Archive for the ‘ecology’ Category

anti-quarryResidents of Melancthon Township are breathing a sigh of relief as years of activism have paid off. Highland Companies has withdrawn its application for a license to mine aggregate from some of the most productive farmland in Ontario.

In 2006 Highland Companies, backed by a multi-billion dollar U.S.-based hedge fund, began buying up land in Melancthon Township, a community some 120 km north of Toronto. Highland told the community that their only goal was to grow potatoes, after buying out the community’s two most productive potato farming operations.

Not long after, Highland representatives began canvassing neighbouring farmers, offering to buy their farms, with promises to continue their operations intact. Some sold because they were older and looking to retire. Some sold because they were finding it increasingly difficult to make a living when the gap between productions cost and the price of potatoes on the local market began to shrink. Many came to regret the sales as they watched their houses razed and their land lying dormant. Residents watched with dismay as Highland burned beautiful 19th century farmhouses to the ground, and eliminated the habitat of the bobolink, a species of protected bird.

Fortunately, local residents became suspicious and began investigating Highland Companies. After observing some strangely ‘non-farming’ activity (geological surveys, etc), a few people started to notice that it wasn’t just corporate farming that Highland was interested in. There was a bigger agenda.

To their horror, Melancthon Township residents discovered that the land being purchased — some 2,400 acres in all — was to be used to dig the largest limestone quarry in Canada. A hole the size of 2,000 football fields, deeper than the Niagara gorge, was going into prime Ontario farmland in a region known for its natural beauty. The mining operation would also compromise a massive aquifer, responsible for filtering the water of more than 2 million Ontario residents.



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OTTAWA-The Harper government is proposing to stop one of Canada’s oldest laws protecting bodies of water across the country.

The changes, introduced as part of a 443-page budget implementation bill tabled Thursday in Parliament, would replace the Navigable Waters Protection Act, first introduced in 1882, with a new Navigation Protection Act covering a list of 97 lakes, 62 rivers and the three oceans on Canada’s coasts.

Transport Minister Denis Lebel suggested that the changes could ease the burden on companies seeking approval on new industrial projects such as oilsands development or mining extraction.

For example, under the existing law, Transport Canada had urged Shell Canada to provide more information about a proposed “diversion” of the Muskeg River for a new oilsands project.

While this process would continue, future project approvals on that river or many others would not be subject to a review under the new law unless Transport Canada expands its list of protected bodies of water.

“All projects that are actually in the middle of the (approval) process must be held to the existing rules,” said Lebel at a news conference. “The day when this new law comes into force, it will be another thing.”

A First Nations group promptly slammed the proposed changes, suggesting that it was giving industry a green light to destroy vital waterways in its community, violating existing treaty rights in Canada.

“I am seriously concerned this is an indication of corruption in our current government,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. “We hope there will be a public outcry that echoes our sentiment. After all, we all share the responsibility to protect mother earth.”


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Photo Essay: Tar Sands Atrocity

Once this landscape was a pristine wilderness roamed by deer now it’s ‘the most destructive industrial project on earth’

  • Lush green forests once blanketed an area of the Tar Sands at Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, larger than England
  • Area where blackened earth now stands dubbed by environmentalists as most destructive industrial project on earth
  • Boreal forest – once home to grizzly bears, moose and bison – is vanishing at rate second to Amazon deforestation

More photos here

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VANCOUVER – A private company has conducted what is being described as the world’s biggest geoengineering experiment off Canada’s west coast, dumping tonnes of iron into the ocean that may have triggered an artificial plankton bloom up to 10,000 square kilometres in size.

The experiment, which critics say is a ”blatant violation” of United Nations rules, involves controversial Californian businessman Russ George who teamed up with a First Nations village on Haida Gwaii to establish the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation to run the project.

Environment Canada said Monday it is aware of “the incident,” which is reported to have entailed dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the sea in a scheme to enhance both plankton and salmon and generate lucrative carbon credits. […]

It reports that George’s team dumped about 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the ocean from a fishing boat 370 kilometres west of Haida Gwaii in July. George and his colleague John Disney sold the people in the village of Masset on the idea of ocean enhancement, and the HSRC agreed to channel more than $2.5 million into projects.

“He promised a plankton bloom and he got it,” Guujaaw, president of the Haida Nation, told Postmedia News on Monday. “You can see it on the satellite images.”

A large plankton bloom covering an area up to 10,000 square kilometres was visible off Haida Gwaii in August, but it is not known how much was stimulated by the iron sulphate dumped into the sea and how much of it occurred naturally. […]

George is the former chief executive of Planktos Inc. and his vessels were barred from ports by the Spanish and Ecuadorean governments after previous attempts to produce plankton blooms near the Galapagos and Canary Islands. The Haida Gwaii experiment is believed to be the biggest geoengineering attempt to date, Jim Thomas, of the technology watchdog ETC Group, said Monday. The group has long tracked and publicized what Thomas describes as George’s “scams” and “schemes.”


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The Battle of East Texas

WINNSBORO, Tex. — Deep within the oak and pine forests that blanket this stretch of East Texas, the chug of machinery drones on late into the day, broken only by the sounds of a band of activists who have vowed to stop it.

Here, among the woods and farmland, what might be one of the last pitched battles over the Keystone XL oil pipeline has been unfolding for weeks now, since construction of the controversial project’s southern leg began in August.

As bulldozers and diggers churn up a 50-foot-wide path for the pipeline — this portion will run from Cushing, Okla., to the Gulf Coast — a small group of environmental activists have taken to the towering trees in its way.

And with the blessing of some landowners who live here, and whose property the pipeline will cross, the protesters have fashioned a web of tree houses, structures and pulleys in a last-ditch effort to keep the enormous project from rumbling forward. […]

“In one case, protesters jumped underneath a truck and tied themselves to the rear axle with plastic,” Shawn Howard, a TransCanada spokesman, said by e-mail. “They were fortunate that the driver saw them go under — if he had not, it could have had very serious consequences for everyone.”

Mr. Howard said the company was making sure that work sites were safe, “even for those who are breaking the law and trespassing on these locations.”

Still, as protesters have staked out positions in tree platforms 70 feet high and along a 100-foot-long wall lashed together with timber, tensions in East Texas have risen along the route of the pipeline — slated for completion next year.

Off-duty police officers, hired by a TransCanada contractor, patrol the perimeter of construction sites day and night. This month, one man chained himself to a concrete capsule buried in the dirt before police managed to disconnect and arrest him, Mr. Seifert said.

And on Oct. 4, the actress Daryl Hannah was arrested alongside a local landowner, Eleanor Fairchild, 78, after they blocked heavy equipment clearing a path through Ms. Fairchild’s property.


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Abby Martin takes a closer look at the incestuous relationship between the White House and Monsanto, by calling out Romney and Obama’s longstanding ties with the company.

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Stan Kroenke, 57, is one of the 400 richest people in the world according to Forbes. He began with a real estate development company that builds shopping malls. He married Ann Walton who is an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune.  Although Kroenke denies that any kind of special agreement exists, Wal-Mart tends to be a tenant in his malls. One reason may be that Kroenke tends to split the tax incentives with the store. For instance, of the $117 Million in tax write-offs given by local governments to build ten malls between 1994 and 2006, $54 M went to Wal-Mart. And of course, Wal-Mart has paid a great deal in rent to Kroenke’s malls. One hand washes the other and, by the way, Wal-Mart’s good fortune is also Kroenke’s since he holds more than $3 Billion in Wal-Mart stock […]

Another sport that appeals to Kroenke is fishing. Some years ago he bought the Douglas Lake Ranch in British Columbia. The ranch had belonged to billionaire Bernie Ebbers of Worldcom who went bust in the biggest personal bankruptcy ever — $11 Billion of debt […]

Kroenke owns at least four very large ranches including one in Wyoming and two in Montana. The Douglas Lake Ranch sits on a half milion acres of land. Some of this land, including a couple of lakes, is public or Crown property. In B.C. you can’t buy or sell a lake; it belongs to the people. What you apparently can do though, is fence off all the access to the lake so that no one else can use it even if that means closing public roads which is also not legal in B.C.

So little Minnie Lake, a prime fishing hole, is located on the Douglas Ranch and Kroenke has shut down the road that locals used to drive down to go fishing. Also, Kroenke has flooded a great deal of land, enlarging the lake — does that mean that the new lake area belongs to Kroenke as he claims leaving only a tiny bit of Crown property in the middle which can only be reached by trespass? Or is it still Crown property? (I kind of think that he should have been stopped from changing the lake but that’s a matter for the Ministry of the Environment which has very little presence in the current B.C. government.)

Kroenke has stocked Minnie Lake with trout and he has said that the locals who fish there are thieves, stealing his fish. They could, if they wished to be honest, pay $550 a night to stay at the lodge Kroenke has built on the lake. The locals say that they have fished there for generations, that they have proof that the access road is public, and are scraping together the cost of a legal battle they expect to fight very soon […]

The Minnie Lake business has a medieval ring to it, like being forbidden to hunt the King’s deer in Sherwood Forest. But Kroenke has a lot more force on his side than the Sheriff of Nottingham and, unless the locals can find a crackerjack lawyer, they are going to be shut out of the public lands of B.C. by one of our new feudal lords, Stan Kroenke.


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