Salamander Night is a time of cheap thrills for the naturalists of Nova Scotia, requiring only a flashlight on the first rainy evening in April over 9°C. Under these conditions several of the province’s amphibians depart their wintering grounds for the ponds in which they’ll soon breed, and no species is more noteworthy in this short, seasonal migration than the Spotted salamander, who, about a decade ago, was caught breaking the rules of biology.
How, then, to reconcile the uncomfortable realities of modern mining with those of climate change, environmental integrity and the rights of Canadians to health and natural beauty? It’s a messy maze at best, but Jamie Kneen of MiningWatch Canada, a coalition of sorts concerned with the shortcomings of Canadian mining nationally and abroad, had plenty to say.
About 370 million years ago, when Nova Scotia was in the act of mountain building, our planet’s tumultuous crust permitted the escape of two elements which, to this day, are found concentrated together in our province’s bedrock. These were arsenic and gold which, eons later, would be respectively shunned and sought by a curious primate, touting 21st century civility while inexorably drawn to all thing shiny.
Newfoundland once qualified as a “remote island,” its ecosystem forming more or less free of the continent, largely lacking in mammals and catering heavily to birds and marine life. In the absence of predators these animals of wing and fin flourished, giving rise to the feathered kingdom described by some of our earliest explorers.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) comes up a lot these days, in politics, in media, and increasingly in daily life, a trend I hope continues as the urgency of global warming overwhelms our inaction, but just how we perceive this CO2 and its climatic counterweight, oxygen, is very nuanced, and very important.
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.
It took nothing short of a billion years to craft Gros Morne National Park, its mountainous conglomerations the result of ancient continents colliding and breaking apart, of ice ages and glaciers shaving away soil and carving out fjords, and of course human beings, our contribution at times destruction, regenerative, even humane. It’s a place steeped in grandeur, infusing an Atlantic Canadian humbleness with earthen majesty. It’s enough to stagger us modest Maritimers, and yet it feels like home, a conundrum with which I grappled this past July.
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.
In 2008, Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources (now the Department of Lands and Forestry) set out to create The Path We Share, a natural resources strategy setting long term goals for our province’s forestry sector and its biodiversity, among other things. This document, released in 2011, attempted to strike a long sought balance between economic demand and ecological realities, and its formation had several steps.
Legislation dedicated to the protection of species-at-risk is relatively new to Canada. Our federal Species-At-Risk Act (SARA), only came into force in 2002. Recognizing the need for complimentary legislation several provinces established their own, some after, like Ontario’s 2007 Endangered Species Act, and others before, like Nova Scotia’s 1999 Endangered Species Act, among the first in Canada. But, as the decades rolled by, these various acts have proven flimsy, while federal and provincial governments alike leave them unenforced.