Keystone XL is Dead, For Reals This Time

Standing Rock #DAPL
Protesting works!

The absolutely foolish plan to make a massive pipeline to transport a heavily subsidized non-renewable energy source is dead. It is really dead. We’ve heard before that the project is over, only for it to come back to life. Obama and Trudeau both worked hard to ensure that future generations would have to suffer the ecological damage done by the project, yet in the end it was volunteer activists who won.

The pipeline was meant to open nearly a decade ago, and thanks to the efforts of so many groups it never will. The opposition to the project started small and now it’s a movement that is hoping to block other illogical gifts to the oil industry.

Keep protesting, never give up!

It’s easy to forget now how unlikely the Keystone fight really was. Indigenous activists and Midwest ranchers along the pipeline route kicked off the opposition. When it went national, 10 years ago this summer, with mass arrests outside the White House, pundits scoffed. More than 90 percent of Capitol Hill “insiders” polled by The National Journal said the company would get its permit.

But the more than 1,200 people who were arrested in that protest helped galvanize a nationwide — even worldwide — movement that placed President Barack Obama under unrelenting pressure. Within a few months he’d paused the approval process, and in 2015 he killed the pipeline, deciding that it didn’t meet his climate test.

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Plastics are Toxic in Canada

The advertising around plastics highlights how recyclable it is, but in reality plastics are a pollutant that barely get recycled in a meaningful way (this is why the 3Rs are in a particular order: reduce, reuse, recycle). Plastics come in all sorts of densities, colours, and strength, but are traditionally made using petroleum. The source of most plastics is unsustainable and the waste generated by plastics after use is equally unsustainable. In fact, the waste produced by plastics has led Canada to categorize plastics as toxic!

By declaring plastics toxic more rules and regulations will need to be followed to ensure that the damage done to the plant (and people) are limited.

A 2020 government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both.

In October 2020, ECCC released a proposal to deal with the problem. Under the proposed rules, Canada will ban six single-use plastic items, like straws and six-pack rings, create incentives for companies to use recycled plastic, and force plastic producers to pay for recycling.

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Canada’s New Budget Support Climate Friendly Farming

fruit store

This week the Canadian government announced the new budget and in it are some climate-friendly moves. Farmers in Canada who practice sustainable farming practices are going to get a little more help and farmers who are using unsustainable practices will be encouraged to change what they do. Industrial farming is horrible for the environment, and arguably bad for people, so anything we can do to avoid it is helpful. The 20th century witnessed the overuse of fertilizers to make up for unsustainable industrial farming.

Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer sits at the heart of those recommendations — as it does in the federal budget. When applied to fields in excess, nitrogen fertilizer is broken down by microbes into nitrous oxide, explained Sean Smukler, a professor of soil science at the University of British Columbia.

That greenhouse gas is roughly 300 times more potent than CO2 and accounts for roughly half of Canada’s agricultural emissions. But soil testing and agronomic support — both of which are also funded in the budget — can help farmers substantially reduce their fertilizer use.

Money will also be available to help farmers plant cover crops and use rotational grazing. Both practices promote soil health, carbon sequestration and better long-term productivity. In the short-term, however, implementing them can be too expensive for many farmers already stretched thin by high costs and low revenues.

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Carbon Pricing in Canada is Constitutional

Phramacy

A few years ago the federal government in Canada started charging for carbon wastage by people and companies. The 2018 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act was passed to ensure that every province in Canada is doing the bare minimum to avoid catastrophic climate change. This led Conservative leaders of a couple provinces to challenge the government’s ability to do this (yes, the same Conservative party which recently decided to not acknowledge climate change, and the same Ontario Conservative government which paid millions of dollars to illegally break a cap and trade business deal with California and Quebec, sigh). The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the federal government’s approach to reducing carbon emissions by putting a price on carbon.

Carbon pricing isn’t taking direct climate action, but it’s a good step in the right direction and signals to the world that Canada is at least willing to do something.

The full impact of this ruling will be felt over the coming years as this opens up more climate-friendly action and cases to move forward.

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Why Just Food Matters

coffee

Everyone needs to eat, yet even in our democracy there are people with low access to food and the food they can get is low quality. This shouldn’t be the case, so let’s do something about it! Colin Dring created the Just Food website to help educators explain and explore our food systems in Canada. The National Observor intervied Dring to find out why he created the site.

The Just Food website says the resource “brings diverse standpoints relevant to food discourses to the table.” Can you give me an example of one of those perspectives? 

Much of contemporary food system perspectives come from people in positions of privilege. Take, for example, a food bank. When we think of the food bank, we’re not necessarily thinking that people who use the food bank should have a say in the decisions or the kinds of services offered or the kinds of food provided. The dominant discourse is that people experiencing poverty should just be grateful and thankful. I think this reproduces a system that treats people like objects. So, when we talk about including diverse perspectives, we’re really talking about elevating and drawing attention to the impacts of privilege in maintaining the world as it is.

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