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.
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.
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 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.
Bob Swim has fished the waters of Port Mouton 51 years now, and his luck was pretty good until the mid 1990s.
That decade saw the arrival of open pen aquaculture to his home bay, a relatively inoffensive operation with three pens raising fin fish from spring until fall. The picture changed with the arrival of Cooke Aquaculture a few years later, purchasing and expanding this fish farm until Bob and his colleagues noticed a change.
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 first you see of the Treaty Truckhouse is its flag, in my case thrashing proudly red in the crisp wind of late April, dancing among the dead tan long grass with a Shubenacadie River backdrop. Proceed a little farther on and the simple wooden structure supporting it comes into view, held out of the mud and pools of standing water by a network of pallets. Unless dressed in the firmest of winter attire, you are cold, and unless blind, you see the buildings, fences and mixing channel of Alton Gas just beyond, intent on one day dumping brine into the Shubenacadie.