A\J https://www.alternativesjournal.ca Canada's Environmental Voice Sun, 27 Nov 2022 17:47:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=6.4.3 WHERE THE WILDWAYS ARE https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/places/where-the-wildways-are/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/places/where-the-wildways-are/#respond Sat, 26 Nov 2022 19:29:00 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=11136 With apologies to Max, the central character in Maurice Sendak’s 1963 classic Where The Wild Things Are, and his arduous journey “in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room”, Alice the Moose puts his to shame. Alice left her home park in […]

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With apologies to Max, the central character in Maurice Sendak’s 1963 classic Where The Wild Things Are, and his arduous journey “in and out of weeks and through a day and into the night of his very own room”, Alice the Moose puts his to shame. Alice left her home park in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, swam across the St. Lawrence river, somehow made it across the four-lane 401 highway and finally completed her 570 km-long journey by arriving in Ontario’s Algonquin Park. Talk about a wild trip!

Alice was just doing what comes naturally – migrating with the seasons, in search of safer grounds and more plentiful sources of nourishment. And not just Alice. Lots of other animals. Thousands of different species of animals in every glorious manifestation have been migrating through what’s now known as the ‘Algonquin to Adirondacks’  region (A2A) for thousands if not millions of years. We humans joined the pilgrimage for our own survival, dodging the worst of winter’s wrath and following our meal-tickets as they embarked on their own migrations.

The Algonquin to Adirondacks region (courtesy of the A2A Collaborative)

Turns out, there’s an interconnected network of trails and wildways stretching up the east cost of North America. You – or an Alice – could travel from Everglades National Park through Georgia’s Smoky Mountains, up the Appalachians, through the Adirondacks, across the Frontenac Arch and the St. Lawrence river and on into Algonquin Park. And there’s an organization that has charted these wildways, the species (and their movements) and the threats to biodiversity, particularly the numerous species-at-risk.

In October 2019, Wildlands Network released an interactive map of the Eastern Wildway, representing a major step forward in realizing a vision of connectivity for this region:


In their own words:

The Eastern Wildway contains some of North America’s most beloved national parks, preserves, scenic rivers, and other wild places, from the wilderness of Quebec, the Adirondacks, and the Shenandoah Valley, to the Great Smoky Mountains and Everglades National Park. Protecting and expanding these and other key core areas is crucial to rewilding the East.

I like the idea of rewilding. Of our spaces and our souls. Allowing our footfalls to provide the syncopation as we walk away our worries, lost-to-be-found in nature. And allowing nature to reclaim, to repossess, what we humans have taken from them, the birds, the bees, the flowers and the trees.

I was thinking about Alice recently when I came across a tragic story about a deer. This deer had managed to swim to Prince Edward Island – akin to Marilyn Bell swimming across Lake Ontario – only to be hit and killed by a transport truck not long after its arrival on the island. Alice had somehow survived an ordeal similar to our dearly-departed deer friend in PEI. And in Alice’s case, she was crossing one of the busiest highways in North America, the 401/TransCanada. At the point where Alice dodged death, the 401 is four lanes wide and busy almost 24 hours a day. This was Alice’s reality and the reality faced by every other ground-based species that migrates through the A2A region. The animals are simply following deep programming, genetic memories of migrations from hundreds of generations. The pathways are ancient. Highways are the interlopers, the recent development that benefits one species to the detriment of all others.

from the David Suzuki Foundation

There are solutions. They go by a variety off names – wildlife overpasses, animal bridges, wildlife crossings – but I like to think of them as a modern iteration on an ancient tale. In the biblical story of Noah and his Ark, human wickedness required global cleansing, as the Almighty prepared to wash the sins of humans away through the medium of an unprecedented flood. But recognizing that the animals did not cause the wickedness and therefore should be saved, Noah was instructed by the Big Boss to construct a gigantic ark, a boat, that could hold a pair of each species. This would allow the animals to repopulate the world after the forty days of ‘cleansing’.

In our modern times, humanity constructs transportation monuments that seem built to demand animal sacrifice. But when we build a bridge – a Noah’s Arch – that allows wildlife to cross our highway infrastructures, we fulfill an obligation to right a wrong.

The A2A Collaborative’s Road Ecology project is aiming “to help reduce wildlife road mortality across the entire Algonquin to Adirondacks region by making recommendations on the best possible locations for wildlife crossings.” There are strong financial reasons to support these public works projects that buttress the moral reasons. In Alberta’s Bow Valley, a study found that “from 1998 and 2010 (there) was…an average of 62 WVCs (wildlife-vehicle collisions) per year. This amounts to an average cost-to-society of $640,922 per year due to motorist crashes with large wildlife, primarily ungulates.”

An “analysis of a wildlife underpass with fencing at a 3 km section… within the project area near Dead Man’s Flats showed that total WVCs dropped from an annual average of 11.8 per-construction to an annual average of 2.5 WVCs post-mitigation construction. The wildlife crossings and fencing reduced the annual average cost by over 90%, from an average of $128,337 per year to a resulting $17,564 average per year.”

The judicious construction of wildlife crossings saves lives and saves money. And it makes our wildways that much more alive with wildlife. It’s time for us humans to do our part and prioritize wildlife crossings on our major highways and roadways.

Alice would thank you.

Courtesy of A2A Collaborative


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The Journey to 2071: An Earth Odyssey https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/aj-2/the-journey-to-2071-an-earth-odyssey/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/aj-2/the-journey-to-2071-an-earth-odyssey/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2022 17:45:32 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=11028 Dear Reader, We are excited to present to you our third issue from 2021, “The Journey to 2071: An Earth Odyssey”. In this issue, we aim to mentally enter the year 2071, with the assumption that we made it to that point, and tell stories from our journeys to getting […]

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Dear Reader,

We are excited to present to you our third issue from 2021, “The Journey to 2071: An Earth Odyssey”.

In this issue, we aim to mentally enter the year 2071, with the assumption that we made it to that point, and tell stories from our journeys to getting there. The stories will look from a backwards point of view on how we managed to dodge environmental cataclysm and rebuild society and nature anew. A combination of cli-fi (climate fiction), utopian and dystopian creative visions, climate science, and intergenerational stories are required to make this issue, the future of 2071, come to life.

Our goal is to challenge readers to think about the climate crisis in a different way and start thinking about what they’re going to do in their individual lives and communities to strive for that possible future; we want people to envision the journey. We’re not looking for false hope or optimism, but rather, diverse stories that are grounded in the views of people.

Below is our Table of Contents where you can read all about the A\J Team’s process of creating this issue, interviews with amazing new environmental leaders, book and film reviews, as well as our on-theme content, separated in 3 sections: Before the Storm, During the Storm, and After the Storm.

We hope you enjoy this digital issue and we thank you for all of your continued interest and support. Please note that we have included the full PDF of the issue at the bottom of this page, which you are welcome to download and share.


The A\J Team


Letters from the Editors – Ishani Dasgupta, Alex Goddard, & Siobhan Mullally
Publisher’s Note – Ishani Dasgupta – coming soon
Creators Page – A\J Team – coming soon
Designer’s Corner – Jelena Polimac – coming soon

Go for the Shark, Not the Dolphin – Ishani Dasgupta – coming soon
Funding the Future – Samanvitha Annedi – coming soon
The Perils of Efficiency – Seth Bunev – coming soon

Before the Storm – 2020s – 2030s
Luna Part 1 – 2026 – David McConnachie – coming soon
The Road to Fossil Fuel Divestment – Truzaar Dordi – coming soon
Rebels with a Cause – Yasmeen Aslam – coming soon
The Soul of Nature and Me – Ishani Dasgupta – coming soon
“Screaming Ghosts of 1552” – Charlotte Joyce – coming soon

During the Storm – 2030s – 2050s
Luna Part 2 – 2035 – David McConnachie – coming soon
The Climate Change History Museum – Nikolas Kuchmij – coming soon
After Alexandria – Sabrina Chefari – coming soon

After the Storm – 2060s – 2071
Luna Part 3 – 2063 – David McConnachie – coming soon
Breaking News: 2071 is Here! – Guenevere Neufeld – coming soon
A Eulogy for Nature – Siobhan Mullally – coming soon
Lend Me Your Hindsight – Seth Bunev – coming soon
The Stories that Shape Our World – Jeevan Jones – coming soon
Invisible Glasses and the Rebalancing of Planetary Energy – Valerie Behiery – coming soon

Small Steps to Greater Understanding – Darwin Sodhi – coming soon
Climate Change 101 – Courtney Kraik – coming soon
Facing Giants – Diljot Badesha – coming soon
Children’s Essential Guide to Forests – Sama Saquib – coming soon
A Prediction of Future Events – Yasmeen Aslam – coming soon

LINK TO PDF – coming soon

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They Call It Worm. They Call It Lame. That’s Not Its Name. https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/science-research/they-call-it-worm-they-call-it-lame-thats-not-its-name/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/science-research/they-call-it-worm-they-call-it-lame-thats-not-its-name/#respond Fri, 10 Jun 2022 12:31:24 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=11055 “Move over murder hornets. A new insect has people bugging out,” begins a segment for evening news viewers across the country. The story continues, but most can’t help but pause and question what just came out of their television speakers. Murder hornets? Murder hornet has become the popularized name for […]

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“Move over murder hornets. A new insect has people bugging out,” begins a segment for evening news viewers across the country. The story continues, but most can’t help but pause and question what just came out of their television speakers. Murder hornets?

Murder hornet has become the popularized name for Vespa mandarinia, but the established common name is simply Asian giant hornet — a name that describes where the insect is from and what it looks like. While in this case of this species the colloquial and standardized common name are quite different, common names aren’t always as straightforward as Asian giant hornet. They can be just as cryptic as the name murder hornet. 

“Sometimes common names are very misleading or they are not very informative,” says Adam Brunke, Chair of the Common Names Committee for the Entomological Society of Canada (ESC). “It’s a communication issue.”

However, ease of communication is exactly what a common name is for. They’re used to bridge the divide between those who study a field of biology, such as the study of insects called entomology, and those who don’t. So when a name fails to add ease, has confusing descriptors, or uses derogatory language, there’s a problem. 

These issues are what the Better Common Names Project aims to address. Led by the Entomological Society of America (ESA) and a steering committee made up of many ESC members, the Better Common Names Project involves revisiting common insect names, proposing new ones, and approving a new standard common name for both the United States and Canada. 

The first renaming for the project was for Lymantria dispar where the official common name “gypsy moth” was changed to “spongy moth” due to the term gypsy being an ethnic slur for the Romani people. The new name “spongy” refers to the insect’s distinct sponge-like egg masses. It’s a characteristic that’s unique to the insect and easy to understand. 

Spongy MothMale spongy moth (Lymantria dispar) // Credit: S. McCann; Source: Entomological Society of Canada

“What happens is that we don’t actually propose any names ourselves. We get proposals from the entomological community and they do some background research and provide a rationale. They explain why any existing names are appropriate or not appropriate,” Brunke says. “Normally, there’s two or three names that are already out there, or maybe the name exists in French, but not English, or vice versa. So this is a bit of a special case where we had a pest insect with a very, very dominant name.”

It’s easy to look at this project or renaming happening in any field as only a means of creating a more inclusive and equitable society. And while that’s certainly not a bad thing to consider, the main goal is to enable clear communication and understanding. 

Though we often learn and accept terms for what they are and can adapt to a pre-existing language, it doesn’t mean the language is as effective as it could be. In fact, it’s possible people may get the wrong idea of what an insect is or does if a name is too ambiguous or nondescript.

Take the case of a newly introduced tick in Canada.

“It was starting to get a lot of media attention because it is a potential disease vector.” 

A disease vector is something that carries and spreads disease, like an insect, which is definitely information that the broader community should be aware of. But the way in which this information is communicated should be done carefully. It was important that this insect be given a name that’s more than just clickbait. No one needs a new case of “murder hornets”.

“We were trying to use something neutral and something descriptive before it could, you know, sort of get out of hand or go in a direction we’d rather it not,” Brunke says, emphasizing that a common name should help someone identify an insect. This is especially important for those monitoring for a specific pest that may be harmful or damaging to the environment.

Murder Hornets

Murder hornet news headline // Source: Saanich News

Identifying, suggesting, and standardizing common names is definitely not a one-person job. After all, there are an estimated 10 quintillion insects out there. The collaborative effort of the entomological societies and the great entomological community are key for identifying what names work and what don’t. 

Though there are many experts and enthusiasts out there, it doesn’t necessarily mean they always have the answers about why a common name exists as it does. Their origin may ultimately remain unknown because no one documented the rationale and it’s because of this that a common name may come into question.

“That’s the problem. We never get the reasons for things.”

If there isn’t a well-understood reason for something or if in hindsight a reason isn’t very well justified, then there’s room for change. Just like science itself, it’s a process of hypothesizing, researching, and concluding. And if you don’t agree with the outcome, or in this case, the name? Create a new hypothesis, test it, and come up with a more acceptable, well-founded standard.

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On The Road To Serendipity https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/uncategorized/on-the-road-to-serendipity/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/uncategorized/on-the-road-to-serendipity/#respond Sun, 29 May 2022 01:35:11 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10701 (ORIGINAL POSTED APRIL 21, 2021) CAUTION: Serendipitous roads may cause new perspectives It was early March, just before Covid-19 exploded into our collective consciousness. We – my partner and I – decided on a quick weekend getaway to celebrate an anniversary. We live in Kitchener and had wanted to visit […]

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CAUTION: Serendipitous roads may cause new perspectives

It was early March, just before Covid-19 exploded into our collective consciousness. We – my partner and I – decided on a quick weekend getaway to celebrate an anniversary. We live in Kitchener and had wanted to visit the Lake Huron shore. We found a resort just north of Grand Bend and made our plans to escape. And when I say ‘plans’, I do mean so, given that we drive an electric vehicle, and one that happens to be best suited to inter-urban transit.

Don’t get me wrong; I love driving ‘Mr. Bobby Button’, the moniker (and character) attached to the 2017 Mitsubishi MiEV that can be seen tooting around KW in all seasons. BB is about the size of a Smartcar-on-steroids, has all-wheel drive and can turn in a phone booth, and is remarkably spunky when the light goes green. This generation of EV, however, was built just-before the innovations embedded in today’s EVs that practically eliminate ‘range anxiety’. BB has an ‘effective’ full range of 150 kilometres on a full charge but temperature, ancillary electrical use (radio, phone charger, heater, etc.) and travelling speed can combine to reduce the 150 km range by a third or more. That’s not much of a problem when you are doing errands or running across town and back; you plug in at home and are fully good-to-go by the morning. But when you’ve got an extended journey ahead of you in an EV of BB’s vintage, you need to put a bit of extra planning in place to ensure that you arrive at your destination without the necessity of pushing the last kilometre or two!

Bobby Button pulls up in front of the future home of Alternatives Journal

And, truth be told, I’m a bit of a nervous-Nelly when it comes to range anxiety. When driving gas vehicles, the EMPTY light was a frequent travelling companion and a reminder to stop….soon-ish. In BB? Not so much. There have been a couple of ‘adventures’ that came close to running down the battery and getting the travelling party stuck in the middle of a farmer’s field. Oh, and there’s that other time that saw yours-truly come close to committing B&E to access an electrical outlet in a barn by the side of a country road somewhere west of Belleville.

With that in mind, the route was carefully planned, thanks to the ‘Queen of Google Maps and the EV Charging Apps’. Oh yes, there’s an app for charging your EV (recommended), or for scouting out potential stopping points (also recommend, and be sure to check the latest check-in). Actually, there’s three or four apps that you need in this part of SW Ontario. In Quebec and eastern Ontario, one app gets you from Montreal to Kingston….but then you’ll encounter a patchwork of stopping points, some demonstration projects brought forth by municipalities and some for-profit, app-based solutions. In southwest Ontario, there’s pretty good coverage in the cities like Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Stratford, Guelph and Brantford. For our trip to Lake Huron, we’d first need to stop and top-up in Stratford. And then find another place to stop before getting to the shore, as the top-up only takes BB to 80% charge and the temperature was cool to the point of chilly (and passengers likewise).

We made the first leg to Stratford without incident, although that luck wouldn’t be repeated on the homeward journey as the erstwhile-working charging suddenly wasn’t working on Sunday! But that’s a story for another day.

The battery in BB read 40% when we plugged in to the fast-charger, ChaDeMo (google it….I can’t remember what that stands for at the moment). It takes about 20 minutes to get to 80% from empty, although I’ve never risked that; in this case, the charge took about 15 minutes, which afforded us the perfect opportunity to advance scout the next stopping point.

As I mentioned, the Queen had a full array of apps to check and then cross-check with Google maps to plot time, distance and likelihood that I’d have a mini-meltdown before we reached the charging point. At this stage, I was focussed not so much on the bucolic nature of the quaint town housing the charging station – and much more focussed on not running out of ‘juice’ somewhere between Varna and Staffa….which last time I check an atlas were both located near the Black Sea? How could that be?

I should mention that in addition to the high-powered, separately-powered ChaDeMo fast-charger (15-20 minutes), there’s a mid-range charger (that runs on 220) that takes 4 hours to reach full charge from empty…and a plug-in, take-with version that can take up to 12 hours to get you to full charge from empty. Oh, and because we don’t drive a Tesla, Elon’s e-stations do absolutely nothing for us ‘plebs’. So figuring out which station was working in which location, and with which app to pay for the privilege of powering our progress, is kind of important.

The Queen remarked that there seemed to be a new station, just up and running in the town of Exeter, which was conveniently located on our route to the shore from Stratford. With an almost-full charge under our engine’s fanless belt, we headed out with a load of enthusiasm and just a tad of concern about what would await us at the destination. We checked out the Google maps, saw that Exeter is located about 20 kilometres from the Lake Huron shore near Grand Bend, with an extra dozen clicks taking you up the shore to Bayfield. Exeter is also the largest and best-appointed town once you’ve left Stratford if you’re heading in the Grand Bend/Bayfield direction. The perfect waypoint, as it turned out.

And talk about serendipity! I was almost out of coffee and the charging station was located in the parking lot of the Timmie’s on the main street (actually, Main Street)!

Charging Bobby Button while recharging the driver with a double-double

The station was easy to find (which is NOT ALWAYS the case), the app connected easily (again, NOT ALWAYS the case), and we both let out a bit of an exhale knowing that we’d leaped the final range hurdle, with an 80% charge more than capable of speeding us the 20+ kilometres to our final destination, where we’d plug-in the overnight charger. I ducked inside, grabbed another double-double, and sat back, enjoying the respite while the vehicle charged. The Queen, not content with EV apps and Google maps, turned her attention to another favourite, real estate dreaming.

Firing up the MLS, we noticed a couple of properties for sale and for lease in Exeter, and specifically a couple of properties in the historic downtown core. Now, there was no impetus to look at properties but why not follow the way that the road was taking us, and Exeter was leaving us happier and recharged by the minute. Once we reached the max, we headed down to the core and spied out the listings. One or two looked promising – again, not sure promising what – so in the days after we reached out to the agents to explore what-ifs. And then the pandemic hit HARD, lockdown came, and more pressing realities pressed the idea away…..for a while.

In early September, to recharge from a strenuous summer spent developing two print issues and delivering a wealth of online content, we decided to head back to the shore for a Covid-safe weekend, this time staying in Bayfield. It was a lovely time, and on the road back home we decided to stop in Exeter to recharge the vehicle. There’s also a lovely park in Exeter, and we’d recently added a puppy, Zoey, to the family. Zoey needed a good stretch-of-the-legs in some deep, green grass and lungs full of fresh, clean air. So Exeter it was (we could have made the full trip to Stratford with the full charge and the warmer temperatures). The fact that we could stop at Timmies and recharge the vehicle (and the driver) only added to the appeal. We also took the time to drive to the downtown core and see how the local merchants and businesses were doing. We were happy to note that most businesses had managed to sustain operations in spite of the historic challenges, and that people were (safely) going about their daily activities, a smile in their eyes as they greeted us from behind the masks.

When we returned to Kitchener, we made a few enquiries in regard to real estate in Exeter. Well, as things would happen, an interesting proposition was brought to us by a friend of A\J: there was a street level shop in a building in the middle of the historic downtown core, and the rent would be ‘subsidized’ by the philanthropically-inclined new owners for a year (at least). But we’d need to be ready to put staff in that office once the pandemic lifted – and be ready to use this gift as an opportunity to learn, listen and grow more earthy in our opinions and in our writing. We’re there now.

We’ve got plans again, tentative plans given the uncertain circumstances. But the plans are rooted in the core mission of our organization: to become the most effective story-teller of environmental stories that are read by a broad cross-section of Canadians. We’ve got roots in cities and bigger towns, graduating from Peterborough to KW, with stops in Toronto in between. We’ve got roots in academic circles of informed-opinions and opinion-formers. We’ve got roots in the eNGO community, and frequently seek to empower collaborations that deliver 1+1=3. But, as an organization, our roots had not yet extended to the fertile soil of a community like Exeter. So, we leaped…. again….and we’re ready to take bigger leaps in the near future.

We’ve already made some friends in the community, and have discussed how we can best become a good neighbour and an economic development supporter. We’re ideating lectures and panels and musical events. We’re engaging with schools and businesses and organizations to understand their environmental stories – and to share them with our national readership. Admittedly, we’re doing it slowly; slowly but surely. We’re planting the seeds that we hope will grow into strong roots that will allow our writing, our story-telling, to blossom and flourish.

In Exeter, Ontario, at the crossroad to Lake Huron shore, on the road to serendipity… and opportunity.

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Climate of Change Episode 4: ‘Rewiring the Future’ Review https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-4-rewiring-the-future-review/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-4-rewiring-the-future-review/#respond Wed, 25 May 2022 20:18:09 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10656 This week we are very excited to be reviewing episode four of Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s new podcast Climate of Change, titled “Rewiring the Future”. Before diving into the review, remember, if you’d like to listen for yourself – head over to Audible.ca! The fourth episode begins with a quote from […]

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This week we are very excited to be reviewing episode four of Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s new podcast Climate of Change, titled “Rewiring the Future”. Before diving into the review, remember, if you’d like to listen for yourself – head over to Audible.ca!

The fourth episode begins with a quote from Tolkein, and explains that this episode is all about ‘not straying from the quest of rewiring our future’. By this they mean in the future we will need to be replacing technology in the next 20 years, consisting of billions of machines, and that we must ensure when this is done, we replace technology with climate sound solutions. This is touched on by Saul Griffith who explores the idea more in his book. I love Cate’s “buffalo” mentality, wherein she describes that during storms, rather than running away, that buffalo run right to the center of the storm and charge through it together, thus spending less time in the storm and being better off. This is such a great analogy for climate change, rather than running and prolonging our ‘storm’ we need to face the issues head-on. 

We are then introduced to OhmConnect and Matt Duesterberg, President, OhmConnect is a reward-based energy program for your house. Matt states that every start-up has its secret, and theirs is the negawatt. Rather than making power plants turn on when needed, they incentivise customers to reduce by paying people for saving energy. They also allow you to compare your usage to neighbours and friends to compare performance. By doing this in concentrated areas they are actually able to reduce the number of times power plants turn on. This is a cool idea, I can imagine my environmentally minded friends and me having competitions to see who can use the least electricity! As Blanchett says, the most important part of all of this is reducing energy use when renewable energy is not available, and OhmConnect incentivise this by showing users when electricity is is the most costly, and thus in demand, and incentivises them to do the ‘right thing’ at the same time as saving money. 

Kennedy had a great explanation about the ‘variability’ of renewable energy, wherein he reminds the audience that fossil fuel-powered plants are also unreliable and that as technology progresses, we are much more readily able to store renewable energy that has been generated. The unreliability of the traditional energy grid was highlighted by the fact that in New York they were without power for an entire week because of a fallen tree – it amazes me that the main concern around a renewable grid is the unreliability when instances like this have occurred. As they say, flexibility is the key. 

We then hear about Infravision, which uses drones to connect electricity cables resulting in much quicker and safer installations. By installing new cables we are able to be more energy-efficient, and we will need to replace billions of cables over the coming years. This technology also allows for power lines to be laid down over rough terrain, like in New Guinea where only 17% percent of the population have access to electricity, thus aiding in a just transition. As Kennedy and Blanchett say, this and OhmConnect are great examples of adapting existing technologies to create solutions. 

We then move on to Renewell, which addresses the concerns of ‘what do we do’ with the old technologies and infrastructure that have been built, and the communities that have been built up around them. As stated, there are 2.15 million oil wells in the states at present, and through gravity well conversion they hope to put them to good use. The main technology is a regenerative winch to move long cylindrical weight up and down the wellbore (shaft), converting potential energy into electric energy – thanks grade 11 physics, I still remember what this means! They do this by using excess energy from the sun, or when the wind blows to pull the weight up, and at night when renewables are low, it can be raised and lowered to bolster the energy supply. This is such an interesting idea to me because as discussed, using gravity to store energy is an idea as old as dams, however not one often discussed in the renewable energy sector. This also allows jobs to be provided for the same people who lose theirs when the oil and gas industry closes down. It seems there are few drawbacks to this solution. 

The next guest is Saul Griffith who among many things, created the Lightfoot electric scooter. This works by charging itself through solar panels on the scooter, providing up to 30 miles of range. Griffith goes on to talk about the need to make the right decision as we replace our technology, returning to the points brought up in the intro of the podcast. Griffith believes that an all-electric future can save us a lot of money, while also saving our planet, and has created a book to help us get there called Electrify Everything, San Francisco. As is the theme with most renewables, the usual discourse of ‘it is too expensive to solve climate change’ is proven wrong when Saul outlines that by electrifying everything, the US economy alone will save $300 billion. Sounds like it’s too expensive to not solve climate change. 

As always, Blanchett asks the questions that I myself am wondering when she asks about the cost of the materials, as well as associated emissions from the materials needed to create an electric future. Kennedy states that Griffith had already done the calculations, and that the material usage would be a fraction of that if it were through fossil fuel-powered energy. As Kennedy states, a circular economy is necessary for this. 

This was another really great episode! The idea of using existing technology to address the climate issue was an interesting one that is not discussed often enough – we really do have everything we need to be the change we so desperately need. 

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The Playbook for Progress Homepage https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/science-research/the-playbook-for-progress-homepage/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/science-research/the-playbook-for-progress-homepage/#respond Tue, 17 May 2022 16:38:03 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10535 Dear Reader, Our team at Alternatives Journal is proud to announce the release of our first issue of 2021 (46.1), The Playbook for Progress: A How-to Manual for Making Your World a Better Place. By looking into different silos of green work (government, academia, corporate, eNGO, etc), Playbook for Progress explores just […]

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Dear Reader,

Our team at Alternatives Journal is proud to announce the release of our first issue of 2021 (46.1), The Playbook for Progress: A How-to Manual for Making Your World a Better Place.

By looking into different silos of green work (government, academia, corporate, eNGO, etc), Playbook for Progress explores just HOW each and every one of us can make environmental change in the world at different levels and in all spaces.

This issue includes the voices of long-time environmental leaders as they share their best advice, do’s and don’t’s, cautionary tales, words of wisdom, and inspiration as they pass the torch to the incoming generation of change-makers. Playbook for Progress also aims to address and tackle the big, systemic issues that impede progress, like toxic masculinity, discrimination, and corruption in our government and economic systems.

So, if we want to make change, where do we start? Where should we look for the best opportunities? How can we sustain ourselves while making change? How do we stay motivated? What does progress look like?

We hope this issue helps answer those questions for you, but above all, we hope it inspires you to continue working hard to make the world a better place for all. Led by guest editor and change-maker Natasha Arsenijevich, this issue is rooted in the hearts and stories of compassionate people doing their best, and we thank you for joining us on this journey.

We encourage you to read the digital magazine below and/or download the PDF to view the print magazine design.

Thank you,
The A\J Team

Table of Contents

Letter from the Editor – Natasha Arsenijevich
Publisher’s Note – David McConnachie
Creators – A\J Team
Playing Chicken – Natasha Arsenijevich
Babies on Board – Elizabeth Greenfield
Higher Stakes – Siobhan Mullally
Building Rainbow Bridges – Kait Tyschenko
Toxic Men, Toxic Earth, Toxic Futures – Sophia Sanniti
Canada Scores for the Environment – David McConnachie
Called to Duty – Emma Tamlin
A Game of Snakes and Ladders – Natasha Arsenijevich & Siobhan Mullally
Captain Community – Greta Vaivadaite
Sharing the Spotlight – Siobhan Mullally
Hungry for Change – Paul Taylor
The Enterprising Ecopreneur – Greta Vaivadaite
Musing of a Cautious Optimist – Andrew Bowerbank
The Dean’s Gambit – Siobhan Mullally
The Green Carpet – Greta Vaivadaite
Ready Player One – David McConnachie
Are You Paying Attention? – Katie Kish
Virtual Inspiration – Siobhan Mullally
Researching Canada’s Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity – Katie Kish & Eric Miller
Quantum Leap Needed – Stephan Vachon
The Beating and Bleeding Heart of Boreal Trees – Ishani Dasgupta
The Nexus of Technology & the Environment – Jane Pangilinan
On Bees and Communities – Aalia Khan
A Diary of the Underappreciation of Water – Shanella Ramkissoon

PLAYBOOK FOR PROGRESS PDF – Download to keep and share with friends!

Be sure to also check out our PLAYLIST FOR PROGRESS on Spotify, including songs that inspire change and reflect this issue’s message.

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Climate of Change Episode 3: “Faith, Hope, and Electricity” – A Review https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/activism-2/climate-of-change-episode-3-faith-hope-and-electricity-a-review/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/activism-2/climate-of-change-episode-3-faith-hope-and-electricity-a-review/#respond Fri, 13 May 2022 17:40:45 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10464 Do you have faith in renewable energy powering our future? I am definitely an advocate for clean energy and a fossil-fuel-free future (pardon the excessive alliteration), but I do still have my doubts, especially concerning an equitable transformation and distribution of renewable energy. This podcast episode titled “Faith, Hope, and […]

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Do you have faith in renewable energy powering our future? I am definitely an advocate for clean energy and a fossil-fuel-free future (pardon the excessive alliteration), but I do still have my doubts, especially concerning an equitable transformation and distribution of renewable energy. This podcast episode titled “Faith, Hope, and Electricity”, the third episode in Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s “Climate of Change” series, is all about energy, particularly solar energy, and the importance of our connection to the sun.

Solar Panels
Source: SolarReviews

The podcast begins with Cate and Danny reminiscing on when they both first experienced electricity in a meaningful way. As kids, they each had realizations of the true power of electricity, which made me think back to my own experiences. I remember getting in bed on a cold winter night when I was a kid and my flannel sheets had built up so much static that they would produce little sparks under the covers. I was terrified at first until I realized the static sparks were virtually harmless and then I thought it was pretty cool. I enjoy how from the very beginning of the podcast, I was able to connect to the message as it made me start thinking about my own memories. As a listener, this intro definitely got me engaged from the start.

One major theme in this episode was that the sun is our main source of power and we take it for granted. Humans use the sun to power everything – directly and indirectly. It is and has been a resource, a tool, and a vastly powerful entity. I mean, it’s literally at the center of our solar system. So, Cate and Danny explain the relationship between humans and the sun throughout history.

Cate and Danny describe how different societies learned how to harness the sun’s power to develop new technologies and progress. They also spend time talking about our current society and where we’re at with solar energy. Danny explains that solar power currently makes up 3% of global energy use, but he says that even though it sounds small, that number is growing at a rapid rate, doubling every two years. This means we could be close to 100% solar energy in 10 years’ time. This statistic shocked me because I tend to imagine a dominant renewable energy future to exist in the far, far future, in a dream-like, sustainable utopia, in at least 50 to 100 years. But in just 10 years, I’ll only be in my early thirties. Is it possible that we could make so much progress in solar energy in just 10 years? I feel a bit skeptical of this fact, but I think that’s the point of this podcast – to make listeners think more about renewable energy possibilities and open up big questions for discussion.

Another topic that Cate and Danny made me think about was our human connection to the sun and to the natural world. Danny suggests that the sun is essential to everything we do and, therefore, we are connected to it, but Cate counters that by asking whether we are genuinely connected to it. I mean, it is a fact that we are connected to the sun in many ways, but the question is whether we feel and know that connection. Cate questions whether humans have separated ourselves from the sun in the same way many of us have disconnected from the natural world despite our reliance on it. One of my favourite parts of this podcast followed this discussion when Cate poetically shares her first memory of feeling connected to the natural world. She describes laying on the back of her dad’s car at night when she was a kid, looking up at the vast night sky. She describes it as the following, “Rather than looking at the stars, I kind of looked through them and it was the first time I sensed something absolutely massive, unknowable, and unknown to me. And I felt incredibly tiny.”

Cate goes on to explain the surreal feeling of realizing that your own existence is so small and sometimes seemingly meaningless compared to the vastness of the universe. Kind of existential, right? It seems depressing in a way, but it’s an important realization that we are a small part of a greater system. As 8-year-old Cate was staring at the night sky, she had a sense of awe and connection to the natural world, and they state that this is the sense we need to revitalize and feel again in the present day, in everything we do.

Charlie Brown Stars
Source: Pinterest

In my environmental studies undergraduate program, the idea of being connected to nature was ingrained in me. We learn that humans are not separate from nature but we are a part of it just as much as the other mammals, the birds, the trees, the lichens, and the microorganisms. We’re not the center of the universe and connecting with nature is how we will be properly able to coexist with it and allow it to thrive. Danny describes this exact idea by explaining the need for nature-based solutions in our technology and engineering, which he calls “biomimicry” – the approach of mimicking ways nature succeeds in human designs. He says this is the best way that humans can fit back into nature rather than work against it or separate from it. Solar energy is one of these ways.

The podcast also features a few interesting, sustainable-minded individuals, including Andrew Birch, the co-founder of the business, Open Solar. He describes the work Open Solar does, putting an emphasis on the beauty and simplicity of solar energy using the word “magical” to describe it. He discusses the economic benefits of solar energy, like the huge capacity to create jobs. One thing Andrew claimed that I was not convinced about was that developing countries will be able to jump straight to solar energy in the future and skip major fossil fuel development phases. I have a hard time believing that this is possible given the level of greed and wealth that exists in the world, but maybe that is just my skepticism shining through again. I am definitely interested in learning more about Open Solar after listening to Andrew speak so enthusiastically about solar energy and the future.

Source: Solar Outfitters

Moving on, Cate and Danny also address some of the common concerns people have with solar energy, landing on a “no one size fits all” solution. A mix of energy supplies will be needed in the future. This was a refreshing take on renewable energy for me because the downfalls of specific types of renewables are addressed and acknowledged, but there is still possibility.

About halfway through the podcast, Cate expressed that she was concerned about equitable distribution of renewable energy – exactly my own concern while listening. The two of them thoroughly address concerns of equity and environmental justice by explaining that clean energy initiatives need to be carefully thought through in order to guarantee that they are not displacing anyone and are benefiting everyone involved. Danny explains how his company ensures diverse entrepreneurs get training and funding to succeed in clean energy projects. The most important thing here is that communities have ownership and autonomy when it comes to the energy systems and the associated benefits. They also talk about the necessity of racial and gender equity in addressing the climate crisis, which is absolutely essential in my opinion. This discussion of the episode was so important to me and I think they did really well at addressing issues of inclusivity and justice in the sustainable development space.

Following the topic of equity, they introduce their next guests, Brett Isaac and Clara Pratte of the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Nation is an Indigenous territory in the States, covering land in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Brett and Clara saw a need for a clean energy future in their nation, so they decided to lead the nation out of a coal-dependent past into solar energy and possibility. They are the founders and co-CEOs of Navajo Power, which builds clean energy projects on Indigenous lands.

Navajo Power
Source: Navajo Power

Brett describes solar energy in a humble way as the Navajo people have a strong relationship with the sun. The Navajo have traditional stories about the sun. They pray to the sun, believe in the sun, and it is clear that they have gratitude for the sun as they use it as a resource. The podcast dives deeper into the struggles of historical environmental injustice that the Navajo people have experienced, including legacy impacts from uranium mines and the exacerbated effects from COVID-19. 

The most encouraging part of this podcast episode was the hope embedded within it. When focusing on the Navajo nation, the exploitation and struggles are outlined, but the main focus is on the reclamation of energy, taking back power for themselves. The land and ecosystems are described beautifully along with the commitment of Navajo Power to conserving and restoring the landscape. Not only is the environment benefitting, but local communities are gaining electricity and running water on their own homelands, jobs are being created bringing in local income, and community empowerment is growing. I love that the podcast gave such a voice to Brett and Clara. The podcast probably spent about half of the time on Cate and Danny’s thoughts and half on the diverse voices of their guests who were able to speak on their own work. 

Brett Isaac and Clara Pratte
Brett Isaac and Clara Pratte // Source: Navajo Power

At the end of the podcast, Cate and Danny bring in Katie Milkman, professor and researcher of psychology and economics and author of How to Change, to address the human default to resist change. Katie explains the common barriers to change that humans have embedded in us as well as the best solutions to embrace change and begin with small individual actions. I enjoyed this part of the podcast, but I did feel like some things were missing. Individual actions are said to lead to bigger social change in the podcast, which I agree with, but I also think systemic issues go beyond the individual. I would have liked to hear more about ways to hold people in power accountable for creating and embracing systemic change as a way to overcome barriers to change. The closing of this podcast was a great starter, though. 

Overall, I learned a lot about the feasibility of solar energy in the future. I also gained a lot of hope from listening to all the stances on the social and environmental benefits of solar energy. If you are like me and the ideas of renewable energy bounce around back and forth in your head, I recommend giving this episode a listen. At the very least, you will think deeply about some of the questions Cate and Danny bring up and learn about some cool solar energy projects. 

You can give this episode a listen, as well as the other episodes of “Climate of Change”, exclusively at Audible.ca

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Mediating a Marriage on the Rocks: Anderson v. Alberta https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/activism-2/mediating-a-marriage-on-the-rocks-anderson-v-alberta/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/activism-2/mediating-a-marriage-on-the-rocks-anderson-v-alberta/#respond Wed, 11 May 2022 15:52:41 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10432 The relationship between Canada and First Nations plays out like a marriage on the rocks. Once upon a time, separate Nations came together: some brought a love of land, and others had more of a lust for it. They made a solemn covenant, sealed the deal in ceremony, and then: […]

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The relationship between Canada and First Nations plays out like a marriage on the rocks. Once upon a time, separate Nations came together: some brought a love of land, and others had more of a lust for it. They made a solemn covenant, sealed the deal in ceremony, and then: things went horribly sideways. 

Maybe it was the way Canada kept insisting that their good intentions were enough to excuse abuse and neglect. Or how, though they kept saying “sorry”, they couldn’t help but take up all the space, ‘flagspreading’ their way to occupy 98% of the sofa without once handing over the remote. Tired of watching Beachcombers re-runs and being gaslit over wounds ancient and fresh, Indigenous Peoples negotiated, accommodated and — finally — litigated. 

So it’s no big surprise that Canada’s legal systems tend to borrow from family law when it comes to repairing relationships. From the issuance of Advance Costs to fund litigation, all the way down to the idea of reconciliation itself, instruments developed to settle disputes between quarrelling parties have been adapted to address this country’s most fundamental fallout. 

Let’s look at just one case: colloquially known as the Defend the Treaties trial, Anderson v Alberta was launched in 2008 by Beaver Lake Cree Nation(BLCN). Located 200 km north of Edmonton in the heart of what was once Alberta’s boreal forest, BLCN was faced with the explosive expansion of oil and gas projects in their territory. As a result, the community was finding it increasingly impossible to get out on the land to hunt, fish, and collect berries and medicines. Without these activities, it was growing difficult for families to make ends meet, and to pass on cultural knowledge from elders to parents, and from parents to children. 

Imagine if every time you set out to check on your traplines, you discovered another road, another well, another tailings pond. What you once knew as a sinuous landscape layered with lineages of your ancestral ecosystem knowledge has become a maze of dead-ends and no-go zones. Imagine if the rare caribou or moose you did encounter was inedible, the meat poisoned after the animal licked at the salty-tasting bitumen that seeps to the bog’s surface because of in situ oil sands extraction. 

For the small Indigenous Nation, the writing was on the wall: go to court, or lose everything at the heart of what it means to be Beaver Lake Cree.  

In situ bitumen mining leads to landscape and wildlife habitat fragmented by oil and gas infrastructure. Photo by RAVEN

The Ecological Promise at the Heart of Canada’s Treaties

“A truly exceptional matter of public interest.” 

That’s how Canada’s Supreme Court described Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s legal challenge. At its core, the case involves a tiny Nation standing up to Canada and Alberta to demand that the protections assured in Treaty 6 be upheld. The treaty, signed in 1876, spells it out in black and white: Indigenous rights to hunt, fish, and practice cultural activities on their territory are enshrined in perpetuity in one of the country’s oldest contracts. 

The treaty protects not just reserve land, but access to vast tracts of boreal forest that Beaver Lake Cree have been sustained by, and have stewarded, for thousands of years. 

The Defend the Treaties case emphasises that it’s the cumulative impacts of industry on treaty rights that is at issue. A win would force regulators to evaluate new project applications not piecemeal, as is currently the practice, but according to how any well, mine, or pipeline fit into the overall picture affecting the availability, health and productivity of hunting and fishing grounds. 

When the case was filed, environmentalists took notice. A scrappy start-up organisation called RAVEN (Respecting Aboriginal Values and Environmental Needs) took on fundraising for the case. “We felt like it shouldn’t be up to First Nations to bear the huge cost of holding industry to account,” says RAVEN’s founding Executive Director Susan Smitten. “It’s not fair to rely on the poorest people in what is now called Canada to stand alone and be the voice of reason in this effort. They have the power of their treaties to protect the planet, and we have the power of a nation to support them.” 

Together with Chief Al Lameman, for whom the Defend the Treaties case was initially named, Smitten first stewarded funds from the Cooperative Bank of the UK, whose members invested, recognizing the strategic importance of BLCN’s challenge in halting the devastating impacts of tar sands extraction. Since then, RAVEN has raised more than $2 million dollars to cover a portion of BLCN’s hefty legal bills. 

For the governments of Canada and Alberta, Beaver Lake Cree’s ambitious challenge was a dire portent of a future where oil was no longer king. They knew that adopting a holistic view of project impacts would slow down the gold-rush frenzy that fuels the race to develop Alberta’s tar sands and get at vast deposits of bitumen and natural gas.  

Besides the fact that Alberta is sitting on the largest deposit of crude oil on the planet is the irrevocable climate reality that if we extract and burn it, we’ll assure the extinction of a million species: including, if we really blow it, ourselves. 

The whole industry is built on the pressure of short-term imperatives. Especially in the years since the Copenhagen and Paris climate agreements, the race has been on to squeeze as much profit out of the tar sands as possible before serious emissions controls come along to curtail development and ultimately make their product obsolete. If industry continues at its rampant pace, there just won’t be any caribou left for Beaver Lake Cree Nation members to hunt – that would turn the conversation from one about conservation of precious resources into one about compensation for irrevocable losses. 

The challenge for Beaver Lake Cree is simple and urgent: if tar sands development continues to expand in their territories, BLCN’s treaty won’t be worth the parchment that it’s written on. 

Beaver Lake Cree Nation chief Germaine Anderson. Photo by RAVEN

Court to First Nations: How broke are you? 

After a decade of fighting motions to strike and appeals, the Nation has won the right to have its case heard in court: the trial is set for 2024. Beaver Lake Cree are also making the case for why the government should advance them the money needed to pay for it. 

12 long years after filing the Defend the Treaties challenge, Beaver Lake Cree Nation was exhausted and flat out of funds. So, in 2018, Chief Germaine Anderson applied for what are known as Advance Costs. 

Let’s just go back to the family law analogy. When a married couple who disagree are seeking a divorce, if the husband holds all the financial cards, it puts the wife at an unfair disadvantage. He can finagle the house, the car, and even the kids if she is reduced to relying on legal aid or forced to go under-represented. To avoid that kind of scenario, the courts developed an instrument so that the richer party would be ordered to advance a set amount to the more ‘impecunious’ party, allowing them to afford a decent lawyer. Though they are sometimes called ‘awards’, Advance Costs are not grants but rather are a tool to level the playing field so that both parties are on more equal footing. 

To receive Advance Costs, the less wealthy party has to turn out their pockets in front of the court and prove just how broke they are. 

That’s exactly what Beaver Lake Cree Nation did. It really should come as no surprise that a rural Indigenous Nation — struggling to cope with outdated infrastructure, substandard housing and a shabby education budget — might not be able to sustain million-dollar litigation. But the Nation had to argue for the necessity of, for example, paying for the delivery of clean drinking water to community members ahead of spending that money on litigation. 

Having gone through the patronising process of being nickel and dimed by the government, the Nation managed to prove their ‘impecuniousness’ and in 2019 BLCN was awarded Advance Costs. Had that lower court ruling stood, it would have required Alberta, Canada and BLCN to share the costs of litigation to the tune of $300k each, annually, for the duration of the trial. 

In keeping with tactics the powers that be had been deploying all along, the award decision was appealed and overturned. With their very existence as a people at stake, fiercely committed to seeing justice done, BLCN took their Advance Costs fight to the Supreme Court of Canada. 

A milestone for Indigenous justice

After months of nail-biting, in March 2022 Beaver Lake Cree Nation received a unanimous Supreme Court Decision that will echo down the years as a landmark ruling on Indigenous access to justice. In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada overturned Alberta’s removal of Beaver Lake Cree’s Advanced Cost order.

The Supreme Court recognized that in an era defined by reconciliation and respecting Indigenous self-determination — to take care of pressing community needs first, before spending on court costs — must come first.

While the SCC ruling requires Beaver Lake Cree Nation to go back to the trial judge for a deep dive into BLCN’s financial situation and how it meets the fine-print criteria of “pressing needs” set out by the court, their appeal is a huge win for access to justice. 

It is also a big win for RAVEN. 

“It’s not every day we watch the needle move to advance the law in favour of Indigenous rights,” says Smitten. “We’re really proud to be part of this, and humbled by the never-flagging determination of BLCN’s leadership.”

Susan Smitten
RAVEN’s executive director, Susan Smitten. Credit Taylor Roades.

All’s fair in love and litigation

Advance costs are actually extraordinarily rare, as they require that applicants pass a series of legal tests. Anderson v. Alberta clarified what those tests will be going forward. One thing that has not changed is that Advance Costs are only available for cases that are considered to be in the public interest. The court determined that there is a strong public interest in obtaining a ruling on the claims brought forward by Beaver Lake Cree Nation in its Defend the Treaties challenge. That alone may seem obvious — tar sands expansion affects us all, and Albertans, Indigenous and settler alike, have treaty obligations that should matter to everyone. 

But the court went further. Recognizing that we are in a new era where self-determination and reconciliation confer upon First Nations the right to allocate spending as they see fit, the Supreme Court affirmed that Indigenous governments — not courts — are best suited to set their own priorities and identify the needs of their communities. 

The Court also found that when a government has used delay and outspend tactics — bloating the costs of, and timeline for, urgent legal action — the court should ‘exercise its discretion’ in awarding Advance Costs. From now on, the fact that a First Nation might choose to allocate its limited funds to address the needs of its community – including for cultural survival and to fund basic services that most other Canadians take for granted – should not be used as a basis to disqualify the First Nation from advance costs for litigation to protect its Section 35 rights. 

Back to our family law metaphor: the court’s new ruling means that the person in charge of the household and children will be able to determine their own priorities and needs ahead of what some judge decides is ‘best for them’. This ruling takes some of the paternalism out of the Advance Cost process and opens the door for Nations to meet government and industry on a more level playing field. 

The Supreme Court also awarded solicitor-client costs to Beaver Lake Cree Nation for all three levels of court hearings related to the Advance Cost application and appeal. Now that Canada and Alberta have to pay BLCN back for what the Nation spent on the Advance Costs process, BLCN can immediately use these funds to gather evidence, elder testimony, and prepare arguments for what could be one of the most monumental legal challenges Canada has ever seen. 

An ambiguous win

BLCN’s victory was a major milestone in the Nation’s decades-long process to push back against the cumulative impacts of industrial development in their territory. But you’d never know what a big win they scored from reading mainstream media coverage. 

Most outlets failed to recognize the groundbreaking nature of the SCC ruling. Headlines reported both that the Nation had won, and that they had lost. Partly, that’s because the Nation was sent back to the lower court in Alberta for a rehearing on Advance Costs, this time using the new test set out by the Supreme Court. But under those conditions, the Nation not only qualifies: they literally set the standard. The opportunity to go back to the court to adjudicate the award amount and terms under these new Supreme Court criteria may result in an even larger sum being awarded to the Nation. 

Karey Brooks, lawyer for Beaver Lake Cree Nation, is unequivocal. “The Supreme Court of Canada ruling is a huge win for access to justice.” 

She explains that the Court recognized Indigenous self-determination when it emphasised that a Nation’s pressing needs must be understood within the broader context from which a First Nation government makes decisions.

“I think it’s a huge win in that respect.” 

Solar power generation on the rooftop of Beaver Lake Cree Nation’s community school. Photo by RAVEN

Fair’s Fair: Enshrining Access to Justice into Law

Going before the courts – for both advancing the original claim to trial and to achieve Advance Costs — Beaver Lake Cree Nation has been validated, and their right not only to pursue their case but to receive support, fully affirmed.

“The greatest barrier to justice – and victory for this court challenge – is the high cost of the legal system,” says RAVEN’s Susan Smitten. “How fantastic that a small group of dedicated donors was able to shore up this challenge to fund a trial that could stagger the tar sands behemoth. Also: how spooky to think how many worthy cases have faltered due to lack of resources.”

The implications of this judgement are nation-wide and capture in law the sovereignty of a Nation’s decision-making. Judges will now be able to take into account systemic factors such as the history of colonialism, displacement, and residential schools and how that history continues to operate today. 

Thanks to Beaver Lake Cree Nation, Indigenous Peoples will no longer, as a judge in Alberta’s Court of Queen’s Bench put it, have to “stand naked before the court.”

No matter how the lower court chooses to award Advance Costs, Beaver Lake Cree will still be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the duration of the trial, which could last several years. No matter how the court rules: RAVEN will be there. 

When we join forces as Indigenous Peoples and settlers, we can move mountains – and create better laws” Susan Smitten, Executive Director, RAVEN

This story was generously funded through support from Metcalfe Foundation.

Follow RAVEN online!




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Climate of Change Episode 2: ‘The Disruptive Decade’ Review https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-2-the-disruptive-decade-review/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-2-the-disruptive-decade-review/#respond Fri, 06 May 2022 17:11:00 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10399 This week we are very excited to be reviewing episode two of Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s new podcast Climate of Change, titled “The Disruptive Decade”. Before diving into the review, remember, if you’d like to listen for yourself – head over to Audible.ca! The episode starts by highlighting the […]

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This week we are very excited to be reviewing episode two of Cate Blanchett and Danny Kennedy’s new podcast Climate of Change, titled “The Disruptive Decade”. Before diving into the review, remember, if you’d like to listen for yourself – head over to Audible.ca!

The episode starts by highlighting the sustainability measures implemented in their recording studio, ranging from solar panels powering it, and wooden diffusers and old truck tires as sound barriers. As Blanchett says, the green-powered “stuff” is working! I really enjoyed this quick peek into the ways they tried to integrate sustainable solutions as much as possible. The pair then moved from the studio to the roof that holds these solar panels, which resulted in Blanchett asking the questions that I have come to appreciate, such as what happens when there’s no sunlight for these panels. Knowledgeable as ever, Kennedy explains that while not quite as effective, diffuse light still allows for energy to be generated, even on a rainy day. The way this podcast fosters environmental communication, with Blanchett asking questions that many wonder, while Kennedy explains them in clear, easy-to-understand terms, is my favourite aspect of the show. 

As someone who considers themself an environmentalist, I can’t believe I haven’t heard of Blanchett’s sustainable endeavours. As mentioned by herself and Kennedy, in 2008 she installed the largest solar array on a single roof in the entire southern hemisphere, on the roof of the Sydney Theatre Company in Australia. With the help of Kennedy no less! As Kennedy said, this showed what was possible, and now Australia is the ‘solar capital of the world (as far as rooftops go)’.  

The first episode was full of good news, and this one continues the trend. As Blanchett says, we just don’t hear enough about the good news of the pace of positive change in the energy transition, compared to the bad news of climate collapse. Kennedy states that this is why we need to tell success stories and continue to inspire as Blanchett did with her solar panel installation at the Sydney Theatre Company. Coupled with sustainability measures by other organisations, it was easy to be inspired to implement sustainability measures at this time. Continuing, Kennedy says it’s the power of a cultural institution to make change. Now, Australia is on track to be coal-free by 2030, largely because at this point, it’s simply the economic thing to do

The podcast then moves on to discuss the Earthshot prize, which aims to help repair the planet over the next ten years by providing targeted funding, and a global platform for innovators around the world. This brings in the first guest, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William. It was really interesting to hear Prince William talk about his first environmental awakening, going over his time in Kenya where he spent time understanding the challenges, and what it was like to live so close to the animals he grew up seeing on documentaries. I appreciate the optimism that the Prince brings, once again highlighting that for too long we have spoken about the issue too negatively, saying the Earthshot prize, COP, and even this podcast help move the dial and make him optimistic we can do this. Prince William’s reasons for starting the Earthshot prize echo this sentiment of positivity spreading hope, stating that it was inspired after a trip to Namibia where he saw lots of great measures in place but was greeted by the stark contrast of the doom and gloom attitude upon his return to the UK. 

For an event honouring green initiatives, you would of course hope that the Earthshot awards would be as green as possible. What was astonishing though, was that they had a 98% reduction in carbon emissions for an event of that size, an almost unbelievable feat that hopefully has inspired others. Even more astonishingly, Coldplay performed, and their entire show was powered by 60 cyclists – how amazing is that?!

The hosts and Prince William then move onto the different Earthshot categories, with the first being cleaner air. The goal of this category is to ensure that by 2030 everyone globally can breathe clean air to the WHO’s standard. The idea discussed here is a process in which crop residues in India, rather than being burned, are turned into fertiliser which benefits both farmers, as well as creates a new revenue stream. We then get to hear from Vidyut Mohan, the co-founder of Takachar. Here he talks about the negative air quality impacts he has witnessed in Delhi due to the burning of crop residues, and how it impacts the health of himself, his family, and all those breathing it. He talks about Takachar, a machine that converts this biomass into fertilizer, and hopes to prevent 2 million tonnes of smoke emissions over just ten years. Not only does this remove up to 95% of smoke emissions associated with farming providing cleaner air, but it also provides free fertiliser, as well as new jobs. 

Illustration of the Takachar system, Photo from Takachar

The second Earthshot discussed is the “fix our climate” category, which Blanchett described as ‘absolutely massive’. This leads us to hear from Olugbenga Olubanjo, CEO, Reeddi. Olu hopes to solve the issue of energy connectivity that over one billion people suffer from. Here he talks about this issue in Nigeria, stating that at one point he didn’t have electricity for two entire years. This led him to build a solution – the Reeddi capsule which Kennedy describes as a small black box, about the size of a carton of milk which can charge laptops, lights and phones, making buying electricity as easy as buying a carton of milk. The way this works is by letting people rent the capsule at stores for a low rate. Similar to Kennedy, I enjoyed the fact that these prizes are creating change in less developed parts of the world that have less revenue to invest in sustainable initiatives. 

Olugbenga Olubanjo, Founder Reeddi Photo: Press Images

The third Earthshot prize is “save our oceans” which aims to repair and preserve our oceans by 2030 for future generations. Here Prince William talks about the winner Coral Vita, which breeds climate-resilient coral to be transplanted into reefs. If I may insert myself into this really quickly – I’m from Barbados and have had the unfortunate pleasure of watching some of my favourite reefs succumb to coral bleaching over the past decade, this is one of the most exciting climate initiatives I’ve ever heard of. They then speak to Dr. Katherine Dafforn, Co-leader, Living Seawalls – Living Seawalls uses modular habitat panels as sea walls, to ensure that we don’t have ‘concrete coastlines’ – once again, an amazing initiative I can’t believe I hadn’t heard of. As Dr. Dafforn says, the marine animals seem to love these with fish reappearing in days, and over just weeks, helping to restore ecosystems. I agree with Blanchett when she says there is a beautiful simplicity to this project, and it has great potential to be a global initiative. I think I have some suggestions for our Blue Economy back home!

Living Seawalls. Photo by Reef Design Lab

I really appreciate that when asked about what Earthshot aims for in 2022, Prince William said they aimed to have more women-led, and indigenous-led solutions, noting that these groups were not represented as best as they should have been in 2021. Keeping on theme with the podcast, Prince William shares optimistic views of the future, and it is easy to share these feelings with him after hearing about so many wonderful initiatives being aided by Earthshot. 

Moving on, Blanchett says that all of this has also made her feel more optimistic, however, she says she feels we are running out of time. I really enjoy the way Kennedy framed his response by saying, ‘too late for who?’. Some communities are already feeling the adverse effects of climate change, and all we can do is try to make the future better for those who come after us. Kennedy’s way of thinking is something that I will be trying to integrate into my own life. 

We are then introduced to Tony Seba – thought leader, academic, and author of Clean Disruption of Energy & Transportation. Seba aims to disrupt the five main sectors of the economy. It was interesting to hear Seba say we already have the technology we need to address 90% of climate change issues by 2035, as this is contradictory to the usual discourse which says these issues will take decades to solve. Seba has a good track record of his predictions being correct as pointed out by Kennedy, as he predicted in 2010, that by 2020 solar would be cheaper than fossil fuels, or that by 2025 there would be an electric vehicle retailing for $12,500 – I wonder where he hides his crystal ball? It was interesting to hear his take on how quickly technology can be uptaken, and disrupt what is currently used. As he says, just twenty years after cars were introduced, the horse transport industry which was thousands of years old had become obsolete. Seba states that the key disruptors of energy right now are solar, wind, and batteries, and for the transport industry are on-demand rides, such as uber, and electric vehicles. Seba continues to say that it will be more expensive to not build with solar, and it will be interesting to see as the market shifts not due to the pursuit of sustainability, but due to economic factors. 

I appreciate Blanchett’s concern about the wealth distribution that needs to occur throughout the energy revolution, here she touches on the notion of a just transition (read more about this concept here!), stating that we can’t allow for new ‘solar billionaires’. Kennedy’s solution is quite poetic, saying that if we took a 1.5% tax on the wealthy, we would have enough funds to combat the 1.5-degree change we cannot allow to happen. The fact that this wealth distribution will be easier due to the opportunity to create power anywhere, and everywhere, is one that I had not considered, and a great point shared by Kennedy. 

The hosts then visit the Energy Gardens in London which maintain gardens along the London Overground stations using renewable energy. These are maintained by the community, and seem to share similarities with community gardens or CSAs which you may visit in your own cities in Canada! The aim of this is to transform urban spaces and make individuals feel empowered to be the change they want to be. I love this initiative because I truly believe time spent in nature is one of the most effective ways to make people feel inspired to act upon their eco-anxiety. The Energy Gardens also create youth training programs, allowing young people to build their own energy systems, and eventually install them at the train stations – thus creating green jobs for the future, and helping create a just transition. As Seba says, these gardens may not provide food for everyone or provide all of the power for the trains, but they open a dialogue as people pass these stations and see the beautiful, fully sustainable gardens. 

Energy Gardens
Energy Gardens, Photo by Atlas of the Future

Blanchett puts it best when she says that as you see familiar spaces, such as your train station being transformed, it is really easy to feel inspired and hopeful about the future. This episode really filled me with a lot of hope and optimism about the future, from Prince William’s optimism through the Earthshot award, to Tony Seba’s bold predictions, it is hard not to shed some of the pessimism that environmentalists tend to feel. Moving forward, I suggest you follow the example of the Energy Gardens and look for sustainable initiatives happening in your own community. You might be surprised to find some great, inspiring projects happening near you! 


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Climate of Change Episode 1 Review https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-1-review/ https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/climate-change/climate-of-change-episode-1-review/#respond Fri, 29 Apr 2022 17:54:10 +0000 https://www.alternativesjournal.ca/?p=10384 Climate of change is a new podcast hosted by Australian actress Cate Blanchett, and Danny Kennedy, CEO of New Energy Nexus (NEX) the world’s leading ecosystem of funds and accelerators supporting diverse clean energy entrepreneurs, and environmental activists. This Audible Original podcast can be found on Audible.ca, and was sent […]

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Climate of change is a new podcast hosted by Australian actress Cate Blanchett, and Danny Kennedy, CEO of New Energy Nexus (NEX) the world’s leading ecosystem of funds and accelerators supporting diverse clean energy entrepreneurs, and environmental activists. This Audible Original podcast can be found on Audible.ca, and was sent to us early for review! As such, we thought it would be a great opportunity to create a weekly review series, covering the 6 episodes in total. 

The first episode is titled ‘The Sooner the Better’. It starts with Blanchett describing her commute to London to record the podcast, in her electric car of course! She goes on to say this podcast is about “thing’s I’ve been thinking about”. She then moves on to talk about the range anxiety she is currently feeling on this commute as she forgot to charge her car, and not wanting to listen to the news as it feels like a constant barrage of bad news, both notions that almost all environmentalists can easily relate to, especially the anxiety-driven feelings of ‘what can we do’. As a quick aside, these feelings are known as eco-anxiety, and were covered in our Earth Day series! Blanchett then introduces Kennedy as the one she calls when feeling this climate, or eco-anxiety, saying that his optimism and solution-focused strategy for the future help with these feelings.  

I appreciate the optimism that Kennedy brings, stating that this is an ‘anti-cynical’ podcast that is all about the positives – I can relate to much of the pessimism that Blanchett feels, so it is great to listen to a podcast focused on ‘hope in a hopeless world’. As Kennedy says, there are tens of thousands of entrepreneurs, scientists, and innovators, all working to solve this same problem of climate change – a thought I found very reassuring. As Blanchett, the optimist in training says though, it’s not all good. There are a myriad of people who are already suffering the effects of climate disasters and can seem a daunting, and at times impossible problem to solve. Kennedy’s optimism doesn’t blind him to the realities of climate change, stating that a crime has occurred, how we need to confront the injustice of climate change, and how setting realistic goals is the key to making these tasks seem more possible. 

The first guest is introduced as climate action leader Mary Robinson – the former president of Ireland, and the first woman to hold that position, a UN envoy on climate change, and also a host of a climate change podcast of her own. Immediately, Robinson says a quote that stuck with me, quoting Desmond Tutu “I am not an optimist, I am a prisoner of hope.” As she says, if you have hope, you have the energy to make things happen. Within just a few seconds I already knew that I was going to love her time as the guest on the podcast. Robinson then brings up the earlier mentioned notion of eco-anxiety, which Blanchett realises she suffers from, saying that it often manifests itself as despondence, where an individual doesn’t know what to do, or does the opposite and acts as a motivator to create change. I will also be adopting her approach of asking environmentalists how they are doing, and how their self-care is, as eco-anxiety is something that I think impacts every single one of us in some form or fashion. I really enjoy the approach that Blanchett and Kennedy have, as it is apparent that Blanchett really cares about the environment, but isn’t quite as entrenched in some of the jargon, or language that most environmentalists have heard, so it is refreshing to hear a unique perspective, and curiosity as Kennedy explains some of these terms. 

Robinson goes on to explain a three-step plan that I think most of us should follow. This includes making the climate crisis personal by making individual changes in your own life, such as eating less meat, getting angry with those who aren’t doing enough, such as the government, investors, and cities, and joining organisations to use your voice. The final way she suggests is to envision the world we want, and through that understand how fast we need to change, understanding that this is a crisis, and we should be in crisis mode. I love Kennedy’s take on this, saying she has given us a cheat sheet for eco-anxiety. 

The relationship between Blanchett and Kennedy also makes this a great listen, they’ve known each other for years and it’s really easy to tell through the chemistry that they share. Even recounting marches that they went to years ago, and how Blanchett used her fame to bring more attention to those rallies. I was unaware of her climate activism, and really appreciate the work she has done throughout her life. Despite all of this, she still feels the same guilt that many do about not doing enough for climate change, even saying she feels guilty using the hairdryer, or when her family leaves the lights on. The relatability of statements like these really makes the podcast a great listen. This, coupled with Kennedy’s optimism, saying that what’s important is we know what to do and that we are doing it, even if it needs to be faster, makes the podcast a gripping, yet also inspiring listen. As he says, yes the climate is changing, but so is the world of energy, as we shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy more quickly every year. Optimism. What a breath of fresh air.

Kennedy’s optimism and hope for the future continue as Blanchett describes feeling trapped in society’s use of fossil fuels. Here, Kennedy states that he believes by 2040 we need to reach not net-zero, but true zero carbon emissions. He goes on to say that we are currently in the clean energy revolution and believes that the large drivers of carbon emissions, such as transport, are en route to being more sustainable. When Blanchett says she has been ignoring the news, Kennedy sounds surprised, going on to say that the constant ‘doom and gloom’ is part of our problem with our communications, and language surrounding climate change. As he says, believing in climate action and change, is the only way we can make it in the world. 

The notion of humans being special due to not our intelligence, but our friendliness, and willingness to cooperate is very interesting, and one I had not heard discussed before. The words of the second guest, Rutger Bregman really resonate with me, especially when he goes on to say that humans are the stories we tell ourselves, and how our future story must be one of hope and the possibility of change. Messages like this make the podcast both inspiring, but also a powerful listen. Only through collaboration can solutions be properly integrated, an idea echoed by Kennedy, and one to think about as we move forward with our renewable energy initiatives. 

Kennedy then highlights how his company works with innovators and entrepreneurs to revolutionise energy, with Jeraiza Molina, co-founder of SHIFTECH Marine who aims to give fisherfolk clean energy, as opposed to the conventional batteries they currently use. This is used to attract fish when night fishing and is powered by clean energy, through solar energy. Not only is this more sustainable, but also results in fisherfolk being able to spend less money on fuel. The guests really make this podcast shine with some of their quotes, here Molina says one of the best ways to combat climate change on an individual level is to look at the small problems in your community that contribute to climate change. This change can then be catalytic, and inspire those around the globe to follow suit. “To go Global, you have to go small”. I also must say, Blanchett provides such great insights and asks great questions to Kennedy. Here, she asks whether this initiative will contribute to overfishing and a question that popped into my head almost immediately. As Kennedy says, the real issue is with industrial, unregulated fishing, not the local fisherman. They may have a local impact, but not on the global scale that the fishing industry does. By saving money it also allows these fisherfolk to take more care and has resulted in a finer sorting of bycatch. 

I love the way this podcast ends, echoing back to Mary Robinson, with Kennedy asking Blanchett how she is feeling. Here, I can relate to Blanchett where she says she often hyper focuses on the negative and is grateful for Kennedy’s optimism to balance it out. Overall, I found this podcast to be a refreshing, and energising listen, especially when compared to the often (understandably) despondent discourse around climate change. The contrast between Blanchett’s relatable pessimism, and Kennedy’s optimism and solution-based focus for the future make this a podcast worth listening to. I am greatly looking forward to reviewing the rest of it!

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