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Earth Matters

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What to do when the IPCC gets you down

Amy Huva
Apr 4th, 2014

The seawall at English Bay flooding (image cc by Lisa, flickr)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the report of the second working group this week as part of the yearlong roll out of the 5th Assessment Report (AR5). Working group two are the scientists tasked with working out exactly what kind of impacts the world will have from climate change, how we’re vulnerable to these changes and the possibility for humanity to adapt to them.

Learning the language of climate solutions

Amy Huva
Mar 13th, 2014

Freiburg, Germany (image: Werner Kunz, cc via flickr)

If someone had sat me down when I first decided to sign up for a German class and pointed out that I would need to learn the German word for every word I know in English (which is a lot) and then also need to learn all the connections and the grammar as well, I never would have begun.

It would have been too much – to overwhelming with no idea where to start and definitely no end point.

Luckily, I had a great teacher who managed to make me believe that learning another language was achievable and gave it to me in small enough bites that I felt like I was getting somewhere, without being distracted by the overwhelming amount that I didn’t know about the language.

Seven years later I know much more. I can have a grammatically incorrect conversation with a classmate and am more aware of exactly how much I don’t know about the structure and nuance of the language. In the process, I developed a love of learning the language and a determination for it to all one day make sense auf Detusch. It still hurts my brain, I still stumble embarrassingly all the time and I still know very little in the scheme of things, but it won’t stop me getting there.

Failure not an option for climate movement

Amy Huva
Mar 5th, 2014

Image from the Australian Climate Commission (now Australian Climate Council)

I’m training for a half marathon right now and I hate the 6am training runs. I especially hate the interval training runs, so much so that I’ve stopped doing them at 6am because doing hard intervals at that time of the morning will probably make me cry before I’ve even had breakfast.

Why am I torturing myself like this? Well, mostly I need to have the fear of an impending race/deadline to get my butt out of bed in the morning to train. If I don’t have that fear of ‘if I don’t get up and run right now I’m going to collapse on race day’, then it’s all to easy to hit snooze, take it easy just this once and suddenly realize it’s June.

I’ve been seeing more and more articles about how the fight to save ourselves from climate change is over. It’s too late, we’re headed to the next mass extinction, we needed to start it 30 years ago, let’s just take our bat and our ball and go home.

This is ridiculous.

Deep-sea explorer Verena Tunnicliffe wins Murray Newman Award

Amy Huva
Feb 20th, 2014

Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe presents highlights of her research (image courtesy Brett Vo Photography)

People gathered at the Vancouver Aquarium on Tuesday for the Murray Newman Awards for Excellence in Aquatic Science and Conservation. This year’s recipients were Dr. Robert Devlin for achievement in aquatic research, and Dr. Verena Tunnicliffe for achievement in aquatic research and conservation.


The Murray Newman Awards Dinner (photo courtesy Brett Vo Photography)

Both recipients gave presentations at the dinner held in the Canada’s Arctic exhibit. Dr. Devlin, very much the pure scientist (from the word-heavy PowerPoint presentation slides) spoke about his work in molecular biology where he developed the first transgenic Coho Salmon, by inserting growth hormones into their gene structure, which is undoubtedly the most controversial application of his research. He also developed the first Y-DNA probe that is able to determine the sex of salmon, a technique that is still widely used today.

Stop subsidizing fossil fuels

Amy Huva
Jan 26th, 2014

Wind turbines (Owen Bushell, flickr)

Dirty fossil fuel energy is uncompetitive. If fossil fuels were not propped up with government handouts and subsidies, they would not be able to compete in an energy marketplace alongside less intensive energy options like solar, wind, geothermal and others.

Think about it – when you build a wind turbine, other than general maintenance and making sure it’s connected into your house or the power grid, you don’t need to do much more. If you build a coal fired power station, you not only have to build the station, you also then need to keep feeding it with ever increasing amounts of coal that require things like mountain top removal to mine. Without being heavily subsidized, there’s no chance that the coal power wins.

A fiscally responsible carbon budget

Amy Huva
Jan 13th, 2014

image: Erik Veland, creative commons, flickr

It’s a new year, and chances are some people made resolutions to be better with money. Save more, be more responsible, put some extra into that RSP, have better discipline with spending.

Something else we should all be thinking about for a Fiscally Responsible 2014 is our Carbon Budget.

Our what now? Our Carbon Budget. For the first time last year, the IPCC 5th Assessment Report reflected the research that has shown that intensity emission reductions or reductions of a percentage by a date don’t really matter. What really matter are cumulative emissions – the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere regardless of when you put it up there.

The value of radicals

Amy Huva
Dec 17th, 2013

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise enters the Northern Sea Route (NSR) off Russia's coastline to protest against Arctic oil drilling. © Will Rose / Greenpeace

Often these days, I hear people calling for reason, for rationality. If only we could all just sit down at the table sensibly together, then we could sort it all out like adults.

These people are often talking about environmentalism. If only those radicals would just stop chaining themselves to the gates of the White House, we could all sit down and talk about the pros and cons of the Keystone XL pipeline and come to a rational decision.

We shouldn’t rush to judge; we should be more considered. They’re nice people doing their jobs if only we could see that and empathise. And yes, sometimes this works. Sometimes it is time to sit down at the table and calmly talk things through, but I don’t think we should discount the value in radicalism.

Vancouver Island’s remaining old-growth a disappearing treasure

Torrance Coste
Dec 11th, 2013

Torrance Coste in the Koksilah River Grove (Photo: Jacob Wise)

A few months ago I was visiting family and friends in the south Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. Someone suggested a hike, and then we argued, as we always do, about where to go.

“Mt. Baldy has the best view.”

“If we do the quarry, the dogs can swim.”

“How about Mt. Prevost?” someone suggested. “Too many mountain bikers,” the rest of us replied.

I suggested the Koksilah River Grove, and we had a winner. Located behind Shawnigan Lake, the Koksilah Grove is one of the best stands of old-growth Douglas-fir left anywhere, and is relatively accessible. Surprisingly, a few of the guys had never been there, so we packed up and headed out.

Post carbon cities

Amy Huva
Dec 7th, 2013

Vancouver (photo: Amy Huva)

I love cities. They're such a melting pot of people and activities where you can do and see so many diverse things and it’s all generally within walking distance. Humanity is right on your doorstep and everyone has a story and I love it. It’s part of the reason I refuse to live anywhere that has a population less than one million – I enjoy having the energy of that many people around me.

But you know what’s exciting? As we inch closer to the middle of this century and away from dirty fossil fuels, cities are only going to get better.

Imagine how nice it’s going to be to walk down the street in the middle of downtown with less traffic noise. Cars and trucks will be electric or biofuel hybrid, which will make them quieter than the current combustion engines that make garbage trucks so awful at 5am. Our air will be cleaner because we won't be burning carbon to fuel cars and trucks, which means that the lovely citizens of the Fraser Valley won’t curse Vancouverites’ driving habits so much, because they won’t have bad smog days.

Why did union reps mislead the public in their controversial op-ed on the Fraser Surrey Docks coal terminal proposal?

Carrie Saxifrage
Dec 1st, 2013

Why would union representatives applaud a coal terminal EIA that experts reject as flawed, for a project that has little or no positive impact for B.C. jobs, which enables a product that is inherently dangerous product both here and around the world? 

In a November 27 op-ed to the Vancouver Sun, union representatives lumped B.C. metallurgical coal together with U.S. thermal coal and suggested that if you are against one, you are against both. Denial of the FSD coal terminal proposal won’t hurt any existing coal jobs held by union members. None. Metallurgical coal, used to make steel, may have a role in the post carbon economy for the manufacture of new infrastructure. Thermal coal has no role in the future. Why mislead the public into thinking they are one and the same thing?

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