It was too cold even for insects, the glassy surface of Lake Superior faithfully reflecting a ruby sky as the sun rose over Pancake Bay Provincial Park, crisp beams of light cutting through the branches of old growth maple, birch, oak, spruce and pine. The mist burned away and birdsong swelled to fill the open chambers of this lakeside wood. I was alone.
In 2010, we Canadians committed to protecting 17 per cent of our lands and fresh water as part of a global push to mitigate mass extinction and climate change. This undertaking gained speed in recent months with February’s $1.3 billion federal budget promise to exactly this effort.
The Memory Lane Heritage Village of Lake Charlotte, Nova Scotia, is a living museum faithfully portraying rural life through the 1940s, with the exception that everything is solar powered.
The farm of Darlene Sanford in western PEI has converted sunlight into steak for as long as it’s been in the family, harnessing this renewable resource to grow all of their own grass and most of their own grain, feeding beef cattle which in turn feed the world. But since September of 2014, they’ve been converting sunlight into something a little more versatile – electricity.
The harm we’ve done our atmosphere is one of the most thoroughly studied phenomena in human history, the subject of international scientific inquiry and consensus for decades now. The same ironclad scientific methodology which allowed us to reach the moon, land rovers on Mars, exchange our thoughts by way of smartphones and internet, split the atom and computerize our economy is telling us, without a shadow of doubt, dissension or ambiguity, that we are killing our planet, and that the hard won privileges of modern living – security of food, water, home and civility – will be the cost.
Let’s go back to 2013, when our provincial government, in partnership with numerous stakeholders, created the Parks and Protected Areas Plan. It was an inspired document, identifying huge tracts of land which were ripe for formal protection either as wilderness areas, nature reserves or provincial parks, most of which were mapped, surveyed, studied and consulted upon ahead of time, gift-wrapped and, in most cases, simply awaiting a order in council to make them official.
The health of the Shubenacadie River is time and again the focus of resistance to Alton Gas, the Stewiacke company intent on hollowing out local salt caverns and dumping the resulting brine into this fragile watershed. A local geologist, however, is equally concerned with the caverns themselves.
I’ve worked several newsrooms in my time, always at small rural papers and always as the only man on staff. As a consequence I became the de facto sports reporter, expected to assemble an entire section of the paper with photos, scores, interviews with players and coaches, and my insights on the worlds of hockey, rugby, soccer, basketball and softball, every week, entirely without supervision.
Several years back, while serving as sole reporter for a small community paper on Prince Edward Island, I was handed a very troubling calendar, distributed by a provincial home heating company whose mainstay was natural gas (methane). I flipped through month after month and discovered enough half-truths or outright falsehoods in its margins to seriously mislead anyone on the role natural gas plays in global warming. This calendar claimed, in no uncertain terms, that the burning of methane was good for the planet.
I never thought we’d be scraping the bottom of the barrel like this. While Nova Scotian forests once yielded European fleets and world class lumber, today they have been degraded so completely that, in our desperation to continue the roller-coaster ride of clearcut forestry, we’ve begun chopping down the scraps and torching them for electricity, a process known commonly as biomass.