Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.
Let’s talk about Canada geese. They are are often seen as a symbol of the Canadian wilderness. Even the season changes are marked by their migration each winter, and return in the spring.
But you probably didn’t know that there was a time when unregulated hunting drove Canada geese to the brink of extinction. This prompted wildlife officials and amateur aviculturalists, who bred the birds on their homesteads, to boost the numbers of Canada geese, sometimes introducing them to new areas.
They came, they honked, they conquered. Read more on how Canada geese bounced back from near extinction to conquer North America.
Now, let’s catch you up on other news.
Noteworthy reporting this week:
- The federal government is failing to protect endangered salmon in British Columbia by imposing “draconian” fishing limits on public fisheries in some regions while still allowing fish to be caught on the Fraser River, says the BC Wildlife Federation.
- The Canadian Coast Guard has partnered with an Indigenous group on Vancouver Island to build a marine facility in Port Renfrew, B.C., aimed at improving its response in the event of an oil spill. The memorandum of understanding with the Pacheedaht First Nation is in part a response to 156 conditions the National Energy Board said must be met before the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion project can go ahead.
- Alberta will step up its presence in the United States over the coming weeks as the province tries to shore up political and public support for the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project ahead of the presidential election.
A deeper dive
Researchers find clues of Ice Age people mining for ochre in Mexican caves
Imagine plunging into a silent, liquid world and coming upon signs of some of the earliest people to inhabit the New World.
That’s precisely what happened in 2017 when divers exploring an underwater cave system in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula found evidence that people were using the caves between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago to mine ochre. Our story on the new findings includes dramatic 360° video footage that will transport you to another place and time.
The allure of ochre is not a surprise. Prehistoric cultures have valued the mineral pigment for tens of thousands of years and there is evidence that our Neanderthal relatives used it too.
But what is remarkable in this case is the lengths that the earliest people in ancient Mexico went to in order to get at the ochre that they somehow knew could be found deep underground.
They were new arrivals in a world in transition as the ice age waned and climate change began transforming plains and forests into today’s broadleaf jungle.
On the surface their presence has been erased, but because the caves were flooded due to rising sea levels starting about 8,000 years ago, their traces — and in some cases their remains — are preserved and waiting to be discovered.
The discoveries published this week open up a startling new chapter in the story of the Mexican caves — one in which Canadian scientists and explorers have played a leading role. And, based on what I heard from the experts I spoke with, there is still much more to come from these fascinating underwater sites.
What else you missed
- Investors reach for new tools to gauge climate change risk: A small but growing network of asset managers, academics, start-up entrepreneurs and campaigners are working to harness an armada of recently deployed satellites to better predict the economic impact of global warming.
- Study suggests full transition to electric vehicles could save hundreds of lives in Toronto area each year: That’s because every gas- and diesel-powered car pumps pollution – including nitrogen oxides and fine particulate matter – into the air.
- House Democrats’ climate plan aims to phase out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050: The Green New Deal, championed by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., calls to meet “100 per cent of the power demand in the United States through clean, renewable and zero-emission energy sources,” including nuclear power.
- Metro Vancouver says it has achieved corporate carbon neutrality: The regions’s carbon emissions have been offset through initiatives that include parkland acquisitions, the installation of energy-efficient boilers and an increase in electric vehicles for staff use, it said in a news release.
- Elk return to Kentucky, bringing economic life to reclaimed coal mines: The decline of the coal industry created a multibillion-dollar hole in the economy and left hundreds of thousands of acres of scarred land. Boone’s Ridge is being established on reclaimed mine land, and one of its biggest selling points is a big animal that has recently returned: elk
- Indians keep their distance in mass tree planting campaign: India has pledged to keep a third of its total land area under forest and tree cover, but a growing population and increasing demand for industrial projects are placing greater stress on the land.
Opinion and analysis
In its Trans Mountain ruling, court confirms Canada’s veto over Indigenous peoples
Naomi Sayers: “In order for reconciliation to be effective, the question is not what is good for Canada in free and democratic society; rather the courts must consider the resilient manner in how Indigenous peoples exercise the rights over their lands and have done so since time immemorial, to the benefit of the rest of Canada.”
Ontario is repeating the mistakes it made with long-term care on farms
Robyn Urback: “Already, more than 1,000 agri-food workers have contracted the virus, according to advocacy group Justice for Migrant Workers. As of Monday, one Ontario farm alone was linked to 175 infections. Three temporary foreign workers have died.”
Why we need to start spending on infrastructure, and fast
Luc Vallée: “The duration of the pandemic, the management of an eventual second wave, the evolution of technologies, climate change and the extent and permanence of the impact of the pandemic on real estate, transportation, tourism, hospitality as well as many other sectors all cloud the outlook.”
Here’s what readers had to say
Last week, a lot of talk happened around Alberta’s recent plan to spur economic recovery, especially around energy diversification. The Globe’s climate change columnist, Adam Radwanksi, wrote a piece in response.
“And yet, for those willing to squint a little, it’s possible to see this announcement as a potential first step in Mr. Kenney’s reckoning with forces – a global fight against climate change that threatens to decimate Alberta’s resource sector in the long run – toward which he was highly dismissive after coming to office last year. And it could even signal some fresh willingness to work with Ottawa to confront that reality.
Not that Mr. Kenney is about to say any such thing, explicitly. While making room for an assertion that oil prices will soon return to $60 a barrel, and that “every credible forecast of future world energy consumption sees oil and gas continuing to dominate the supply mix for the next several decades,” his government’s new 29-page strategy does not include the words “climate change” anywhere.
But it does feature the word “diversify,” a lot. That in itself is noteworthy, coming from a government whose Finance Minister last fall dismissed the idea of spending money on diversification as something it could worry about once its budget deficit was eliminated – an achievement now further from happening than it was then.”
- Also read Kelly Cryderman’s opinion piece on Jason Kenney doubles down on conservative approach to Alberta economy, and Jeffrey Jones on why Jason Kenney should stop tilting at windmills in the oil patch.
Each week The Globe will profile a young person making a difference in Canada. This week we’re highlighting Asalah Youssef on self care and environmental action.
My name is Asalah Youssef, a 17-year-old fine art student, photographer, sustainability, well-being and social entrepreneurship advocate from Port Coquitlam, B.C. Through my activism I have realized the importance of self-care and well-being in order to intentionally and consciously take action on issues you care about. Some ways I have been working on connecting my self-care with environmental action have been:
Meditation/ Mindfulness: This helps me feel grounded and present which is a powerful tool. It’s easy to get caught up in future fears of our world’s problems but meditation brings me clarity to focus on what I can do in the now.
Connecting with nature: Although it sounds obvious, many people do not get enough time in nature. In order to effectively advocate for the earth we must go back to the roots of our activism which stems from our love of the earth. Get out there, breathe the fresh air and reflect on what it is about the places you love that makes you want to take environmental action.
Taking on one thing at a time: I can often feel like I should be tackling a million things at once and have challenges successfully finishing one because it just isn’t sustainable for me. Being intentional about what you put your energy in may help you feel more passionate and in control of what you are working on.
Do you know an engaged young person? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.
Photo of the week
Guides and Explainers
- We’ve rounded up our reporters’ content to help you learn about sustainable ways to live life at home, travel, invest, and generally to learn about our species at risk.
- If you like to read, here are books to help the environmentalist in you grow, as well as a downloadable e-book of Micro skills: Little Steps to Big Change.
Catch up on Globe Climate
- How should Canada approach green stimulus plans? We asked architects of Obama’s strategy
- The dreams and the costs of carbon capture and storage
- Could a push for hydrogen be a pivot in the right direction?
- What the rest of Canada can learn from the loss of Ontario’s green energy dream