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.

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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.

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Forestry can be done without herbicides

by Lynn Palmer

First posted in the Chronicle Journal : Saturday, October 3, 2015 6:00 am

Public concern about spraying herbicides on our local forests is not new. For at least 20 years, the issue has circulated in the public sphere.
Surveys undertaken since the mid-1990s indicate that the general public in Ontario deem herbicide use on publicly owned forests unacceptable.
This past March, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the United Nations’ World Health Organization) declared that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide, is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” and public concern over spraying has intensified. On Sept. 5, the California Environmental Protection Agency announced that it plans to label glyphosate as a “chemical known to cause cancer.”
Opposition to glyphosate-based herbicide spraying and linked petitions have been increasing from New Brunswick to California. In Ontario, people living in and around Dog-River Matawin, Kenogami, Ogoki, Martel, Magpie, Timiskaming, Sudbury, Black Spruce, and Nipigon Forests, among others, have expressed to the province and some forestry companies that they want their voices to be heard. The message is clear. It’s time to get serious about implementing alternatives.

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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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NOMA Hears One Side of the Story (Again!)

First published in the Chronicle Journal May 7 2016
By Peter Lang
On April 28, uninvited and without the $450 delegate fee, I was allowed to observe TransCanada Pipeline’s presentation to NOMA’s annual general meeting. It must have been the 1,000 signatures on our petition to reject the proposed Energy East pipeline… And, as with TCP’s address to City Council last August, the corporation was spared any contrary public input.

In his address, TCP’s Stefan Baranski first implicated us in the global demand for oil by asking, “How many of you drove here today?” He then followed with projections to show that increasing demand — after which he declared — “We have the oil!”

We know that. It’s what we should do with it now that we begin to understand climate change, the science behind it, and in light of Canada’s commitments to the Paris Summit last December.

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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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Fracking is a bridge to nowhere

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS
First published in the Chronicle Journal Jan 11, 2016

BY JASON MACLEAN
For Canada and other parties to the recent Paris climate change agreement to meet their commitment to keep warming well below 2 degrees Celsius, “‘plan A’ must be to immediately and aggressively reduce GHG emissions.”
Why? Because there’s no plan B.
That’s not the cry of crazy environmentalists. That’s the cool-headed conclusion of a recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change entitled “Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions” assessing the potential of what are called NETs (negative emissions technologies), which are designed to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

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Corporate crime pays well, even when it’s punished

First Published in the Chronicle Journal Monday, September 21, 2015

SUSTAINABILITY MATTERS BY JASON MACLEAN
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Corporate crime pays. A lot. So does covering it up. Exhibit A: Healthcare giant Johnson and Johnson develops and markets a drug called Risperdal. Risperdal is a billion-dollar antipsychotic medicine that has both real benefits as well as some serious side effects.
For example, Risperdal increases the risk of strokes among the elderly, and can cause boys to develop breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia. One teenage boy developed a 46DD bust.

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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.

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Combating the ‘anthropocebo’ effect

Shocking news from Alberta: the Wildrose opposition party has announced that it now believes in climate change, and humans’ influence on it. What’s next? Official recognition that the Earth is round and orbits the Sun?

But you have to hand it to Wildrose party leader Danielle Smith. In response to Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen’s quip that Ms. Smith would never be taken seriously on the global stage if she didn’t acknowledge climate change, Ms. Smith retorted “I don’t accept a lecture from a do-nothing environment minister like Diana McQueen.”

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