Tag

Great Lakes

Browsing

Ontario protects water with new proposed fee on bottlers

In the wake of climate change impacts, Ontario is beginning to take more stringent steps to ensure that fresh water resources are protected. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has proposed a new fee for water bottlers that use groundwater.

Water bottle companies such as Nestle pay $3.71 for one million litres of fresh groundwater. Yes, that’s just under four dollars for a million litres of water — a natural resource that is slowly dissipating. The Wednesday announcement will propose that these companies pay a mandatory minimum fee of $500 for one million litres, something that is being widely celebrated by environmentalists across the province. Though critics may consider the fee high, it would cover the costs of managing the groundwater taken by the water bottlers, as well as scientific research, policies and outreach to further protect the resource.

Other amendments that Ontario is proposing include new procedural and technical requirements to make water bottling more transparent in the public eye and to increase scientific requirements when testing the water. The proposed changes are open to public consultation until March 20, 2017 and is available on the Environmental Registry.

Ontario has been actively working towards protecting the fresh water resources in the province, finalizing a two-year moratorium on new or expanded permits for water bottlers to take fresh groundwater resources. The limitation on permits also changed from 10 years to five years. The proposal was approved on Dec. 16, 2016 after public consultations came to an end.

In the wake of climate change, fresh groundwater resources are becoming more valuable as water shortages could easily become a reality. After it was discovered earlier in 2016 that Nestle was taking more than one million litres of water a day with an expired permit, the government and its citizens began to seriously consider whether this was appropriate. This ultimately led to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change taking the threat of water shortages seriously and is proposing courageous and sweeping changes to how water bottling is currently managed in the province. Women’s Post will be following this issue with great interest.

Canada and the U.S protest oil pipelines in our waterways

Mixing oil and water has never been a good idea, and oil companies should remember that rule of thumb. The thought of another pipeline blowing up in a fresh water source in North America leaves many environmentalists shuddering in fear — and for good reason.

People are joining together to demand that the Canadian and US governments put an end to this practice. Oil pipelines are coming under fire this week with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation protests in North Dakota and the Kinder Morgan protest at Parliament Hill. Social media has blown up with over one million people “checking in” to Standing Rock on Facebook to show support for the protests and deter police from trying to gain background information about protesters on social media and knowing who to target for arrest at the protest. On a slightly smaller scale, but nevertheless equally important, was the protest north of the border, in which over 100 protesters gathered in Parliament Hill and 50 were arrested for storming the fences to demonstrate that this pipeline is not wanted in British Columbia.

The Dakota Access pipeline is a project that is set to be built near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota and crosses under the Missouri River. The pipeline would carry 470,000 barrels of crude oil and any oil spills would leave the reservation without clean water. In April 2016, a few representatives of Standing Rock Sioux Nation set up camp to block the pipeline from beginning construction on their land, and in the last few months the camp has increased by the thousands. The police have made several arrests and the tension is escalating at Standing Rock, but the protestors continue to protect their land.

Across the prairies and into Canada, the Kinder Morgan’s Trans-Mountain pipeline transports 300,000 barrels of oil per day from Alberta to British Columbia and Washington. The new leg of pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby would increase crude oil transport to 890,000 barrels per day, a formidable number. The National Energy Board (NEB) approved the project with 157 conditions. Though the federal ministerial panel is conducting a series of public consultations about pipeline, the time is prime to protest Kinder Morgan because the federal government is set to end public consultations and make a final decision in December. Among many other protesters, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson has strongly opposed the proposal. The expanded pipeline goes right into Vancouver at the Burnaby Chevron Refinery and if an oil explosion occurred, it would be dangerous to local residents and would cost millions in repairs. Ocean tankers having more access to increased amounts of oil is dangerous for the ocean if a spill were to occur as well. Robertson also argues that the pipeline threatens the green sector, a growing industry in Vancouver. Protestors crossed the fence to gain Prime Minister Trudeau’s attention and were subsequently banned from Parliament Hill.

Both demonstrations show a growing concern for the devastating environmental effects of oil spills in waterways. The public outcry against pipelines is the result of years of unkept promises by oil companies, who all say they will protect the waterways and then claim little responsibility when detrimental oil spills occur. This was certainly the case in 2010, when Enbridge’s Line 6B pipeline burst in the Kalamazoo River and leaked thousands of gallons of oil into the river, contaminating the water source and  harming wildlife. Enbridge has another pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac that was built in the 1950’s and is growing old, heightening the threat of it breaking down. If this pipeline were to burst, it would spread oil into the Great Lakes, the largest fresh body of water in the world, at a rapid rate.

Building pipelines under water requires a lot of maintenance and the threat of leaking oil is consistently an issue. Alternatives to oil pipelines needs to considered because the threat of environmental disaster is extremely high. Furthermore, the ability for oil companies to carry unprecedented levels of the product is unsustainable and dangerous because it allows them to exploit the earth to an even larger extent.

The solution — end the reign of oil.

Currently oil is a necessity for the transportation sector. Instead, more sustainable technologies need to be embraced. This can include biofuels and electric vehicles. Biofuels are made most often with ethanol, and are highly available because they are made most often from corn, a common North American crop. This form of renewable energy has a closed carbon cycle where carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is recaptured by the plant material used to make the biofuels. It is then used to produce more fuel.  Cars can use biodiesels, which are a bi-product of biofuels. Another alternative is embracing electric vehicles that would make cars fuelled with oil obsolete and are a step forward to being rid of the dirty product.

On Nov. 5, protestors are joining together at Queen’s Park to peacefully march for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and call to everyone who cares for land and water to unite with them. The march will stop at TD Bank, RBC, and Scotiabank, companies that are funding the pipeline, and then end at the US Consulate. Protests will be happening worldwide to honour the efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. The time to act is now before all of our waterways are contaminated. Putting in an effort to end pipeline use is the only option for a healthy future living in North America.

The hidden Canadian landscapes to explore

When tourists visit Canada, there is a typical route that they follow. From east to west, people visit Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Banff and Vancouver. These are the main cities and they are amazing in their own right. But what about the hidden treasures of our beautiful and vast country? Those are the places that fascinate me and, as a Canadian, I’ve made it my life’s mission to search out as many of these less-popular places as possible.

Take a ride with me on my adventures across Canada:

Beginning in beautiful British Columbia, imagine yourself lying on a secret nude beach resting on the crest of the mountains, surrounded by a midnight black lake. I decided to ditch the tent that night and slept directly on the beach, watched by the rare and beautiful gypsy travellers that populate B.C. I’m looking at the stars, and they are so clear it feels as if I can reach out and touch them.

I’m just outside Nelson, B.C, the unofficial hippie capital of the west. It is a place built entirely on a steep hill, which is absolute hell to climb with a backpack, but is nonetheless worth it once you see the view from the top. Several incense and weed shops line the streets and the town is dedicated to promoting local goods and community, with almost no corporate businesses in the vicinity. The town is nestled deep in the Kootenay mountain pass and is surrounded by large round mountains buried with trees. They look much different from the neighbouring Rockies. Nelson is as close to heaven as you can get. It is an escape from reality, and seems to only exist in a dream where nature and people finally seem to respect one another.

Another one of my favourite spots is in the Okanagan. The hills have grown much smaller, but I’m still awestruck by the contrast between the orange and red rolling desert mountains and the crystal blue lake that snakes through the valley. As you drive on the Coquihalla, the highway through the Okanagan that leads you to Vancouver, you will hit Penticton. It is a town surrounded by hot desert hills and is the home to the deepest lake in Canada.

I have fond memories of driving to Penticton with my boyfriend at the time and our friends to music gigs at rustic bars on the main strip that has since closed. We would climb on the roof while the boys played, and roofhop because the businesses were all connected ( though I don’t condone this behaviour. I had a friend fall of a roof years later). There is nothing better than watching a harvest moon, surrounded by desert hills and listening to B.C folk music, laden with banjos and violins. It is a sound that seems to emit from the very roots of the Okanagan’s heart and I highly recommend seeing one of the local Okanagan bands if you are in the region (Wild Son is a good example).

My next destination takes you on the Trans-Canada highway through the Rogers Pass into Alberta, my home province, the place where my heart rests no matter where I live in this crazy world. A tour of the Rockies will take you to some breathtaking sites and locations, but my absolute favourite town in Alberta is Jasper. Home of black bears, it is the best place for a sighting from a safe distance. Another favourite is Kananaskis, a tiny resort tucked away between Calgary and Banff. Kananaskis is in the entrance to the mountains, also known as the foothills. The vast prairies that rise into rolling hills and then morph into the majestic Rockies is a worthy site to see. Kananaskis has top level climbing, hiking trails and mountain sites.

Both Jasper and Kananaskis remind me of my mother. You haven’t met her, but she is amazing. My mom taught me the worth of driving to the places you love. She taught me to hike,and to respect and appreciate nature. I’ve seen every wild animal in the mountains because of her, from mountain goats to a grizzly bear. As she gets older, I often think of our drives through the Rockies, listening to Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, and I realize no matter what happens these places will always remind me of her.

As I got older, I began to crave a different kind of Canadian adventure. I wanted to see the cities — the brick and the old stone edifices in the origins of this wonderful country. It was time to venture east. I packed the car, waved goodbye to my family and friends and took off across the prairies, listening to Janis Joplin. I saw the immense and endless splendour of the corn fields, or the yellow ocean as my daughter says. I landed in Brandon, Manitoba to see a friend of mine and it was there that I found this next hidden gem.

Brandon is a small city with a very tight-knit and loving community. I stayed with a friend who lived in the old city hall. The grand building had been converted to a house for people who studied the arts. It had several floors and rooms, and was run by two professors from Brandon University. Walking in the city, I saw my first glances of the historic buildings that helped build this country.

Ontario was next. The first thing I noticed was that the Great Lakes seemed to go on forever. The immensity of these bodies of water nourishes the land, creating a green and vivacious landscape. Kenora, Ont. is on the border between Manitoba and Ontario, and is my secret gem of the north. Surrounded by Lake of the Woods, this body of water winds around the town, which is a series of bushy islands. The Canadian Shield dominates the north as well and massive boulders of rock that jut from the ground create a complex and visceral topography, which is great for hiking and bouldering.

Speaking of history, Quebec City is the oldest city in Canada. I call it the city of all glories, because it has a beautiful waterfront dotted by old shipping boats (who doesn’t love a good boat?), it is built on a hill with narrow and old-fashioned streets, and is the home of the Chateau Frontenac. It is most definitely one of the most beautiful cities in Canada and has a distinctly European flair. Visiting Quebec City, it was exciting to hold my daughter’s hand and explain first-hand how Canada came to be. Plus, ordering a croissant and an Americano in French is always a treat.

Finally, there is the Maritimes. My mother is a born maritimer, and while I may be biased, I stand by this following opinion — people born and raised in the Maritimes are often the sweetest and friendliest people. I often visit Dalhousie, a city that borders Quebec with the Restigouche River between the two provinces. The Restigouche leads into the ocean, and migrating whales stop in the bay annually. My Grandmother has a cottage right on the water that she dubbed “the Hollow”, and I remember hiking with her to pick beach glass and find fossils. Visiting a couple years ago, it is unforgettable to stand at the pier of the lighthouse and listen to Acadians sing French folk songs as sail boats line the bay. You can almost see the ghosts of the first ships to arrive along the Restigouche River hundreds of years ago on ethereal nights such as these.

There are always more stories and more places to share. Canada is a vast and unforgettable country and you never know where the twists and turns will take you. My best advice when traveling Canada is to take the backroads. That is where you will see a proud old man in his electric wheelchair scooting down the street with a Canadian flag on the back, or a wolf standing watch by the roadside. My next stop is the Yukon. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes.

Stay tuned for my photo project of my travels across Canada entitled Shades of Blue: my journey across Canada.