Politics, Nature and the Censoring of Science in CanadaPosted: January 16, 2014 Filed under: Books, Canadian Rockies, Newfoundland, Water | Tags: Alberta, Canada, Canadian Conservative Party, Canadian government, censorship, Conservative Party, environmental science, environmental scientists, fisheries and oceans, nature, Newfoundland, oil, pipelines, politics, science, science libraries, scientists 2 Comments
Science: The systematic study of the nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe, based on observation, experiment, and measurement, and the formulation of laws to describe these facts in general terms. — Collins English Dictionary
I never go through a day without thinking, at some point, about the destruction of nature in the world and the efforts to halt that destruction and restore natural areas. You’ll likely have heard that the Canadian Conservative Party, who are in power now, sees oil extraction and pipeline building as priorities for the country’s prosperity. At the same time, they have fired publically employed environmental scientists, cancelled whole projects and prohibited public scientists from speaking about their findings without first being vetted so that they are “on message.”
Recently the government has closed a series of science libraries connected with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. They say this is to consolidate information, digitize it and save money. Apparently, however, a government email has surfaced that speaks of culling the information and lists the savings as around $440,000. This may be a lot of money for most of us, but it is quite a low saving for a federal budget. In the last few weeks, researchers have discovered that materials from the closed libraries, some with records dating back a century, are being destroyed. A photograph showing books and papers in a dumpster has appeared online. I find this deeply troubling.
My own belief is that these destructive actions toward environmental scientists and scientific information speak to the Conservatives’ desire to withhold knowledge (inconvenient truths) of our eco systems from citizens. Not only can destroying knowledge have destructive consequences for our health and wellbeing in Canada and beyond, but it is deeply undemocratic.
I’m writing about this today to do my small part in spreading the word and to say there can be no justification, financial or otherwise, for destroying knowledge or for censoring the messengers. I’ve added a few links if you’re interested in reading further. Plus some photos of the beauty of nature in Canada.
On a Warm November DayPosted: November 13, 2012 Filed under: Mineral World, Ontario, Plant Life, Toronto | Tags: Brick Works, Canada, climate, Evergreen Brick Works, grass, Mineral World, nature, science, Toronto, trees Leave a comment
This past Sunday, Remembrance Day, was an unseasonably warm day of 18 degrees Celsius in Toronto–a record breaker. To take advantage of the warmth, in the afternoon we went to The Evergreen Brick Works. We walked along the railroad tracks, past milkweed and thistles and a disheartening array of tires dumped there.
At the Brick Works, we found that many people had the same idea as us and were strolling around the grounds and enjoying the day. The colours are now soft—mostly muted browns, beiges, yellows and greens.
At the North Slope of this once quarry was a Toronto Parks and Recreation sign noting the geology of the slope that reveals evidence of several ages of ice alternating with warm periods. The sign reads as follows:
-The North Slope is a geological feature of international significance.
-Professor A. P. Coleman, a world-renowned Toronto geologist, first identified the significance of this slope in 1894.
-This site was one of the first in the world to reveal a rare sequence of climate change. The deposits here indicate a glacial episode, followed by a period of climate slightly warmer than today’s, followed by another glacial episode, and lastly the climate of today.
There’s also a drawing on the sign indicating the age of the deposits that make up the North Slope. These range from the bedrock which is 448 million years old, to deposits over 135,000 years old and lastly to the most recent ones in the top layer which accumulated 13,000 – 50,000 years ago. I like to contemplate life from this other perspective—it certainly helps with a feeling a humility.
How Lake Louise & Johnston Canyon Came to BePosted: October 18, 2012 Filed under: Canadian Rockies, Mineral World, Water | Tags: Alberta, Banff National Park, beauty, Canada, Canadian Rockies, glaciers, human ancestors, Johnston Canyon, Lake Louise, Mineral World, mountain glaciers, mountains, mt victoria, nature, Plain of Six Glaciers, rock flour, Rockies, Rocky Mountains, science, tarn, victoria glacier 2 Comments
I’ve mentioned before that being in the Rockies awakened in me an interest in geology and earth history. As I travelled, I wanted to learn how the mountains, lakes and canyons were formed. Here’s a small bit of what I’ve gathered about Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon.
Near the end of our travels, I bought a book to help in my learning called How Old is that Mountain by Chris Yorath. From that book I’ve learned that Lake Louise may be a tarn. And for those of you who have never heard of a tarn, as I had not until a short while ago, it’s a lake that has formed at the base of a steeply walled recess—shaped like a deep bowl—on the side of a mountain. These deep recesses are called cirques and are formed by mountain glaciers eroding the mountain’s rock.
In the case of Lake Louise, it’s possible that when the glacier on Mt. Victoria was much larger it carved Lake Louise’s basin. This may have happened around 25,000 years ago.
Here, the huge lengths of time geology deals with need to be put in terms that our minds can comprehend. In geological terms, 25,000 years ago is very recent. For example, scientists estimate that the earth was formed around four and a half billion years ago and that our human ancestors arrived around 3 million years ago.
To help us, Chris Yorath includes the following analogy. If we imagine the entire history of the earth as a 24 hour clock, the creation of the planet would be at midnight—00:00. And the appearance of humans would not be until well past 23:00 hours, at one minute and a few seconds before the following midnight. This has certainly given me pause for reflection and helps me grasp that Lake Louise was formed in recent times.
Back to her now. I learned, from information in Banff National Park that the beautiful green blue of Lake Louise and other Rocky Mountain lakes arises in large part from rock flour. That is, from fine particles of sediment washing down from the mountains into the lake. This was visible to us at the end of the lake closest to the Plain of Six Glaciers hike.
In the case of Johnston Canyon, Yorath reports that according to Parks Canada the canyon was created around 8,000 years ago. At that time, a landslide that brought masses of rock down from a nearby mountain diverted Johnston Creek from its path. Then, over time, the canyon, which is 200 metres deep, was carved out.
I alternate between contemplating geological and human time scales. Either way, while I was in the presence of the mountains, lakes and canyons, I felt something very old, compared to my life, surrounding me. Being part of nature in that way, experiencing that sense of time and change, was life giving. Because of that, I hope to always draw on the memories of my time in the Rockies and to return to them again.