Showing posts from January, 2012

Eagles Convene the Spring Selection Committee

B. McPherson

Spring can’t be far off when the senior eagles on Vancouver Island convene their selection committees. It seems a tad early, but groups of the senior eagles, those with the white heads and tails, start gathering in the tops of trees and old cedar snags. They know when it’s time for birds that don’t have a mate to shop for one.
The eastern coast of Vancouver Island boasts a temperate climate. We’ve had a few frosty mornings and one day we had a little snow, but temperatures are moving up along with the lengthening days.
Today the neighbour’s cedar snags saw three eagles perched and calling. Coming in from the barn this afternoon, two juveniles were hanging about, but definitely excluded from the committee.
There was a time not so long ago that misguided people sought to shoot or poison these magnificent birds, then the spread of DDT helped to make the eggs too fragile to hatch. Bald eagles in our area have made a comeback and we are privileged to see them on a nearly dail…

FADs and Mining the Ocean of Life

By B. McPherson

FADs are a glaring example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. I’m not talking lava lamps or hoola hoops here. FADs are Fish Aggregation Devices and I have to admit that I was not aware of this particular little horror in our oceans until now. FADs are devices based on the knowledge that fish in the oceans tend to gather around or under logs or other floating debris. Since the outcry in most countries about killing of dolphins in purse seine nets meant to catch tuna, this piece of technology has been increasingly used.
Do you buy “Dolphin Safe” tuna? Do the cans of tuna in your pantry bear the little logo that tells you that you are being a responsible consumer? Mine does and I felt ok about canned tuna, in spite of the high mercury levels, until now.
Fifty years ago the primary method for catching tuna was with poles and hooks into the school of tuna. It was tough, dangerous work but only tuna were caught. Then the fishing industry started using flocks of birds as…

Fukushima Scandal Spreads Like Its Radiation

By B. McPherson

When the huge earthquake and resulting tsunami hit Japan last year, it spawned the ongoing disaster of Fukushima. Since then, the world has watched while the various stories and reassurances have been spun to the people – the rice is safe, the children are safe, leave your homes. It continues.
More information is leaking out. Apparently when the nuclear radiation crisis hit, the ‘experts’ were at odds with how to present the ominous news to the Japanese public. One expert was front and centre, accepting responsibility. Now former acting head of the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan Sunichi Tanaka is quoted in The MainichiDaily News:
"Reactor cores have melted to a considerable extent. I never predicted that we would cause the public so much trouble. We are responsible for promoting nuclear power."
In ongoing hearings into the cause of the fatal damage at the Fukushima electric plant, there have been clashes over pinning the damage on the tsunami which slammed…

Enbridge Northern Gateway Talks Resume in Edmonton

By B. McPherson

                                                                                                                          ** The first day of hearings in Edmonton regarding the proposed building of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipelines which would carry oil sand product to Kitimat through the Great Bear Rain Forest saw protesters to the project. Members of the Cree First Nations drummed and chanted their displeasure at the idea of oil pipelines through their traditional territories.
Chanting "Shut down tarsands!" the activists held placards with messages such as: "Green jobs not corporate $lobs." Vancouver Sun
The hearings in Edmonton were the latest in a series starting in the small town of Kitimat, British Columbia which would be the terminus of the pipelines if they were built. Hundreds turned out to voice their concerns for the environment if this project would go ahead. Fishermen, tourist operators, aboriginal people and other concerned citize…

Roundup Found in People’s Urine

By B. McPherson

Glyphosate, first developed as Roundup, weed killer has been found in the urine of city dwellers according to research done in Germany.GM Watch has translated part of the work published in the journal Ithica in German. The findings are troubling in that levels 5 to 20 times allowable limits were measured.
Glyphosate is a widely used broad leaf plant poison that sprayed onto undesirable plants killing them. The herbicide, originally developed by Monsanto has been widely used since 1974. The seed company has since developed a wide array of “Roundup Ready” crops that will not die when sprayed with the chemical. This eliminates the need for hand weeding.
As with many innovations there are unforeseen consequences. Glyphosate resistant ‘super-weeds’ are becoming an increasing problem. Canadian scientists reported that the first glyphosate resistant weed in Western Canada has been confirmed. Kochia is now a super-weed. This is now added to giant ragweed(2009) and Canada fleab…

Sea Shepherd Activists Confront Japanese Whalers

By B. McPherson

Sea Shepherd’s Operation Divine Wind encountered the Japanese vessel Yushin Maru No. 3 in the Southern Ocean launching containers of rotten butter and paint at the whaling ship. The Sea Shepherd Society has been active in trying to thwart the killing of whales in the conservation area for eight seasons. While the Japanese government maintains that the whales are killed for research purposes and has gone so far as to paint “Research” on the sides of their vessels, few truly believe that a quota of 1000 dead whales each year constitutes research.
Each year the confrontations between the activists and the whalers become more dangerous. The latest saw the Sea Shepherd people in small, fast outboard vessels harassing the whalers with stinking butter. The Japanese responded with concussion grenades and teargas. Source
Information about the latest incident is still sketchy but it has been reported that three anti-whaling people have been injured. Grappling hooks and …

Shark Slimed by Snot Eels

By B. McPherson

Researchers in New Zealand have shown that hagfish or snot eels have a unique defense system. They slime their enemies. Even Ghost Busters would find this creature hard to deal with. The scientists lowered cameras and bait to the ocean floor off New Zealand and observed sharks thinking that they had an easy meal as the hag fish gathered for a buffet.
When the sharks bit down on the seemingly defenseless eels they got a mouthful of mucus extruded from hundreds of pores in the creatures skin. The mucus clogs the sharks’ mouths and gills forcing the predators to release the icky animal.
Hagfish, snot eel, slime eel this creature is called by many names but it is neither a fish nor an eel. It’s in a category by itself, a survivor from prehistoric times. It lacks jaws and uses a ring of bony teeth to rasp its way into rotting flesh and will sometimes finish off a dying animal as well.
While their eating habits may make us recoil, the BerkleyEducation Department chooses the…

Irish Environmentalists Protest Shell’s Corrib Gas Pipeline

By B. McPherson

Around the world, the ordinary people are starting to realize the huge potential for environmental damage that our addiction to fossil fuels has created. A group in Ireland under the banner of Shell to Sea is using peaceful civil disobedience to protest the Royal Dutch Shell natural gas pipeline route.
They have three stated aims in this regard: to ensure the safety of the people and environment, to renegotiate the terms of royalties for the offshore gas deposits, and to address what they claim are human rights abuses.
The protesters have been interfering in the movement of materials used to build the pipeline. Two of the latest actions involved occupying a quarry that was supplying stone for the project and a woman locked herself to a tree cutting piece of machinery in an attempt to prevent cutting through a local forest.
“Protests last Thursday led to a stand-off at a local quarry where the owner ultimately used a high-powered water hose in an attempt to remove prote…

Trans-Mountain Oil Pipeline Expansion Plans in the Works

By B. McPherson

In the high publicity forum of hearings about the proposed Northern Gateway Oil Pipelines and the Keystone Pipeline in the American Midwest, plans are quietly being made to fully twin the Trans-Mountain Oil Pipeline that runs from Edmonton Alberta to Burnaby British Columbia. The appetite for oil and natural gas is such that the Kinder Morgan Corporation wishes to increase the pipeline capacity from its current 500 000 barrels of product per day to 700 000 per day.
Some of the oil is shipped to the Puget Sound area in Washington State. Other product is sent to California and to the US Gulf Coast in a network of pipes. Some product is sent overseas. The terminal of the Trans-Mountain pipeline ends at Burrard Inlet, Westridge Terminal.
The pipeline has had a stellar safety record, but a small oil spill four years ago underlined the danger of the thick black goo to the environment. About 1500 barrels were released when a construction crew accidentally ruptured the pipeli…

Fracking Blows Up Alberta Oil Well

By B. McPherson

Fracking for natural gas in the fields outside of Innisfail, Alberta, has seen a spectacular result. A pumpjack in a farmer’s field suddenly started spewing a black liquid into the air. Fracking fluid, nitrogen and oil from the well were sprayed onto the field. Crews are attempting to clean up the mess. Chief Executive for the fracking company, Midway Energy, Scott Ratushny was quoted in the Calgary Herald:
“Approximately 50 cubic metres of oil, fracturing fluid, nitrogen and sand were spilled on the surface and have been recovered from the site, Ratushny said.” "We have drilled over 40 wells in the Cardium in the region without any incidents," Ratushny said. "We've never seen this before."Calgary Herald
Fracking has become a hot environmental issue as the pace of this technology has increased exponentially in the past few years. The search for natural gas – the clean fuel – has corporations fracturing rock formations with explosions and high pre…

Costa Concordia Threatens Disaster for Ocean Life

By B. McPherson

The Costa Concordia holed and resting precariously on a submerged shelf in shallow water may slip off and sink. The fuel tanks of the doomed vessel are full of bunker fuel, a thick form of petroleum that needs to be heated to make it flow. 2 300 metric tonnes(2 530 US tons) will leak into the Mediterranean Sea if measures to pump the oil out fail. Unidentified liquid has been seen leaking from the ship and booms are being placed around it.
Floating booms and skimmers are less effective in rough waters which hit the area today forcing a suspension of the search for those still missing from the disaster.
The area where the ship rests is featured in tourist literature exhorting people to “travel Tuscany”. The island of Giglio is surrounded by healthy, clean water. The following is from a tourist blurb about the island.
“The Isola del Giglio is one of the most "beautiful children in Tuscany", as they are called in the popular language. Giglio's mild climate,…

The Green Revolution is Over

By B. McPherson

An Indian court has ruled that the banned pesticide endosulfan can be exported in spite of the government’s ban on its manufacture, sales and usage. With a cavalier disregard to other people’s safety, one of the chief justices was quoted in the Environmental Justice Foundation web page:
Chief Justice S H Kapadia said, “Our main concern is that we don’t want our people to suffer…Why should this material lie on Indian soil? If some countries are willing to import it, we should go for it.”
Endosulfan was introduced to the world in the early 50s as part of the Green Revolution. It was widely used on food crops, potatoes and vegetables. India has been a major producer and user of this chemical but the government has recently instituted a complete ban on its use, manufacture or sale. The manufactures have unsold stocks of the pesticide and lobbied the courts to be able to send the poison to countries that are not respecting the ban. Canada and the US have agreed to an intern…

Enbridge Gateway Hearings Rhetoric Heats Up

By B. McPherson
This is some of the environment that would be put at risk with oil tankers traversing the treacherous seaways.

Native elders and chiefs spoke in Kitimaat Village today regarding the proposed routing of the Gateway twinned pipelines through the Great Bear Rain Forest to the west coast of British Columbia.
One of the Chiefs who spoke today expressed concern regarding the routing of the pipeline, likening the risk to his people as a double-barrelled shotgun. Pipeline spills through the sensitive land area plus the hundreds of oil laden tankers threading their way through the twisted canal leading to the town of Kitimat are very real dangers to the pristine environment.
The Haisla are facing a double-barrelled shotgun by the bringing of that oil by pipeline and shipping it by sea," Hereditary Chief Ken Hall told the opening day of environmental hearings into the project."The pipeline threatens our grandchildren," he said Tuesday. "It's going to be te…

Cdn Feds Show Bias Before Hearings on the Destruction of the Great Bear Rain Forest

By B. McPherson

Hearings are scheduled to start in Kitimat, BC, to hear the public speak about their interest in the proposed Enbridge Gateway Pipeline that is proposed to dig its way through the Great Bear Rain Forest to bring crude oil from the Alberta oil sands to the BC coast at the end of Douglas Channel.
The Calgary based company has proposed the construction of twin pipelines that would snake from outside of Edmonton to the village of Kitimat. One pipeline would carry crude oil west while the second pipeline would carry the solvent needed to make the crude flow, east for reuse.
Enbridge is the same company that has its megaproject in the US stalled, the Keystone Pipeline.
The proposed route through British Columbia is a poor choice because it targets the untouched temperate rain forest, it ends at the head of a tortuous fiord, and many of the native land claims involving this land have yet to be settled.
Prime Minister Harper has stated that a pipeline to the west coast is nec…

Sea Shepherd and Forest Rescue Hook Up in Daring Anti-Whaling Move

By B. McPherson
The following video is horrific. This action is taking place in a whale sanctuary. These intelligent peaceful beings are being killed in a slow, brutal way. Anyone who eats the flesh of these creatures takes on the pain and sorrow of the whale.

Sunday morning the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Forest Rescue, a non-violent direct action conservation group teamed up to create what is developing into an international incident.
According to the Sea Shepherd’s news page, three Forest Rescue men with the help of the anti-whaling activists, boarded the Japanese whaling security ship, the Shonan Maru #2. They are now being held on board. The activists maintain that the boarding of the vessel took place within Australia’s territorial waters and must return the Australian nationals to their country. This tactic was used to divert the Shonan Maru from tailing the Sea Shepherd’s vessel the Steve Irwin. The whalers’ stance is that the action took place in international water…

Will the Maldives Become the New Atlantis?

By B. McPherson

How would you feel if your country were to sink beneath the waves like a modern day Atlantis? Would you simply despair and sink into apathy or would you bravely seek out new land to settle in? In today’s modern world what already settled land would let you in?
The president of the Maldive Islands has some harsh words for the developed nations. Mr. Mohamed Nasheed has told the Sidney MorningHerald in Australia:
''But I think it's really quite necessary for Australians and for every rich country to understand that this is unlike any other thing that's happened before.'' Pres. Mohamed Nasheed
He has warned that the residents of the Maldive Islands which are low lying atolls in the Indian Ocean will be forced to move as the sea levels continue to rise. Already, 14 islands have been abandoned to the rising waters. His small country has established a fund to allow the population to buy land and move en masse to a target country. He named Australia, In…

Sea Shepherd Marks Eight Years Defending Whales in Southern Ocean

By B. McPherson

The Sea shepherd Society’s eighth campaign in the Southern Ocean, Operation Divine Wind, has been dogging the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru.
Operation Divine Wind has three vessels in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary this season – Bob Barker, Steve Irwin and the Brigette Bardot – along with helicopter capability. A new, high tech weapon is being used to good effect as well – a drone.
While the Japanese government maintains that they are not conducting commercial whaling operations and have painted “Research” on the sides of their vessels, many do not believe their stand. Whale meat has found its way to the commercial markets in Japan and offers of help from non-whaling nations to assist in no-kill research have been rebuffed. The whaling fleet has a target of about 1 000 dead whales per year.
The Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been designated a whale sanctuary since 1994. Research is allowed in the area and this loophole is being exploited by the heavily…

Dead Bluefin Tuna Fetches Obscene Amount of Money in Tokyo

By. B. McPherson

It you watch this video from RT television through to the end, you will see the numerous carcasses of these endangered animals at the Tokyo market.

While the number of Bluefin Tuna continue to dwindle in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Japan thumbs its collective nose at conservation efforts. Thursday’s Tsukiji fish market saw the first Bluefin tuna reach a price of 56.49 million Yen (USD $ 736 thousand). With profits like those to be made for catching the endangered species and a strong government lobby to prevent controls on the harvesting of these magnificent creatures, the Bluefin doesn’t stand a chance.
At the 2010 conference in Qatar, the Japanese were accused of sinking any chance of reaching an agreement on limiting fishing.
“Japan's aggressive lobbying operation in the days before the vote will be familiar to veterans of International Whaling Committee meetings, where poor island nations vote with Japan in return for investment in their fishing indu…

Strain of GM Corn Approved by USDA, Agent Orange Resistant Waiting in the Wings

By B. McPherson

While Americans were celebrating the end of 2011 and the beginning of a new year, the USDA quietly approved a new strain of genetically altered corn developed by Monsanto in coordination with the large chemical corporation BASF. According to Monsanto’s press release, the corn will be able to better able resist drought conditions as well as stand up to Roundup and the predations of insects.
“For the 2012 trials, Monsanto plans to have Genuity® VT Triple PRO® and Genuity® VT Double PRO® technology serve as the agronomic trait platform to be used with the drought-tolerant trait. These technologies offer growers excellent insect protection and tolerance to Roundup® agricultural herbicides.” Monsanto Press Release
Corn varieties that have these characteristics are ‘stacked’ in that they have multiple non-corn genes inserted into their DNA.  There is little to no independent research done on the possible synergistic effect of multiple alien genes inserted into an organism th…

All Oil is Dirty Oil

By B. McPherson

There has been much controversy over the proposed Keystone Pipeline project in the US. Environmentalists rightly point out that the route that would take it through the Nebraska Sand Hills would endanger a precious natural resource. While an enclosed pipeline seems like a safe way to transport crude oil to refineries, the solvents used to dilute the thick substance can corrode the metal and cause leaks. The Yellowstone River suffered such a leak this past summer when an ExxonMobil Pipeline sprung a leak releasing about 40 000 barrels into the water. Ref: NY Times
While crude oil or bitumen could be transported by rail tankers, it would be much more expensive than using a pipeline. Currently the US uses about 15 million barrels of oil every day.  Canada is the major supplier of crude oil to the US refineries, supplying 2 324 thousand barrels of crude oil per day in September through existing pipelines, for refining on the Gulf Coast. The demand for petroleum is increasi…

Who Owns Nature’s Genes? How Secure is Your Food Supply?

By B. McPherson

This is the time of year when avid gardeners are pouring over seed catalogues planning for the summer’s bounty. Few people who are not gardeners and farmers are aware of the diminishing variety and number of seed houses. Regulations enacted by the US government now prevent seed suppliers from sending specialty seeds from Canada to the US, further restricting the supply of specialty and heritage seeds.
Some gardeners are dealing with the dwindling varieties by saving seeds from open pollinated(plants that will breed true) varieties and activists have arranged for seed exchange days. There are small companies that offer heritage seeds over the internet. Some of the older seed houses in Canada still cater to the farmer who is planting fields, but the really big industrial farms are increasingly turning to the big seed producing corporations.
These large seed manufacturing corporations have in a few decades come to dominate the commercial seed industry. Monsanto is perhap…

Industrial Farming Strip Mines Agricultural Land

By B. McPherson

                                             Video: The Seven Myths of Industrial Agriculture

One of the things that every person can do to help the environment is to purchase food in a mindful way.   The Union of Concerned Scientists is urging their fellow citizens to take an active interest in how their food is produced. They are urging Americans to participate and show support for a new farm bill that is expected to pass in 2012. There is a proposal to level the field for sustainable farmers who provide food to local markets. Currently, governments of the US and Canada are increasingly favouring industrial farming operations. Subsidies paid to big, monocrop operations disadvantage farmers who maintain mixed, sustainable and organic acreage.
The routine application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, most of which are petroleum based, eventually exhausts the fertility of the soil. Healthy soil is a vibrant mix of microbes, nematodes, earthworms, insec…