercover agent was from Mercy for Animals Canada, an advocacy organization dedicated to preventing cruelty to farmed animals and promoting compassionate food choices and policies. The video has a strong content warning as it shows violence toward animals. The owner of Chilliwack Cattle Sales, Jeff Kooyman, is currently under investigation. The company’s management fired the eight employees who were caught abusing cattle, and the BC SPCA is recommending criminal charges against the employees.

Mercy for Animals states on its website:

Over 99 percent of the cruelty to animals in Canada occurs at the hands of the meat, dairy, and egg industries, which confine, mutilate, and slaughter approximately 700 million land animals each year. Despite the fact that huge numbers of farmed animals are badly abused in Canada, they have very few advocates. That is why it is so important that we stand up and speak out for the most defenseless.

This travesty begs the question: what can we, as consumers, do to make ethical food choices? We might have the best intentions, but how do we know for sure that the farms we buy from are responsible? It was an active discussion among some peers recently. One, Courtney Niesh, has been inspirational to me to become a vegetarian. But it’s not that I think eating meat is bad. I think that the process of assembly-lined living animals, that are treated badly for my meat, dairy, and egg consumption, is an act that I want no participation in, even if the end product is a sizzling steak or my mom’s great southern fried chicken. I sought an end to eating that kind of meat after watching this clip from the film Baraka.

As consumers, you and I have all the power in the world to investigate and decide where we get our food sources. For instance, Courtney took it in her own hands to write to farms that produce the cheese she buys–curious about their ethics when it came to animals. Her question was:

Hi there, I am from Vancouver BC and have recently read an article about cows that were mistreated at a dairy farm in Chilliwack, BC. I am a vegetarian as I am concerned about the mistreatment of farm animals, but I do consume cheese. I am wondering if you could tell me what farms you get your dairy from and if you make an effort to ensure animals at the farm are treated humanely; this includes living conditions.

Quebec-based Saputo is currently also under fire since Chilliwack Cattle Sales is the main supplier for Dailyland, owned by Saputo since 2001. Saputo’s response was immediate and thanked Courtney for her questions. Saputo said that they are committed to the highest standards and ethics and were horrified by the abuse of dairy cows in BC. As Canada’s largest dairy processor, they stated that they will not tolerate animal abuse and commended the termination of the Chilliwack Cattle Sales employees who abused the animals.

Saputo also told Courtney that they have asked the BC Milk Marketing Board (BCMMB) and other BC authorities to put enforceable standards in place to ensure such incidents do not occur in the future. Supportive of  the BC SPCA’s recommendation that the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattles, Saputo said that they asked the BCMMB and other BC authorities to likewise support the BC SPCA’s recommendation.

Saputo clarified that it does not own or oversee any dairy farms in BC or elsewhere in Canada. Along with all other dairy processors in BC they purchase milk solely from the BCMMB, which is responsible for the pooling of milk from farms throughout BC. However, they still recognized their responsibility to act as a leader in the industry in order to help bring about change.

Courtney also wrote to Kraft–asking the same question she had asked Saputo. Kraft’s response was less enthusiastic, just a quick sentence stating that the requested information was not currently available.

Courtney buys her Parmesan from Clover Leaf Cheese Ltd., and asked them the question she had posed to Kraft and Saputo. They responded that Clover Leaf Cheese is a federally registered packaging plant that purchases all their Canadian cheese from other federally registered companies such as Agropur, Saputo, and Parmalat. They count on these companies and the CFIA to monitor the environment the cows live in on the farms they contract.

When it comes down to it, it seems that most corporations have it in their best interest to monitor the living conditions, health, and well-being of food animals, but there are people working in the industry who will not comply and even, as shown in the video, do just the opposite: treat animals cruelly and sadistically.

The consumer always has responsibility, and thus the power, to make choices, including what food we buy. Fortunately, some organizations have already done the legwork to help us know which food sources are ethically produced. Writing to companies, like Courtney did, is one avenue.  You can also visit the BC SPCA and find a SPCA Certified Retailer.