A few days ago facebook ignited with grotesque images of escaped farmed rainbow trout in Norway.  Norwegian sportfishermen are posting images of the 60-80 fish they are catching per day in a race to keep these “fish” from entering wild salmon rivers and digging up the eggs of the last few wild Atlantic salmon.  The controversy that has built is causing unprecedented political response recommending the salmon farming industry get out of the ocean. For the politicians who refuse to see the damage, the call is for them to get out of office.

Norway is the mother of salmon farming – perhaps we should listen.


Reading this and looking at the pictures is like looking in the mirror – farmed steelhead, infected with viruses threatening wild Atlantic salmon…

This industry has to go.  Their last stronghold has turned on them. Consider sharing this blog with all your politicians and would be politicians.

Alexandra Morton


Tailings Ponds Are the Biggest Environmental Disaster You’ve Never Heard Of.

Toxic sludge spilling through a forest. Screenshot courtesy of the Ministry of Transportation and InfrastructureThe scale is hard to imagine: grey sludge, several feet deep, gushing with the force of a firehose through streams and forest—coating everything in its path with ashy gunk. What happened on Monday might have been one of North America’s worst environmental disasters in decades, yet the news barely made it past the Canadian border.

Last Monday, a dam holding waste from Polley gold and copper mine in the remote Cariboo Region of British Columbia broke, spilling 2.6 billion gallons of potentially toxic liquid and 1.3 billion gallons of definitely toxic sludge out into pristine lakes and streams. That’s about 6,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water and waste containing things like arsenic, mercury, and sulphur. Those substances are now mixed into the water that 300 people rely on for tap, hundreds from First Nations tribes rely on for hunting and fishing, and many others rely on for the tourism business.

“It’s an environmental disaster. It’s huge,” said Chief Ann Louie of the Williams Lake Indian Band, whose members live in the Cariboo Region and use the land for hunting and fishing. “The spill has gone down Hazeltine Creek, which was 1.5 meters wide and now it’s now 150 meters wide… The damage done to that area, it’ll never come back. This will affect our First Nations for years and years.”

The waste came from a “tailings pond,” an open-air pit that mines use to store the leftovers of mining things like gold, copper, and, perhaps most notably in Canada, the tar sands—the oil-laden bitumen composites that have made the Keystone XL Pipeline so controversial.

The term “pond” can be a little misleading, as the structures can grow to be the size of Central Park.

As Canada’s industry-friendly government has sold off hundreds of square miles of forests for mining over the past few years toxic tailings ponds have become a regular feature of once-pristine Northern Canadian landscapes.

Environmentalists say they’re disasters in the making, and they say the Polley spill is proof. While this week’s incident was notable for its size, Canadian environmentalists and indigenous activists say it may be a sign of things to come for the country, and perhaps the rest of the world as well, as mining for everything from rare earth metals to coal increases globally.

“Any time you you rely on a dyke to contain something, whether it’s water or tailings, it’s going to fail some day, sooner or later,” said Henry Vaux, a resource economist at the University of California Riverside. “To think they’re bullet proof is to fool yourself.”

It’s too early to tell just how extensive the damage from Polley mine is, but environmentalists like MiningWatch Canada’s Ramsey Hart are calling it an “environmental catastrophe,” bigger than the country has seen in years.

The tailings pond contained up to 85,000 pounds of lead, 152 tons of copper, and about 1,000 pounds of mercury, among many other heavy metals and potentially toxic substances, according to a government report. Now, many of those metals may be sitting in lakes and rivers, including one that’s home to one of the biggest salmon populations in the world.

Brian Kynoch, the president of Imperial Metals, which owns the mine, tried to calm an angry crowd at a meeting near the disaster area on Tuesday by saying the water was likely safe. “I’d drink the water,” he said.

But those who live in the sparsely populated area near the mine aren’t taking his word for it. They say the area is now completely ruined for drinking water, hunting and fishing.

“Our economy swims in the river and walks by the ground,” said Chief Bev Sellars of the Soda Creek First Nations Tribe. “There’s not any amount of money in the world that’s going to fix what’s happened.”

First Nations communities near the Polley mine say they’re devastated by the loss of the habitat, but some say they saw it coming.

A 2011 report commissioned by two First Nations tribes and funded by Imperial Metals found that the tailings pond was structurally deficient to hold as much waste and water as it did. In 2012, the British Columbia Ministry of the Environment found the Polley mine had failed to report that the pond was holding more water than it was legally allowed to.

Photo by Dru Oja Jay, Dominon, via Flickr

“We had concerns specifically about the tailings ponds for years,” said Sellars. “I hate to say it, but it wasn’t a total surprise to us.”

The size of the Polley mine breach may be unprecedented, but whether it’s gold and copper mining in British Columbia or tar sands mining in Alberta, the environmental impact of the process has become a near-constant controversy in Canada under Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party government.

In 2006, his first year in office, Harper declared his intention to make the country an “energy superpower,” and he’s done just that: Canada is now the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, thanks mostly to tar sands mining in Alberta.

Over 1,000 square miles of land, including rare boreal forest, have been turned over to energy companies to mine for tar sands (which are not actually made of tar but bitumen). The viscous, oil-rich sands are processed using a variety of toxic chemicals and the leftovers are put in tailings ponds, which currently take up about 70 square miles in Alberta.

The tar sands could grow to 50 times their current size if Harper’s government gets its way. If they did, the development would rival the state of Florida in size.

“Massive areas have essentially been transformed into an industrial sacrifice zone,” said Ramsey Hart.

While it’s relatively rare for a tailings pond to fully collapse like the Polley one did, researchers say that tailings ponds near the tar sands also have the potential for environmental disaster—just a slower, less visually compelling one. Research from Canada’s environmental agency has shown that tailings ponds in the tar sands region have leached potentially deadly toxins into land and groundwater, and First Nations tribes and environmentalists have blamed those leaching chemicals from the tar sands on rare cancer clusters.

The issue extends far beyond Canada. There are an estimated 3,500 tailings ponds worldwide. And, thanks to lax government regulation in the US, an estimated 39 percent of tailings pond dam failures happen in the states—a rate higher than anywhere in the world.

Just six months ago, a pipe at a coal slurry pond in North Carolina opened, leaching 1.1 billion gallons of sludge into a river.

The problem in Canada, the US, and elsewhere is that no one knows exactly what to do with these ponds. Much of the sludge they contain is too toxic to remediate and let back into the environment. As of now, the plan is to just let them sit there and hope they don’t fail.

Many of the ponds will likely exist long after their corresponding mines close, and therefore long after the people who were financially responsible for them are nowhere to be found.

“There’s really no long-term plan for these tailings ponds, and that’s where the risk comes in,” said Hart. “These places might be there forever.”

Follow Peter Moskowitz on Twitter

Two great speakers

Here is a keynote address that Oren Lyons gave at the 2008 Mother Earth Call To Consciousness On Climate Change Symposium.

Also, here is Roy Henry Vickers, one of my favourite artists, giving a talk in 2013.  I was thinking we might try to get him to Skype with the class in the future if anyone was interested.


Oil prices drop as global warming rises

By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation’s Senior Editor Ian Hanington (January 22, 2015)


“With oil prices plunging from more than $100 a barrel last summer to below $50 now, the consequences of a petro-fuelled economy are hitting home — especially in Alberta, where experts forecast a recession. The province’s projected budget surplus has turned into a $500-million deficit on top of a $12-billion debt, with predicted revenue losses of $11 billion or more over the next three or four years if prices stay low or continue to drop as expected. Alberta’s government is talking about service reductions, public-sector wage and job cuts and even increased or new taxes on individuals. TD Bank says Canada as a whole can expect deficits over the next few years unless Ottawa takes money from its contingency fund.

It’s absurd that a lower price on a single commodity could have such a profound economic impact, but that’s what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket and fail to plan for such contingencies. With a population and oil-and-gas production profile similar to Alberta, Europe’s largest petroleum producer, Norway, is also feeling the impacts. But much higher taxes on industry, majority state ownership of the country’s largest oil-and-gas company and an approximately $900-billion sovereign wealth fund built from oil revenues are cushioning the fall.

Some see low fuel prices as good news, but there are many downsides. With driving becoming less costly, more cars and trucks could be on the road, which is good for the auto industry but bad in terms of pollution, climate change and traffic accidents. And because the price of oil is now lower than the cost to extract oilsands bitumen, the industry is starting to put the brakes on rapid expansion plans — bad news for workers and businesses in Fort McMurray and those heavily invested in the industry but good news for the planet.

Recent research shows most of Canada’s oilsands bitumen — as well as all Arctic oil and gas, most of Canada’s coal and some conventional oil and gas — must be left in the ground if the world is to avoid a global temperature increase of more than 2 C above pre-industrial levels, the internationally agreed-upon threshold for limiting catastrophic impacts of global warming. The report, by researchers at University College London’s Institute for Sustainable Resources and published in the journal Nature, concludes a third of the world’s oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 per cent of coal reserves must not be burned before 2050.

The study also found that carbon capture and storage, touted as one way to continue exploiting and burning fossil fuels, is too new, expensive and limited to make enough of a difference by 2050.

Study co-author Paul Ekins told National Geographic that putting hundreds of billions of dollars into fossil fuel exploration and development is “deeply irrational” economic behaviour. “What would be ideal,” he said, would be to “use the opportunity of this fall in the oil price to start instituting a global carbon tax, which would take some of the volatility out of the prices.” Removing fossil fuel subsidies would also help.

John Stone, a Canadian scientist and lead author on the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, told CBC the UCL study “is another wake-up call to snap us out of our denial of climate change.”

With 2014 confirmed as the hottest year on record, and 13 of the hottest 15 years having occurred since 2000, we can’t afford to ignore the consequences. According to researchers, the odds that natural variability is causing today’s climate change are less than one in 27 million! It’s astounding that, in the face of such overwhelming evidence from scientists worldwide, people continue to deny the problem exists or that humans are responsible and can or should do anything about it.

It’s especially irresponsible when energy conservation and cleaner fuel alternatives offer so many economic benefits, including job creation, greater stability and reduced health-care costs. As world leaders prepare for the UN climate summit later this year, we must look at the recent market meltdown as an opportunity to shift away from fossil fuels. It’ll be much easier and less costly to get on with it now than to wait until we’re left with few choices.”

-Posted by Ryan

PS13:Ta’Kaiya Blaney

I was going through the readings and videos for this week and came across more videos on the Power Shift Tv vimeo site.

Ta’Kaiya Blaney, a Sliammon First Nations young woman at 12 years old is so strong, smart and inspiring!  Theres many other great clips on the Power Shift vimeo website, however I needed to share this as it hit me in the heart and was so inspiring!