Ice is nice

By Scott Harris

For The Chronicle-Journal Oct 12, 2017

THAT’S what they say. Who are they? Well, geophysicist Henry Pollack for one.

In his book A World Without Ice, Pollack explains the delicate geological balance between the Earth and its ice, and why it is important that we humans pay attention to this balance, especially since human activity is accelerating the planet’s race toward a tipping point with respect to its ice.

Ocean floor core samples reveal that the last time Earth was free of ice was 55 million years ago, when the greenhouse gas methane warmed the atmosphere, melting the polar ice sheets and reducing the planet’s ability to reflect solar energy back into outer space.

We currently live in what scientists describe as a Goldilocks environment, not too hot and not too cold. As we look for life on other not-so-fortunate planets, we can see clearly that indeed we are a Goldilocks planet – not too close to the sun to lose all of our water to evaporation, or far enough away to be just another snowball rocketing through space.

Read moreIce is nice

If there ever was a time . . .

By Scott Harris

First published in the Chronicle Journal January 18, 2017

Right-wing Fraser Institute’s Ken Green champions the “rule of law” vs “special interests” (Protesters Aren’t in Charge – Guest Column, CJ, Jan. 16). He states that pipeline protesters should take heed.

He qualifies that civil disobedience “is most appropriate when a group faces oppression without representation.” How better to describe future, unborn generations, a group which has no voice, which nevertheless has a right to a tolerable climate, but whose present-day governments don’t see it that way.

Read moreIf there ever was a time . . .

Confirmation bias: Science and the Internet form a double-edged sword Story

First Posted: Wednesday, October 5, 2016 in the Chronicle Journal

By Scott Harris
For The Chronicle-Journal
‘By either stressing or ignoring the information that bombards us, we create our own reality” (author unknown). Such, perhaps, is what it means to be human. Our own opinions are formed by our own unique experiences, cognitive intake and reflection.
The advent of universal, electronic transmission tools such as the Internet amounts to an information strafing unlike anything we humans have experienced before.
But the Internet is a double-edged tool. With the current availability of electronic information, one can find validation for virtually any opinion, no matter how bizarre. On the other hand, there are impeccable, peer-reviewed sources which help us separate truth from fiction. That distinction is becoming increasingly important, as we begin to address global issues triggered by human behaviour.

Read moreConfirmation bias: Science and the Internet form a double-edged sword Story

Woodland Caribou: Our Shared Past, Our Shared Future

By Scott Harris

First published in the Chronicle Journal June 2016

From May 16-20th, our community hosted nearly 400 biologists, policy-makers, First Nations, environmentalists, forestry, oil and gas interests to discuss the most recent scientific findings on the decline of woodland caribou across Canada. An evening, organized by our local Thunder Bay Field Naturalists, was dedicated to sharing information with the general public. At that session, Paul Kennedy, the moderator of CBC’s Ideas, referred to woodland caribou as the “canary in the coalmine”, suggesting that the disappearance of this species from parts of northern Ontario and our Lake Superior shores, and across Canada, may signal a decline in the general health of the boreal forest.

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Footprint vs handprint: Engaging with global warming

First posted in the Chronicle Journal Sunday, May 15, 2016

The world’s best scientists, across a broad range of disciplines, have advised us that we humans are responsible for a spike in global temperatures not seen in hundreds of thousands of years.
They state that digging up and burning, in a couple of hundred years, solar energy stored as coal, gas and oil over hundreds of millions of years as the reason.

They have equated the addition of resulting greenhouse gases (GHGs), mainly carbon dioxide, to the detonation of 400,000 atomic bombs daily, 365 days a year.
And so they have asked us to reduce our “carbon footprint,” as ice-core samples have established a direct link between carbon in the atmosphere and global warming.

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Is NOMA ignoring democratic values?

By Julee Boan and Scott Harris
We have concern regarding the Northwestern Ontario Municipal Association’s (NOMA) recent resolution, passed with support from Thunder Bay, calling on a number of environmental organizations to “cease and desist” their forestry “campaigns.”
While Environment North is not specifically mentioned, we are also a registered charitable organization. Since 1972, we have strived to improve and protect the ecological sustainability and socio-economic wellbeing of Northwestern Ontario through leadership, research, partnerships, education, community advocacy, information and community capacity building.
At times, we have called for changes to forestry practices and policy, including voicing questions and concerns when the province exempted the forest industry from the Endangered Species Act. We also voiced support for forest tenure reform to increase local decision making, and the expansion of Wabakimi Provincial Park, among other issues.

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Grass-roots activism: Changing the Course of History

Is democracy still alive? Can ordinary citizens still make their voices heard? A look at initiatives in recent decades here in Northwestern Ontario strongly suggests that the answer is yes.

In 1980, when Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., proposed a high-level nuclear waste storage facility in Atikokan, Environment North and other citizen organizations studied the proposal and believed that not enough was known about the safe transport and storage of the waste to justify the risk it posed.

A petition that called for public hearings had 24,000 signatories. Test-drilling was halted and the hearings were eventually held in the 1990s.

Read moreGrass-roots activism: Changing the Course of History

Global Warming: When science fails to convince, can kitty sneezes carry the day?

Don Clarke’s CJ article “For those who worship climate change”, Thu Oct 16, 2014, and Herman Dost’s “Nothing we can do about climate change”, Mon Oct 20, 2014 make me resort to metaphor.

Had they taken the time to read the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report , or even the Summary, I don’t believe they would have made such comment.

Yes, the earth does go through cycles of warming and cooling. These typically develop over thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of years and yes, there are aberrations like the 700-year-old medieval blip.

Read moreGlobal Warming: When science fails to convince, can kitty sneezes carry the day?

Stranded grain blame misplaced

Curious bit of logic from Warren Kinsella (Pipeline Opponents Go Against Grain — column, July 26). He blames anti-pipeline environmentalists for the backlog of Canadian prairie wheat waiting for transport to market. He states that limited rail capacity due to an increase in oil transport by train, in the absence of pipelines, is the reason.

Citing the Lac Megantic tragedy as a reason to support new tarsands expansion, and the pipelines that would carry its oil to market, Kinsella states: “A pipeline like Keystone would move enough oil, in a single day, to avoid having to make use of 4,200 railway cars to move the same amount. Lac Megantic provides a compelling argument for finally doing so.”

He fails to mention that the Lac Megantic explosion had nothing to do with the tarsands.

Read moreStranded grain blame misplaced

Let’s all stop digging up bones

Fossil fuels are the skeletal remains of plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. It took eons for geologic processes to concentrate their carbon into coal, gas and oil, but it’s taking only a few hundred years, a mere blink in time, to release it. Seems a risky thing to be doing, as this song suggests.

Feel free to sing this to the tune of Randy Travis’ Diggin’ Up Bones:

Read moreLet’s all stop digging up bones