1. 10 mins Site C Hubris (Dec. 18, 2016)
I live on the Slave River, born out of the confluence of the Peace and Athabasca rivers. We have watched the dams being built upstream of us – the Bennett, Dunvegan, now Site C and the Amisk. We have watched the Alberta government repeatedly come and assess the rapids, as an identified dam site, on the Slave. We have watched the natural flow of the Slave River disappear, along with the Peace-Athabasca Delta and the Slave River Delta. It seems clear that the BC government and BC Hydro are intent on proceeding with Site C despite strong opposition from many – a form of political hubris on the part of Premier Clark made clear in the attached article. We in the NWT watch with trepidation. Politicians elected to high office can act in ways that cannot be justified other than they want to proceed regardless. Muskrat Falls, in eastern Canada, has redefined boondoogle in the dam world; Site C may do the same out west. The government in Newfoundland and its 528,448 citizens have had to borrow four billion dollars to cover their share of the enormous cost over runs. So too could be the fate of the citizens of BC…although there is a BC provincial election coming; maybe this will be an issue at the ballot box? As for the needless, massive damage to the environment, we, the inhabitants of the Mackenzie River Basin will be forced to live it for generations to come.
2. 5 mins Liberals New Relationship Details (Dec. 16, 2016)
In an election it is easy to promise, but when you govern it is harder to deliver. There are 1036 days till the next election and the current government continues its learning curve, especially regarding Indigenous issues. Over a year in to their term, promising to meet at least once a year with Indigenous leaders, means only three more meetings in the remaining life of the government – meetings of maybe two hours in length each. At that rate, the serious discussion on building a new ‘nation to nation’ relationship between the federal government and Indigenous governments won’t happen in the life of this government. The Senate recently suggested that political strategy when it publically stated that it would likely study the issue of ‘nation to nation’ to better understand the implications, and that it would take three years to do so. Indigenous governments should not be waiting for the federal government to tell them what ‘nation to nation’ means. Canada gave to indigenous peoples the reserve system, residential schools, a seriously tarnished land claims process and the Indian Act. After 150 years of waiting, it is time for the Indigenous governments to put pen to paper and lay out what they see constituting a ‘nation to nation’ relationship. They need to spell out specifics. If they wait the powerful political promise by the Liberal party will soon be watered down to the status quo.
3. 3 mins Solar Milestone (Dec. 16, 2016)
A milestone predicted back in 2010 has come to pass. Solar is now cheaper than subsidized fossil fuels and even wind. This is good news, as we work to transition diesel dependent communities off diesel and on to renewables and batteries. While there will be a role for fossil fuels for some time to come, our goal and responsibility is to make that time as short as possible. This is no small task, the status quo is tough to change. The horse and buggy age did not end because they ran out of horses or buggies, but because better technology was developed. The fossil fuel age is not ending because of lack of fossil fuels, but because newer, better, planet saving technology has developed.
4. 3 mins Cheap Solar Desalinization (Dec. 16, 2016)
This short article flags an important discovery by the Chinese in the area of thermal desalination, a discovery that could result in a low-cost portable desalination solution ideally suited for developing countries and remote areas. Researchers at Nanjing have developed a solar absorber material made from graphene oxide that enables a solar approach to desalinating water without the need for solar concentrators and thermal insulation. These type of incremental achievements are cumulative in nature. If they prove out then solar-powered thermal desalination will leapfrog forward. Great swaths of the globe will benefit from this research. Improvements to accessing clean water using solar is a “can’t lose” combination.
5. 5 mins Global Fragmentation of Habitat (Dec. 15, 2016)
This article is about cumulative habitat fragmentation by roads, on a global scale. Usually we look at the impact of roads on a local or regional level. This is the first time I have read about this type of impact on a global scale and it is mind numbing. The impact is magnified when overlaying the hundreds of thousands of kilometers of cut lines through wilderness areas, as part of resource exploration. In the Northwest Territories where there are dozens of remote, mainly indigenous communities with no roads, every one of these communities desperately want an all weather road. There is no denying the impact of roads on wildlife in the NWT, from increased and easier hunting access, to impacted migratory routes. There is great scrutiny of proposed road routes in the NWT because of those impacts. This should not detract from the key fact that people tend to see roads as generally good or at least benign. In point of fact, in wilderness areas, globally, the constantly, often minimally regulated, expanding networks of roads are a major stressor on wildlife and wildlife habitat. I recollect a phrase from a conference that has stuck in my mind: “forests precede man, deserts follow”. Can we adjust our behavior on roads and break that cycle?