Cox Island in the Haida Gwaii’s, with a red ship sailing through the waters at its shore.
This week on Terra Informa, we’ll hear two stories about Haida Gwaii; one about a non-profit working to bring renewable energy to the community and another about the man behind cutting down the sacred Golden Spruce.
Renewable Energy for Remote Communities
If you live in the city, try to think back to the last time you flipped a light switch and nothing turned on. Now, imagine depending on a plane full of diesel to come into town before you get power back on again! If you live in a remote community in Canada today, this is likely the energy system you rely on. For you, moving towards a more local renewable energy system is about more than just climate issues.
In an interview we originally broadcast in 2012, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips speaks to Alia Lamaadar , the former CEO for Cleantech Community Gateway. We’ll learn about Cleantech Community Gateway, a non-profit working to help the communities of Haida Gwaii build a new energy system.
If you were living in British Columbia in 1997, you may remember the story about forest engineer Grant Hadwin and the Kiidk’yaas or Golden Spruce.
It was a rare Sitka spruce tree that grew along the Yakoun River. Its glowing golden needles sparkling against the lush green forest. Regarded as sacred to the Haida Nation, the tree met a tragic and completely surprising fate. Hadwin cut down the Kiidk’yaas in protest against the logging industry.
Hadwin confessed to his horrific act and was summoned to court, but failed to appear. In fact, Hadwin has been missing since February 14, 1997 and is presumed dead. But his story lives on and the symbol of the Golden Spruce has evolved. An award-winning book called The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant has now inspired a documentary film called Hadwin’s Judgement, directed by British filmmaker Sasha Snow.
Natalee Rawat spoke to the two before the film’s debut at Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival.
Today we investigate plans for logging on BC’s Cortes Island and talk to locals who are pushing for more sustainable harvest practices. We also hear from renowned activist, economist, and writer Winona LaDuke, who explains why locally based sustainable development strategies are critical to our future. All the that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines!
The old growth forest of Cortes Island. Photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance.
Winona LaDuke is an aboriginal environmental activist, economist and writer. She has spent her entire career as an outspoken, engaging and unflagging advocate dedicated to issues of food and energy sustainability. After running for U.S vice president as the nominee of the United States Green Party in 1996 and 2000, Winona has continued to espouse her critical perspectives on food and energy consumption and has become a leading proponent on issues of locally based sustainability development strategies. But what will happen if non-sustainable consumption practices continue? Terra Informa correspondent Matt Hirji speaks with Winona LaDuke from her home on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
Logging on Cortes Island
Logging is a major industry in BC, and one that employs a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean it’s without controversy. On Cortes Island, just off the BC coast, residents are raising the alarm over plans by Island Timberlands to log the area. They say that the company’s plans aren’t sustainable and they’ve gathered thousands of signatures calling for a change.
A fire in the Fraser Valley, B.C. region knocked out power to residents in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford this past week. A BC Hydro substation caught fire on Friday morning and the cause is still under investigation- as is the possibility of any lasting environmental impact. The damaged transformer contained one-hundred and fifteen-thousand litres of insulating oil which, according to Environment Minister for BC, Terry Lake, could be a real cause for concern. Emergency environmental response officers are on site assessing any potential contamination of nearby ground water or streams. However, the NDP Critic for Environment, Rob Flemming, voiced further concerns about the release of carcinogens from the oil burning. As of yet, no environmental review has been released.
The Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa is suffering controversy over Imperial Oil’s role in their exhibit entitled “Energy: Power to Choose.” The Imperial Oil foundation contributed $600,000 to the exhibit, which opened last year. Imperial’s involvement in the exhibit stirred controversy from its outset, with groups like the Sierra Club of Canada complaining that the foundation’s involvement would call into question the integrity of the exhibit. Emails recently obtained by the CBC reveal that Imperial was indeed making requests to change the “overall tone” of the exhibit.
Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the beginning of discussions to re-introduce bison to Banff National Park. It has been over a century since plains bison roamed the area freely, and Kent hopes to reconnect the species with the habitat where it had previously ranged for thousands of years. Concerns have already been raised about the bison roaming into the town proper or onto the highway, but Kent seemed assured that the dangers would be successfully mitigated by the Parks Service. Resource Conservation Manager, Bill Hunt, said that the bison herds would be managed much the same way as elk are already managed in the National Park, and that precautions will be taken as the size of the herd expands. Don’t expect to see the plains bison roaming the park any time soon, though. Parks Canada is planning an extensive consultation process which could take several years to complete.
Documents obtained by Greenpeace Canada and the Climate Action Network reveal the federal government’s ‘allies’ and ‘adversaries’ in its bid to promote Alberta’s oilsands. The documents list the biodiesel industry, as well as Aboriginal and environmental groups to be adversaries, while energy companies, the National Energy Board, Environment Canada, and business and industry associations are considered allies. The document is a part of a strategy by the federal government to improve Canada’s image in Europe, in response to campaigns by European NGO’s, that the federal government feels “[frame] the issue in a strongly negative light.”
On Friday, January 27 First Nations from Alberta and the Northwest Territories signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline as well as the supertanker traffic it would bring to BC’s coast. The formal legal declaration bans tar sands pipelines in the Fraser watershed, and on the north and south coasts of British Columbia. The declaration protects the world’s most critical salmon rivers, and the Pacific North Coast, from the threat of oil spills posed by the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline and supertankers.