Tuesday 27 August 2013

EcoSask News, August 27, 2013

river otter
River otter at Kingsmere Lake
Birds, Birds & More Birds
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on their frequent field trips. Additional information is available on their website.
September 2 – Last Mountain Lake Sanctuary (7 am – 10 pm)
September 7 – Fall Bird Count
September 15 – Fall Picnic and Birding at Blackstrap Lake (2-7 pm)

Better Block, Sept. 8
Jason Roberts, co-founder of the Better Block project will speak about building communities at 2:30 pm, September 8, at Third Avenue United Church.

Following the talk, a Dixieland jazz and bike parade will head to the Drinkle3 (event sponsor) building at 115 3rd Avenue South for a Better Block party with demonstrations of Jason’s ideas, live music and entertainment.

Enviro Book Club, Sept. 10
The Saskatchewan Environmental Society’s book club will meet at 7 pm on September 10 in The Common at the Two Twenty building on 20th Street West to discuss Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

OMG! GMO!, Sept. 24
Mark Lynas will speak on Sustainable Agriculture: GMOs, Organic, and How to Feed the World at 7 pm on September 24. Mark helped spur the anti-GM movement in the ‘90s; he now believes that biotechnology and genetic modification are important tools that can be used to benefit society and the environment.

Grassroots Power in the Age of Extreme Energy, Oct. 25-27
The Council of Canadians will hold their annual meeting in Saskatoon from October 25-27. The theme of this year’s conference is the power of communities in Saskatchewan and across Canada to stand up to corporations and governments to protect our shared environment, our jobs and the democratic process. Registration closes October 17.


Building Saskatchewan Green, Oct. 25
This year’s Building Saskatchewan Green conference, October 25, will focus on Neighbourhood Revitalization and the Role of Building Green. Topics include designing for solar energy, high density living, and building on brownfields. The keynote speaker, Ray Cole, will speak on Shifting Performance Expectations: Net Positive Buildings.

Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative
The Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative is now selling memberships. The service will launch this fall and will initially service the Nutana, Buena Vista, and Varsity View neighbourhoods.

Interesting Reading
It takes a lot of water to produce the food we eat and drink (e.g. 230 litres of water for one 200 ml glass of apple juice)

An insatiable appetite for transportation infrastructure stops us from looking at alternatives

Ducks Unlimited Canada will help define woodland caribou habitat in Saskatchewan

The Remai Art Gallery has been designed to obtain LEED Silver status, chiefly through using less energy

A close-up look at wasps – what they eat, how they lay their eggs

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 22 August 2013

Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life


“In countries such as my own, the conservation movement, while well intentioned, has sought to freeze living systems in time. It attempts to prevent animals and plants from either leaving or – if they do not live there already – entering. It seeks to manage nature as if tending a garden.” 

“Rewilding recognizes that nature consists not just of a collection of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. It understands that to keep an ecosystem in a state of arrested development, to preserve it as if it were a jar of pickles, is to protect something which bears little relationship to the natural world.”

All of us love nature, but we don’t always agree on the best ways to protect it. George Monbiot, author of Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life, takes a controversial stance, arguing in favour of stepping out of the way and letting nature choose its own path:

“Conservationists sometimes resemble gamekeepers: they regard some of our native species as good and worthy of preservation, others as bad and in need of control. . . . They seek to suppress nature, to prevent successional processes from occurring, to keep ecosystems in a state of arrested development. Nothing is allowed to change: nature must do as it is told, to the nearest percentage point. They have retained an Old Testament view of the natural world: it must be disciplined and trained, for fear that its wild instincts might otherwise surface.”

In Feral, Monbiot explains why the traditional management approach doesn’t work and speaks out strongly in favour of rewilding nature.

Failure of the Traditional Management Approach 
Nature is vastly complex. It is impossible for humans to understand all the implications of their conservation initiatives. As a result, the initiatives often fail.

Untitled Monbiot points to conservationists in Florida who sought to protect sea turtles by culling the raccoons which eat their eggs. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect: “More turtle eggs were lost, as the raccoons were no longer eating the ghost crabs which also preyed on them [turtles].”

Fishermen have long argued that whale and seal populations should be reduced because they eat fish and reduce the fishermen’s catch. And yet marine biologist Steve Nicol says that the decline in plant plankton, which is critical to a healthy fish population, is greatest in areas where whales and seals have been heavily hunted. The large mammals stimulate plankton bloom by recycling nutrients and bringing them to the surface, thereby providing food for fish.

Shifting Baseline Syndrome 
Picture Great Britain and you immediately visualize small fields dotted with sheep or empty stretches of heathland. And yet, that wasn’t always the case. “When Trafalgar Square was excavated in the nineteenth century, presumably to build Nelson’s column, the river gravels the builders exposed were found to be crammed with hippopotamus bones; these beasts wallowed, a little over 100,000 years ago, where tourists and pigeons cluster today.” 

Great Britain was heavily forested before the introduction of sheep, cattle, and other grazing animals. And yet, conservation management plans strive to preserve the heathland, choosing that as their point of reference. For example, the Glaslyn Nature Reserve management plan recognizes that the site is artificial and that the trees were removed when the site was mined and later farmed. And yet, the plan insists that it must remain treeless, without explaining why.

Many of the bird species that are protected in Britain are, according to Monbiot, “an artefact of grazing; they are all species which can survive in the scoured, open habitats humans have created and that some conservationists now seek to preserve, in order – with dizzying circularity – to protect the species which can survive here.”

Monbiot argues that, “Many of the places ecologists have studied have been radically altered by human intervention, and many of the processes they have recorded, and which they assumed were natural, appear to have been shaped as much by people and their domestic stock as by wild animals and plants.”

He goes on to say, “Wildlife groups seek to protect the animals and plants that live in the farmed habitats of the previous century, rather than imagine what could live there if they stepped back.”

Canada and Great Britain have very different ecosystems, but the principles of rewilding still apply. They can assist us in maintaining our wild areas without interfering and could be particularly relevant in large, unpopulated areas that are too large to practically “manage.”

ready for takeoff

What’s Nature Trying To Do?
The highlands of Scotland were once covered by the great Caledonian Forest. Grazing and human habitation have reduced it to around 1% of its greatest extent. Alan Watson is seeking to expand the forested area. He believes that rewilding requires humility, stepping back and letting nature evolve unhindered.

In 1990, the Forestry Commission agreed to fence off 50 hectares of heath. When Monbiot visited the site over 20 years later, the contrast from one side of the fence to the other was remarkable: “On one side the grass was nibbled low and covered in deer droppings. Apart from a few small saplings buried in the heather, and one or two growing out of reach of the deer in the crooks of fallen trunks, there were no young trees. On the other side was a mosaic of habitats.” The ground was covered in bog myrtle and the tallest conifers were now 23 feet tall. Dead trees provided habitats for birds, insects, and lichen.

Similarly, the creation of sea reserves, where no fishing is permitted, has proven tremendously effective: “On average, in 124 marine reserves studied around the world, some of which have been in existence for only a few years, the total weight of animals and plants has quadrupled since they were established. The size of the animals inhabiting them has also increased, and so has their diversity. In most cases, the shift is visible within two to five years.” And it benefits fishermen, greatly enhancing the number of lobsters and fish in surrounding areas.

Keynote Species
Monbiot points to the importance of protecting and/or reintroducing keystone species, which have a larger impact on the overall environment than would normally be expected. The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone has reduced erosion and increased plant life as there are less grazing elk. It has increased the number of small mammals and hence the birds which hunt or scavenge.

Monbiot says, “Rewilding of the kind that interests me does not seek to control the natural world, to re-create a particular ecosystem or landscape, but – having brought back some of the missing species – to allow it to find its own way. . . . The main aim of rewilding is to restore to the greatest extent possible ecology’s dynamic interactions.” 

Monbiot notes that it is particularly difficult to maintain a fixed ecosystem in the face of climate change. Rewilding is far more adaptable.


Opening Up the Ecological Imagination
Large mammals used to roam freely on all the continents, and Monbiot dreams of expanding the ecological imagination, of re-introducing extinct species, such as lynx, moose, hyenas, perhaps even elephants to Great Britain.

As Alan Watson said, “The environmental movement up till now has necessarily been reactive. We have been clear about what we don’t like. But we also need to say what we would like. We need to show where hope lies. Ecological restoration is a work of hope.” 

Additional Reading 
George Monbiot's blog

Other books, which discuss similar concepts, include:

Wild Hope: On the Front Lines of Conservation Success by Andrew Balmford includes a chapter about the Netherlands’ experiment with rewilding

Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild World by Emma Marris discusses the impossibility of preserving nature in its pristine, pre-human state
"The conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures." – Daniel Webster

Tuesday 20 August 2013

EcoSask News, August 20, 2013

White Admiral

Eastview Community Gardens, Aug. 28
Eastview Community Gardens are holding an open house on August 28 from 6:30 to 7:30 pm at both locations. The Arlington Garden is located behind John Dolan School on Arlington Avenue and the Louise Street garden is located a couple of blocks east of Market Mall on Louise Street.

Wilderness First Aid Training, Sept. 20-22 
The Saskatchewan Outdoor and Environmental Education Association is offering Wilderness First Aid Certification training from September 20 to 22 at the Ness Creek site.

Soil Workshop, Sept. 21 
Learn how to keep your soil healthy and productive in an interactive, hands-on workshop on Saturday, September 21, at Station 20 West from 9 am to 12:30 pm. Participants will be able to apply the concepts they’ve learned by completing tests on their own soil samples. For more information or to register, contact Jared Regier, Backyard Garden Program Coordinator, at jared@chep.org.

Environmental Education Conference, Oct. 4
Land, Place, and Environment: Advancing Learning and Practice Toward a Sustainable Future on October 4 is a one-day conference designed to share knowledge and best practices in education concerning land, place, environment, and sustainability. There will be three workshop streams for Early Childhood to Grade 12 Education, Post-secondary Education, and Community-based Education. The conference is hosted by the Sustainability Education Research Institute in partnership with the Saskatchewan Outdoor Environmental Education Association.

SK Writers Guild Fall Conference, Nov. 1-3 
The theme of the 2013 Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Fall Conference is Rethink, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Writing and the Environment. Two of the sessions on November 1 will be of particular interest to environmentalists. Alienation and Belonging: Writing and the Environment looks at how surroundings and environment help shape writers. Ecological Practice: Writing the Big Issues is about why and how to write about the subjects that are important to us. In the evening, Tim Wynne Jones will speak on In Search of a Sense of Place: Writing into the Environment.

Western tiger swallowtail Saskatoon Camera Club Clinics
The Saskatoon Camera Club is hosting two nature photography clinics in the coming months. You’re invited to submit “Three’s of something from nature” photos for judging and feedback on September 24 and “Power of Nature” photos for December 10, 2013.

Turning Wastewater into Fertilizer
The City of Saskatoon has launched Canada’s first commercial nutrient recovery facility. The system will recover phosphorus and nitrogen from the wastewater and turn it into a slow release fertilizer.

Endangered Species Unprotected
A loophole in Canada’s Species at Risk legislation means endangered species are unprotected.

Kerrobert Rail Hub
What are the implications of the proposal for a Kerrobert rail hub shipping 168,000 barrels of oil to the US daily?

NatureCity Festival 
Wild About Saskatoon’s NatureCity Festival has received national coverage in Canadian Wildlife magazine. Congratulations to all the volunteers and organizations who participated – you’re the best!

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 13 August 2013

EcoSask News, August 13, 2013


Vereco Home, Aug. 16
Everyone is invited to visit the newest Vereco home at 442 Saskatchewan Drive, Sarilia Country Estates, after 5:30 pm on August 16. The builder and some sub-contractors will be present to discuss the benefits and challenges of building smart green homes. Burgers and hot dogs (meat and veggie) will be provided.

Birding, Aug. 24-25
Join the Saskatoon Nature Society on one of their upcoming trips. Additional information is available on their website.
August 24 – Birding, St. Volodymyr Property at Brown’s Lake (8 am – 1 pm)
August 25 – Forestry Farm Bird Walk (8-11 am)

Speak to the Wild, Sept. 4-8
Four spots are now up for grabs by auction to Speak to the Wild, a multi-disciplinary gathering to discuss moving Canada’s constitution towards a formalized land ethic and strengthening our personal connection to wild places. The auction deadline is 4 pm, August 18.

Saskatoon Community Wind, Sept. 12
Saskatoon Community Wind is one year old. Come to the meeting at 6 pm, September 12, at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market to share news and plan the next steps.

Park(ing) Day, Sept. 20
Sign up now to participate in Park(ing) Day on 20th Street on September 20.

World Rivers Day, Sept. 29
Saskatchewan EcoNetwork is planning a full day of festivities in Friendship Park to celebrate World Rivers Day on September 29. There will be a river walk and clean-up, displays, art, speakers and entertainment. Contact SK Eco Network if you would like to participate (info@econet.sk.ca, 306.652.1275).

UntitledSmall Win for Sage Grouse
The Federal Court of Appeal says Ottawa can’t use cabinet secrecy to hide decisions and debate about the endangered sage grouse.

Environmental groups requested that the Minister of the Environment issue an emergency protection act as the bird is in danger of immediate disappearance and its habitat requires protection from energy and industrial development. Ottawa claimed cabinet secrecy and refused to share its discussion or decision.

Parks & Climate Change
The Canadian Parks Council has published a report, Canadian Parks and Protected Areas: Helping Canada weather climate change. The report states that parks and protected areas can play an important role by conserving biodiversity and maintaining intact and functioning ecosystems. It goes on to recommend ways in which parks can strengthen their resilience and enhance their role in addressing climate change.

Comic Book Heroes & Villains
Mayah’s Lot, a comic book, brings environmental messages to young people living in a very urban setting.

Connect by Phone with Urban Nature
Check out EcoArtTech’s urban hiking iPhone app that transforms everyday landscapes into sites of bio-cultural diversity and wild happenings.

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 6 August 2013

EcoSask News, August 6, 2013


Film Night, Aug. 7
Is there too much plastic in your life? Join the Saskatchewan Eco Network and Plastic Smart Saskatoon for a screening of the movie Bag It and a panel discussion on Wednesday, August 7, at 7 pm, at the Frances Morrison Library.

Volunteer at the Fringe, Aug. 5-10
We Are Many Saskatoon is looking for volunteers for their Hydration Station from August 5 to 10 at the Fringe Festival.

Young Naturalists’ Grasslands Hike, Aug. 23
Join Saskatoon’s Young Naturalists for a hike around the Northeast Swale on August 23. Registration is limited, so sign up early.

Upcoming trips for 5-11 year olds include a Sandhill Crane field trip on September 28, a Northern Saw-whet Owl trip on October 4, and a Whooping Crane field trip on October 5.

Nature Saskatchewan Fall Meet, Sept. 20-21
Nature Saskatchewan will be holding its Fall Meet on September 20 and 21 in Meadow Lake. The event is hosted by the Meadow Lake branch of the Junior Forest Wardens.

Sustainable Gourmet, Sept. 21
We’re looking forward to attending the Sustainable Gourmet dinner hosted by the Saskatchewan Environmental Society on September 21. Local food prepared by local chefs – delicious!

Next Up Saskatchewan
Applications are now being accepted for Next Up Saskatchewan, a leadership program for young people committed to social and environmental justice. The application deadline is September 13. Application forms and more information can be found at http://www.nextup.ca/how-to-apply/


Feral, George Monbiot
Have you read Feral by George Monbiot? What do you think of his statement on CBC's Sunday Edition: “One of our tendencies,” Monbiot told Sunday Edition guest host Laura Lynch, “is to try to manage and control and see ourselves as stewards of the land, and to take an Old Testament view of dominion that we’re responsible for all the animals and plants. Well, nature did pretty well for the three billion years before we turned up, and it could do pretty well again if we learned to interfere less.”

Interesting Reading
Photos of beautiful and amazing spiders

5 tips for a more sustainable home

15 seed saving initiatives around the globe

Rising temperatures signal a coming food crisis – Gary Nabhan suggests solutions

Biofuel expansion in the US Midwest is destroying wildlife habitat

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).