Tuesday, 24 March 2020

EcoSask News, March 24, 2020

duck

Local News
The Restoring 71 Project near Saskatoon is keeping its trails open for private or semi-private self-guided wanders. Book on Facebook.

Wascana Centre will be posting a nature-based activity every Monday on Facebook.

Online Resources 
Six ways to protect and enjoy nature without leaving the house.

Passive House Canada has speeded up development of its online courses. Understanding and Working with the Passive House Planning Package will start March 27 with further online courses in April.

Between the Covers 
14 community-minded books: from Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of Disasters to A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster.

Emergence Magazine, a quarterly online publication with an annual print edition, explores the timeless connections between ecology, culture, and spirituality through the radical act of sharing stories during dark times.

duck

From Information to Action
Coronavirus stimulus plans are an opportunity for bold climate action.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic is past, societies may adopt some important measures that would lower emissions, from more teleconferencing to shortening global supply chains. But the most lasting lesson may be what the coronavirus teaches us about the urgency of taking swift action.”

“School districts are one of the biggest land managers in the country, and yet they often don’t see land management as their role,” says Sharon Danks, CEO and founder of Green Schoolyards America. “If we want to make sure that every child has a chance to grow up in touch with the natural world, we can democratize access to nature by bringing it to the places where it is most needed and will be used and enjoyed on a daily basis.” Find out more about the organization’s work in a two-part interview with Sharon (Part 1, Part 2).

“The science has caught up with beavers and the consensus is clear: these animals are a powerful partner in protecting ecosystem and human health. We can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to all that we destroy when we kill beavers. Where there are fewer beavers, there is less resilience, less diversity and most notably, less water.”

A volunteer army led by a local taxi driver scours the streets of Kaikoura, New Zealand, in the middle of the night to save endangered birds.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Sunday, 22 March 2020

One Hour for Nature

Notre Dame, Montreal

Since 2007, people around the world have been turning out their lights for nature on March 28 from 8:30-9:30 pm. Why not go one step further and spend that hour protecting and supporting the natural environment?

1. Are you concerned about light pollution, pedestrian safety, the lack of organic recycling options? Write a letter to City Council or your local Councillor outlining your concerns (Lloydminster, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Yorkton).

2. Make a donation to a local nature or environmental organization.

3. Pick up litter around your neighbourhood.

4. Look for and eliminate phantom energy sources in your home.

5. Sit down as a family and share stories about your favorite experiences in nature.

6. Make a wildflower seed bomb or plant some herb or lettuce seeds indoors.

7. Go for a walk away from street lights to count the stars and identify the constellations.

8. Prepare an eco-friendly meal together as a family.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Finding the Wild in the City

Red-winged blackbird

Evolution of Urban Parks
Urban parks systems play a critical role in achieving the objectives of the following public sectors: Culture; recreation; community development; heritage; economic development; health and wellness; natural environment; education; and transportation.”

Richard Louv coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the problems that arise when humans lose contact with nature. Louv says that nature awakens our senses, improving our memory, attention span, and productivity. It can relieve depression and improve physical and psychological well-being. It brings families and communities together.

Over 64% of Saskatchewan residents live in cities. As a result, there is a growing need to provide urban residents with opportunities to experience nature within city limits. There is a parallel need to protect the natural world, which is under increasing pressure with rapidly declining populations of plants, insects, birds, mammals, and other wildlife. Urban parks play an important role in addressing both these needs.

Recreation versus Nature
Structured recreation, including organized sport, is often synonymous with the image of North American parks.”

The first urban parks, built between 1805 and 1900, were large natural areas on the outskirts of cities and were designed to provide a safe, pastoral landscape. Over time, parks moved into urban residential areas with an increased emphasis on recreation and social integration. There was less emphasis on nature: a stadium with a parking lot or a plaza could be described as a park.

Nowadays, municipal planners strive to address multiple, often competing, purposes when planning urban parks by attempting to provide ball fields and soccer courts as well as nature trails and forested areas.

The City of Saskatoon’s website states that approximately 12% of the city's parks landscape inventory is managed as a naturalized area, whose purpose is to “diversify and enhance the landscape leading to increased biodiversity in Saskatoon as well as provide an urban refuge for various forms of life.” 

These naturalized areas are increasingly popular with city dwellers who come to parks to relax, enjoy the bird song, or delight in the sight of a beaver beside the river. A recent report studied how people connected with nature and found that 95% of the most meaningful experiences involved “wildness” – e.g. following a nature trail or spotting wildlife. Wilder urban areas benefit wildlife and native plants as well, providing nesting areas for waterfowl and other birds as well as pollen for bees and other insects.

Problems arise, however, when municipalities, in an effort to provide all things to all people, cram multiple different activities into designated park areas. Saskatoon’s Lakewood Park is a perfect example of this dilemma.

red-winged blackbird (female)

Saskatoon’s Lakewood Park
“Since 2012, 106 species of birds have been observed at Lakewood Park.”

Saskatoon’s Lakewood Park is a busy place. It contains a skateboard park, ball diamonds, soccer pitch, and BMX course in addition to the civic leisure centre and tennis dome.

As Saskatoon’s first naturalized park, it is also home to naturalized wastewater retention ponds and tall grass areas. A knowledgeable local birder says that “Lakewood Park, with a mix of ponds, marsh, tall grass, shrubs, and trees provides varied habitat supporting breeding and migratory birds. Since 2012, 106 species of birds have been observed at Lakewood Park by local naturalists.” The Saskatoon Nature Society frequently organizes bird walks in the park.

The future of this small slice of urban wilderness appears threatened by plans to enlarge the BMX track. The expanded track will run very close to the wetland areas and there will be expanded seating. Both noise and light pollution will increase. All these factors will affect not only the local bird population but also residents who come to the park to relax and enjoy nature.

Moira Moser, Naturalized Parks Supervisor, City of Saskatoon, says that the impact on the wildlife in the park has been considered, that construction will take place outside of breeding season, and that any trees or shrubs that need to be removed will be replaced.

But is that good enough? Are the demands of active recreation users outweighing the needs of residents who desire a wilderness experience, even in the heart of the city? And has there been adequate consultation? One local resident was particularly concerned about the limited information and feedback opportunities provided in her neighbourhood.

If you are eager to protect and expand the naturalized areas in the heart of your community, write a letter to your City Council or Councillor (Lloydminster, Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Prince Albert, Regina, Saskatoon, Swift Current, Yorkton).

Notes 
Information about Lakewood Park was provided by Moira Moser, Natural Parks Supervisor, City of Saskatoon.

Information about the birds in Lakewood Park was provided by John Patterson, Saskatoon Nature Society.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

EcoSask News, March 17, 2020

willow trees

“We need to turn to Mama Nature for shelter and peace. . . . What can we find there? Look to the sky...it is spring after all. Look for newly arrived birds. Look for new budding plants. Look for the tiny insect life. . . . Feel the breeze, sniff the air, feel the smooth bark of a sapling, the rough bark of mature trees.” (Dr. Joseph Conrad via Elva’s Field Notes)

Upcoming Events
Due to Covid-19, many events are being cancelled. To avoid confusion, we have removed all events from our Calendar for March and will continue to monitor the situation. Check directly with organizations to see what events they’re continuing to hold.

A great resource at this time are the nature/environmental radio programs in Regina and Saskatoon. You can catch past episodes of The Prairie Naturalist or listen to From the Ground Up (6:30-7 pm, Thursdays).

Another excellent resource is the Native Prairie Speaker Series. You can find past episodes on SK PCAP’s YouTube channel.

In Saskatchewan
Youth in Regina have just released a report: Youth Perspectives on Regina’s Energy Future. You can lend your support to the youth’s sustainability recommendations by writing to Regina City Council.

Plans are underway for the SES Solar Co-op’s seventh and largest project. The Solar Co-op has partnered with CNH Industrial for the installation of approximately 375 kilowatts or 1200 solar panels on their property in Saskatoon. A limited number of shares are now available.

trees flowering

From Information to Action
Yard lists remain an understated and unsung birding pleasure” – and they’re perfect for a period of social distancing.

“The recovery of bald eagles is one of the most incredible conservation success stories ever told . . . . Solving that issue – far more complex than it first appears – can still provide a map to dealing with our biggest crises.”

Miistakis Institute, in collaboration with the City of Edmonton, has published a series of resources and case studies on using ecoroofs in cities to improve stormwater management, regulate building temperatures, reduce urban heat island effects, improve air quality, and increase urban wildlife habitat and biodiversity.

“Stone,” says architect Amin Taha, “is the great forgotten material of our time. In 99% of cases, it’s cheaper and greener to use stone in a structural way, as opposed to concrete or steel.”

If you are planning to start a Library of Things, using the existing infrastructure of a local library can help you save time and money.

Keystone species fill a critical role in their environment that cannot be occupied by any other species.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Tuesday, 10 March 2020

EcoSask News, March 10, 2020

butterfly on flower

Upcoming Events 
Reducing Oil & Gas Sector Emissions, Mar. 10 (Regina) 
There will be a panel discussion on reducing GHG emissions in the oil and gas sector from 1:30-3 pm, Mar. 10, in Regina (video connection in Saskatoon).

Grasslands & Breeding Birds, Mar. 16 (Regina) 
Join Nature Regina for a screening of Guardians of the Grasslands and an update on the SK Breeding Bird Atlas project from 7:30-9 pm, Mar. 16.

Learn to Camp, Mar. 16 (Saskatoon) 
Parks Canada will provide an introduction to basic camping skills from 6:30-8:30 pm, Mar. 16.

Prairie’s Got the Goods Week, Mar. 16-20 (webinars) 
Saskatchewan’s Prairie Conservation Action Plan has organized a full schedule of activities from Mar. 16-20 for Prairie’s Got the Goods Week. These include noon-hour webinars on the role of prairie lakes, wetlands, or dugouts as carbon sources or sinks on Mar. 17 and on the value of bees on Mar. 18.

Beyond Climate, Mar. 17 (Regina) 
Attend a screening of Beyond Climate followed by a climate café from 7-9:30 pm, Mar. 17.

Genetic Diversity & Food Security, Mar. 17 (Saskatoon) 
Dr. Axel Diederichsen and Cathy Holtslander will discuss cultivating genetic diversity for food security at 7 pm, Mar. 17, as part of the Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s Sustainable Speaker Series.

Natural Places, Mar. 19 (Saskatoon) 
Enjoy great photographs and discover new places to explore at Saskatoon Nature Society’s members’ film night at 7:30 pm, Mar. 19.

Prairie Butterflies, Mar. 20 (webinar) 
There will be a webinar on prairie butterflies at risk at noon, Mar. 20.

clearwing butterfly

Looking Ahead
Beginner Bird Id, Mar. 26 (Saskatoon) 
Learn the basics of bird identification and the major bird families from 7-9 pm, Mar. 26, in Saskatoon.

Waste ReForum, Apr. 1-3 (Regina) 
Waste ReForum, to be held Apr. 1-3 in Regina, will consider how waste reduction will change going forward—from robotics to circular processes.

Repair Cafés
Three communities are holding repair cafés in the next two weeks:
Mar. 15, 12-2 pm - Repair Café - Moose Jaw
Mar. 21, 1-4 pm - Get Ready for Spring - Repair Café Prince Albert
Mar. 21, 10 am- 4 pm - Repair Café Swift Current

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Mar. 15, 2-3:30 pm – City Park Bird Walk
Mar. 22, 2-3:30 pm – Montgomery Place Bird Walk
Mar. 28, 9 am-2 pm – Bluebird Trip
Everyone is welcome. Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In Saskatchewan
The information boards from the Feb. 26 Saskatoon Freeway come-and-go event are now available online as is a survey to provide feedback (before Mar. 13).

Women in conservation: Sarah Schmid, CPAWS-SK

Banded Peacock butterfly

From Information to Action
“Ending sprawl is a tough conversation. . . . It challenges a lot of entrenched interests and requires a new vision of what a home looks like, as well as a new vision of what development jobs can be. But we really have no choice if we want our kids to have a fighting chance at a livable future.”

The Congestion Con – a report on why more lanes and more money equals more traffic.

Four cheap (boring) transportation solutions that really work.

Two solutions for preventing insect decline: 1. Shield, dim, or turn off lights 2. Give them space.

The glut of cheap natural gas from fracking has sparked an explosion in new plastics infrastructure. “The environmental cost to society of consumer plastic products and packaging was over $139 billion in 2015. . . . Without a dramatic change in course . . . that annual figure will soar to $209 billion by 2025.”

A new publication, Ecological Solutions and Evidence, is designed “to encourage sharing of work, lessons learned, and research between practitioners and scientists.” 

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).

Saturday, 7 March 2020

Hunting within Saskatoon City Limits

Deer

Hunting within Saskatoon city limits – how can that be acceptable? Will we need to put on neon orange safety vests before going for a walk in the Northeast Swale or the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? Weren’t these natural areas intended to protect urban wildlife and to provide a space where school groups, bird watchers, and nature lovers could enjoy being out of doors?

There is a loophole in the City of Saskatoon’s bylaws that permits hunting in parts of the city that do not have park status. You must request permission, but that has been granted for hunting with bows and arrows in George Genereux Urban Regional Park. To fire a rifle, you must be over 500 metres from the nearest building, but there are parts of the city where that would be the case. [Happily, hunting is prohibited if you post No Hunting signs and this is now the case in the afforestation areas.]

Unlike Saskatoon, the City of Regina has a bylaw prohibiting the discharge of a firearm in the city, while outlining a number of exceptions, such as wildlife control by an authorized individual.

Julia Adamson, Friends of Saskatoon Afforestation Areas Inc., brought the issue of hunting within city limits to public attention and will be speaking on the subject at the 9 am, March 9, meeting of the City of Saskatoon’s Standing Policy Committee on Planning, Development and Community Services.

If you share Julia's concerns, you are encouraged to write a letter or request to speak at the Committee meeting. Online letters and requests must be received by 8 am on the day of the meeting.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Clean Energy with Hydrogen?

cloud at sunset

The Tokyo Summer Olympics have been designed to showcase hydrogen as part of a clean energy future. The Olympic flame will be powered by hydrogen and 100 hydrogen-fuelled buses as well as 500 cars with hydrogen fuel cells will service the event.

In Europe, 13 countries and 31 regions have joined the European Hydrogen Valleys Partnership to support the development of fuel cell hydrogen projects. China has been rapidly increasing production of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and has started introducing hydrogen-powered buses. Japan has started using hydrogen fuel cells as a residential energy source.

As countries around the world explore opportunities to exploit hydrogen as a clean energy carrier, let’s take a look at what is involved.

Grey, Green, and Blue
Hydrogen is relatively cheap and easy to produce in a number of different ways. At the moment, the majority is produced from natural gas, which generates significant carbon emissions. This is known as grey hydrogen as it continues to rely on fossil fuels.

Blue hydrogen is considered cleaner as it employs carbon capture to store or reuse the CO2 emissions. However, carbon capture has had mixed results to date and is technically unproven on a large scale.

The cleanest of all, although by far the least common, is green hydrogen, which is produced from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Heavy Industry
Hydrogen is currently being used on-site by industry, particularly for the production of the ammonia in nitrogen fertilizer and in oil refining where it’s added to heavier oil for transport fuel production.

Expanded use of hydrogen by fertilizer and petrochemical industries could help develop a business case for further development of hydrogen’s role in producing green energy. “In the highly cost-focused heavy industry, the requirement is thus for a cheap power source with a high capacity factor – typically baseload production at or below spot market prices. This could come from hydro power plants” or offshore wind.

clouds

Transportation
There has been some experience with hydrogen fuel cells for powering cars and larger vehicles. “A fuel cell is an electrochemical power generation device that combines hydrogen fuel, with oxygen from air, to produce electricity, with water and heat as the only by-products.”

British Columbia is a world leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology. The province currently has 2 fuelling stations with plans for 4 more by the end of 2020.

Various projects are underway in Europe, including hydrogen boats, buses, tractors, and bicycles. Communities are experimenting with hybrid buses combining hydrogen fuel cells and batteries/capacitors. “All the energy required for the bus to operate is provided by hydrogen stored on board. Hydrogen offers higher energy density compared to electrical storage systems such as batteries, this enables a longer range compared to systems where the batteries are used as stores of energy.”

Long-Term Plans
In the short term, British Columbia plans to take advantage of the province’s natural gas industry to produce blue hydrogen. “The longer-term goal is to use B.C.’s abundant water and electricity to produce ‘green hydrogen’ through electrolysis for export, mainly to Asia, where the biggest market is.”

Japan has plans to ship hydrogen produced from brown coal via carbon capture in Australia to Japan where they hope to develop a nation-wide network of filling stations. “Get it right and hydrogen offers a way to fully decarbonise Japan’s transport sector, using fuel from a reliable strategic ally, while providing the automotive industry with a fresh source of competitive advantage over international rivals. The only problem is that this visionary infrastructure does not yet exist.”

clouds

The Benefits and Disadvantages of Hydrogen Energy
Energy from hydrogen has the potential to improve air quality and increase energy security. Using hydrogen to store large quantities of electricity from wind and solar appears promising and could address concerns about peaks and lows in renewable energy production. Hydrogen could also help to decarbonize sectors such as heavy industry, long-haul transport, chemicals, iron, and steel, which have found it difficult to reduce carbon emissions.

There are, however, a number of disadvantages to using hydrogen in green energy production.

Green hydrogen produced through electrolysis from excess electricity has the potential to be an effective way of storing excess electricity. However, this isn’t feasible until there is sufficient renewable energy to make a green hydrogen plant cost-effective.

Although hydrogen pipeline systems are already in place in some regions, that is not the case world-wide and changes to the current infrastructure could be expensive. Hydrogen’s low density increases transportation costs and experience with hydrogen refuelling stations has been mixed with serious incidents at stations in Norway, South Korea, and California.

Hydrogen cannot always compete with other energy sources on the basis of energy efficiency. “For example, hydrogen boilers for residential heating and hydrogen fuel cell cars are considerably less energy efficient than their electricity based competitors such as heat pumps and electric vehicles.”

Hydrogen has limited applicability in combustion technologies. Many see hydrogen as an intermediary in Power-to-X type of technologies where the hydrogen is further synthesized to generate carbon-neutral synthetic methane, which can be used as a direct replacement for fossil natural gas.

See Also
Geothermal Energy in Saskatchewan
Energy-Saving Options in Europe
The Transition to Renewable Energy in Saskatchewan
The Future of Renewable Energy in Indigenous and Remote Communities
Renewable Energy Success Stories from Indigenous and Remote Communities in Alaska
Wind Energy in Saskatchewan: Opportunities and Challenges
First Nations Power Authority
Saskatoon Solar Power Co-operative

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

EcoSask News, March 3, 2020

pelican mural

Upcoming Events
Winter by the Lake, Mar. 7 (Anglin Lake) 
Enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Anglin Lake from 1-4 pm, Mar. 7.

Spring Babies, Mar. 7 (Regina) 
Find out about the spring baby boom and what you should do if you find a small wild animal at 2:30 pm, Mar. 7, at the Prince of Wales branch library.

Bluebird Housing, Mar. 8 (Moose Jaw)
Help Moose Jaw Nature Society build bluebird houses for Buffalo Pound Provincial Park from 2-5 pm, Mar. 8.

Climate Change & Water, Mar. 12 (Saskatoon) 
John Pomeroy will discuss the impact of climate change on water in Western Canada at the 7 pm, Mar. 12 session of Tox on Tap.

Beginner Bird Id, Mar. 14 (Regina) 
Learn the basics of bird identification from 2-4 pm, Mar. 14.

Winter Escape, Mar. 14 (Sask Landing)
Enjoy snowshoeing and quinzee building from 1-4 pm, Mar. 14, at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park.

Academics for Climate, March 12, 19, 25 (Regina) 
Academics for Climate – Regina Chapter is offering the following talks in March:
Mar. 12, 7-9 pmU of R geothermal energy project
Mar. 19, 7-9 pmEvidence supporting human-induced climate change
Mar. 25, 7-9 pmTransformative technologies for rapid decarbonisation

Great horned owl silhouette

Looking Ahead
Intermediate Bird Id, Mar. 21 & 28 (Regina) 
Learn to identify birds in the Regina area from 12:30-4 pm, Mar. 21 and 28.

Intermediate Bird Id, Apr. 1, 8, 15, 22 (Saskatoon)
Use your bird book to identify common breeding birds in the Saskatoon area from 7-9 pm, Apr. 1, 8, 15, and 22.

Wildlife Rehab Training, Apr. 4/5 (Saskatoon) 
An introductory wildlife rehab training course is being offered in Saskatoon on Apr. 4 and 5.

A full list of upcoming events can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

In Saskatchewan
Plans are underway to expand the Globe BMX track in Saskatoon’s Lakeview Park. Concerns have been raised about a lack of public consultation and about reconciling the concept of a naturalized park containing native plants, wildlife, and wetlands with increased recreational activity, which will take up more space and bring in more people. Contact EcoFriendly Sask for more information and to be put in touch with other concerned residents.

Turning waste into reusable plastic – that’s the goal of EDY Community Development Co-operative in Coronach and Wave of the Future 3D in Saskatoon.

Members of Regina’s Cathedral Area community shared their knowledge and ideas around sustainability on Saturday.

This fall, Canadian high school students from coast-to-coast (including the Winston Knoll Environmental Club, Regina) came together online to discuss biodiversity and presented a report expressing their concerns to the United Nations, Oceanwise, UNESCO, and Centre for Global Education in February.

longing

From Information to Action
“As wildlife numbers drop and a million wild species risk vanishing forever, our pet animals accelerate the losses while more than doubling their own numbers in the last half century.” What steps can be taken to harness our love of pets?

Volunteer park rangers support the greening of London, UK, a designated National Park City, by getting local communities involved in their urban natures. The values and principles of conservation, protection and heritage of national parks are being applied to the city.

Young people ages 18-30 with an interest in politics and the environment are invited to apply by March 31 for a paid parliamentary internship with GreenPAC.

Playing for Time: Making Art as if the World Mattered: “Reconnection with nature is not a moment of magic. . . . . It’s more of a life practice – dedicated acts of imagination, creative thought, and actions, that persist through time.” [book review]

A free garden planner app includes personalized planting dates, companion planting guide, health benefits, organic pest treatments, beneficial insects, and recipes.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. 

You can follow EcoFriendly Sask by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or by email (top right corner).