Tuesday 27 December 2016

Post-Boxing Day Specials

Ginkgo fall colors

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” (Iris Murdoch) 

We’re mixing things up a bit for the holidays. Here are 6 items (and a bonus) to stir your imagination.

Ginkgo: The Tree that Time Forgot
“Common on city streets from Beijing to London and Tokyo to New York, ginkgo is an increasingly common backdrop to the bustle of modern city life. It is hard to imagine that these trees, now towering above cars and commuters, grew up with the dinosaurs and have come down to us almost unchanged for 200 million years….This book, an abridged global biography, sets out to tell ginkgo’s evolutionary and cultural life history.”

Ginkgo by Peter Crane is available on Kindle.

Your Own Plastic Workshop
Dave Hakken has a plan that will allow people anywhere in the world to transform plastic waste into valuable things. Precious Plastic is offering open-source blueprints so you can build your own plastic recycling machine. The machine chews it up, spits out plastic filaments that you can then turn into hats, lamps, dishes, toys, and more.

The Naturalist Lens
Naturalist and photographer Evan Barrientos shares his passion for nature on his blog, The Naturalist Lens.

“Every once in a while when I am out in nature, I come across something incredible. Sometimes it’s a rare glimpse of amazing animal behavior or a closeup look at a bizarre species. Whenever I have these experiences, my first reaction is to share them with other people. Why? Because it’s too easy to under-appreciate nature, even for us outdoor enthusiasts. How often on your hike do you stop and sit for twenty minutes, noticing the endlessly amazing insects around you? But if you don’t realize what extraordinary things are out there, you’re less likely to take the time looking closely for them. The purpose of this blog is to share my favorite natural experiences with other people in the hopes of inspiring them to appreciate that natural world and explore it slowly and carefully themselves. Currently, this blog focuses on nature in and around Bozeman, Montana.” 

Endangered Animals and Extraordinary Images
If you’re looking for something different to watch, check out these two features on Netlix:

Last Chance to See: “Nearly 20 years after he and famed author Douglas Adams searched for the world’s most endangered species, zoologist Mark Carwardine teams up with funnyman Stephen Fry to revisit those same animals.”

Tales by Light “follows renowned photographers as they explore far-flung locales, capturing extraordinary images that present nature and culture in a new light.”

If you read French, you'll enjoy Socialter magazine, “un magazine 100 % dédié à l'économie nouvelle génération et aux créateurs de solutions innovantes. Ce media est le porte-voix d'une nouvelle génération tournée vers la création de solutions efficaces et innovantes pour le plus grand nombre.”

Recent issues have covered combatting planned obsolescence, permaculture, cities without cars, the sharing economy, and energy co-ops.

Socialter is on Facebook with links to a wide variety of articles.

Elva’s Field Notes
Elva Paulson describes her online musings as “an artist watching nature and nature watching an artist.” You're sure to enjoy Elva's Field Notes; her pen-and-ink sketches are a delight.

Wildlife Photography Award Winners
And a bonus item: This year’s award-winning international wildlife photographs.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

EcoSask News, December 20, 2016

snowy sunrise

Upcoming Events
Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips
Jan. 7, 9 am-10:30 am – Sanatorium Site Bird Walk
Jan. 14, 9 am-4 pm – Snowy Owl Count
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

Wascana Junior Naturalists (Regina)
The Spring session of the Wascana Junior Naturalist Program is open to children ages 9-13.

Project Wet, Mar. 4 (Regina)
Help kids appreciate water by taking the Project Wet instructional course being offered by SaskOutdoors on Mar. 4 in Regina.

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

Exploring the Urban Landscape (Saskatoon)
Jane’s Walk Saskatoon is looking for volunteers to help with next year’s event.

Christmas Wrapping Paper (Regina)
The City of Regina won’t recycle Christmas wrapping paper this year, but Crown Shred & Recycling will. Material will be accepted free of charge as long as it’s accompanied by a donation for the Regina Food Bank.

Here are some suggestions for eco-friendly gift wrap.

snowy sunrise

Outdoor Fun
Looking for ideas for what to do during the holidays? Check out our list of Outdoor Winter Explorations in Saskatchewan.

Canadian Health Care Going Green
The Children’s Health Centre in Hamilton has achieved LEED Gold certification: 32% of construction material used recycled content, 86% of construction and demolition waste was diverted from landfill, and 45% of construction materials were sourced or manufactured within 800 km of the project, or within 2400 km if shipped by water.

North Bay Regional Health Centre has brought recycling bins to patient rooms.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Research Tower has achieved significant energy savings by switching the laboratory exhaust system from constant speed to demand controlled.

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).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday 13 December 2016

EcoSask News, December 13, 2016

river ice reflections

Upcoming Events
Buffalo Pound Water: Is There Enough, Dec. 14 (Pense) 
Wascana Upper Qu’Appelle Valley Watershed Association Taking Responsibility (WUQWATR) is hosting a discussion about the demands on the Buffalo Pound Lake water supply at 7 pm, Dec. 14, in Pense.

Transboundary Grasslands Workshop, Jan. 11-13 (Swift Current)
A Transboundary Grasslands Workshop will be held from Jan. 11-13 in Swift Current and will focus on developing transboundary capacity for community-based prairie conservation.

Native Plants in a Working Landscape, Jan. 27-28 (Saskatoon) 
The Native Plant Society of Saskatchewan’s annual general meeting and conference will be held at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon on January 27-28, 2017. This year's theme is Native Plants in a Working Landscape and will feature a keynote presentation on bog and fen restoration.

Below Zero, Feb. 4 (Regina)
Join SaskOutdoors for a day of outdoor winter adventures on Feb. 4 and come away with a manual with 46 lesson plans that can be adapted to help you take kids outdoors in winter.

High Performance Buildings, Feb. 18 (Saskatoon) 
Passive House Canada is offering a one-day workshop on Building Enclosures for High Performance Buildings in Saskatoon on Feb. 18.

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


If Google Leads, Will Saskatchewan Follow?
Google's data centers are 50% more energy efficient than the industry average, and they’re set to reach 100% renewable in 2017. They are the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy. When will the Government of Saskatchewan recognize that the future is renewable?

Hope for the Future
John Thackara says, “To people who fear that there no escape from an economy that devours nature in the name of endless growth, I argue that another world is not just possible – it is already happening. I know this to be true because I’ve spent 30 years traveling in search of stories about people tackling timeless needs in new ways: restoring the land, sharing water, making homes, growing food, designing clothes, journeying, and caring for each other. Some of these activities can sound unfamiliar – for example soil restorers, or river keepers, or social farmers. But the people I meet are not super-heroes. They are regular people doing inspiring work in these strange times. That said, I do emphasize the power of small actions to transform the bigger picture – especially when their efforts are connected together in networks like food commons, or social farming, or fibersheds.” 

Controlling the Avalanche of Disposable Cups
 UK coffee shops hand out 7 million paper cups/day - only 1/400 is recycled. What's the solution?

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 6 December 2016

EcoSask News, December 6, 2016


Upcoming Events
Eco-Retrofits, Dec. 7 (Saskatoon) 
Ronn LePage, Vereco Homes, will discuss the emerging market for eco-retrofits and the research Vereco is doing to solve some of retrofits’ major challenges at the Dec. 7 meeting of the Saskatchewan Energy Management Task Force.

Permaculture Sask Year-End Review & Potluck, Dec. 8 (Saskatoon) 
Permaculture Saskatchewan will hold a year-end review and potluck supper on Dec. 8.

Aerial Hunters, Dec. 11 (Saskatoon) 
Meet Talon a red-tailed hawk, and learn more about their biology and conservation with Greg Fenty at Wild Birds Unlimited, Dec. 11, from 11-noon.

Bike Regina Winter Cycling Workshop, Dec. 13 (Regina) 
Bike Regina is hosting a winter cycling workshop at 3 pm, Dec. 13.

Piping Plover Census, Dec. 14 (Avonlea)
Alan Smith will discuss the results of the International Piping Plover Census at 7 pm, Dec. 14, in Avonlea as part of the SK-PCAP Native Prairie Speaker Series.

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


In the News
Thank You, SaskWind. We’ll Miss You 
James Glennie has announced that SaskWind is folding up its operation. Thank you for contributing so much information and passion to the discussion around renewable energy options in Saskatchewan. You've moved us forward.

FCL Sustainability 
Federated Co-operatives Limited has published its 2015-16 sustainability and social responsibility report. Of particular interest is the work they’re doing on waste reduction and recycling wastewater. For more information about FCL’s sustainability initiatives, check out the article we published in the spring.

Green Buildings 
By 2030, all new homes and buildings built in Vancouver will be zero emissions. Approved in July, the Zero Emissions Building Plan includes a phased-in approach. 

Envisioning a Post-Growth Economy
Dr. Samuel Alexander, a lecturer at the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne, Australia, has prepared a paper on Policies for a Post-Growth Economy focusing on what a feasible and desirable Post-Growth Economy would look like. “Most people, including most politicians, still believe that sustained economic growth, in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is necessary for societal progress, and that such growth is consistent with environmental sustainability. . . . This paper provides a summary case for why there are, in fact, limits to growth, and outlines a range of bold policy interventions that would be required to produce a stable and flourishing post-growth economy.” 

Toronto Debunks Myth that Families Won’t Live in Condos
Toronto is currently embarking on a study, Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities, to look at how compact urban homes can better accommodate families and children from three scales: the condo unit, the overall building, and the neighborhood. Issues such as unit size and layout, building amenities, the design of the public realm and services in the surrounding neighborhood are addressed.

EcoFriendly Food Swaps 
Choosing food that is good for us as well as good for the environment can be tricky. Here are 8 food swaps as an easy way to get started.

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).

Monday 5 December 2016

Wanted: Early Morning Bird Lovers


On Friday, December 1, 2016, the Meewasin Valley Authority approved Triovest Realty Advisors’ plans for the East Tower at River Landing.

Jan Shadick, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, says that the developers indicated that they were familiar with the City of Calgary’s Bird-Friendly Guidelines and had worked under these guidelines for 10 years in Calgary. They indicated that these ideas are under consideration for this development and noted that the “fins” on the first few floors are designed to increase the visibility of the building to birds. They were not definitive in agreeing to follow the bird-friendly guidelines when building the East Tower.

Jan spoke and acknowledged the developers’ awareness of the guidelines and asked them to commit to using them. She went on to point out that, “The Calgary guidelines are very similar to those that Toronto developed in 2007 but updated in 2014 as they were found to be insufficient. The fins on the first 4 floors are to reduce the confusion for birds due to the habitat reflection (bushes and trees are thought to be up to 4 stories high). However, you are still using reflective glass which will be deadly to high-flying birds (peregrines?) and to those migrating at night due to the amount of light spilling out into the sky.”

Meewasin Valley Authority Board asked the developer to speak more clearly to Jan’s concerns. “The developers reaffirmed their awareness of the guidelines without putting anything definite on the table,” she says. “They also commented that the film for windows to reduce reflectivity apparently causes the window’s capacity for energy efficiency to be compromised, so it is a catch-22 from what I understood – the building (if glass) can be EITHER energy efficient OR bird-friendly. But, why does it have to be glass?

Jan also identified BirdSafe as an option to more fully explore the choices and concerns. BirdSafe is part of FLAP and has trained individuals who will come out and look at a building, or site, and will be able to rate the risk to birds based on many factors (location, height, amount of glass, amount of vegetation, etc). “I encouraged them to consider bringing someone in to fully evaluate the plan and perhaps offer ideas,” Jan says.

Emergency Bird Rescue
Toronto’s Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP) is a non-profit organization governed by a Board of Directors and sustained by the efforts of approximately 100 dedicated volunteers.

FLAP is the first organization in the world to address the issue of birds in collisions with buildings. Since 1993, their volunteers have picked up tens of thousands of injured or dead birds from 167 species in the Toronto region. Sadly, about 60% of the birds recovered by FLAP are found dead. Over 80% of the injured birds rescued by FLAP volunteers are rehabilitated and released back into the wild.

Jan says, “It would be AMAZING to start a group of volunteers HERE in Saskatoon who would walk the streets EARLY in the AM, likely past targeted buildings, and see what we find. I will take the birds and compile the data, but I don’t know that I have the time to round up volunteers and so on. But if someone else will spearhead it, I will support them.”

If you are interested in helping to prevent unnecessary bird deaths due to building hazards in Saskatoon, please contact Jan Shadick, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, at info@livingskywildliferehabilitation.org

Further Information
River Landing Proposal = Bird Hazard
Further Concerns about the East Tower, River Landing

Friday 2 December 2016

Further Concerns about the East Tower, River Landing, Saskatoon


Concerns continue to be raised about the proposed design of the East Tower at River Landing in Saskatoon (River Landing Proposal = Bird Hazard).

Richard Huziak, a member of the Saskatchewan Light Pollution Abatement Committee (Royal Astronomical Society) and the Northeast Swale Watchers, shared the letter he sent to the Meewasin Valley Authority. Outlined below are portions of his submission.

Bird Collisions
What measures have been taken to avoid bird collisions since there seems to be no design features that would break the solid reflective appearance of the building window facings? Collisions are a daily and nightly ongoing concern where possibly hundreds of birds may die per building per year and peak during spring and fall migration seasons.

Is there any part of the design where bird-visible window glazings are used or other anti-collision features incorporated?

With uni-body glass designs, buildings simply blend reflectively into the background sky though lack of visual relief. Being in the Central and Mississippi Flyways and being adjacent to the water, bird-friendly design must be considered.

Glare: Since the building is all glass, and from the architect’s rendition, all inside lights will shine out unabated, unless interior lighting fixtures are shielded from shining outward. Has the visual impact of the huge glass profile been considered for the effect of the view from the riverbank and residences across the river? The large area of windows had the potential of being a “glare-bomb” if all lights are on and there are no louver systems to direct the light downward instead of outward.

Crime Prevention: Although parroting a very poorly written outdoor lighting requirement of the South Downtown plan, lighting is expected to "reduce crime" and this implies that outdoor lighting could be over-bright.

Light does not prevent or reduce crime. To reduce crime the plan should include the installation of video surveillance cameras, since plaza streetlights do not testify in court. If CPTED features are to be designed in, do not rely on lighting – use line-of-site visibility and surveillance recommendations. 

Dark-Sky Compliant: Lighting should be of “regular” downtown brightness suitable for the specific purpose, and not more. Lighting fixtures should be full cut-off shielded design and directed down to the ground, including all pole, accent and decorative lighting. Up-lighting of monuments or side-facing spotlighting and wall-pack lighting should be avoided since all lighting applications can be accomplished with full-shielded, down-facing lighting if good design practices are adhered to, and this is doubly important because all of the glass facings are highly prone to adding unwanted reflections.

The design shows a shadowing plan for surrounding buildings (page 15) but does not provide a "forward reflectance" plan. This is especially important because some faces of the building are slanted downward (“canted facades”), so the concentration of sunlight on nearby paved areas and sidewalks during the hottest of summer days (and when the sun is highest in the sky) will be additive through about a 70% solar grazing reflection, raising the local sidewalk temperatures by some significant number of degrees. The reflection power will be about 800 watts/m2, so it is possible that a 10- to 15-degree rise in local temperatures in front of the building will occur.

With a paddling pool and adjacent plaza, the added window reflections might cause the possibility of uncomfortably high temperatures in the area. (In the future, this area is nestled between three glass building walls.) In addition, huge forward-facing reflections will follow the sun throughout the day.

What is the impact of these reflections on surrounding properties, such as the glass entranceway of Persephone Theatre or glass-faced Art Gallery overhang and other downtown buildings even if mullion caps are used?

Smallest of Three
Rick Huziak concludes his letter by saying, “Please note that the current application refers only to the smallest of the three building in the grouping, and both other buildings are much larger and will have much environmental impact.”

Speak Out
If you are concerned about the development plans at River Landing or in other locations around the city, speak out by contacting your City Councillor as well as the Meewasin Valley Authority Board.

Further Information
River Landing Proposal = Bird Hazard
The High Cost of Lighting up the Night

Thursday 1 December 2016

Saskatoon River Landing Proposal = Bird Hazard


Jan Shadick, Executive Director, Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation, says that Saskatoon’s birds are at risk if Meewasin Valley Authority approves plans for a new development on Parcel YY, River Landing, by Triovest Realty Advisors.

 “The East Tower at River Landing is a hazard to birds due to the extent of glass planned for the exterior of the building,” says Jan. “I’ll be speaking at the MVA meeting on Friday to ask that Saskatoon join other progressive cities in leading the way toward a greener, more bird-friendly approach to building design.”

Outlined below are portions of Jan’s presentation to Meewasin Valley Authority.

Red-winged blacbird singing

Birds and Buildings in Saskatoon
Birds connect people with nature and the beauty of the natural world. They provide critical ecological functions, consuming billions of insects daily, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds.

Birds also contribute significantly to our economy as bird-watching has become the second most popular leisure activity in North America after gardening.

And yet, Canadian research estimates that 25 million birds die each year from window collisions with mid- and high-rise buildings.

According to Triovest Realty Advisors project brochure, “Glass will be the primary cladding material used on the tower. The selected glass is not intended to have a defined colour, but instead, it will pick up natural colours and tones reflected from the sky, creating a constantly changing and vibrant façade.”

“The amount of glass in a building is the strongest predictor of how dangerous it is to birds,” says Bird Friendly Toronto, Best Practices Glass. There are solutions: window film, visual marker treatments, increased density of mullion spacing, frosted glass designs, spandrel panels, sunshades and louvres.

“Please delay approval of this project until more bird-friendly designs are included in the plans,” Jan Shadick urges.

nest building

Show Your Support
You can show your support for protecting Saskatoon’s birds by attending the public session of the Meewasin Valley Authority Board meeting at noon on Friday, Dec 2, 2016, in the Upper Lounge of the Saskatoon Club, 417- 21st Street East.

Further Information
City of Calgary, Bird-Friendly Urban Design Guidelines
City of Toronto, Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines
City of Toronto, Toronto Green Standard
City of Vancouver, Bird-Friendly Urban Design Guidelines
City of Markham, Bird-Friendly Development Guidelines
Ontario Association of Architects, Open Letter on Bird-Friendly Design
American Bird Conservancy, Bird-Friendly Building Design Guide
Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), BirdSafe

Tuesday 29 November 2016

EcoSask News, November 29, 2016

frost on grass

Upcoming Events
Environmental Justice & Sustainability, Dec. 2 (Saskatoon & online)
Dr. Randolph Haluza De-Lay, delegate to the climate negotiations in Marrakech, will be speaking on environmental justice and sustainability from 3-4 pm, Dec. 2, as part of SERI’s Talking Sustainability series. The presentation will also be available online.

Permaculture Christmas Party, Dec. 3 (Prince Albert)
The Prince Albert Parkland Permaculture guild is hosting a Potluck Christmas Party on Dec. 3.

River Access Study, Dec. 5 (Saskatoon)
The City of Saskatoon and Meewasin Valley Authority are conducting a study to identify river access requirements. The primary focus will be on facilities for launching and mooring motorized and non-motorized watercraft; however, it will address all forms of river access. There will be a public open house from 3:30-8 pm, Dec. 5. You can also complete an online survey.

Tracking Migratory Birds, Dec. 8 (Saskatoon)
Ann McKellar, a biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service, will talk about the tools, from simple bands to GPS tags, that researchers use to track migratory birds in order to learn more about where they go and what threats they might face along the way. The Saskatoon Nature Society meetings are held monthly at 7:30 pm in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

The Eagle Huntress, Dec. 8-11 (Regina)
The Regina Public Library is showing the film The Eagle Huntress from Dec. 8-11. The film follows a 13-year-old girl as she trains to be an eagle hunter in Mongolia.

Grasslands Project, Dec. 8 (Moose Jaw)
Moose Jaw Public Library will be showing the Grasslands Project, a series of short documentary films about life on the southern prairies, at 2:30 pm, Dec. 8.

Saskatoon Young Naturalists
Jan. 7 – Snowshoeing
Jan. 21 – Tracks and Scats
Feb. 4 – Chickadee Pishing
Mar. 18 – Great Horned Owl Ecology
Space is limited; register early to avoid disappointment.

Black-capped chickadee

Christmas Bird Counts
Saskatoon & Area 
Dec. 14 - Harris
Dec. 16 – Radisson-Borden
Dec. 17 – Clark’s Crossing
Dec. 18 – Qu’Appelle Valley Dam
Dec. 19 – Gardiner Dam Dec. 22 - Floral
Dec. 26 – Saskatoon Dec. 27 – Biggar
Jan. 2 – Pike Lake
Contact the Saskatoon Nature Society for full details and updated information.
Dec. 16 – Grasslands National Park
Dec. 18 – Craven 
Dec. 26 – Regina
Christmas Bird Counts for Kids
Dec. 29 – Saskatoon
Jan. 7 – Regina

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

2017 Bird Calendar
Nick Saunders’ 2017 Bird Calendar is now available for purchase.

In the News
We need to buy less and appreciate more - how to stop shopping mindlessly

Transition "is about communities stepping up to address the big challenges they face by starting local. . . . . In practice, they are reclaiming the economy, sparking entrepreneurship, reimagining work, reskilling themselves and weaving webs of connection and support."

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 22 November 2016

EcoSask News, November 22, 2016

looking up

Upcoming Events
Saskatoon CarShare Social, Nov. 23 (Saskatoon)
Interested in car sharing and sustainable transportation? Chat with Saskatoon CarShare Co-operative members at Amigo’s from 5-10 pm, Nov. 23.

Gone Wild for Wildlife, Nov. 26 (Saskatoon)
Bring your kids to Gone Wild for Wildlife, a wildlife educational event and fundraiser put on by the Wildlife Rehabilitation Society of Saskatchewan from 10 am to 5 pm, Nov. 26, at Prairieland Park, Hall C.

Carbonless Concert, Nov. 26 (Saskatoon)
The second in a series of Carbonless Concerts to promote local live music and renewable energy will be held at d’Lish by Tish Café on Nov. 26 from 6:30-9 pm.

Bird Watching for Beginners, Nov. 28/Dec. 3 (Regina)
Jared Clarke is co-hosting a Bird Watching for Beginners workshop in Regina. There will be an in-class session on Nov. 28 and small group bird watching in Wascana Park on Dec. 3. To register, call 306-581-6819 or email SKatlasReg8@gmail.com.

Rethinking Cretaceous Climate, Nov. 29 (Saskatoon)
Curious about greenhouse gases? Warmer ocean temperatures? Changing sea levels? Plate tectonics? It all happened during the Cretaceous! Join William W. Hay, a paleoclimatologist and paleoceanographer from the University of Colorado, as he discusses these issues and more at 7 pm, Nov. 29.

Chasing Sand Tiger Beetles, Nov. 29 (webinar)
Join Aaron Bell from Troutreach Saskatchewan as he discusses his research on the endangered Big Gibson’s Sand Tiger Beetle in the Elbow Sand Hills in a Nov. 29 webinar offered by SK-PCAP.

Save the Last Dance, Nov. 30 (Val Marie)
Learn about Grasslands National Park’s science-based Greater Sage Grouse recovery program in Val Marie on Nov. 30 at 7:30 pm.

Conservation Awareness & Appreciation Supper, Dec. 1 (Frontier)
Nature Saskatchewan is holding a free conservation awareness and appreciation supper in Frontier on Dec. 1. There will be presentations on the Stewards of Saskatchewan, South of the Divide Conservation Action, and Greater Sage-Grouse Recovery programs, as well as the importance of conservation in paleontology. RSVP (obo@naturesask.ca) by November 24 if you are planning on attending.

Storytime at the Zoo, Nov. 29-Dec. 14 (Saskatoon)
Join Saskatoon Library staff at the Zoo for stories, songs, and a chance to meet one of the zoo animals from 1:30-2:30 pm, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, from Nov. 29-Dec. 14.

Common Goldeneye

Looking Ahead
Native Prairie Restoration and Reclamation Workshop, Feb. 8-9 (Regina)
The theme of the 2017 Native Prairie Restoration and Reclamation Workshop, Feb. 8-9 in Regina, is Reclaiming Spaces – Restoring Species. Registration is now open.

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

In the News
Cities use almost two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70% of all greenhouse gases. Five innovations, ranging from financial mechanisms to new technologies, could help cities lead the energy future.

Cathy Holtslander, National Farmers’ Union, outlines the pros and cons of carbon pricing, especially as they apply to farmers and agriculture.

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).

Thursday 17 November 2016

Water Policy: Roadblocks and Opportunities

pelicans on the river

The Husky Oil spill made many people in Saskatchewan aware of water vulnerability in our province. Hayley Carlson, a Master’s student in the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Saskatchewan, is studying the attitudes of different stakeholder groups to water management in the Saskatchewan River Basin.

Hayley began doing some preliminary research and immediately ran into a problem. Different people were telling completely different stories. Some expressed concern about water security. Others said there was no problem. It was time to dig a little deeper and see what she could discover.

Complex Water System 
Saskatchewan is very fortunate. For the moment, we have enough water to meet most of our needs. However, that means the time for good planning is now – before, not after, we’re faced with water shortages.

The Saskatchewan River Basin provides water to Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. The river travels through many different areas, from large cities to rural farms to northern forests. It provides water to 70% of Saskatchewan.

The water system’s complexity leads to a wide variety of challenges:
  • Arid climate;
  • Many different stakeholders with competing values, perspectives, and mandates: industry, agriculture, residential, wildlife and the natural environment;
  • Diverse jurisdictional interests and trans-boundary management: federal, provincial, municipal, First Nations;
  • Future uncertainty: population growth, economic development, climate change, and climate extremes; and
  • Inadequacy of the current governance framework and tools to manage future changes. 
Hayley’s research indicates that the agricultural sector accounts for 85% of the water withdrawn from the South Saskatchewan River Basin, while the municipal, industrial, and thermal sectors account for 8.7%, 1.8%, and 3% respectively. The water consumed from these withdrawals accounts for about 35% of average flow in an average year, but this percentage can increase or decrease depending on water supply. The majority of water is used by irrigation districts in Alberta, but in Saskatchewan the agriculture sector still withdraws the majority of water from the Saskatchewan portion of the Basin. 

The World Wildlife Fund claims 70% of the natural flow is allocated in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, the highest amount on any Canadian river. Some researchers suggest that the status of the largest food-producing region in Canada has come at the expense of water security.

The Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative (PARC) is mandated to pursue climate change impacts and adaptation research in the Prairie provinces. They point out that Saskatchewan has one of the world’s most variable climates and has warmed at a faster rate than the global average. While their models indicate increased water flow in the near term, they also indicate a dramatic drop-off after 2050.

The impact of competing water interests are already being felt in the Saskatchewan River Delta, the largest inland freshwater delta in North America and a nationally significant wildlife area. The E.B. Campbell Dam has disrupted the seasonal water patterns, eliminating spring flooding, increasing winter flows, and decreasing surface water coverage. The Delta is becoming arid, with large fish kills near the dams and fewer moose.

flowing water

Lack of a Shared Vision
Hayley began talking with and reading material produced by local stakeholders – industry, irrigation-based agriculture, Aboriginal groups, and environmentalists – to obtain a better understanding of how they viewed Saskatchewan’s water supply. It soon became clear that each group was telling a different story about Saskatchewan’s water, using different terminology to emphasize different facts, and measuring different things.

Irrigation Agriculture 
Irrigation interest groups around Lake Diefenbaker are eager to expand irrigation infrastructure by 400%. Irrigation is very expensive and is only used by a small group of farmers growing specialty crops. Their calculations do not take into consideration possible changes in water supply due to climate change. In addition, they measure annual average usage rather than weekly or daily flow, which may mean water isn’t available when it’s most needed for production. 

Industry maintains that the change caused by development is an illusion and, at the end of the day, you won’t notice any significant social or environmental change from industrial activity. They focus on how little water they actually consume, how much money they donate to conservation efforts, and how environmental regulation is ultimately in the hands of government. Industry fails to take into consideration how much water is cumulatively withdrawn, water quality when it is returned, and where it’s returned, which may be in a different location.

Aboriginal Groups
Seasonal fluctuations, as opposed to annual averages, are particularly important to Aboriginal groups, such as those living in or near the Saskatchewan Delta, as their traditional activities tend to depend on the ecosystem functions closely tied with seasonal changes. They claim human impact in the river basin has resulted in significant environmental degradation and an erosion of their ability to live a traditional lifestyle. First Nations reserves are often concerned about ensuring fresh drinking water for their residents. Aboriginal groups emphasize the importance of meaningful involvement in decision-making rather than cursory consultations.

Like Aboriginal groups, environmentalists have concerns around water usage and availability in Saskatchewan. They assert the province is facing water security concerns, emphasizing emerging pressures from population growth, increased consumption, and climate change.

Environmentalists have tended to focus their concerns on industry. “I’d recommend addressing an equal attention to the big water users, such as irrigation agriculture, particularly in southern Alberta,” Hayley says. “Individual industrial projects need to be considered within the context of the bigger picture.”


Lateral Discussions Can Lead to Shared Vision
“People were all seeing completely different realities,” exclaims Hayley. “We assume we’re all looking at the same picture, but we’re not. It’s a fundamental human condition to believe that others are seeing and interpreting things the same way we do. We have to acknowledge that fact before we can start addressing water policy questions.”

There are competing values and priorities; however, adversity makes people uncomfortable, so we tend to avoid sitting down with all the stakeholders and holding a frank discussion about what we want in the future, what we’re prepared to give up, who’s involved in the discussion, and who are the winners and losers.

Policy analysts tend to view competing perspectives as nuisances, getting in the way of “objective” and “consensus-based” policy creation. Hayley disagrees. “Competing perspectives represent opportunities,” she says. “By listening to competing perspectives we can see what we’re missing and how we could work together in the face of emerging challenges.”

To avoid conflict, we rely on government to consult individually with each of the interested parties and use empirical methods to derive a policy solution. This method places a heavy burden of responsibility on government, leaves individual groups unaware of each other’s concerns, and does nothing to move stakeholders from policy positions that may be very different and often at odds with one another.

Hayley believes that lateral discussions involving all the different stakeholders would improve decision-making by ensuring that groups were aware of each other’s concerns. “People are more ready to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution once they’ve heard other people explain their perspective.” Hayley says.*

In addition, stakeholders need to have continuous access to policy-making with ongoing lateral discussions. “Situations evolve,” Hayley says. “You don’t want a policy that’s set in stone.” A shared vision becomes a foundation for evaluating and addressing the complexity and uncertainty of water security issues.

Waskesiu river

Accommodating Uncertainty
In Getting Outside the Water Box: The Need for New Approaches to Water Planning and Policy, Patricia Gober states that “Too much attention has been focused on reducing, clarifying, and representing climatic uncertainty and too little attention has been directed to building capacity to accommodate uncertainty and change. Given the limited ability to forecast the future climate, emphasis must shift to the human actors and social dynamics of water systems, including planning processes, work practices, operational rules, public attitudes, and stakeholder engagement.” 

She goes on to say that decision-making under uncertainty strategies “change the research and policy question from what is the most likely future to what kind of future do we want and what decisions do we need to make to get there. These questions are political, not scientific; they require participation from a very wide range of water stakeholders—from farmers, industries, and municipal water providers and customers to environmental groups and linked land and energy sectors. Engaging these diverse stakeholders in an iterative, long-term discussion about the future of water systems is essential for deciding how much risk of deficit we are willing to take and what sacrifices we are willing to make to mitigate this risk.” 

It’s time we step up to the challenge, recognize the fundamental role water plays in our lives, and embrace the complexity of listening to different points of view.

See Also
South Saskatchewan River Watershed Stewards 
Climate Change and Water in the South Saskatchewan River Basin, PARC (2007)
Saskatchewan’s Natural Capital in a Changing Climate: An Assessment of Impacts and Adaptation, PARC (2009)
Cumberland House Councillor Raises Alarm over the ‘Dying’ Saskatchewan River Delta, Saskatoon StarPhoenix (August 1, 2016)
Saskatchewan Adds New Secretary for Farm Irrigation, Canadian Cattlemen (August 23, 2016)

* In Narrative Policy Analysis and the Integration of Public Involvement in Decision Making, Greg Hampton recounts the story of two communities with divergent opinions about the construction of a water treatment plant to improve water quality across the region. After listening to each other’s opinions, they were able to develop a new proposal which would address the needs of both communities.

Tuesday 15 November 2016

EcoSask News, November 15, 2016

Swainson's hawk

Upcoming Events
Photography with a Purpose, Nov. 15 (Regina)
Branimir Gjetvaj will present at the Regina Photo Club on Nov. 15 on the topic, Photography with a Purpose – Reflections by a Conservation Photographer.

No Dakota Access Pipeline: Solidarity Teach-In, Nov. 15 (Saskatoon)
Event organizers will make sense of No Dakota Access Pipeline in the local context from 4-6 pm, Nov. 15, at the No Dakota Access Pipeline: Solidarity Teach-In.

Stormwater Management, Nov. 15 (Saskatoon)
Matt Wooten will discuss Qcritical, a stormwater management system, at Tox on Tap, 6-9 pm, Nov. 15.

Permaculture Regina AGM & Herbs, Nov. 18 (Regina)
Jenine Demyen will talk about 5 useful Saskatchewan herbs at the Nov. 18 annual general meeting of Permaculture Regina.

Toward a Prairie Atonement, Nov. 18 (Saskatoon)
Trevor Herriot will read from his latest book, Towards a Prairie Atonement, at 7 pm, Nov. 18, at McNally Robinsons Booksellers.

For more book suggestions, check our list of Saskatchewan nature and environment books.

Household Hazardous Waste Day, Nov. 19 (Saskatoon)
You can dispose of household hazardous waste (e.g. light bulbs, aerosols, fuels) at the SaskTel Centre from 9 am – 3:30 pm, Nov. 19.

Saskatoon Nature Society Field Trips (Saskatoon)
Nov. 20, 1:30-5 pm – Pike Lake Birding
Nov. 27, 2-3 pm – Pre-Grey Cup Birding at President Murray Park
Dec. 3, 9 am-5 pm – Gardiner Dam Birding
Check the Saskatoon Nature Society’s website for full details and updated information.

Greet an Owl, Nov. 20 (Saskatoon)
Meet Spirt, a Great Horned Owl, at 1 pm, Nov. 20, at Wild Birds Unlimited.

Birds of Prey, Nov. 21 (Regina)
Dr. Ryan Fisher will discuss his research on the Ferruginous Hawk at the Nov. 21 meeting of Nature Regina.

Aboriginal & Northern Engagement in Environmental Remediation, Nov. 23 (Regina/Saskatoon)
Successes and Challenges: Aboriginal and Northern Engagement in Environmental Remediation Projects, a Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy lecture presented by Dr. Joe Muldoon, Saskatchewan Research Council, and Vice-Chief Joseph Tsannie, Prince Albert Grand Council, will be broadcast from 1:30-3 pm, Nov. 23, in Saskatoon and Regina.

Indigenous Perspectives on Conservation, Nov. 24 (Lumsden)
Rodger Ross, a Métis/Nehiyaw (Cree) and independent film producer will speak on Indigenous Perspectives on Conservation at 7 pm, Nov. 24, at Lumsden High School.

Agriculture in a Changing Climate, Nov. 24-26 (Saskatoon)
The National Farmers’ Union will be discussing Agriculture in a Changing Climate at their annual convention Nov. 24-26 in Saskatoon. The public is invited to hear Kent Mullinix speak about revitalizing family-based agriculture and farming communities while advancing food and farming systems that embody environmental stewardship, social equity, justice, and economic viability at 7 pm, Nov. 24.

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

Build a Fence for Wildlife
Help Living Sky Wildlife Rehabilitation build a perimeter fence to keep their rescued animals safe. Buy a board, a post, or some concrete.

In the News
Discover ways for you and others to connect with nature in Canadian Parks Council’s Nature Playbook

Shoppers must use their purchasing power to lead the green products revolution - "it’s the pull of consumers and the market that ultimately fuels the biggest changes"

The zero-waste pantry and freezer - no more unwanted, unused leftovers

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 8 November 2016

EcoSask News, November 8, 2016

autumn leaves

Upcoming Events
Tar Sands Art Exhibit, Nov. 4-Dec. 10 (Saskatoon)
Ernst Logar’s exhibit, Tar Sands: Approaching an Anthropocentric Site, is on display at Paved Arts from Nov. 4-Dec. 10. The exhibit focuses on the environmental impact that oil mining has upon the resource of water and the surrounding landscape.

Watching Wildlife in PANP, Nov. 9 (Saskatoon)
David Henry will present his book, Watching Wildlife in Prince Albert National Park, at 7:30 pm, Nov. 9, at Turning the Tide bookstore.

Passive House Days, Nov. 11-13 (Saskatoon)
Discover how a Passive House building is designed and built during International Passive House Days this coming weekend, Nov. 11-13: Friday 5 - 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday 10 - 3 pm, at 1104 Temperance Street.

Neonicotinoid Pesticides, Nov. 15 (Saskatoon)
Mike Cavallaro will discuss the environmental impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides at 7 pm, Nov. 15, as part of the Sustainable Speaker Series organized by the Saskatoon Public Library and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society.

John Murray @ Nature Moose Jaw, Nov. 16 (Moose Jaw)
Nature Moose Jaw is co-hosting a talk by John Murray on the flora and fauna of the boreal forest at noon, Nov. 16, at the Moose Jaw Public Library.

Milk River Meet & Greet, Nov. 16 (Mankota)
Join Nature Conservancy of Canada – Saskatchewan for a meet and greet in Mankota on Nov. 16.

Renewable Energy In and Around Saskatoon, Nov. 17 (Saskatoon)
David Henry will discuss renewable energy in and around Saskatoon at the Nov. 17 meeting of the Saskatoon Nature Society. The Saskatoon Nature Society meetings are held monthly at 7:30 pm in Room 106, Biology Building, University of Saskatchewan.

Porcupines to Polar Bears, Nov. 17 (Saskatoon)
Jerry Haigh reads from his latest book, Porcupines to Polar Bears: Adventures of a Wildlife Veterinarian, at 7 pm, Nov. 17, at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

For more book suggestions, check our list of Saskatchewan nature and environment books.

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

autumn leaves

"Kids in Nature" Grants
 The Saskatoon Nature Society is taking applications for the Kids in Nature Grant 2017. The Society has set aside approximately $2,000 for this year’s grant, designed to strengthen existing programs and encourage new initiatives that connect youth in the Saskatoon area with nature. Application deadline is December 31, 2016. Information and application are available on the Saskatoon Nature Society website.

In the News
SaskWind’s community renewable energy project in Swift Current has been put on hold as SaskPower refuses to consider the project at this time. Instead, SaskPower is proceeding with a gas-fired power station. SaskWind is calling for a federal Environmental Assessment of SaskPower’s project. They believe there are technically and economically feasible alternatives (i.e. wind) which SaskPower has not seriously considered prior to proposing this project.

Rock Paper Sun is posting great photo updates as they install a solar tracking system at the City of Saskatoon Landfill.

Los Angeles is taking a new approach to providing transportation services by focusing on mobility options, from car and bike sharing to addressing inequality and the needs of an aging population.

A six-storey, 85-unit, market-rental residential building in Vancouver aims to be Canada’s largest building certified as achieving the Passive House standard.

Quebec is investing in a multi-million dollar fence to protect drivers and wildlife. Along with the fence, there are new culverts and safe passages along the way for moose, deer, and bear to pass from one side of the highway to the other. There is also a smaller reptile barrier at the bottom of the same fence which is designed to save the many snakes and turtles killed on this road every year.

When will we make similar investments in Saskatoon and Saskatchewan?

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).

Thursday 3 November 2016

Saskatoon Embarks on Energy Performance Contract

The City of Saskatoon has committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% from the 2006 levels by 2023. A key strategy is to implement broader-scale energy improvements to civic buildings through Energy Performance Contracting.

The City recently posted an RFQ for an energy performance contract on SaskTenders. The successful company will be asked to perform a detailed feasibility study on up to 20 municipal buildings in order to identify energy and water conservation measures and their potential cost and energy savings. The City will then choose which measures it wants to undertake.

Chris Richards, Manager, Energy and Sustainability, Environmental and Corporate Initiatives, says that energy performance contracts have a number of potential benefits:

  • The contractor, rather than the municipality, takes on the risk (and cost) of conducting the audit and identifying potential energy savings. 
  • The contract creates a mechanism for funding projects out of operating funds rather than having to compete with other capital projects. 
  • The companies applying for the contract undergo a financial screening process to ensure that they have the necessary qualifications. 
  • The contractor guarantees that there will be financial savings, making it easier to borrow money to finance the work. 
  • Work can be bundled together, eliminating the need to go through a tendering process on up to 100 individual processes. 
  • The contractor agrees to provide certain results so the onus is on the contractor to test and make sure that the completed work achieves the desired energy and cost savings. As a result, the contractor is much more likely to hire reliable sub-contractors to ensure that everything works efficiently. The City has fewer headaches and the project requires less oversight. 
  • The contract includes a measurement process. If the contractor underperforms, they will either have to do remedial work or cut a cheque. 

It’s good to see the City of Saskatoon taking steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions. It will be interesting to follow their progress.

Saskatoon Health Region recently undertook a similar energy performance contract. The work is described in an article we posted in 2015.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

EcoSask News, November 1, 2016


Upcoming Events
Citizen Energy, Nov. 2 (Saskatoon) 
Brett Fairbairn will be discussing what we can learn from Germany which has established 900 citizen energy co-operatives in less than a decade from 10:30 am – 12 pm, Nov. 2, in Saskatoon. The talk will be video conferenced to an audience in Regina. Space is limited so register in advance.

The Messenger, Nov. 3 (Regina)
Public Pastures-Public Interest is showing the film The Messenger: Birds Have Something to Tell Us at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, 7 pm, Nov. 3.

Food Waste Film Night, Nov. 8 (Saskatoon)
A screening of Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story will be followed by a panel discussion about making sure that healthy food doesn’t go to waste in our community at 6:30 pm, Nov. 8. (Funding for the rights to show the film was provided through an EcoFriendly Action Grant.)

Forest Remembrance, Nov. 11 (Saskatoon)
The Naturally Engaged Artist Collective is holding a night of remembrance for the species, spaces, and cultures lost through industrialization and corporatization at 5 pm, Nov. 11.

Friends of PANP Fundraiser, Nov. 14 (Saskatoon)
The Friends of Prince Albert National Park are holding a fundraiser on Nov. 14 in Saskatoon to enhance Aboriginal inclusion and cultural heritage in the park.

Looking Ahead
Wilderness First Aid, Nov. 25-27 (Regina)
SaskOutdoors is offering a Standard or Advanced Wilderness First Aid course in Regina from Nov. 25-27. The Advanced course will be continued on Dec. 2-4.

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

Saskatchewan Birds Calendar
Nick Saunders’ Saskatchewan Birds Calendar 2017 is now available.

In the News
The world’s most endangered ecosystem can be found in Saskatchewan - temperate grasslands.

Can trash cans that look like giant coffee cups reduce waste?

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).