Thursday, March 26, 2015

Goodbye Octopi?

Where does the world’s largest octopus live? We are told in The Sea Among Us, by D. Beamish and S. McFarlane (Harbour Publishing), that it lives in the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. There are also 223 fish species and over 350 marine plant species in this strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland -- and all are in danger. Pollution, city outfalls, plastic debris and fishing lines, over-fishing, fuel leakage from transport, cruise and recreational boats and ferries, underwater noise, military naval activity, increasing tanker traffic – all threaten fish habitat and the personal lives of the marine mammals who call the strait home.

The growing cities of Victoria and Vancouver (and its port) spew out wastes plus human traffic, and since governments are encouraging rather than limiting growth these assaults are bound to get worse even as the governments cut back on the environmental departments that could monitor them. People stream in from the cold Prairies and Eastern Canada as well as from the rest of the world, finding this mild and nature-filled region a paradise – thereby eroding it. It’s not the world’s biggest octopus that is putting out the strangling tentacles.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Great Bears and Puny Politicians

Great Bear Wild: Dispatches From a Northern Rainforest, by Ian McAllister (Greystone, 2014)

What is the largest intact temperate rainforest on Earth? It's B.C.'s Great Bear Rainforest -- 1.2 million hectares -- and in 2006-7 the provincial and federal governments pledged to protect it. This protection happened largely thanks to Ian and Karen McAllister and their partners. Imagine their dismay that only a few years later, and after their producing much research and gorgeous coffee table books on bears, wolves, trees, salmon and the unimaginable rich array of life forms in the area, the GBR is STILL in danger -- now from liquefied natural gas plants, Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline terminus, trophy hunting, logging, and fish farms.

Government-sponsored money-grabbing is threatening the planet's largest temperate rainforest, which some short-sighted and soul-less politicians and bureaucrats call the "Midcoast Timber Supply Area." Do we Canadians deserve the privilege of 'standing on guard' for this treasure?

Every Canadian, and every school, should get hold of McAllister's gorgeously illustrated books and absorb the information therein, before it's too late. More at

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The cost of killing and the profits in killing

What will people pay to kill an animal? It's $8000 to kill a mountain sheep in the U.S., $1030 to kill a grizzly bear in British Columbia, $7250 for a lioness in Africa. Selling licences, governments are make a killing out of wildlife deaths.

There's big business too for breeders of lab animals. 233 species, from mice to lemurs to dogs to ferrets to primates are used in various kinds of research. Over 100 million animals are killed every year, according to PETA (while more are kept in cruel comfortless lonely cages year after year).

Everyone who cares must find out who gains how much from what in their country, their region -- and stand up and object. Chipping away at the stony monolith of greed takes a long long time, but what else can we do?

Smartphones will outlive a million species?

Why can cellphones take over Africa, but birth control pills can't?

The main threat to all the appealing life forms is the overabundance of humanity and all its works. What if the telecommunications companies devoted just a fraction of their profits to family planning education and the spread of contraceptives? Or do they just see more customers on the horizon?

There we'll be -- 15 million with nothing to eat or drink, all yakking on our cellphones ... in fear of the multitudinous types of terrorists competing to get the last drops of water and food, in the name of their god and against someone else's god ... if only we were smart and the phones fell dumb.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

When "pig-related" books really are upsetting

Tristin Hopper in the National Post provides comic alternatives to books with plots involving pigs (e.g. Babe, Animal Farm, The Three Little Pigs, Charlotte's Web), in response to the news that England's Oxford University Press is asking authors to "avoid anything pig-related" so as not to upset Jewish and Muslim readers.

People are framing this as a free speech issue, but it's more than that: how is it that we aren't repulsed and upset by "pig-related" cookbooks, and tomes on pig-raising for the slaughterhouse. Let's hope there are some kid-lit writers are willing to write books about -- dare one say it without upsetting someone -- being vegetarian, or being humane in our dealings with other species.

Isn't there something gross about handbooks teaching kids to raise, care for and feed farmyard pigs (4H style) -- and then kill them?

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stupidly dense or openly sprawling -- what should cities do? (Shrink.)

"Dense" may mean packed, but the other meaning of dense is "stupid." "Sprawl" on the other hand means to open up. Which do we want for our cities: openness or stupidity? Those who study the effects of nature on children have learned that outdoors play in natural settings stimulates intelligence, observational powers and confidence as well as physical fitness. Cities apparently make people stupid, even as they've made raccoons and crows smarter.

In Countdown, George Monbiot explains, country by country, how overpopulation makes urban places unlivable, while destroying natural environments and animal habitat.

A good companion read is Jim Sterba's Nature Wars, which describes the history of people's relationship to wildlife in the New World. First: they were a resource (the furbearers, especially the beaver, suffering near wipe-out), then for recreational enjoyment (hunters enjoying killing but not in the numbers that the first pioneers killed), and now we see wildlife as a nuisance as it invades the cities because growing cities have eaten up the wild animals' habitat.

Although Sterba seems self-consciously choosing to be unsentimental about eradication of wild "pests," there is much interesting factual information in this book about species and their extinctions. But beware: they guy hates cats.
Getting old, but still good (the problems analyzed haven't gone away):
The End of the River: Dams, Drought and Deja Vu on the Rio Sao Francisco, by Brian Harvey (ECW Press, 2008)

  -- about the rotten deal for fish, i.e. that we "seed oceans with engineered fingerlings" while destroying rivers for industry and industrial agricultural. Harvey visits the Sao Francisco watershed in Brazil and compares it to the Fraser system of British Columbia, Canada, where the commercial fish boats bank along the entrances and river mouths as salmon return. What chance have the fish? Or the orcas who depend on the Chinook salmon for their diet?

A study this year (2014) has shown that the Chinook are in more trouble -- things only worse since Harvey brought out End of the River.

Solution? Nobody eat fish!