Saturday, September 11, 2010


I'm just a slave to CreComm instructors, and they tell me I need a blog about journalism.
So my green blog here is going to take a little rest. I won't hesitate to post here if I feel so inspired, but otherwise, check out my new blog here. I'm pretty excited about it.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Manitoba birds next victims of oil spill

Read my article here.

I love and hate writing articles like these. It's fulfilling because it's such an important issue, but it's also quite depressing. Sometimes I'd rather just stick my head in the sand, especially in situations like these when there's nothing we can do about it...

except: let's not let it happen again.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wheels out, rails in: EPC

The Free Press reported that the executive policy committee has voted to pursue light rail over bus rapid transit yesterday. Mayor Sam Katz's inner circle is standing by his plan to scrap the second phase of bus rapid transit in Winnipeg (the first one, a link between The Forks and Jubilee Avenue, is currently under construction), funneling money set aside for it into road infrastructure projects. Instead Katz is championing a new light rail system which he hopes will be funded by federal cash set aside for public-private partnerships, much to the chagrin of upper levels of government.

There's much debate in the media these days on the merits of light rail vs bus rapid transit, for Winnipeg. Light rail is a really neat idea, in theory. But some people are saying BRT is the best choice for Winnipeg when considering things including population, transit use statistics, cost and, most importantly in my view-- the fact that we are already building a BRT line. BRT can easily be converted to LRT, anyway, according to the article linked above.

"The goal is to have a modern, vibrant, progressive city. That's what I want Winnipeg to be," Katz told reporters.

Modern, vibrant and progressive. Sounds good.

And after decades of rapid transit delays at city hall, it seemed pretty cool that we were on our way to a BRT system, despite its flaws. But if the EPC's vote gets approved at council July 21, we will end up with a lonely BRT stub and an ambiguous and precarious plan for light rail.

Any rapid transit system is better than no rapid transit system, in my opinion. It's too bad momentum for a long-fought-for BRT project is creeping to a halt.

I'll be interested to see how this issue plays into election campaigns.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Deep-water oil drilling and the precautionary principle

A judge who had (and may still have?) investments in petroleum companies has cancelled Obama's six-month ban on deep-water drilling (read here).

His argument: because one oil rig exploded and killed people, devastated the surrounding coastal and aquatic ecosystems and decimated the livelihood of thousands of people, that doesn't mean they all will.

True, clearly. But that's not the point, and I'm pretty sure this judge is smart enough to realize that.

The point is this event has caused excessive harm, and it should give us pause. A moratorium on drilling allows time to review regulations to ensure they are adequate, and that they are being followed in the industry as a whole.

The U.S. government is making very wise use of the precautionary principle in their decision. The precautionary principle states that when something is SUSPECTED to be harmful to the environment and public, precautions should be taken even when the harm has not been scientifically proven. Instead of going ahead because "it hasn't been proven harmful," stop and analyze because "it hasn't been proven safe." This is especially relevant for chemical use in plastics, pesticides, etc.

I understand that many, many people rely on the oil industry for their livelihoods and that the ban deeply affects them. But the spill deeply affected many, many peoples' livelihoods as well. There has to be a time when we step back and re-evaluate. This is the time. I'm so glad Obama's administration acknowledges that.

As for Judge Feldman, should his involvment with petroleum companies be a factor in judging his decision here? Most people these days agree that there is no such thing as 'unbiased,' as we all have our backgrounds. However some biases are more concerning than others. The article states it's not clear whether Feldman still has stocks in these companies.

Is this guy looking out for his own interests, or are journalists just searching for a captivating headline? Perhaps it comes down to worldviews. Maybe those who tend to invest in oil simply aren't those who tend to side with the precautionary principle.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

please don't kill the geese

Dandelions, mosquitoes and geese, oh my!

What do these three things have in common? It's not a stumper-- they're all valuable things that occur naturally in the environment that people want to eliminate purely for reasons of convenience and aesthetics.

More about dandelions and mosquitoes later-- this post is about geese, and why I feel they should not be driven from the city or physically harmed. Check out this article by my fellow Free Press intern Britt Harvey about how geese are apparently the new scourge of residential retention ponds and golf courses.

The city is looking into how to humanely control the goose population in the city. Harming or killing the birds, a federally protected species, is not currently an option.

Population control is sometimes necessary when a species becomes overpopulated due to lack of predators, etc, and starts to wreak havoc on an ecosystem. But as far as I can tell, the reason people want these birds gone has to do with poop in the grass when they walk their dogs.

Give me a break. God forbid your outdoor experience isn't completely antiseptic.

Now a machine that squirts water at geese to annoy them and make them go away is one thing (and pretty funny, actually) but this is something else entirely:

"Refraining from harming the birds is of the upmost importance, said Poulin, noting Winnipeggers have contacted him to see if they could shake the eggs or damage the nest."

Really? Just imagine a disgruntled homeowner skulking through the dewey grass of a residential retention pond to kill a batch of unborn goose babies. I truly hope this does not actually happen. Anyway, good luck because the goose parents will peck you, and rightly so.

Why do we need to get rid of geese in the city? Wildlife in an urban environment is a treasure to be enjoyed. Plus they only pass through a couple times a year. I live near a retention pond and one of my favourite activities this past month has been to go feed and visit the three growing goose families living at the pond. Baby geese are the CUTEST THINGS EVER! Sure my shoes are a bit mucky after. I wipe them on the sidewalk. Big deal.

Lastly, we all need to remember the geese are not in fact encroaching on our territory-- we are in theirs. The sense of entitlement some people have about what 'belongs' in their urban environments baffles me. I bet you the geese aren't particularly pleased at all these buildings and cars we've put in their nesting grounds, either.

In a time when suffering, dying, oil-soaked birds and other creatures are regulars on the news, I take huge comfort and joy in the health and happiness of our local feathered friends.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Really really bad oil spill.

I've been following the developments regarding the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and have been trying to think of a productive post since the beginning. I still haven't thought of anything groundbreaking to say, so I'm posting anyway, to acknowledge that it is utterly devastating. It makes me so angry and I wonder how it's allowed to happen. I hope the investigation will be thorough and not hesitate to bring those responsible to account (in this case, BP) in a significant way. This level of risk to ecosystems and animals, not to mention the livelihood and physical health of many, many people, is not acceptable, and I'm happy to read Obama will not be approving any new offshore drilling until the matter is investigated.

Friday, April 23, 2010

I missed Earth Day

What kind of environmental blog doesn't include a post on Earth Day, you ask? Clearly, my kind.

Yesterday, the world celebrated the awesomeness of the earth, with activities and events around the world.

Earth Day passed through my life as not much more than a blip on the radar, I must admit. While in past years I've been involved with enviro groups who have organized activities to mark the day, this year celebrating Earth Day was not a top priority. And I don' think that's necessarily a bad thing.

While special days to celebrate causes and groups of people are lovely, as they provide a focused time of year to concentrate events, promote awareness, etc, I wonder if they also work to undermine the legitimacy of the cause. I'm probably nit-picking, but I guess the argument is, why should we only celebrate the earth and sustainability on one day? Instead of it being a token cause, it should be something we integrate into our values and our lifestyles every day. That way people can't get away with saying "well, I didn't litter on Earth Day, that's good enough."

I suppose this could be said for any special day, and really, it's better to have a day singled out than none at all, and certainly the intention is not to relegate caring for that issue to just that one 24-hour period. Still, I'm not concerned about missing Earth Day because that stuff is on my mind constantly, and I'm not in danger of forgetting it.