Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Manitoba government to offer farmers incentives to restore lost wetlands

Finally something right up my REAL alley.

I've been wanting to write a post for, well probably since I started this blog, about some specific "environmental issue" in Manitoba.

Wetlands are my area of interest, they are what I know best and as such I decided to pursue an Ecology degree at the University of Manitoba. Manitoba is naturally home to wetlands. Unfortunately over the years, colonization, and further agricultural development has left these very important ecosystems as somewhat of a nuisance, a thorn on people's sides per se.

Uncountable hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of acres of wetlands have been drained over the years, leaving a very small percentage intact. They are after all, unfavourable to farming...they collect water and keep soil saturated, making otherwise workable land impossible to work with.

Most people, aside from farmers, also have a very negative opinion of wetlands or, as most people like to call them, "swamps." Something that breeds zillions of mosquitos, is filled with "weeds" and in general, an eyesore.

For the last two summers I have had the fortunate opportunity to work under Manitoba Conservation in the Wildlife Services branch, specifically in wetland areas. While on a trip to Dauphin to do some work, the Dauphinite we ended up working with explained to me how farmers in the area were trying to be encouraged to allow part of their properties to revert back to their natural wetland states.

While driving along a highway and pointing to what was probably several sections worth of land, and saying how it all used to be wetland and was drained, I was shocked.

Farmers are now being encouraged to allow at least some of their land to revert back to it's natural state.

This is incredibly progressive news.

In intense agricultural areas, such as Dauphin, water flows off of the worked land, collecting fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, natural nutrients, and sediments. With no natural wetlands, this water ends up in a drainage area, which leads to a ditch and eventually to a river or stream, completely unfiltered.

In case you can't see where I'm getting at, I'm getting at Lake Winnipeg.

This is one of perhaps the most effective ways to contribute to bettering the health of Lake Winnipeg. All other gimmicks aside, such as the ridiculous hog barn stuff, naturalizing drainage waterways would go a very, very long way.

If one considers all of the wetland areas that preceded human development, all of the creeks and streams and bogs that were in the Lake Winnipeg watershed before they were drained and filled in, one may be able to picture a pristine lake. If one removes, as the FreeP article suggests, 70% of those creeks, streams and bogs, replaces them with high intensity agriculture, the picture gets a little dirtier.

In case you've read this far and are skeptical of what I am saying, living proof of a working wetland system is available for exploration at your leisure, at Oak Hammock Marsh.

And remember while you are there, that what is now Oak Hammock, used to be a wetland spanning over 116 000 acres. It now occupies less than 10 000 acres.

No, I did not miss any zeroes in those numbers.

This is the real impact of human development environment-wise. Humans have changed the landscape, on a world-wide scale, from what it once naturally was, to how it is now. In my opinion this is a much bigger contributor to climate change than any talk of carbon emissions is: literally changing the face of the earth. Almost no part of the world has been left untouched by human activity.

That isn't to say that we need to revert EVERYthing back to it's natural state. Just that it is often to our benefit to do so. In the case of wetlands across the prairies, they could be brought back to help filter water and remove high nutrient concentrations before it ends up in major tributaries of various watersheds.

Mother nature is a powerful force. Instead of destroying it, we should think about using it to our advantage.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The right business

With all this talk of an IKEA and this weird "me too!" attitude many Winnipeggers seem to have about this store, I'd like to capitalize and talk about a different store that actually represents something much bigger and better in Winnipeg, Mountain Equipment Co-op.



IKEA, furniture megastore novelty extraordinare, "might" build a store somewhere in the suburbs of Winnipeg. Meanwhile, a little blurb about MEC purchasing their unique downtown building from CentreVenture seemed to get nothing more than a head nod.

MEC did everything right. They invested in Winnipeg. They went downtown. They used an old building to do it, and retrofitted it to a LEED gold standard. They employed local architects to design their building. And most importantly, they didn't hold back.

Other companies and institutions can learn a lot from these guys. The plans and the design right from day one were to do something that would benefit the community, Winnipeg, and our downtown area.

And now they own their building. And hey, they even have a game plan. Community involvement is one of their goals. They offer equipment rentals, support local programs and donate to various environmental groups.

This should be a goal of Winnipeg's, to attract these kinds of businesses. The savvy ones. The ones that are willing to work at a community level. Their benefits are far greater than any corporate mega-conglomerate wanting to build a box store and accompanying parking lot off in suburbia. And they can help us to realize a better, cooler downtown. A downtown as a destination.

Now just what is CentreVenture going to use that money for...hmm...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Well, you might, but I sure don't...

I'm sure not "riveted by the drama" of American politics.

Yes, it sure must be hard to focus on a Canadian election when there is a real, actual reality show happening live, 24/7, just south of the border called the American election.

Unfortunately there is so much pomp and circumstance, so much non-politics, it really is a contest of likeability. It's more an episode of "American Idol: Election Edition" than an election for presidency. The issues seem to be ignored, I mean, how else can you explain the possibility of people voting republican just because Hillary Clinton lost fair and square to Obama?

If you find it hard to follow the Canadian election because ours is a battle of election platforms, promises, and political ideology just because the American election is on at the same time and the battle of is-he-an-asshole-or-is-he-a-nice-guy is more appealing...thats kind of sad.

I take parliamentary democracy any day and I'd rather follow the Canadian or British or Australian elections than the American one.

And sheesh, after all of this, you still have 3 whole weeks to follow the American election and guess what, between now and October 14th, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. So you won't be missing anything and you don't even need to set your Tivo.

I can actually agree with Elizabeth May on something:

Green party Leader Elizabeth May pleaded with Canadians to stay away from CNN and tune in to Canadian coverage of her first election campaign.

Maybe not because it's HER first election campaign, rather the "stay away from CNN" part.

People might like the glitz and glamour of the American style reality show, but if that crap ever comes north of the border...yeah I'm not sure what I'd do.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Human Rights Suggestions

So about a week ago archaeologists uncovered an 800 year old footprint at the Museum site.

And the Friends of the Forks are...where...?

Okay, enough about the "Friends" wisecracks (although can you imagine if the UFG apartment went through, and they found an 800 year old footprint).

But since this idea was first conceived, I've wondered what will actually make the grade and get an exhibit in this museum.

Will they play it safe? Put in the big ones, the most obvious. Will it be political? Will it include human rights issues with native Canadians, or natives of other current governments around the world? Will it bring to light human rights issues in China? Will the board decide to just name current human rights issues, or will they have the balls to outright name countries and corporations?

How about environment-related human rights?

Perhaps an (oftentimes) overlooked aspect of human rights in some areas, mostly because, here, people don't even know about them. The BBC often does a good job of uncovering these stories. And thus, I have a few suggestions:

Isolated tribe vs modern society.

Picture an isolated, primitive tribe of people living in a virtually untouched area of the world, in the jungle, harvesting the fruits of the land, participating in their own customs and religion.

And then the white man comes. He wants the ground from the mountain. For what? Well it's valuable. Bauxite. To make foil for candy bar wrappers.

This is modern society, consumerism in practice. Is the displacement of an isolated tribe of jungle people who want nothing to do with "us," just so that we can continue to enjoy low prices for chocolate bars and beer, moral?

I thought assimilation and plantation was a thing of the past. We didn't learn anything from the Irish, from the North Americans?

At least worthy of discussion in a human rights setting?



Chevron pumps thousands, perhaps millions, of gallons of waste crude into the Amazon rainforest.

They covered it with dirt and pretended it didn't exist. The locals began to get sick. They couldn't drink the water. They started getting cancer, when before cancer was unheard of. And then the dirt covered dump piles started leaking and bubbling slick black crude to the surface.

Chevron/Texaco denied that the water was polluted. They deny that oil contamination can cause cancer. They've deprived over 30 000 natives of basic living rights. Instead of clean environment, they have a toxic waste site with undrinkable water.

This is an atrocious story, and one that has been ongoing since before the year 2000 I believe. Will the Human Rights Museum run an exhibit like this? An ongoing dispute, only being dragged on by the multi-million-dollar lawyers that Chevron can afford.

Would the threat of an angry letter from perhaps the biggest corporation in the world stop the possibility of an exhibit like this one?

Museums are supposed to be impartial, neutral, non political, and display facts.

Until I see it with my own eyes, I will be skeptical and critical of which kinds of stories the Museum will end up telling. I can only think it will end up being a Museum of cop-outs, or half-assed conservativeness.

I suppose I'll have to wait for my world class museum to be completed to find out.

Monday, July 7, 2008

!

I had one of those lightbulb-over-your-head moments.

Realizing that the definition of "downtown revitalization" has the characteristics of a parking lot in a big-box mega-retail hub, a la Polo Park. Or Kildonan Crossing. Or St Vital. Or Kenaston.

"Revitalized" downtown via megaproject during the day:



The stores (downtown) open, and customers (downtown visitors) flock to spend their hard earned cash, driving in from suburbia. Rona (coffee shop, newsstand) opens at 7, other stores open at 8 or 9 (Portage Place). Customers stay during the day, may catch lunch nearby during their shopping (visiting) trek at a Kelseys (Portage Place food court). Later customers in the evening may stick around and go to SilverCity (MTS Centre), and as they exit the venue, they find stores are closed. With nothing to do in a virtual wasteland of level concrete with carefully painted parking stalls (parkade, surface parking lot.) They are greeted with this image:



The image of revitalization.

Revitalization during normal business hours only.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Progress!

..Yaaay! Red River College might be Winnipeg's downtown hero.

First of all I would like to say how happy I am about this announcement, as the Union Bank Tower is easily my favourite building in the city. I feared that it would meet the same fate as so many other iconic heritage buildings in this city (especially as of late) and become a parkade or something else equally as useless.

A lengthly conversation on this blog with an "anonymous" commenter a few posts ago got me to better realizing how valuable having post secondary education downtown is towards downtown revitilization.

An extra 100 apartments to the Exchange area? Bring it on! More students downtown at the Red River college and the Exchange, excellent. Even a new building...and you can damn well bet it won't have a bloody fucking parking lot like that regional health atrocity.

"We need to expand it anyway, so rather than do it on Notre Dame, we want to do this downtown, where it makes more sense for students and the industry."

So...what does the Red River College understand about downtown that CentreVenture and Heritage Winnipeg don't?

I'm not quite sure, but I do know that RRC and the U of W are doing more to "revitalize" downtown and bring more activity there than the aforementioned organizations are. Red River college is bringing students from a suburban campus to a downtown one. Everyone else does the opposite. Even Crystal Developers, when they almost seemed to be Winnipeg's downtown hero, turned tail and ran to the suburbs.

Red River College. Local heroes. Now I can finally say "now that's progressive," without the sarcasm.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Figure This One Out

Story printed in the Winnipeg Free Press' "Perspective" section on Sunday...


".....what kind of organism destroys it's own habitat?" - Scientist David Barber, University of Manitoba


If you still have access to a Sunday newspaper, I highly suggest you read this article. Especially if you're a climate change skeptic. If you don't, you can read the lengthly feature right here.

Not only are we the only organism destroying it's own habitat, but we're also the only organism that produces non-organic waste. Think about the impact those two factors alone have. Just some food for thought...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Uninformed

I'm addicted. I need to be in the know! Constantly.

I'm sitting here right now, middle of the day, I just checked my news sites. In between classes! A total of 4 sites I combed through for the second time today, the first being just 3 hours ago. News changes. And it's at my fingertips.

When I go home I'll do it again. And I'll read the newspaper...albeit very quickly, as all the news in it by the time I get home will be old. On Saturdays I'll listen to the replays of a local talk radio show with who's host's (Marty Gold) opinion I've come to love listening to.

You see the Internet allows that. It also allows other things.

As I write this, I look around and I'd say half of the people in this computer lab are on Facebook. I know many friends and people my age who don't even vote. Fuck, I wonder if they even know which party is in power or what a "Parliament" is. Let alone read a newspaper or ANYTHING.

I think this is an offshoot of "consumer religion." I think I'm also going to check if I'm the one coining that phrase. Consumer religion...not only are people not paying attention to where their tax dollars are going to, who's the mayor, or what's happening globally, but are turned into uninformed citizens. They're in the know...but not in the know of things they should be in the know of.

An unexpected tangent in the digital age? Imagine what people did before Facebook. How did they spend their time? If someone spends 1 hour a day on Facebook, what used to take the place of that hour? Add in text messaging, and MSN...mindless purposeless tasks, add up to eat time out of your day, making you a less-informed person.

Maybe even an uncaring person. One not paying attention, and one even without desire to pay attention.

Shouldn't people be aware of what's going on around them? The powers that control how they live their lives? An entire generation of people, unaware of the forces at work, influencing their spending habits and dictating what they should believe in and what they pay attention to? Is that not reason enough to keep yourself engaged in what's happening around you? Or to you? Is a search for truth relevant anymore?

Have the powers that dictate this consumer culture sold people on the idea that the truth is not important anymore? Perhaps there is a deeper reason why there seems to be a lack of desire to learn the truth.

Man, who can I talk to about local politics? The guy who cuts my hair, that's about it. And my mom, and my neighbor. NOBODY IN MY DEMOGRAPHIC! Drives me nuts. I think this also creates a lack of desire to improve oneself, in favour of indulging in said tasks as well as partaking in a seemingly daily ritual to watch the latest trendy TV shows and movies. It's entertainment overload. The more you get accustomed to having, and to using, the more and more becomes a necessity in life. You need more and more and more. It's self perpetuating.

This is my demographic.

The uninformed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

..Blank?

My mind isn't necessarily blank, but more or less a mashing of thoughts, all of which I can't put my finger on to write something coherant.

I suppose they all come together at one point. Today I was thinking about how much land there is...area wise...that is untouched and unaffected by human activities. I'm sure pretty much all of the United States is affected...A lot of Canada too. Very few places.

Just think about that...it's quite overwhelming. Any area that is "affected" might include a park that seems as if it's unaffected, but just from the proximity to a city (or something similar) or maybe there is activity going around this hypothetical park. At any rate, any large animal that requires a lot of land, would be removed from this system.

An example would be Assiniboine Forest here in Winnipeg, where, surrounded by the city and houses and highways and shopping malls, seems like an oasis at first. It is a large tract of land...but is devoid of major predators and other animals that require lots of land.

This is how we are affecting the earth. We are quite literally changing the way the world works. We're changing patterns of how things interact and work with each other.

The world only seems like a big place.