March 2016



I hope everybody’s gearing up for another season of protests, petitions, and public meetings. LNG in Howe Sound isn’t dead yet. While local residents up and down the Sound have made their opposition to the proposed plant clear, we are now heading into the quagmire that is the approval process. The pessimists among us might be thinking, “Well isn’t that just great, here we go again – even the new Federal government is selling out our environment” and the optimists may be thinking, “Well, there are dozens of steps in the approval process at which the whole thing could be rejected. Maybe this is the government’s way of stopping LNG without making any of its supporter angry” (or maybe that’s the cynical opinion, not the optimistic one!)
The Squamish Chief just published an article about how our MP, Pamela Goldsmith-Jones, is dealing with public opinion on the decision to proceed with the approval process:

Pamela Goldsmith-Jones knows some people are upset with her over the federal granting of an environmental assessment certificate to the Woodfibre LNG Project on March 18…
“It is a very, very tough situation for me to be in,” she acknowledged Thursday from her Ottawa office, almost a week to the day that Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna announced she had granted the certificate.
“I have done my best to represent the interests of the community with regard to the environment, and it is terrible to be stuck with a system that nobody has any faith in from before,” she said, referring to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s process.
Goldsmith-Jones said she talks to McKenna daily about constituents’ concerns, and quickly after the decision was announced, she went to Fisheries Minister Hunter Tootoo, “talking to him about the standards for fish and fish habitat, that we have to have in place, talking about the threat of the cooling system, talking about the abundance of herring,” she said.
She said she also met with Minister of Transport Marc Garneau to discuss coastal protection.
“I am not giving up,” Goldsmith-Jones said. “People are obviously being very critical of me, but to me, I know where that comes from and I am hanging in there.”
“With the decision that has been made by the minister, it runs with 122 conditions and another 25 conditions of the Squamish Nation,” she said. “And there’s a lot of steps to go through. Principally, these are Fisheries and Transport Canada permits that need to be issued, and so I am vigilant because I think it is still going to be quite a challenge. I feel our government means it when it says it is going to stand up for the environment.”

Please click here to see the full article and to add your voice to the discussion.
Some people are perhaps not so confident in our new Prime Minister, like local Bowyer Island resident and activist Jackie DeRoo who recently published this Letter to the Editor in several North Shore newspapers:

Open letter to Prime Minister Trudeau:
I may be naive, but it’s not just me. Many citizens are disillusioned with your climate change pronouncements right now. On March 18 your government failed its first real on-the-ground climate test.
By quietly approving a new fossil fuel industry for Canada — LNG for export — you have locked Canada into a massive new fossil fuel paradigm for decades to come. How can you possibly justify this and simultaneously attempt to transition Canada to a new low-carbon economy? We thought “real change” included real action on climate change.
By approving the Woodfibre LNG project in Howe Sound, B.C.’s iconic and world renowned fjord, your government has broken faith with thousands of hopeful citizens who voted for your party in the last election.
How naive we are. We believed Minister McKenna’s announcement at COP21 that “Canada is back.” It was an exciting message. Under Harper we gave up hope that we could leave a safe and sustainable future for our children. Mr. Trudeau, you have no idea how hard so many of us worked to put you on that world stage!
In addition to the climate issues of approving Canada’s first LNG export project — two egregious components under your government’s control remain unaddressed:
1. The once-through seawater cooling system: cheap — but also banned in California and Europe as hugely destructive to marine ecosystems. After decades of industrial abuse Howe Sound is actually returning to life. The salmon fishery recently reopened. Herring have rebounded. Whales, orcas and dolphins have reappeared. Approving Woodfibre’s discharge into the ocean of 400 million litres per day of hot chlorinated water for 25 years is simply unacceptable.
2. The hazards of LNG as a dangerous cargo: LNG tankers are classified as the second most dangerous ships on the ocean, next only to ships carrying explosives. Designation of LNG plant and LNG tanker hazard zones are compulsory in the U.S. We have no such regulations in Canada. This is also unacceptable.
Unless these shortcomings are addressed head-on, impacts on marine life and people will come back to haunt you. A very large community of B.C. voters have not given permission for Woodfibre LNG.
Your words are eloquent, but approval of this project is not!

Locally we’ve got Concerned Citizens of Bowen Island, The Future of Howe Sound Society, My Sea to Sky, and Save Howe Sound all working hard to stop the LNG proposal. I’m sure the coming weeks and months will see lots of editorials, initiatives, and events – this is the time to live up to our reputation as the Salish Sea’s protesty-est island!

– Margaret Miller

It Takes an Island


Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about our responsibilities as a member of a community. What is our obligation to make the place we live in better with us than it would be without us? – I suppose some would say, “is that an obligation at all?” I think it is, but I also think it’s the kind of obligation that is actually a gift. When you give yourself, in whatever role you can, to your community you create a space that will give back to you when you need it. From the 30/30 initiative, to the effort to help Sadie Rose in her recuperation, to the incredible outflowing of support for the Hayeses after Piers’ sudden passing, this community’s ability to come together and give back when needed is amazing.
We can all see and feel the effects of this kind of involvement in a small community like Bowen, but what about the larger, global community? Are there things that I can change in my day to day life that will positively impact the environment? Given where we live what is our obligation to the planet? This is what I’ve been struggling with lately. It’s probably worth saying that my whole family already recycles, composts, limits our water, heat, and electricity use, and buys local (and ethical) whenever possible. But these things have really become the default in our society – something that you need to justify not doing rather than doing. Since Bowen is such an awesome community filled with people willing to share their ideas, expertise, and experience (Yay Bowen Forum and various Facebook groups!) – I know that there are lots of others trying to find solutions to this same problem. Kelly Schwenning is spearheading a group looking into the bulk purchase of solar panels and Elizabeth Burdock is blogging about her goal of feeding her family locally and sustainably – and that’s not even going into all of the fantastic things that BAA has going on!
One small thing that I can do is to grow more of my own food and start wildcrafting. For some of you that may not seem like a big deal at all, but full disclosure – I am a terrible gardener. I can kill just about anything, so this is going to be an uphill battle for me! Luckily, I live on acreage that gets plenty of sun and have access to tons (literally) of awesome compost. You won’t see me selling at the Farmers’ Markets any time soon, but if I’m able to significantly reduce the amount of packaged produce that my family currently buys – I’ll consider it a win. How successful my efforts are is yet to be determined, but so far I’m optimistic!

I have sat down to write this numerous times over the last couple of weeks, but every time I do what were beautifully formed phrases in my head refuse to flow out onto the keyboard. It’s like they get stuck somewhere in the joints of my hands, hovering above expression, not quite ready to be made public. So, I’m trying again and please forgive me if this isn’t as elegant as all of the other beautiful remembrances of Piers that have been published and printed and shared over the last little while.
I remember when the Hayeses first came to Bowen with the news of their arrival spreading like a brush fire,
“Have you met the new family?”
“They sailed from half way across the globe to come here.”
“You’ll love them, they’re the nicest people.”
And they are the nicest people and we do love them. With their dedication, hard work, love, and community-mindedness the Hayeses have turned The Snug into the manifestation of the Heart of this community. Piers was a person who greeted you like an old friend, was always ready to share a joke or story, and would offer you a lift home if you needed it. He was all of the qualities and characteristics that make Bowen great. And the space that is left with his passing is equally great.

– Margaret Miller

The Balance of Nature

Artist Michael Grab

First Published March 2, 2016, written by Denis Lynn

There is a popular belief in “the Balance of Nature.” This has likely been our belief for thousands of years. It arises possibly from the observation that the world around us is generally the same from year-to-year, decade-to-decade, and even generation-to-generation. The trees grow but do not change dramatically in numbers; the numbers of other plants and of animals generally do not dramatically change. That is, things tend to “stay the same” or there appears to be a “Balance of Nature”. In fact, it is the exceptions that prove the rule: plagues of locusts, floods, and droughts.

How to explain these exceptions? If we take the explanations in the Greek writings about the workings of nature as indications, it was likely that our ancestors explained these exceptions as the workings of the mysterious forces of the Universe – eventually conceived of as gods. Egerton describes this as “providential ecology.” Providential ecology was still the primary view as the JudeoChristian worldview flourished. If the exceptions brought hardship on us, then we looked to our actions as having displeased the gods – sacrifices and prayers were needed to “re-balance” the ecology.

Throughout history, and certainly by the 1600s and 1700s, there were attempts at understanding the wisdom of the gods by providing naturalistic explanations for the characteristics of species. For example, the Greeks observed how wise it was that prey, such as rabbits, were much more fecund than their predators, like foxes, and so a “balance” was preserved between predator and prey. Carolus Linneaus, the Swedish father of taxonomy and perhaps also of ecology, suggested that intimate and specific relationships between species, created by God, “contribute and lend a helping hand towards preserving every species, and … that the death and destruction of one thing should always be subservient to the restitution of another” (p. 336, Egerton, 1973). One might say “a place for every thing, and every thing in its place.”

However, the notion that a fixed number of species had been created and that these all had a significant role in Creation was challenged by the discovery of fossils: the remains of once living organisms that seemed to be very different from anything alive. Furthermore, some fossil aquatic organisms were discovered near the tops of mountains – so not every thing was in its place, neither in terms of its interactive role in the ecosystem nor in relation to its habitat – what once was apparently underwater is now on top of the world! Scientists could not believe that species were extinct, and John Ray, an Anglican clergyman naturalist, argued in the late 1600s that once Europeans had explored the whole globe, living “fossil” forms would be found. A century later, with much of the world explored, this position was untenable. Certainly by the time Darwin’s travels ended, there was little doubt that many species had become extinct, challenging the notions of “balance” and Special Creation. Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, a French biologist in the 1800s, resolved the problem of extinctions by arguing that species changed through time, originating every moment from the mud, and progressing through a series of transformations from unicells to multicells. This, of course, clearly challenged the notion of a Special Creation, which caused Lamarck problems with his more religious colleagues, but it resolved the problem of fossils: fossils were just older stages of existing species.

What might have caused these extinctions? Up to the 1800s, competition between individuals and between species was considered antithetical to the notions of “harmony” and “balance” in Nature. Charles Lyell, the great geologist of the 1800s, however firmly emphasized competition as a cause of extinctions. Darwin had read Linnaeus, Lyell, and on discovering Malthus, formulated his theory of natural selection premised on the existence of competition between members of a species in their struggle for existence. Yet, Darwin it seems implicitly still believed in some kind of balance as the inspirational last paragaph of “The Origin of Species” suggests: “It is interesting to contemplate a tangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent upon each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.”

In contrast, Alfred Russel Wallace, the instigation for Darwin to publish “The Origin”, wrote in his 1855 notebook: “Some species exclude all others in particular tracts. Where is the balance? When the locust devastates vast regions and causes the death of animals and man, what is the meaning of saying the balance is preserved?” (p. 339, Egerton, 1973). Wallace’s musings anticipated the views of most contemporary ecologists who consider “the Balance of Nature” an untestable hypothesis. Simberloff (2014) concludes “It is increasingly difficult to imagine what sorts of empirical or observational data could test the notion of a balance.” Yet, if one carefully defines what one means, “balance” can be observed in Nature.

Further Reading: Egerton. 1973. Quart. Rev. Biol. 48:322; Simberloff. 2014. PLOS Biology DOI: 10:1371/journal.pbio.1001093

– Denis Lynn, Professor Emeritus, Integrative Biology, University of Guelph


© Copyright 2016