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The Future is Here for the New Government of British Columbia

Record-breaking wildfires and heat waves are a reminder that we have little time to save nature, phase out fossil fuels and leap to a low-carbon economy, all at the same time.

Abnormally high temperatures in BC, August 3 2017. Image courtesy of TropicalTidbits.com

British Columbia’s unprecedented wildfires are still not under control. August is beginning with a new heat wave and no reprieve from the climate crisis for the new BC government. This ongoing state of emergency is a reminder that our planet is changing rapidly – and that our governments have to act like they mean it, to save our world as we know it.

BC has a unique opportunity and must play a crucial role in the fight against global warming. The province is outstanding due to its large size, spectacular beauty, and vast natural resources which together confer wealth on a relatively small human population. Our use of this abundance, however, has been in many cases short-sighted and unfair.

A new vision is needed. It is justified by the recognition that critical change is now coming at an increasingly visible rate.  We have significantly overstepped the planet’s capacity to provide what we demand, absorb the pollution we produce and heal the wounds we have inflicted on its natural systems. In many parts of the world, lives and business-as-usual are already being disrupted by an increasingly unpredictable climate.

Fortunately, solutions exist that enable us to save our natural systems while offering a sustainable lifestyle. Wind and solar are now beating the price of fossil fuel energy in a growing number of countries. Grid and battery solutions are being developed at a mind-boggling pace.

Renewable energy systems, improved resource and energy efficiency, mass transit, materials recycling and new service models like the sharing economy are contributing more and cleaner jobs than resource extraction sectors. Our province, like so many other parts of the world, needs the leadership necessary to quickly phase in solutions and phase out destructive activities. History shows that ecosystem breakdown makes societal collapse more likely. Now is the time to make the changes we need to make while relatively stable conditions prevail.

A coherent response to the climate crisis requires far reaching steps to reduce climate pollution, moving to low carbon economy and saving nature at the same time without pretending we can take one step at a time. Stopping the pollution from our old economic system is crucial to maintain a healthy environment as a basis for the new economy. Increasing protection of ecosystems on land and in the sea to safeguard environmental services is also tied to maintaining the foundations for long-term prosperity.

BC’s new provincial government made far reaching policy commitments for people and the planet. Sierra Club BC has developed a vision called The Future is Here to support the needed policy changes.  To defend our communities and environment now and into the future, BC needs to show leadership in three key areas – climate action, nature conservation and a low carbon economy.

Climate action

BC must follow climate science, meet existing emissions reduction targets and set new ambitious targets to exceed the Paris Agreement. We must expand and increase the provincial carbon tax and declare the majority of our vast fossil fuel reserves off-limits to extraction, based on the newest carbon budget research. We have sufficient renewable energy sources and low carbon solutions to become carbon neutral before 2050.

Nature conservation

Our environment is healthy enough that we can set aside fifty percent of it in support of nature. We need an expanded network of protected areas with new and existing land use designations that address Aboriginal title and respect cultural values, and give priority to species and carbon sinks while allowing appropriate uses.  We can allow species the means to adapt to the changing climate while protecting clean water, air and soils for our children. BC’s globally rare temperate old-growth rainforests are a particularly spectacular example of resilient ecosystems with outstanding values for species, communities and climate that we can save if we act today.

Low carbon economy

By redirecting resources and political priorities, we can create new, better and safer jobs and build a low carbon economy that maintains our high quality of life with a greatly reduced resource footprint.  We can and must phase out oil and gas activities such as fracking and the Kinder Morgan pipeline and tanker proposal that destroy our environment and are increasingly uneconomic as international climate agreements are implemented.

Sierra Club BC’s The Future is Here vision includes ten recommendations outlining more detailed steps to address these three areas of action.

No government will be able to implement the scope of change required once the costs of environmental crisis and climate impacts become unmanageable.  As a wealthy industrialized country with a high carbon footprint we have the ability – and the responsibility – to pursue an alternative path. The new BC government has promised to start the change we need, so that we can avoid turmoil such as this year’s terrible wildfires in the future.

Check out The Future is Here and let the new BC government know you expect strong climate leadership.

My favourite environmental children’s books

By Sierra Club BC Environmental Educator Kirsten Dallimore

February 2017

One of my favorite things to do with a class is to read them a story. I use stories as a way to introduce myself and to share an important key message about nature and our connection as people to nature. Stories enable children to get hooked and become engaged in a program.

This month I would like to share with you three storybooks that I read in my workshops to spark nature connection. These stories help share a message about sustainability, local ecosystems and the importance of environmental stewardship.

 

“The Tree in the Ancient Forest” written by Carol Reed-Jones and illustrated by Christopher Canyon is a beautiful story about the interdependence of the plants and animals that live in old-growth forests. Students are reminded of their own dependence upon nature and the importance of preserving and respecting living things.

I have a lot of fun reading this story because of its rhyming and repetitive word patterns. It allows the students to join in the story and follow along in a fun and interactive way. I highly recommend this book to any classes that are learning about relationships between species in their local ecosystem.

 

 

 

“The Little Hummingbird” written by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas is an Indigenous story about a little hummingbird that is doing its best to take care of its home. Children love this story because it is so simple and leaves them feeling empowered. They understand that more than likely the little hummingbird was probably not able to put out the fire alone, but the fact that little hummingbird did something at all is what is most important.

Children feel a strong connection to animals and compassion for them. They see themselves in this story as the little hummingbird and wonder what they would have done in this situation. I always ask them what they believe the lesson is from the little hummingbird and they come back with the same answer every time: “it doesn’t matter your size, we all can make an impact, so always do your best to protect your home.” I recommend this story to anyone who needs a simple reminder of the importance of always doing your part to protect the environment.

 

 

“Wild Berries” written and illustrated by Julie Flett is a lovely Cree storybook about a grandmother and grandson going out to pick wild blueberries. This story really ties in well with our “Going Wild! People & Plants” program. The key message delivered in this book is about sustainability. It reminds us of those special moments when we truly make a connection out in nature.

While the story takes you on a small journey about going out to pick wild berries, it really draws on the connections that are developed over time between people and the land.  Students are able to easily relate to the story because it is simple and clear about how they too can make connections with all living things in nature. I highly recommend this story to everyone who loves picking and eating wild berries.

Here are some more of my favourite environmental children’s books:

Eagle’s Reflection and other Northwest Coast Stories by Robert James Challenger

The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer

West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet by Deborah Hodge

Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson

From the Mountains to the Sea We Share the Seasons by Brenda Boreham and Terri Mack

Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest by Caitlyn Vernon

Green Jobs BC: Working together toward a just transition

By Tim Pearson

January 5 2016

The health of our economy cannot be separated from the health of our environment.

The myth that we have to choose between the two is peddled by forces opposed to increased environmental protection and effective climate action—forces that stand to profit from destructive megaprojects and the endless extraction of finite resources.

And let’s face it—they have been quite successful at it: the myth endures.

So it’s worth asking ourselves, have we been unwittingly perpetuating it, instead of undermining it?

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC's Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

When we, as environmental voices, focus too much on what we are against—be it the logging of old growth, or fracking, or an oil pipeline—and neglect to talk about what we are for, we play into the hands of our opponents. We are then pitted against resource-dependent communities, the unemployed, underemployed and marginalized, and those who fear for their economic security.

The media build this narrative by highlighting stories featuring conflict, as this is what attracts the audience they want.

Environmentalists—often disproportionately urban, middle class and white—have been successfully caricatured as a privileged cohort who can “afford” to oppose development, while less fortunate folks must suffer the consequences in the form of lost opportunities and jobs.

And yet the reality is that we are all in this climate change boat together. To steer a new course we need everyone’s skills and expertise, solutions that work for everyone, and everyone’s buy-in and support.

justtransition_sidebarTo achieve long-lasting solutions, we need to build a broad and sustainable political consensus on the need for action. All of society needs to work together for a future that supports sustainable jobs in a healthy environment, a future that leaves no-one behind.

That’s why Sierra Club BC’s participation on the Steering Committee of Green Jobs BC is so important.

Green Jobs BC is a coalition of environmental organizations and organized labour. The coalition shares a vision of an inclusive, sustainable economy that provides good jobs, is socially just, protects the environment and reduces carbon emissions.

Late in November, I attended the Green Jobs BC conference in New Westminster.

Some of the most interesting discussions I had there were around the concept of a “just transition” to a post-carbon economy. What is a just transition?

A just transition means that the burden of change will not be placed disproportionately on a few.

It means that those who are most vulnerable to change will be protected.

It means that the process of shifting to a post-carbon economy will increase social justice for workers, women, the poor, and all oppressed groups.

A just transition is essential to achieve and maintain the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.

Many attendees from organized labour pointed out to me that all too often mere lip service is paid to the concept of just transition.

Irene Lanzinger, President of the B.C. Federation of Labour, asked me what I think would happen if a displaced worker who used to earn $40 an hour was told they will get retraining, but that training qualifies them for work that pays half as much. Well, pretty clearly, that worker isn’t going to buy into this plan. That worker will see the transition as anything but just for him or her and their family.

This is one of the reasons why we as a society have to take the concerns of workers seriously as we tackle climate change. And that is why environmentalists, labour and social justice advocates must work together, just as we are through Green Jobs BC.

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Jobs Today, Jobs Tomorrow: BC’s Green Jobs Conference 2016. Photo courtesy of Green Jobs BC.

We need to find climate solutions in which workers in all parts of the province can see a secure future for themselves; a shared vision that will inspire all of us to put our shoulder to the wheel and make happen.

How do we do that? Those of us who identify more as ‘environmentalist’ than ‘worker’ can start by listening and learning, to ensure that what we are asking for is more inclusive. We can study labour history, and learn the ways that unions have improved the rights of all workers over the decades. We can organize in our communities in ways that build relationships with union locals, incorporate diverse views and voices into the changes we are calling for, and invite workers to our events and rallies. In turn, we can start showing up in support on picket lines or finding other ways to show our solidarity.

The exploitation of the environment is intimately tied to the exploitation of workers. The quest for profit above all other values has driven the erosion of worker rights just as surely as it has the erosion of environmental protections.

“Nothing about us without us” is organized labour’s refrain. When we as environmentalists include workers in our discussions, strategizing and actions (and vice versa), we will build dialogue, trust and ultimately a powerful alliance.

And out of that alliance we can build the broad political consensus necessary to allow climate protection policies to work in the long run.

INSIDE AND OUT: 10 EASY ACTIVITIES TO HELP CONNECT KIDS TO NATURE

By Kirsten Dallimore

Whether you’re a parent looking for March break activities or a teacher looking for tips and tools for getting your class outside, the following activities will help you get your kids playing and learning in nature.

Bring nature inside

Collect pine cones, sea shells, rocks, sticks, leaves. Bring them inside and make a nature station that you can add to throughout the seasons. Encourage your students or children to share something they found during their weekend adventures.

Plant something in a garden or small pot

Buy one bag of soil, one package of seeds and get (or ask your students bring in) one yoghurt or margarine container. Everyone can plant seeds and grow things such as beans, edible greens or wild flowers. Seeing something that you have grown yourself really helps to connect you to life.

Build a natural playground

Set aside a space in your school yard or backyard that will become all natural. Start off by gathering small logs for children to sit on, stones to step across and sand to dig in. Eventually you might be able to plant some native bushes and trees to help identify this naturalized space. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but kids will gain a sense of accomplishment and pride if they have been a part of building something unique and special on their school grounds or at their friends’ or family’s home.

Create a nature scavenger hunt together

First get the students to walk around the school yard (or your children to walk around your backyard or a nearby park) to do a survey of what they might be able to find related to nature during that season. If you’re a teacher, ask students to work together in small groups or together as a class to design a scavenger hunt. If you’re a parent, think about getting together with other families in your area. The best thing to do is team up with another class,group, or family and then switch scavenger hunts to complete them.

Paint a big mural or draw a picture outside on a sunny day

Pack up the markers, crayons and paint and head outside to do your art work. Let the kids be inspired by what they see in nature!

Collect shovels, trowels, buckets and take them outside

Use these tools to dig in the soil and look for worms, water the plants and trees at your school or in your neighbourhood, transport soil and dig in the dirt. If you’re a teacher, prepare the students the day before and they will be happy and well prepared to get dirty!

Get a set of magnify glasses

If everyone has their own magnify glass you can all go on an adventure and get up close to what is living and happening out there.

Storytelling

Make it a daily occurrence to share a story about nature. You can even go outside with your students or children and read or tell them a story about having an adventure in nature. Kids always want to learn more and share facts about their favorite animal or camping adventure, so get them to share their stories as well.

Go for a picnic

Taking your class or family on an adventure to a special location and eating together outside will allow the kids to have positive and memorable experience outdoors. You may choose to do it for snack time!

Go on an imaginary nature safari in your classroom or home

Tell the kidss to imagine the space is a forest or jungle and that that they are going on a nature hike called a safari through this jungle. They need to listen very carefully to what they need to pack, what they will see along the way and what they will do while they are all together on this safari. You can tell them to start off by packing a backpack and then list off what they need to pack such as binoculars, t-shirt, shorts, rain jacket, hat and sunscreen. Kids will act out the actions while imagine they are really packing their backpacks for this trip.

You can start the safari by having everyone line up behind you. Once everyone is lined up you can start by going for a walk around the space. As you travel around,with each step or two imagine you are seeing and experiencing something new and different. Share with them things like “Look over to your right, there is a small bear cub with his mother,” and ask them if they see it? “Next we will all take turns climbing this big cedar tree and swing on a rope across the river.”  “Watch your step here as we wade through the water, try not to fall over.” “I see salmon swimming in this river.” “How many salmon do you see?” “Let’s get our binoculars out and look for birds up in the trees.”

Give children opportunities to point things out along the way as well. The teacher or parent is the guide, but as they start to use their imaginations more and connect with nature, all of a sudden you might come across something that only a child has spotted. Finish the safari by coming back to where you all started and unpacking your backpack.

Conclude this activity by sharing experiences from the safari and asking prompting questions such as what did you see? How did you feel when we went through the river? How tall do you think the cedar tree was? Why do you think we want to protect the animals and trees in the rainforest?

Respect for First Nations Means Stopping Site C

Prime Minister Trudeau has promised a new relationship with First Nations, based on respect for treaty and aboriginal rights. Write to Prime Minister Trudeau today and ask him to fulfill this commitment by halting work on the Site C dam.

West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations are challenging the project in court. Yet BC Hydro continues to pursue an aggressive work schedule, clear-cutting old-growth trees along the southern bank of the Peace River and on river islands, destroying eagle nests and crushing beaver lodges under heavy equipment.

Site C, the biggest project in Canada, is proceeding on the strength of a 2014 federal cabinet decision that never even looked at how the project would infringe treaty rights. Although the Joint Review Panel found that Site C would have severe and permanent adverse effects on traditional uses of the land by First Nations, the Panel was explicitly barred from making any findings as to how this would affect treaty rights.

Time is running out. Now is the moment for the federal government to step in and stop this violation of treaty and aboriginal rights.  

Energy projects that violate human rights are not clean or green. In this day and age, there are far less damaging and less costly methods that could be used to meet British Columbia’s energy needs – many of which would create more jobs than Site C.

Please take action now and stand in solidarity with West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations, and other people of Treaty 8.

A Chance for Premier Clark to Say No to Kinder Morgan

On Tuesday Jan. 12, B.C. will be making its submission to the National Energy Board (NEB) on the proposed Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain project and we expect her to reject the pipeline and tankers project.

She’s done it before: in May 2013, Christy Clark rejected the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. This helped pave the way for Prime Minister Trudeau to kill the project once and for all with a tanker ban on the north coast.

Premier Clark has five conditions that must be met before the Province would approve the project. Enbridge does not and can not meet those conditions, and neither can the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Condition 1: Successful completion of the environmental review process.

The NEB process for this project has been widely criticized as flawed and biased in favour of the proponent. Among other failings, the NEB review process has curtailed public participation, denied participants adequate and timely funding, allowed Kinder Morgan to submit incomplete information and ignore information requests, disallowed the consideration of upstream and downstream impacts, disallowed the consideration of climate and failed to ensure Kinder Morgan’s environmental and risk assessment conformed to best practices. You can read our detailed report on this utterly flawed process here.

Condition 2: World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines and shipments.

Condition 3: World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy oil pipelines.

A recent study commissioned by the B.C. government showed that effective spill response is impossible much of the time on the B.C. coast.  Even under the best and most accessible of conditions, 10 to 15 per cent clean-up is the industry standard, leaving the rest of the oil behind in the marine ecosystem, poisoning coastal and marine life and the communities that depend upon it. No amount of safety precautions can justify the extreme risk of increasing tanker traffic on B.C.’s coast. The state of land spill response is little better.

Condition 4: Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project.

Along the proposed pipeline path, many First Nations peoples have vocally opposed this proposal, including twelve nations who signed an open letter challenging the NEB process. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation went to court in October 2015 to challenge the NEB consultation process, calling it unconstitutional and highlighting rights, title and consultation concerns.

Condition 5: British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy oil project that reflects the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

An oil spill could cost $1.23 billion, that does not include costs associated with health, property, non-tourism businesses, spill response, clean-up, and litigation, nor does it look beyond the lower mainland.

Regardless of the financial cost of oil spill clean-up efforts, it is British Columbians who will live with the consequences. There is no social license for this project. First Nations, Municipalities, unions, scientists, business owners and members of the general public have all stood up against this project.

And there is one more condition, not mentioned in the Premier’s five, that must be considered, especially after the Paris climate talks committed Canada to keeping global warming to 1.5ºC: that is climate.

As part of the environmental assessment process, every energy project must be put to a climate test. It’s a simple question: does it make the climate worse?  If it does, we don’t build it. Simple as that.

The Kinder Morgan pipeline simply cannot pass a climate test. The project would completely undermine our capacity to achieve emissions reduction targets to fulfill international obligations.

Now is the time for the provincial government to demonstrate meaningful climate leadership by clearly opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposal. In its final submission to the NEB, our provincial government  must remember who it works for and what is best for this province. It must say No!

 

For more information:

May 31, 2013 B.C. government news release.

Report: Credibility Crisis: Major flaws threaten credibility of NEB assessment process for Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain tankers and pipeline proposal

 

 

Photo credit: Andrew S. Wright

 

 

 

Confessions of a Recovering Car Nut

By Gerry Gaydos  (Originally posted Sep. 2014)

Hi. My name is Gerry and I’m partly responsible for global climate change. Like so many of my cohort who grew up during the second half of the 20th century, I love cars! Especially ones that hug the corners!

In B.C., fossil fuel powered vehicles produce about 30% of our regional greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. North American motorists produce a disproportionate part of the global total GHG emissions.
I’ve owned 43 cars over my lifetime, and even though many of them were fuel efficient sports cars, I’ve been a continuous contributor to the burden of climate-changing C02. Not anymore. Now I’m driving a money saving electric car that also hugs the planet, and loving it!

So why would a guy like me ditch his passion for piston engines and go electric?

Here are 7 sound reasons:

1. NO tailpipe emissions! That means better local air quality and less climate change. Even where coal is burned to generate electricity, an EV will create half as much CO2, at the source, as a petrol-powered car at the tailpipe. In B.C. an EV is nearly 100% cleaner.
2. EVs are nicer to drive than fuel burners: more torque, quieter and smoother acceleration, music sounds better in an EV and  the ride quality is better without the noise and vibration of a piston engine, better handling because of a low centre of gravity (the battery is under the floor, and EVs never have noxious petoleum vapours in the cabin. In short, an EV driver has a more sublime motoring experience.

3. EVs promote world peace. Electricity is a local energy source. Canada still imports a whack of petroleum. Oil supply “security” is often at the heart of geopolitical conflict. Meanwhile, solar electricity to power your home, and your car, can be made from sunshine on the roof of your house, without toxic spills or military intervention.

4. How long can an EV run on sunshine? As long as there’s a sun in the sky, that energy can power your car. Is battery life expectancy a problem? Nope! My 12-year-old RAV4 EV with 90,000 miles (145,000 km) on the clock still has 90% of its original battery capacity. I can drive about 160 km on a charge.

5. An EV wont make a stink or wake the neighbours. Let’s be clear, the stink of car exhaust is only the beginning of the harm it does. As for the racket, for a century Rolls Royce has tried to engineer the noise out of their cars as a hallmark of their excellence. Quiet is a standard feature of any modern EV.

6. An EV motor has one moving part. A simpler drive system is easier and cheaper to run. EVs need virtually no service or replacement parts. About all you’ll ever replace on an EV are the tires, wiper blades and washer fluid. Even the brakes on an EV last longer because the motor acts like the brakes, during “regenerative braking”, and harvests the energy of the car’s motion, turns it into electricity and recharges your battery to slow the car down. How cool is that?

7. EVs don’t harm the ocean the way fuel burning vehicles do. A huge amount of CO2 gets absorbed by the oceans. That causes ocean acidification that many species can’t tolerate. The oceans have always been a major source of food for humans, but more importantly, half of the planet’s oxygen comes from the phytoplankton that live in the oceans. CO2 emissions are literally driving the biosphere into collapse, a crash that we won’t survive! Replacing internal combustion engines with electric drive, that can run on clean electricity, might help us steer clear of catastrophic damage to the oceans and our own demise.
Maybe you’re thinking you can’t afford an electric car. Ironically, beyond the lower initial price, you’ll probably pay more for a fossil fuel powered car over time. My fuel sipping Civic burned just shy of $2,000 worth of fuel each year, while my EV driven the same distance costs about $350 a year for electricity and maintenance combined!. But how do you deal with the higher purchase price of an EV? Buy used!

Nine months ago I bought my used RAV4ev for half the price of a new compact fuel burner. My 43rd car relationship is electrifying, it doesn’t demand so much energy, and it has enabled me to drive away from the pumps for good. It’s 12 years old, still drives like new, still gets great range, and does it all for the price of a cup of coffee each week. However, today I noticed the washer fluid is empty again . . .
Internal combustion is so last century.

gerry gaydos

Gerry Gaydos is a recovering car nut and Sierra Club BC volunteer who enjoys life with an EV in Victoria.

Teaching and Learning with Sierra Club BC’s School Programs

By Kirsten Dallimore

I’m the environmental educator for the K-8 programs here at Sierra Club BC. One of the best parts of my job is travelling around the province delivering our school programs in communities around B.C. Since September, I have visited over 75 classrooms.

Each class brings their own unique set of perspectives to the program I deliver which keeps my job as a teacher varied and exciting. This past week, I traveled to Bowen Island where most of the students spend a lot of time outdoors with their families. These students have fallen in love with nature in their home place and they do not want to see it disappear.
We spent some time outdoors where I had the students racing around their schoolyard and local forest finding various living species and habitats in order to complete a scavenger hunt on biodiversity. Having a fun interaction with local species offer students the opportunity to connect with nature. Those moments of connection can provide a sense of empowerment that “I can be a part of protecting nature.”

As we all looked up to find the tallest cedars, dug into the soil to find the earth worms and touched the roughest tree bark we could find, I watched the students deepen their understanding that they are each connected to all the living things they were experiencing.

The students’ concerns about the environment really focused on how the wildlife in the area is being impacted by climate change. Each student brought energy to the discussion about the personal impacts they make on the environment in their daily lives. They feel a strong urge to make changes in their life such as riding their bike to school, turning off lights at home, using less packaging and looking for alternatives in where they get their food.

In the end, when I asked the students what they loved most, the responses I received were, “We got to spend time surrounded by nature today,” and, “We learned how to feel compassionate and are excited to be a part of all the living things.”

This fall I visited schools in Victoria, Colwood, Vancouver, Mission, Vernon, Summerland, Squamish and Bowen Island. In 2016, I’m looking forward to teaching and connecting with even more students and nature in each of their unique schools and communities here on Vancouver Island and across the province. With each student I teach I am reminded that we are all part of making a difference.

Learn more about our school programs or book one for your classroom.

Beware the Site C Greenwash

In November, Sierra Club BC and allied groups sent a joint open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau. Three pages of science-backed climate policy boiled down to a simple message: don’t fall for the greenwash.

Site C rally nov 2015

Sierra Club BC was proud to host a rally Nov. 18, 2015 at the Victoria courthouse in support of Treaty 8 First Nations’ legal challenges to Site C.

Read the story in the Vancouver Sun and the Georgia Straight.

Real climate solutions respect human rights, especially the rights of indigenous peoples. Not Site C.

Real climate solutions help us get off fossil fuels. Site C and associated transmission lines would ramp up fracking and oil and gas extraction in the Peace that is proceeding at such a pace that it outstrips Alberta’s tar sands, according to Global Forest Watch.

Real climate solutions don’t take food production for granted in a world of mega-drought and extreme weather. Real climate solutions value, cherish and protect food producing lands – both farmland, and wild food and fisheries that are the basis of First Nations traditional food systems.

Site C event in Richmond

Site C event in Richmond

The Peace valley is capable of producing sufficient fruits and vegetables to meet the nutritional requirements of 1 million people every year – Wendy Holmes, agrologist, testifying before the Joint Review Panel on Site C.

In December, we took this message to the farming communities of the Fraser valley. At events in Richmond and Chilliwack, Peace valley farmers shared their struggle and  determination to prevent the destruction of this unique food oasis in the middle of the boreal forest.

 

 

 

Listen to campaigner Ana Simeon challenge the Site C greenwash on CKNW radio.

 

This video is compiled from footage of the “Drums for the Peace” solidarity rallies in Victoria and Vancouver on November 18, 2015. These rallies were to raise awareness and support for the West Moberly and Prophet River First Nations of Treaty 8 Territory in their ongoing legal challenges to the approval and construction of the Site C Dam.

Site C Billboard on Hwy 1

Our billboard on Hwy 1 at McCallum Road near Chilliwack.

Photo credit (above): Larry Petersen

Road building on Walbran Karst: A Sinking Idea

By Charly Caproff

‘Environmentally responsible’ Teal Jones has proposed to construct logging roads through a landscape characterized by sinkholes, disappearing streams and caves.

Sinkholes are caused by the dissolution of limestone by slightly acidic rainwater. Surface water seeps through the epikarst and opens intricate cave chambers within the subterranean environment. They can also occur due to the lowering of the water table. As the limestone dissolves, the organic material at the surface can no longer be supported, leading to the ground caving in rapidly and with little warning.

Peter Cressey and I ventured into the heart of Cutblock 4403, a magnificent old-growth rainforest, to observe the proposed route. Cressey was actively involved in the Walbran Valley blockades during the 90’s. Approximately 10 meters from the proposed road route we found an exposed sinkhole. It was roughly two feet in diameter, and directly below the proposed route on a steep bank. There had been a heavy rainfall that weekend and crystal clear surface water was rushing into the dark, mysterious depths. To the right of the sinkhole, an immense western red cedar towered overhead. As I continued to explore the rainforest, I moved cautiously as the forest floor was covered with depressions.

Karst is a constantly developing, dynamic system and there is limited knowledge of the extent of most groundwater systems. Due to the unpredictability of sinkhole formation on karst terrain, they are precarious environments for infrastructure development.

It is estimated that human activity on karst has cost billions of dollars for preventative measures and infrastructure damage worldwide (Ford & Williams, 1989).

Last year, a sinkhole developed in the Kentucky Corvette Museum, resulting in five million dollars worth of damage.

Not only is development on these environments costly and dangerous, but it is also detrimental for the fragile karst hydrological and biological systems.

Karst is a dynamic system connecting the surface to the largely unexplored subterranean world. Rainwater transfers dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen from the soil into the karst ecosystem. According to the Karst Waters Institute, these inputs from the surface are crucial for the functioning of karst food web, as many troglobites, or cave-dwelling species, are completely reliant on the microbial film found on rocks (produced by organic inputs into the karst system) and the dissolved nutrients as energy sources (White & Martin, 2009). It has been approximated that globally there are between 20,000 – 100, 000 species endemic to karst caves, one-third of which are aquatic (Bonacci et al., 2009).

River systems fed by alkaline and cool karst groundwater are also important for aquatic species on the surface, such as salmon. With increasing freshwater acidity and temperature, karst hydrological systems will play an increasingly important role in buffering the impacts of climate change (Strong et al., 2014).

To prevent the road or logging equipment from becoming swallowed into the depths of the earth, forestry often fills in the surrounding sinkholes. By altering the drainage system, this severs the connection between the surface and the subsurface. Road building also leads to the contamination and plugging of karst systems due to increased sediment erosion and runoff of deleterious substances (Stitt, 1997). This polluted water rushes rapidly through the system with minimal filtration and eventually reemerges at the surface.

Sir-Karst-A-LotAs we traversed through the karstified landscape, I was mesmerized by the Walbran’s intrinsic beauty. We crossed several karst streams flowing over pure white bedrock into the Walbran River below. Limestone jutted through the emerald green moss beds and at the roots of impressive stands of coniferous trees. I had the pleasure of meeting ‘Sir-Karst-A-Lot’, a majestic western red cedar 35 feet in circumference.

There is something magical about the Walbran Valley. To destroy it for short-term economic gain is not only cruel, but also extremely shortsighted. The remaining ancient forests are important climate regulators and support an abundance of diverse species.

 

The logging of an old-growth forest underlain by sensitive karst terrain is an unsustainable practice. Once the karst is removed, it is gone forever.

 

Works Cited:

Bonacci, O., Pipan, T., & Culver, D. C. (2009). A framework for karst ecohydrology.        Environmental Geology, 56(5), 891-900.

Ford, D. C., & Williams, P. W. (1989). Karst geomorphology and hydrology. London,      UK: Chapman & Hall.

Stitt, R. (1997). Selected forest management issues related to karst. Bellingham, WA:         1997 Karst and Cave Management Symposium.

Strong, A. L., Kroeker, K. J., Teneva, L. T., Mease, L. A., & Kelly, R. P. (2014). Ocean    Acidification 2.0: Managing our Changing Coastal Ocean Chemistry. BioScience.

White, W. B., & Martin, J. B. (2009). Frontiers of Karst Research: Proceedings and          recommendations of the workshop held in San Antonio, Texas on 3-5 May 2007. Charles Town, WA: Karst Waters Institute.