Tuesday, 11 August 2020

EcoSask News, August 11, 2020

Purple Prairie Clover

Upcoming Events
Native Plant Gardens, Aug. 15 (Regina) 
Families can learn about native plants and participate in a flower scavenger hunt on a visit to several of Regina’s native plant gardens from 10 am-12 pm, Aug. 15. RSVP to Nature Regina to confirm participation.

WUQWATR AGM, Aug. 27 (online & Lumsden) 
WUQWATR is holding its annual general meeting at 3:30 pm, Aug. 27. Members are encouraged to participate virtually due to limited space for in-person attendance in Lumsden. RSVP to Kirsten Colvin at 306-946-6533 or info@wuqwatr.ca

50th Anniversary Picnic, Aug. 30 (Saskatoon) 
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society will be celebrating its 50th anniversary with a riverside picnic from 12:30-2 pm, Aug. 30. Registration is required as participation is limited to 30 people.

Looking Ahead
Standard Wilderness First Aid Recertification, Oct. 17 (Regina) 
SaskOutdoors is offering a standard wilderness first aid recertification course from 8 am-6 pm, Oct. 17, in Regina.

Wilderness First Aid, Oct. 23-25 (Lumsden) 
SaskOutdoors is offering a 20-hour basic wilderness first aid course in Lumsden from Oct. 23-25.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Local News
Saskatoon’s Compost Coaches are back in business answering inquiries and offering online workshops.

The City of Saskatoon is proposing an energy loan program and would like residents’ input on priorities and potential concerns. Respond to the public survey by Friday, Aug. 14.

Proponents of coal-fired carbon capture projects "are selling an unproven dream that in all likelihood will become a nightmare for unsuspecting investors

The Bobolink combines its musical voice with that of the Frenchman River. [audio]

Mourning Cloak butterfly

From Information to Action
Wilfred Buck “has helped inspire a new generation of Indigenous astronomy leaders—not just among elementary and high-school educators but also in university departments across North America.” There are plans to hold an international Indigenous star conference in Canada in 2021.

China Goes Green: Coercive Environmentalism for a Troubled Planet by Yifei Li and Judith Shapiro is “a nuanced account of what China has done so far, and what lessons the world can learn from the authoritarian tone of environmentalism in China.” [book review]

The cliff-face front grille on trucks was deliberately designed to create an angry, aggressive face that will intimidate pedestrians – and it’s deadly

Bioplastic - there are limits to its usefulness. [infographic]

A new lithium-ion battery storage facility in Alberta has been designed to store energy from a nearby wind farm and discharge it when needed.

Nature’s Wonders 
Communal latrines keep river otters “up to date on who is around, how they are feeling, and who’s ready to have babies.”

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). 

Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

EcoSask News, August 4, 2020


Upcoming Events
Outdoor Adventures (Regina)
Nature Regina has begun rescheduling field trips, keeping it safe through masking, physically distancing, and hand sanitizing.

Outdoor Observations, Aug. 13 & 27 (Regina)
The Saskatchewan Science Centre’s day camps are back in operation. 3-12 year olds are invited to join them from 9 am-4 pm, Aug. 13, to learn about science outdoors. A second camp will be held from 9 am-4 pm, Aug. 27.

Looking Ahead
Net Zero Conference, Sept. 15-16 (online)
The Net Zero Conference & Expo, to be held online Sept. 15-16, bills itself as a hub for thought leaders and industry-shapers in climate, carbon, energy, water, waste, and transit.

Wilderness First Aid, Sept. 19-20 (Meadow Lake)
SaskOutdoors is offering a 20-hour basic wilderness first aid course on Sept. 19-20 in Meadow Lake Provincial Park.

Canoe Certification, Sept. 19-20 (Lumsden Beach)
SaskOutdoors is offering a Paddle Canada Lake Canoe Skills (flat water) Certification Course on Sept. 19-20 at Lumsden Beach.

Saskatoon Nature Society
Saskatoon Young Naturalists
Sept. 19, 9:30 am-1:30 pm – Sandhill Cranes Field Trip
Oct. 2, 7-10 pm (tentative date) – Northern Saw-whet Owl Field Trip
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar 

Purple Prairie Clover

Local News
National Farmers Union: “The question is not whether irrigation expansion is good or bad, but rather how best to responsibly expand irrigation and how best to spend billions of dollars so that farmers and all citizens receive maximum benefit.”

Saskatchewan Environmental Society says government should do its homework before committing a massive amount of money to an irrigation project that will put the environment at risk

Nature-based art therapy: an interview with Saskatoon’s Emily Hammer.

Meet the people saving Canada’s native grasslands.

From Information to Action
“There aren’t enough batteries to electrify all cars – focus on trucks and buses instead”

A safe street is not one where safety is determined by how fast someone can comfortably drive, but rather one where a person can comfortably walk, ride a bike, and cross the street using a wheelchair."

“The less government policy does, the more we, as citizens have to do on our own. With climate change, the burden of action has fallen, unevenly, to individuals. This, when simple mechanisms such as a price on carbon, better public transit, and the incentivizing of deep home retrofits and EV purchases would dramatically reduce consumer burden, and mental fatigue.”

Redesigning democracy for future generations: “Especially in wealthy nations, we treat it [the future] as a dumping ground for ecological degradation, technological risk and nuclear waste – as if there is nobody there.”

Conservation easements on private land could make all the difference in protecting endangered species.

Ruddy Turnstone (non-breeding) ?>

Nature’s Wonders
BirdNote – for bird lovers of all ages – short videos (under 2 minutes), photos, bird calls, and educational resources. Did you know that the Ruddy Turnstone really can turn stones?

“It is crucial that we learn to appreciate parasites . . . . Without them, there are no healthy ecosystems.”

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). 

Check out EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 28, 2020

Mallard pair

Upcoming Events
Household Hazardous Waste, Aug. 9 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste at City of Saskatoon’s Civic Operations Centre from 9 am-3:30 pm, Aug. 9.

Photo Walk, Aug. 11 (Saskatoon)
Branimir Gjetvaj will be leading a nature-themed photo walk for the Saskatoon Camera Club from 6:30-9:30 pm, Aug. 11.

One School One Farm, Aug. 13 (Saskatoon) 
One School One Farm (OSOF) is holding its annual general meeting from 5-8 pm, Aug. 13, on an acreage just outside of Saskatoon. If you are interested in becoming active in OSOF, email for details. The pilot project is continuing with online/virtual farm visits. Teachers are invited to contact OSOF if they will be able to hold a field trip this fall.

Looking Ahead
Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet, Sept. 19-20 (Last Mountain) 
Nature Saskatchewan will be holding its Fall Meet from Sept. 19-20 at Last Mountain Bird Observatory.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

Local News
Women living near natural gas and oil wells that use flaring to burn off excess gas face a 50% greater risk of premature birth than women with no exposure

Saskatchewan has much to learn from Alberta and Manitoba in developing a wetlands drainage policy

Donations to help feed over 20 birds of prey at Salthaven West wildlife rehabilitation centre, Regina, would be greatly appreciated

While woodland caribou have evolved to live with forests disturbed by wildfire, they haven't fared well in forests disturbed by people

Mallard pair

From Information to Action
“When countries put a price on carbon, their national emissions from fuel combustion grow at a rate 2 percentage points less than that of countries without a carbon price”

Calculating carbon emissions from our homes and buildings must include “emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation, construction, and end-of-life phases of building materials, systems, and assemblies”

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – why recycling isn’t enough [infographic]

Adopting a nuanced approach when considering plants and animals that are relocating due to climate change

A hydrogen blending project in Fort Saskatchewan will lower the carbon intensity of the residential natural gas distribution network

“To my fellow white Zero Waste-ers, if your environmentalism is not intersectional, you’re not an environmentalist

Nature’s Wonders
How do birds migrate thousands of miles every year without getting lost? 3 possible explanations involving a magnetic field

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). 

Download EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Environmental History: Placing Human History within its Natural Environment

“I’ve always had an underlying interest in the environment,” says Justin Fisher, “but I thought of environmental issues as being science-based and technical and I’m more on the humanities side.” Justin’s perspective shifted when he moved to the United Kingdom to work on his Master’s and took a course in environmental history. “Environmental history is about how we understand ourselves in relation to the environment,” Justin says. “It helped me realize that people with an interest in history, research, and writing could contribute to the environmental movement and I looked for more ways to get involved when I moved back to Saskatoon.”

Environmental history focuses on the interrelationships between humans and nature. It’s a two-way relationship with human actions impacting the environment while also being shaped by it. “At its best,” Justin says, “I think it actually forces us to break down the fundamental distinction between humans and nature." The study of environmental history emerged from the environmental movement in the United States in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Issues such as rampant pesticide use and the green revolution started to affect how some historians were thinking about people and the environment and represented an attempt to push back against the common belief of a linear progression in human history. “It’s a growing discipline with sub-fields and interdisciplinary work and also lots of young scholars,” Justin says. “I also know I’m not alone in continuing on this path because of twin interests in academics and activism.”

Environmental history is a strong point of the University of Saskatchewan’s History Department these days. Professor Andrew Watson is exploring histories of energy, agriculture, and sustainability, while Geoff Cunfer specializes in the sustainability of land use on the Great Plains, and Jim Clifford is looking at the intersections between environmental, social, and political history, with a particular focus on industrialization.

Justin’s academic interest in energy history, an emerging sub-field of environmental history, has been informed by his involvement in several fossil fuel divestment campaigns and he is an active member of Climate Justice Saskatoon. In 2017, Climate Justice Saskatoon undertook a major project to investigate the future of coal in Saskatchewan. They visited the mining communities of Estevan and Coronach where they held interviews and workshops with coal and service industry workers, union representatives, town administrators, and farmers. Their goal was to build bridges between urban environmental groups and coal-producing communities in Saskatchewan. The full report is available online.

Justin realized that fossil fuel production was an important part of these mining communities' identities. “Transitioning may feel like a threat to their history,” he explains. “How can we discuss transitioning to renewable energy while respecting that history?” Justin will be exploring this topic more deeply as he begins work on his PhD research into the history of fossil fuels in Saskatchewan.

“The transition to fossil fuel dominance was relatively rapid,” Justin says. “From the ‘60s onwards, it has become the province’s predominant industry. I want to look at how that has affected not only the environment but also labour, land use, and governance. I’m interested in the ‘energy crisis’ period in the ‘70s and ‘80s when energy prices rose and there was a lot of research into alternate energy sources and energy efficiency. Why didn’t it translate into action? What can we learn from that experience as we try to expand our use of renewable energy?”

Justin will be exploring the topic through the lens of a just transition. “Fossil fuel extraction and use has had a diverse and uneven impact. There are costs and benefits that get distributed within society,” Justin says. “There are important questions to ask. How have fossil fuels factored into rural depopulation and urbanization? The provincial government is largely funded by fossil fuel interests. How does that affect how the province has been run over the last few decades?”

Justin represents new scholars on the executive committee of NiCHE, the Network in Canadian History & Environment, a group of scholars and researchers who are trying to make their work more accessible and relevant to the general public. Their website includes a blog and podcast and delves into a wide variety of topics ranging from an article on black birds, black lives, and the unfinished work of queer ecologies to second homes during a time of crisis.

If you are interested in becoming involved in the environmental movement in Saskatoon, Justin encourages you to check out existing groups such as Climate Justice Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Youth Climate Committee, the Saskatchewan Environmental Society, and/or The Stand - Community Organizing Centre.

Reading List
Justin suggests the following books may be of interest to local environmentalists:

Wet Prairie: People, Land, and Water in Agricultural Manitoba, Shannon Stunden Bower (2011)

States of Nature: Conserving Canada's Wildlife in the Twentieth Century, Tina Loo (2006)

Forest Prairie Edge: Place History in Saskatchewan, Merle Massie (2014)

Inventing Stanley Park: An Environmental History, Sean Kheraj (2013)

The War on Weeds in the Prairie West: An Environmental History, Clinton L. Evans (2002)

Photo Credit
Mine tour in Coronach, Rachel Malena-Chan

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

Tuesday, 21 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 21, 2020


Upcoming Events
Logging in the Boreal Forest, July 23 (webinar) 
The results of a recent report on the challenges industrial logging in the boreal forest poses for Canada's climate change commitments is scheduled for 11 am-noon (SK time), July 23.

Scavenger Hunt, July 27 (Yorkton) 
4-12 year olds are invited to participate in a nature walk scavenger hunt hosted by the Yorkton Flyway Birding Trail Association from 2-3:30 pm, July 27. Register by phoning the Yorkton Public Library at (306) 783-3523.

Pronghorn Conservation, July 27 (webinar)
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada – Alberta for a webinar about Pronghorn Xing at 12 noon, July 27.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

Local News
The University of Saskatchewan has launched a Master of Energy Security program aimed at professionals and community members who are interested in a part-time, online program. Application deadline is July 31

The Moose Jaw River Watershed Stewards has received a $45,000 grant to establish a food farm and pollinator garden at Prince Arthur School

Proposed upgrades to Little Red River Park in Prince Albert include Indigenous ceremonial grounds, an outdoor environmental centre, and a pilot project for low-impact camping

The SK government is failing to consider the hidden costs and long-term consequences of a large-scale irrigation project at Lake Diefenbaker

Prairie dog

Prairie dogs are ecological heroes, helping to conserve and manage grassland biodiversity

Reforestation project in the Canora area will act as an important green buffer and wildlife corridor

Nature Saskatchewan responds to social distancing with nature journals, bingo cards, and virtual tours

The Northeast Swale Watchers have resigned from the committee planning the Saskatoon Freeway: “Although we continue to believe that we have much to contribute to this discussion, it has become clear that our concerns are being ignored within this process”

From Information to Action
Understanding which birds are most likely to collide with buildings – migrants, insect-eaters, woodland species – we are better equipped to prevent it happening

10 suggestions for being an ally of Indigenous-led conservation

A growing number of PEI potato farmers are planting small plots of pollinator-friendly flowers and other plants in less productive parts of their fields

The future of Libraries of Things includes self-serve, tech-driven options with municipal support

Triodoos, an ethical banking group, has designed its new office building to be not only energy positive but also fully reconstructible

Andean condor

That’s Amazing!
Some deep-sea fish camouflage themselves by absorbing up to 99.956 percent of the light that hits them. Some even have ultra-black gut linings, likely to keep them from glowing like lanterns when they eat bioluminescent prey

Riding the air currents – the Andean Condor can fly for more than 5 hours without flapping its wings

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). 

Download EcoFriendly Sask’s Nature Companion, a free nature app for Canada’s four western provinces

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

EcoSask News, July 14, 2020


Upcoming Events
SK Plants & Animals, July 22 (Churchbridge, online) 
4-12 year olds are invited to attend a nature presentation organized by Churchbridge Public Library in conjunction with the Yorkton Flyway Birding Trail Association (YFBTA) from 2-3 pm, July 22.

Worldview Wednesday, July 22 (Yorkton, online) 
Talia from YFBTA will share some cultural/historical facts about Saskatchewan nature on July 22.

DIY Friday, July 24 (Yorkton, online) 
Talia from YFBTA will share a fun DIY nature craft on July 24.

Looking Ahead
Passive House Construction for Trades, Aug. 12 (online) 
Passive House Canada is offering all its entry-level passive house design and construction courses online. A passive house construction training for trades begins on Aug. 12.

Basic Wildlife Rehab, Oct. 3-4 (Saskatoon) 
Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation is hosting a basic wildlife rehabilitation course in Saskatoon on October 3 & 4.

A full list of upcoming events (online and in person) can be found on the EcoFriendly Sask Calendar

on the river

Local News
Outter Limits, Saskatoon, has posted a list of outdoor adventure groups in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan

If you’re looking for places to go hiking this summer, subscribe to Robin & Arlene Karpan’s Photo Journeys

Nature-based art – fabric dying with Sage Yathon, Regina

From Information to Action
Water bottling for profit is never sustainable, despite Ice River’s use of recycled plastic bottles and its many claims of commitment to sustainability”

“Biodiversity is higher in a landscape with smaller crop fields, even for the same total amount of natural and semi-natural habitat”

A survey of nearly 1000 environmental education and outdoor science schools shows that 63% are uncertain whether they will ever open their doors again

There are plenty of animal-borne diseases close to home: “modern civilization creates conditions to trigger outbreaks and exacerbate their effects”

Hydrogen on the Path to Net-Zero Emissions: Costs and Climate Benefits [Pembina Institute primer]


That’s Amazing!
Killdeer hatchlings are irresistible

A dramatic performance by an Eastern Hognose Snake

Why you don’t want earwigs in your vineyard and other interesting earwig facts

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).

Nature Companion, a comprehensive, introductory nature app for Canada's four western provinces, a new project from EcoFriendly Sask

Sunday, 12 July 2020

Introducing Nature Companion: An Entry-Level Nature App for Canada's Four Western Provinces

“Be an explorer of your own streams and oceans . . . . It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Henry David Thoreau 

You’re walking in a park or by a river and you spot a small frog, an orange butterfly, a bird pecking on a tree, or a shrub with red berries. What is it? Is the animal you spotted from a distance a coyote or a cougar? What is the tall yellow flower growing beside the road?

Four years ago, Andrew McKinlay was hiking in Big Bend National Park in Texas and was frustrated. He was seeing all sorts of interesting plants, insects, trees, and other wildlife but was struggling to identify them. “What I need is one app that lists the most common plants, trees, animals, insects, reptiles, and birds that I’ll find in a particular area,” he said. “There are lots of specific bird, flower, or insect guides, but nothing together in one convenient package that I can download on my phone for easy access.”

 And so began a new EcoFriendly Sask project. Developed for curious observers, people who are interested in nature, the Nature Companion website/app will help you identify plants and animals in your community or as you travel in Canada’s four western provinces. In just one app, you’ll find basic information about over 300 common plants, trees, birds, animals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians.

Scroll through the colourful photographs and short descriptions to find out more about nature in your community and enjoy the unexpected details in the Did you know? section at the end of each description.

Nature Companion is free (no ads or sign up). It can be accessed either on or off line and can be installed on your phone or tablet.

Whether you’re travelling in another province, an expert on birds but not on reptiles, young or old, or a newcomer to Canada, we hope you will find Nature Companion a useful guide as you explore the natural world.

If you know someone - or many someones - who might be interested in Nature Companion, please share it with them.

A huge vote of thanks to our early reviewers who provided so many helpful suggestions that we've done our best to incorporate into Nature Companion. Please email us your feedback - we'd love to hear from you.

PS Check the Help (the ? at the top right) for assistance in installing the app. The initial download may be slow, but the app should be faster after that.

"The lasting pleasures of contact with the natural world are not reserved for scientists but are available to anyone who will place themselves under the influence of earth, sea and sky and their amazing life." Rachel Carson