The COVID-19 pandemic may be dominating the news cycle these days, but it’s only a “symptom” of a much broader challenge we face in the coming decade related to the deteriorating state of our environment and climate change.
With everyone practicing physical distancing and society largely shutdown, our fossil fuel use has plummeted, with predictable results — predictable in the sense that there’s been a sharp reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of air and water pollution.
While a welcome reprieve from our head-long rush toward climate chaos, the effect is only likely to be temporary, as once the pandemic passes, pressure will ramp up for a return to “normal”.
In the midst of this nature enforced time-out, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society is taking the opportunity to host a series of 11 free webinars on Saskatchewan’s current reality with respect to climate change and potential opportunities for the future.
In a Friday blog post, it was noted that Alberta premier Jason Kenney and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers had petitioned the federal Liberal government for direct financial support for struggling oil producers and relaxed environmental regulations.
Later that day, Ottawa responded with $1.7 billion in funding to help the industry clean-up orphan wells with about $400 million expected to go to Saskatchewan. An additional $750 million was allocated to reduce methane emissions from fossil fuel production.
In an ideal world, those programs would be the responsibility of the industry that garnered billions (and even trillions) in profits from fossil fuel resources. But that’s not the way big business operates these days.
The default word that most people probably use when fantasizing about the pandemic ending and restrictions on their lives being lifted is “normal” — as in, they want life to return to normal.
It’s an understandable sentiment, I suppose, but is it a wise one? As the normal that’s being referenced, by definition, created the very circumstances that we find ourselves in today.
Instead, some are arguing we should seize the opportunity presented by the tattered state of our current world and aspire to a new normal — one which addresses the true challenges that face us related to climate change and the broader health of the environment.
Government responses to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic have been coming fast and furious in the last few days. To help people get up to speed on what measures have been taken and how they might impact on them in the days, weeks and months to come here’s a breakdown.
With many Canadians facing financial hardship the federal government has announced an $82 billion package to provide short-term relief to workers, families and business owners. These measures include special GST and Canada Child Benefit top-ups, an Emergency Care Benefit for workers who must stay home and do not have access to paid sick leave and an Emergency Support Benefit for self-employed workers who are not eligible for Employment Insurance.
With our March 26 print publication, like pretty much everything else around the world, suspended, we’re making an effort to revive our blog.
We can’t match the capacity of the CBC to cover the local, national and international impacts of the COVID-19 situation, but one side consequence that I would like to highlight is the sharp reduction that’s occurred in greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of pollution in countries that have experienced significant outbreaks. Continue reading “Sad Irony: COVID-19 And The Environment”
Oh, and if you’re a parent? there’s no need whatsoever to be concerned about the heatwaves, droughts, extreme storms, unstable economies, food shortages, water crises and mass extinctions in your kids’ futures. Those things won’t happen.
Everything’s fine! Keep voting for pipeline politicians and making fun of environmentalists! La la la la la!
On Saturday June 11, the Dunlop Art Gallery is hosting an artist talk and reception at its Sherwood Village branch location for a four-artist exhibition called Kingdom. As used in the exhibition, the word Kingdom references the taxonomic term that biologists use to describe various categories of life.
Kingdom is the second largest grouping below domain, and scientists are apparently somewhat split on the number of kingdoms of life we have on Earth. The U.S. typically cites six kingdoms, while Europe and other locales stick with five.
Animals and plants are two kingdoms common to both taxonomic systems. And under both systems, people are classed as animals. In this exhibition, four artists with roots in northern Canada explore the relationship between humanity and our fellow members of the animal kingdom.
Curated by Wendy Peart, Kingdom features work by Michel Boutin (Prince Albert), Nicholas Galanin (Sitka, AB), Tim Moore (Round Lake, SK), and Judy McNaughton (Prince Albert). The talk will be at 1 p.m. on Saturday, with the reception to follow.
Did you catch the communications games your Crown utilities are playing with their rates? The Leader Post’sBruce Johnstone ably breaks down SaskPower and SaskEnergy’s joint announcement which came out the Friday before the May long weekend. Here’s the thrust of that announcement in short…
• Oh no! SaskPower is increasing their rates by five percent come July 1!
• But that five percent only works out to $6 a month. Small beans!
• And SaskEnergy is lowering your bill by $1.70 a month!
• Put ‘em together and your utility rates are only going up $4.30 a month! Smaller beans!
Then Johnstone throws a bucket of inconvenient nuance on the good news…
• Ooooh… SaskEnergy’s rate reduction doesn’t take effect until November 1. Not July 1, like SaskPower’s rate hike.
• Double oooooh… SaskPower is hiking their rates by another five per cent Jan 1 2017.
• Put together that’s a $10.30 monthly utility hike starting next year.
• $10.30 a month is a lot more than the $4.30 a month the Crowns want you to pay attention to.
It was the old “Don’t look at the big cumulative hike a-coming, focus on the smaller one right in front of us” trick. I find it annoying but at least Johnstone wasn’t fooled.
If you happened to read the cover story in our May 12 issue you’ll know that the Royal Saskatchewan Museum is getting ready to unveil a new temporary exhibit. The exhibit is devoted to the nine snake species that are native to Saskatchewan, and will include live specimens from each species.
The exhibit has a grand opening on Friday May 20 from 1:30-4 p.m. that will involve a variety of family-friendly activities. Then on Thursday May 26 the exhibit curator Ray Poulin will be giving a talk on snakes at the RSM at 7 p.m. This is a licensed event, but people 19 and under can attend if accompanied by an adult.
The exhibit will be on until May 2017 so if you like snakes you’ll have plenty of opportunities to commune with them at the Royal Sask. Museum in the months to come.
In early March, I did a post about the huge pile of pigeon excrementthat was accumulating on the canopy of one of the office buildings on Scarth Street Mall. The pigeons were drawn to the ledge above the canopy, I noted, by the banner that had been strung on the building for a couple of years that afforded them a convenient place to shelter behind.
The banner was removed a few weeks ago, and as you can see from the above photo, a crew was out bright and early this morning (6:30 a.m. to be precise) to pressure wash the canopy to remove the baked on pigeon poop. So that’s one less eyesore in downtown Regina.
On Thursday May 12 the Saskatchewan Science Centre is hosting an evening event centred around releasing a number of bats that had been hibernating at the centre over the winter.
You can read more on the SSC website, but doors are at 7:15 p.m., and the actual release of the bats, which should happen around 9:15 p.m., will be preceded by a talk by noted University of Regina bat expert Mark Brigham with input from a grad student named Shelby and a special bat handler at the Science Centre named Sheila.
The event is described as being for all ages, so if you and/or any family members/acquaintances are bat enthusiasts it’s something you might want to check out.
With the temperature expected to hit 31 degrees C this afternoon and the fire risk over a large chunk of western Canada rated as extreme, here’s a shot of Victoria Park in downtown Regina from around this time in 2013. The photo was taken on May 2, and shows the remnants of what was a record snowfall that winter.
At left is an image from an exhibition by artist Vera Saltzman that is on at Slate Gallery until April 9.
If you read this CBC reportabout the show, you’ll learn that Saltzman grew up in Atlantic Canada, so she has a resonable degree of familiarity with fish and aquatic habitats. When she was walking along the shore of Echo Lake in the lower Qu’Appelle Valley watershed she stumbled across hundreds of dead fish that had been washed up on shore.
The fish kills are not uncommon in Saskatchewan lakes, a biologist notes in the CBC report, and are typically caused by algae blooms that deplete the oxygen supply in shallow areas of the lake and result in large-scale fish die-offs.
The blooms occur naturally during the warmer months, but the frequency and severity of them is magnified when water quality is compromised. That’s certainly the case in the Qu’Appelle system, where factors such agricultural run-off and periodic releases of untreated sewage from Regina, heighten the nutrient content of the water. That leads to larger than normal algae blooms that wreak havoc on native fish populations.
Again, Saltzman’s exhibition Cry of the Lake Dwellers is on at Slate Gallery (2078 Halifax St.) until April 9. You can find out more on the Slate website.
The Native Prairie Speakers Series event goes tonight at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum. Guest-speaker is Rebecca Magnus from Nature Saskatchewan. In our March 17 issue we had an interview with her tied to her work in habitat conservation and endangered species. She’ll be elaborating on those issues in this talk, which is formally titled “Stewards of Saskatchewan: Habitat Conservation for Species at Risk”.
The talk is at 7:30 p.m., and admission is free.
As well, there’s a second science/nature event happening in Regina tonight. It goes at the Saskatchewan Science Centre at 7 p.m., and is titled The Bat Man of Mexico. It involves a screening of a BBC documentary about world-renown bat researcher Rodrigo Medellin, along with a Q & A with him afterwards. The event is free, but seating is limited in the Imax Theatre so you’re advised to reserve tickets in advance. Donations will also be accepted at the door.
On March 4, I did a blog poston the above-pictured mess that pedestrians encounter when trying to navigate from the north-east corner of Saskatchewan Drive and Albert St. The Facebook group Sidewalks of Reginaqueried the city via its Facebook pageabout the situation and below is a transcript of the exchange:
City of Regina: Hi, we understand your frustration. These barriers are there as a temporary measure to protect the signal, and associated equipment, poles and hardware, plus channel traffic into the right turn lane, until re-construction is undertaken.
Sidewalks of Regina: Thanks for getting back to us so quickly. We’re afraid this isn’t at all temporary. Check out this street view from April 2015. Surely a capital city can do better than this. When is reconstruction scheduled?
City of Regina: Our understanding is that this work was not completed due to underground utility work that needed to be done. We have asked our crews to go out and clean up this area by removing the temporary barricades, putting reflective tape on the concrete barriers and realigning the barriers to make the push button accessible. There is an initiation document for budget to undertake a functional study and land use study of the Saskatchewan drive corridor (Lewvan to Winnipeg) to being in 2017 if approved. This will determine the long term vision and plans for this area. If the budget ask does not get approved we will consider a temporary work around at this location.
Sidewalks of Regina: Thanks for deploying city crews to the site, but why did the City of Regina ever think it would be okay to keep this corner in such a state for so long? (i.e.: inaccessible to pedestrians/strollers/wheelchairs). If there’s an application in the works, they’re obviously aware of the situation, so it seems odd that it’s been inaccessible since (at least) April 2015. May we make a suggestion? Let’s make pedestrian access/accessibility part of this city’s long term vision. No more multi-year “temporary” measures, please!
City of Regina: Hi, we will pass along your suggestion to the appropriate department. Thanks for your feedback and have a great day!
Last summer, we did a bit of writing on bees and the benefits they provide to us. In May 2015, for instance, we did an article on an exhibition the Royal Saskatchewan Museum put together examining the evolution of pollination and how the co-reliant relationship that flowering plants (angiosperms) and pollinators (mostly insects) developed led to a boon in both types of plant and animal life.
The month before that, we did an article on urban beekeeping in advance of a presentation that a local beekeeper was giving at Central Library.
For a variety of reasons tied to habitat loss, pesticide use, mites and other diseases, bee populations throughout North America are experiencing stress these days. On Monday March 7 at 7 p.m. York University biology professor Laurence Packer will be giving a talk at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum on work he’s done studying bees in the field. Packer is regarded as one of the world’s foremost bee experts, so if you’re into bees, it should be an interesting talk. Admission is free.
Memo to whoever owns this building on the Scarth Street Mall. If you want to reduce the amount of pigeon excrement on your canopy you might consider removing the banner that’s been hanging there for a couple of years now.
In colder weather during the day, and year-round at night, pigeons use it as a handy area to shelter behind. If the banner wasn’t there, I suspect it would substantially reduce the amount of time pigeons spent hanging out on the little ledge above the canopy and defending their turf from other pigeons.
Failing that, you might want to step up your maintenance program on the canopy because at present it’s kind of gross.
I live tweeted much of the Jan 25 council meeting while in the same room as my 5-year old (who was playing Minecraft). That was pretty nice. What wasn’t so nice was thinking about having to explain to him how our city council postponed signing onto a declaration saying that a healthy environment is a human right because they needed to get a report from administration about the possible implications from being party to such a declaration. You know how it is, signing on to a non-binding feel-good doc like that isn’t something you leap into recklessly.
“But, kiddo, let me tell how later in the same meeting, they didn’t even hesitate to approve a Tim Horton’s for the city’s northeast that will boast a 69-stall surface parking lot. Can you think of a better use of our green-space than that? Incidentally, the parking required by law for that site would be nine stalls. This new Tim Horton’s will have a parking lot nearly eight times larger than that. Talk about overachievers!”
“But yeah. Council cares about the environment. So no need to get discouraged. Enjoy the planet we’ve bequeathed you, my son. Probably shouldn’t think too hard on the climate. But at least you won’t have trouble finding a place to park while you drink a boiling cup of bitterness.”
You can follow along with my live-twittering next council meeting on my @PDCityHall account. A city hall report will likely appear in next week’s Prairie Dog magazine. And Aidan and I will no doubt discuss it during the the next meeting of the Queen City Improvement Bureau, which is a radio show we do every Thursday at 7 pm on 91.3 CJTR, Regina’s community radio station.
I posted in early December on the plethora of migrating Canada geese that had descended on Wascana Centre during the insanely mild spell we had to start the month. Conditions were so comfortable that they decided to settle in for awhile and, in typical goose fashion, poop up a storm
In its coverage a few days later, the Leader-Post spoke to University of Regina biologist Mark Brigham about the environmental impact of a whole shit-load pile of geese crapping themselves silly in the park. If you check the link, you’ll see that he expected the water quality in the lake to be negatively impacted.
At the end of the interview, Brigham threw out the suggestion that with our surplus goose population, we should consider harvesting them and donating them as a source of protein to the food bank.
That’s a blog post for another day. But with the modest drop in temps we’ve experienced lately, most of the geese have departed for warmer climes. But there’s still wildlife in the park. In fact, there’s an animal in the photo I snapped when I was in the park for a walk today. Can you spot it?
For several years the city’s been operating a downtown skating rink in Victoria Park. Not only is it a scenic place to go for a skate, the mix of deciduous and evergreen trees even provide a bit of a wind break — at least compared to some areas in the downtown where the tall buildings funnel and sharpen the wind to a knife-edge.
The one down side about putting a rink in the park is that it kills the grass and forces the city to lay down new sod each summer. This year, though, the southwest corner of the park was already ripped up because of work that’s being done to improve drainage and the city wisely decided to put the rink there.
I snapped the above image yesterday afternoon when I was on my way from Central Library to Wascana Centre for a walk along the lake. It was a great day to be out and it was nice to see a bunch of people taking advantage of the rink to get some skating in.