Sunday 23 December 2012

Cold Beauty

Despite the winter weather, there's still beauty out there. We hope you enjoy this wallpaper, designed to give your computer screen a fresh new look - and to remind you to head outside and enjoy the beauty of the world around us.

Windows Instructions
  1. Click on one of the links below (NOT the small image above)
  2. Right click on the displayed image
  3. Choose "Set as Wallpaper" or "Set as Background"
Mac Instructions
  1. Right click on one of the links below ( NOT the small image above)
  2. Choose "Download Linked File" or "Save Link As"
  3. Right click on the download and choose "Show in Finder"
  4. Right click on the file in the Finder and choose "Set Desktop Picture"

Tuesday 18 December 2012

EcoSask News, December 18, 2012

To Make a Farm, Regina, Dec. 19
SOEEA is showing To Make a Farm at The Artful Dodger in Regina at 8 pm on December 19. Admission is free.

Bird Count for Kids, Dec. 26 
The Saskatoon Young Naturalists are organizing a Christmas Bird Count for Kids to coincide with the Saskatoon Christmas Bird Count on Wednesday, December 26. Join the group anytime between 12 and 4 pm at the Affinity Learning Centre in Saskatoon's Forestry Farm Park. Marika Olywynk from Bird Studies Canada will help identify the birds. Everyone is welcome. There is no fee, and cookies and hot chocolate are available in the Affinity Learning Centre.

Zoo Visits, Dec. 27 & 28
Wondering what to do during the Christmas holidays? Why not visit the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo?

The Saskatoon Zoo Society is running a drop-in program from 10-12 and 1-3 on December 27 and 28. Visit with the socialized animals, check out the animal displays, and enjoy hot chocolate and cookies before or after you visit the zoo.

Access to the park and zoo is free in December.

Redberry Lake Watershed AEGP Winter Workshop, Jan. 15
The Redberry Lake Biosphere Reserve’s Agri-Environmental Group will be holding a workshop on January 15. Topics will include operating systems, nutrition in winter feeds, and highlights from Beneficial Management Practices. Register with Rachel by January 8 (549-4060 or 715-7651 or

Smarter Science, Better Buildings, Jan. 29-Feb. 15 
Science teachers: the Saskatoon Western Development Museum is offering a two-hour, hands-on workshop that allows students to explore the concepts of heat and temperature by looking at ways to make our homes more energy efficient. Contact the Western Development Museum to book one of 24 available time slots between Jan. 29 and Feb. 15.

Holiday Reading 
Do environmentalists feed the fire of climate change denial? – the risks of overheated rhetoric and/or focusing on trivia
Parking downtown – The Regina Downtown Business Improvement District’s winter guide is subtitled “Your guide to parking, shopping and dining in Downtown Regina.” Regina Urban Ecology questions their priorities.
Perfect Solar Alignment in Saskatchewan – five reasons to install solar electric in 2013
This microalgae lamp absorbs 150 times more CO2 than a tree!
My beef with beef – Why aren’t environmental groups more vocal about asking their supporters to eat less beef? Are environmental groups afraid to tackle the issue of overconsumption – whether it’s big cars, big houses, or too much stuff?
A worthy goal for humanity? Beauty – What is our goal as a species? Is it perpetual population growth, technological progress, self-preservation – or something more?

Merry Christmas 
EcoFriendly Sask is taking a break over the holidays. The next issue of EcoSask News will be published on January 8, 2013.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Thursday 13 December 2012

Wild City: bringing the good life home

by Candace Savage

We think we’re awfully smart, with our i-Things and fancy new stuff, as if Wi-fi kept us connected to everything that matters to us.

So it’s a blow when somebody tells us that we’re actually out of touch, fatally disconnected from our own vital interests.

It’s even worse when that “somebody” is six hundred scientists who have spent years pouring over the stats on the health of the planet.

Their findings, as reported in the United Nations Global Environmental Outlook for 2012, are cheerless: 

Fifteen years after Kyoto, emissions of greenhouse gases continue to increase, signaling dislocation, climate chaos and uncertainty.

Despite herculean efforts to save species, the rate of extinction remains calamitous, with one in five vertebrates on the Red List.

(The reality may be even worse. A recent U.S. government study reports that one-third of American birds are in trouble.)

Scientists at UNEP warn that we risk crossing critical limits and causing irreversible harm to the Earth’s “life-support functions.”

“Hope is the thing with feathers/That perches in the soul,” Emily Dickinson wrote. Hope is a plaintive song in the darkness. 

Re-wilding the city may seem like the smallest possible answer to the cosmic mess we’re in. But cities truly are an urgent place to begin.

H. sapiens sapiens is now an urban species, with slightly more than half of us in cities and towns. That’s 3,998,906,053, and counting.

Cities are not apart from Nature. Urban dwellers drink water and breathe air. We draw on the Earth for food and other necessities.

Everything the city consumes has been extracted from the natural abundance of the Earth, often at a cost that is distant and unnoticed.

Our withdrawals diminish the living space of other species—wild birds, animals and plants—and contribute to the disenchantment of Nature.

City dwellers are half of humankind but consume more than three-quarters of the Earth’s goods and services every year.

Stuck in the traffic jam of modern life, we are less connected to Nature than our parents were. Our sense of wonder is clouded fear.

Even our kids prefer to stay indoors, where the electrical outlets are. No wonder we worry about childhood obesity and depression.

Making space for Nature in the city—for the furred and feathered things that coexist with us--offers solace for people and the planet.

An international movement to re-wild the city is already taking flight. Cities turn out to be hotspots for a diversity of life.

Humans are a keystone species, ecological engineers. As we destroy, we also unwittingly create opportunities for other creatures.

To non-human eyes, a high-rise tower is a cliff face. Boulevard plantings form gangly forests. Vacant lots become an eccentric wilderness. 

In cities around the world, people are noticing cracks in the pavement—openings for life—and taking urgent steps to protect them.

Back-yard gardeners are digging up monocultures of grass to make room for native plants and the buzz of “tame” and native bees.

Cities are encouraging the creation of rain gardens and swales to protect their watersheds from run-off and pollution.

Paris and New York have transformed old railways into high-line parks, and grim brownfields in Germany have been restored to vibrant life.

The City of Seoul has disinterred the Cheonggycheon River from a deep overlay of roads, boosting both fish and bird species six-fold.

The wild city is a space of possibility and promise, where hope can grow. It’s time to bring the good life home to the urban jungle.

Candace Savage is an award-winning Saskatchewan author of many bestselling natural history books. Her most recent book, A Geography of Blood: Unearthing Memory from a Prairie Landscape, recently won the Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction. 

Candace is one of the leading voices behind Wild About Saskatoon: Connecting Nature and Culture in the City. Wild About Saskatoon is dedicated to the urgent task of reconnecting city dwellers with the wild lives and life-sustaining processes going on all around us. It is an informal group of citizens brought together by a shared love of nature and of our home town, a middle-sized city on the banks of a shining prairie river.

Photo Credit: Candace Savage

Tuesday 11 December 2012

EcoSask News, December 11, 2012

Piping Plover Census, Dec. 12
The results of the 2011 International Piping Plover Census will be presented on Wednesday in Swift Current and broadcast online. Contact SK PCAP for more details.

Invasive Plant Species Webinar, Dec. 19
The Ministry of Agriculture is hosting an Invasive Plant Species Webinar on December 19 from 12-1 pm. Register online.

Christmas Bird Counts
Birders from over 90 Saskatchewan communities will be participating in the Christmas bird counts. In addition to the local bird counts, there are counts at Gardiner Dam (Dec. 17), Harris (Dec. 19), and Biggar (Dec. 27). Contact Guy Wapple (249-3280) to confirm dates and volunteer.

Susan Lamb Endowment Fund
The public is invited to contribute to the Susan Lamb Endowment Fund, established by the Meewasin Valley Authority, which will be dedicated to supporting education and conservation work in the northeast swale in perpetuity.

Adopt a Piece of Nature
The Nature Conservancy of Canada is looking for individuals or volunteers who will “adopt” one of their Saskatchewan properties and visit it as often as they wish to record wildlife, general condition of the land and perform some hands-on activities. Contact Kirsten at, 306.347.0447, if you are interested.

Prairie Grasslands
Three cheers! The federal government has rejected Cenovus’ gas project within CFB Suffield National Wildlife Area (NWA). Suffield NWA is an important remnant of Canadian native prairie. It is home to at least 15 species that are at risk of extinction or endangered.

The Protect the Prairie campaign is recruiting famous Canadians to join the campaign to prevent the sale of community pastures. Margaret Atwood, K.D. Lang, The Sheepdogs, and Chris Getzlaf have given their support to date.

Endangered Species
The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada has released a report card on species at risk, adding a dozen species to the endangered list.

A report released in October by Ecojustice rates the provincial and federal governments’ efforts to protect at risk plants and animals. The federal government received a C- and some provinces failed.

The 2012 Federal Budget Implementation Bill (Bill C-38) incorporated changes to the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) that include allowing issuance of long-term permits for potentially harmful activities and removing the requirement for regular review or renewal of these permits. The Minister of the Environment has signalled that the Act is under review and changes to the Act could be made as early as this fall. (via CPAWS)

Mobile Phone Replaces Butterfly Net
In the second half of the 19th century, natural history excursions attracted hundreds of participants and played an important role in documenting local plants and animals. Nowadays, membership in nature societies is dwindling and aging.

But technology provides new options. Mobile phone cameras make it easy to record sightings and publish them online to social networking sites, such as iSpot, and software apps assist with identification.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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

Tuesday 4 December 2012

EcoSask News, December 4, 2012

SEN Film Night, Dec. 10
The Saskatchewan Eco Network is hosting a monthly film night at The Root Down Cooperative Café. The first film, Garbage: The Revolution Starts at Home, will be shown on December 10 at 7 pm. There is no charge. Check out the preview of this documentary about a family that saves every scrap of garbage for 3 months and then explores where it goes and what it does to the earth.

Life, Legumes & Nitrogen, Dec. 13
Saskatchewan is the world’s largest exporter of lentils, and commercial lentil varieties bred at the U of S account for a third of global production. Best of all, lentils and other legumes add nitrogen to the soil where it can be used by other plants. Bert Vandenberg, NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Lentil Genetic Improvement, U of S, will talk about the importance of legumes in the wider ecosystem and the ecological virtues of pulse crops at the Saskatoon Nature Society's monthly meeting7:30 pm, December 13, Room 106, Biology Building, U of S.

Christmas Bird Counts
Christmas bird counts have been a holiday tradi­tion for over 100 years. Set aside some time this holiday season to count our wintering birds. The Saskatoon Nature Society welcomes everyone to take part, especially begin­ners.
Saturday, December 15: Clark’s Crossing 
Sunday, December 16: Qu’Appelle Valley Dam 
Wednesday, December 26: Saskatoon 
Saturday, January 5: Pike Lake 
New for this year: no fees! Audubon and BSC will no longer be charging a $5 fee. Other regional counts are planned. For more information, check the SNS website.

We’re Wild About Saskatoon
We share our city streets with coyotes; birds nest in our gardens; and we harvest saskatoon berries along the riverbank. Join with other nature lovers to celebrate the nature that surrounds us. Wild About Saskatoon, a brand-new collective, will be hosting a festival to celebrate Nature in the City in May 2013. Why not plan an activity and join the celebration?

Heritage Rivers
Partners FOR the Saskatchewan River Basin is overseeing the research required prior to the Saskatchewan sections of the South Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Rivers being designated as Heritage Rivers. The goal of the research is to identify the values to be conserved, protected and promoted, and how this might be accomplished through existing and future management plans. You can comment online.

Environmental Code Review
The public review of the draft Saskatchewan Environmental Code has concluded and a complete summary of all comments received, along with the ministry's responses, is now available on the Ministry of Environment's website.

Greener to the End
Saskatchewan is the first province in Canada to approve alkaline hydrolysis, a highly accelerated version of natural decomposition, for the disposal of human remains. It has a much smaller carbon footprint than cremation.

Green Roofs in Winter
Green roofs aren’t just for temperate climates. They’ve tested it in Ottawa and found that green roofs increase conservation of heat by reducing wind speeds and modifying the microclimate above the roof.

Winter at Old Man on His Back
There’s a familiar routine as The Nature Conservancy of Canada prepares for winter at Old Man on His Back Prairie and Conservation Area: calling the cows, rounding up the bison, and preparing the winter supply of water.

EcoSask News is a weekly round-up of local news and events. Email us if you have items you would like us to include. Additional upcoming events can be found on our Calendar.

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