You are on page 1of 68

178

A LT E R N A T I V E S J O U R N A L.C A

DOCTORS UNDER FIRE


Paying the price for activism
A DOSE OF NATURE THE GREAT
The medical benefits of
simply being outside

CANADAS
ENVIRONMENTAL
VOICE

NUCLEAR
DEBATE

ARE CELLPHONES SAFE?


FOCUS ON OCEAN PLASTIC
PALEO DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

The Ultimate
Health Issue
How doctors & nurses are protecting the environment!
6.95

41:2 | 2015

Pub# 40065122

DISPLAY UNTIL JUNE 15, 2015

The smallest things have the greatest potential


Sure, one tiny, humble quinoa seed may not seem like much. But when its used to
make our newest Kashi* foods, it starts a path of eating well, which inspires another
good decision. And then another. And that can take you anywhere.

Learn more at Kashi.ca

* 2015, Trademark of Kashi Company used under licence

Volume 41 Number 2

2015

CONTENTS

HEALTH
5

Editorial

The Ultimate Health Issue

16 Healers on the Front Lines

Five healthcare professionals share the


secrets of their successful campaigns.

22 Doctors Under Fire

John OConnor & David Colby

Despite pressure to be silent, physicians


speak out for the environment.

24 Medical Interventions

David Swann & Richard Denton

Two physicians weigh in on how far doctors


should go to protect the planet.

28 Nukes or Not?

Linda Harvey & Robert Oliphant

The pros and cons of nuclear power


from a health perspective.

31 Why the Resistance to Wind?


Alex Roberts

Community input and cash generate


support for turbines.

32 Fight of the Humble Bee


Anne Bell

Six tactics that are winning the war


against pesticides in Ontario.

34 Toxics Takedown
Elise Marion

Five campaigns to rid your life of


hazardous chemicals.

36 Prescribing a Dose of Nature


Elizabeth Nisbet & Melissa Lem

Modern medicine is rediscovering the simple


healing power of being outdoors.
+ Up Your Dosage

40 Are Cellphones Safe?

Samantha Hui & Elise Marion

How wireless devices compare to


other sources of radiation.

36

42 The Organic/Conventional Divide


Wayne Roberts

The whole culture of food from field


to fork needs transformation.

44 Bouncing Back
Michael Torreiter

How we can apply the concept of


resilience to achieve better health.
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

Volume 41 Number 2

2015

CONTENTS

48

28
ALSO FEATURED
48 Paleo Disasters

Todd Kristensen & Alwynne Beaudoin

Public policy needs to awaken to


the threat of an ancient enemy.

58 Yukon Artist in Action

Matthew Ryan Smith interviews


collage creative Amber Church.

APPETIZERS

COLUMNS

6
8
10

57 Industry Made Quakes

10

COVER The raised fist is a universal


symbol of resistance. It highlights the
growing realization among many physicians
that their duty must extend beyond the
clinical setting to ensure societys health.

11

A\J Creators
A\J Online
Letter to the Editor
The climate case for Earth Day Every Day
Footprint in Mouth
Hazardous humans
In Brief

Research Digest: Focus on Ocean


Plastic; Beads Befoul Great Lakes;
Virtuous Loop of Cow Poop

14 Climate Change Already


Makes Us Sick
Interview by Gideon Forman

Sherilee Harper is a member of an


international team tackling climate
change-related health issues.

+ MORE AT ajmag.ca/412
2

alternativesjournal.ca

32
Andrew Nikiforuk

Ignoring the science on fracking


puts us on shaky ground.

64 Hubris

Robert Gibson

Napoleon paid for his. Ours looms.

IN REVIEW

60 Groundswell: The Case for Fracking,


Ezra Levant, reviewed by
Barbara D. Janusz

61 Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral


Wealth is Plundering the Planet, Ugo
Bardi, reviewed by Stephen Bocking

62 Stand, Anthony Bonello, Nicolas

Teichrob (directors), reviewed by


Ben Williamson

41:2

2015

ENVIRONMENTAL STUDIES
KNOWLEDGEINTEGRATIONLEADERSHIP

What can we learn about sustainability from living on an island?


How can we create innovative, positive change in our communities?
How do our values, attitudes, and beliefs inform our actions?
The new, interdisciplinary Bachelor of Environmental Studies program at the University of Prince Edward
Island will equip you to answer these questions. With courses in Arts, Science, and Business, you will learn to
make environmental connections across academic fields and to analyze critically the complex environmental
challenges we face today. In the classroom, field, and community, you will lead the way in finding innovative
solutionsmaking a positive impact toward sustainability in your personal life, locally and globally.

For more information, please contact


Carolyn Peach Brown, Director, Environmental Studies
hcpbrown@upei.ca | (902) 620-5066

upei.ca/environmentalstudies
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

Our School is Different.


Are You?
Applied learning with field camps, co-ops, internships, work placement opportunities
Expert faculty who know you by name
More graduates working in the Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences sectors than any other
college in Canada

OUR INNOVATIVE GRADUATE PROGRAMS INCLUDE:


Advanced Water Systems Operations and Management

Environmental Visual Communication

Applied and Community-Based Research

GIS - Applications Specialist (also available online)

Aquaculture

GIS - Cartographic Specialist

Conservation and Environmental Law Enforcement

Sustainable Agriculture

For information or to book a campus tour, contact:


askus@flemingcollege.ca or 1-866-353-6464 ext. 3301
School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, Frost Campus, Lindsay, Ontario

flemingcollege.ca/senrs
4

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

A LT E R N A T I V E S J O U R N A L.C A

EDITORIAL BOARD Katherine Barrett, David Brooks,


Taarini Chopra, Robert Gibson (chair), Kyrke Gaudreau,
Andil Gosine, Darcy Higgins, Susan Holtz, Greg
Michalenko, Robert Paehlke, Robert Page, Wayne
Roberts, Nicola Ross, Ray Tomalty, Chris Wood
RESEARCH ADVISORS Michael Bloomfield, Harmony
Foundation; Mark Butler, Ecology Action Centre; Michael
MGonigle, POLIS Project; Steven Peck, Peck & Assoc;
Samuel Tisi; Ralph Torrie, Torrie Smith Assoc; David
Waltner-Toews, University of Guelph
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Don Alexander, Deborah
Barndt, Fikret Berkes, Joe Bevan, Angela Bischoff, Stephen
Bocking, Daryn Caister, John Cartwright, Jennifer Clapp,
Kathleen Cooper, Guy Dauncey, Kate Davies, John
Ferguson, Pierre Filion, William Glenn, Aneka Goov, Ella
Haley, Maura Hanrahan, Janice Harvey, Melody Hessing,
Eric Higgs, Stephen Hill, Stuart Hill, Ryan D. Kennedy,
Heather MacAndrew, David McDonald, Kevin McNamee,
Mark Meisner, Kent Peacock, Mary Pickering, Anicka
Quin, William Rees, Andrew Reeves, John Robinson, Ian
Rowlands, Gary Schneider, John Sinclair, Lindsay Staples,
Ray Tomalty, Jean-Guy Vaillancourt, Debora VanNijnatten,
David Ward, Mark Winfield, Susan Wismer
PUBLISHER Marcia Ruby
GUEST EDITOR Gideon Forman
LEAD EDITOR Chris Wood
MANAGING EDITOR Laura McDonald
ASSOCIATE EDITOR Janet Kimantas
CREATIVE DIRECTOR nik harron
BUSINESS MANAGER David McConnachie
CIRCULATION | FINANCE Michael Torreiter
OUTREACH | DEVELOPMENT Anne Galang Hammoud
DIGITAL MANAGER Jordan Teichmann
INTERNS Daina Goldfinger, Samantha Hui
THANKS to all our volunteers, whose time and energy
continue to be invaluable. Art Advisor: Charles Dobson;
Business: Melissa Krone, James Miniou; Editorial: Renee
Filbey, Martha Lenio, Elise Marion, Alex Roberts, Fatima
Sidaoui, Adam Steiner, Michelle Thompson, Lauren Weinberg;
Events: Kate Howard; Final Proofing: Susan Bryant, Juliana
Gomez, Ellen Jakubowski, Jeri Parrent, Semini Pathberiya,
Emily Slofstra; Legal: Osman Ismaili
We acknowledge the financial support of Canadas
International Development Research Centre (idrc.ca);
ECHO Foundation; ECO Canada; Friends of the Greenbelt
Foundation; Gosling Foundation; LSPIRG; The McLean
Foundation; The Neptis Foundation; Ontario Arts Council;
Ontario Media Development Corporation; the Salamander
Foundation; the Sustainability Network; the Region of
Waterloo. We acknowledge the financial support of the
Government of Canada through the Canada Periodical
Fund of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
The support of the Faculty of Environment at the
University of Waterloo is appreciated.
Publication # 400065122
Return Postage Guaranteed
Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to:
Alternatives Journal, 195 King St. W., Suite 202,
Kitchener, ON N2G 1B1
Phone: 519-888-4442
Email: info@alternativesjournal.ca
ADVERTISE Anne Galang Hammoud at 519-888-4442,
advertising@alternativesjournal.ca
alternativesjournal.ca/advertise
SUBSCRIBE subscriptions@alternativesjournal.ca,
alternativesjournal.ca/subscribe
Call toll-free 1-866-437-2587
1 year (6 issues) individual $35, institutional $75.
Canadian residents add applicable taxes (GST/HST).
Foreign subscriptions add $15. Cheques payable to
Alternatives Inc.,VISA and MasterCard accepted.

EDITORIAL

The Ultimate
Health Issue
IVE LED the
Canadian Association
of Physicians for the
Environment (CAPE)
for 10 years now, and
when I tell people about
our organization one
GIDEON question I dont often
receive is: Physicians
for the Environment? Whats that? The
fact is, people get it: If you want folks to be
healthy, you need to look after the planet
they live on.
The involvement and leadership of
doctors and nurses in environmental
campaigns is one of the most hopeful
developments of recent years. When health
professionals talk, politicians tend to listen.
And not infrequently, we win great victories.
I remember attending a 2005 city
council meeting in Peterborough, Ontario,
where CAPE was urging a ban on
lawn-and-garden pesticides. One of our
member physicians argued passionately
that these chemicals increase peoples
risk of cancer, birth defects and
neurological illness. Next, a nurse got
up and reiterated the bans benefits. A
representative of the Canadian Cancer
Society weighed in. Then a councillor
rose. Weve heard from our doctors, he
said. Weve heard from health charities.
Weve heard from our nurses. How can
we say no? When the vote came, almost
every councillor endorsed a ban, passing
what was then the most comprehensive
pesticide prohibition in Canada.
I will not soon forget that response: How
can we say no?
Since Peterborough, doctors and nurses
have spoken out repeatedly to protect both
people and nature. As youll read in the
pages of this issue, Dr. ric Notebaert of
Montreal helped to close Quebecs Gentilly
nuclear plant and set his community on a
safer energy path. Doris Grinspun, CEO
of the Registered Nurses Association of
41:2

Ontario, played a central role in pressing


her province to pass a cosmetic-pesticide
ban, the most health-protective legislation
of its kind in North America. Dr. Hilary de
Veber, a Toronto pediatrician, was a key
voice in the campaign to close Ontarios
coal-fired power plants, which at their peak
emitted the pollution of some six million
automobiles. Thanks to Dr. de Veber and
her allies, the province shuttered its last coal
facility in April 2014.
For some doctors, environmental
advocacy has come at a price. Doctors
David Colby and John OConnor write about
the criticism they received for speaking
out, respectively, on wind power and the
Alberta tar sands. Colby was attacked
because he candidly reported that there
was no evidence wind energy causes
health problems. OConnor was pilloried
for an opposing reason: suggesting that tar
sands operations could be a factor in illness
among his patients. These brave physicians
could have kept their heads down; no one
would have complained. Instead they chose
to speak and faced the consequences.
I have no doubt history will vindicate them
indeed it has already begun to.
In the 1980s, International Physicians for
the Prevention of Nuclear War composed
of American and Russian doctors who
bridged the Cold War divide received
the Nobel Prize for its effort to make peace
between the United States and the Soviet
Union. The organization was a hopeful
beacon in a world darkened by threats
of World War III. Its members described
nuclear conflict as the ultimate health issue.
In 2015, we can say the same of climate
change. But I am hopeful that the medical
professionals represented in this issue
and many others will help us once again to
stave off planetary destruction.
Guest editor Gideon Forman is the executive
director of the Canadian Association of
Physicians for the Environment.
2015

alternativesjournal.ca

alternativesjournal.ca

A\J CREATORS

A\J is published by Alternatives Inc., a Canadian registered


charity, charitable number 89018 4245 RR0001.
GST/HST number 89018 4245 RT0001; ISSN 1205-7398
A\J is a bi-monthly, independent, refereed journal.
The mandate of this journal is:
c^_a^eWQRPaWcWPMZM]QW]S^a\RQM]MZhbWb^S
environmental issues;
c^_a^\^cRM]d]QRabcM]QW]U^SR]eWa^]\R]cW]cVR
broadest sense of the word, including social and political
dimensions of environments;
c^aRRPcM4M]MQWM]_Rab_RPcWeRW]S^a\RQOhM]
understanding of global issues;
c^bcW\dZMcRQWMZ^UdRM]QRgPVM]UR^SW]S^a\McW^]
among environmental activists, academics and
professionals; and
c^PaRMcRM_dOZWbVW]U^__^acd]WchS^a4M]MQWM]bPV^ZMab
and professionals.
The views and ideas expressed herein are those of the
MdcV^abM]QP^]caWOdc^abM]QQ^]^c]RPRbbMaWZhaRRPc
the views and policies of Alternatives Inc., its employees,
sponsors or advertisers.
A\J is the journal of the Environmental Studies Association of
Canada (ESAC) a learned society formed to bring together
academics, professionals and activists interested in sharing
insights about environmental issues. ESAC members receive
A\J as part of their membership package.
519-888-4442 (phone); ESAC@uwaterloo.ca; esac.ca
This journal has adopted an inclusive language policy.
All manuscripts, with the exception of poetry, will be
edited to eliminate sexist terminology. In quotes, sexist
language is removed and replaced by alternative terms
in square brackets.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored
in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by
any means, without prior written permission from A\J,
or in the case of photocopying or other reprographic
copying, a licence from Access Copyright (The Canadian
Copyright Licensing Agency),
One Yonge Street, Suite 1900, Toronto, Ontario M5E 1E5
tel: (416)868-1620 or (800)893-5777
fax: (416)868-1621, info@accesscopyright.ca
accesscopyright.ca

Gideon Forman holds an MA in Philosophy from McGill and a certificate in Renewable


Energy from the University of Toronto. In 2004 he became executive director of the Canadian
Association of Physicians for the Environment, helping to win Ontarios lawn pesticide ban, the
most health-protective legislation of its kind in North America. He also campaigned to close
Ontarios coal plants the equivalent of removing six million automobiles from the road. In
2013, his environmental work earned him a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.
How do you keep up to date on health news? When I dont have to be in front of a computer I
try not to be. I get information mostly from hard-copy journals like Scientific American, which is
rigorous yet accessible and tends to have good politics. They wrote a devastating piece about
the Keystone pipeline which I quote frequently.
Anne Bell is the director of conservation and education at
Ontario Nature, a charitable organization that protects wild
species and spaces through conservation, education and
public engagement. As part of the collective effort to protect
all pollinators in Ontario, she is determined to bring wild
bees to the forefront, so their vital role in healthy ecosystems
and food security is understood and acknowledged.
Anne holds a PhD in Environmental Studies from York
University, and has over 20 years of experience working as
an environmental educator, researcher and advocate for
government and not-for-profit organizations.

A\J is a member of the Canadian Magazine Publishers


Association. A\J is indexed regularly in A Matter of
Fact, Alternative Press Index, Alt-PressWatch, Canadian
Business & Current Affairs Database, Canadian Periodical
Index, Current Awareness in Biological Sciences, Current
Index to Journals in Education, Ecological Abstracts,
Environment Abstracts, ETDEWEB, Geographical Abstracts:
Human Geography, Geographical Abstracts: Physical
Geography, GEOBASE, International Development
Abstracts, International Development Research Centre,
Oceanic Abstracts, Pollution Abstracts, ProQuest
Environmental Science Collection, ProQuest Science
Journals, ProQuest Research Library and Scopus
Creative Commons content is used under license.
License text can be found at:
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/

How do you keep up to date on health news? First thing


every morning I search the Internet for news relevant to the
issues Im working on, such as pollinators. The networks
Im part of are another great source of information we
constantly share information and update each other on the
latest developments.
Michael Torreiter is passionate about healthcare and
the environmental movement. A state of indecision led to
careers in both areas. He is finance manager for A\J and
a naturopathic doctor at Healing Path Centre for Natural
Medicine in Waterloo. Michael first developed an interest in
the link between health and the environment from listening
to his parents a nurse and an organic farmer.

A\J is
A\J is printed in Canada on FSC
certified paper stock.
FSC-certified 70-lb Sterling matte inside, and 100-lb
Supreme Gloss outside (both 30% post-consumer and
30% pre-consumer recycled fibre), with vegetable-based ink.

alternativesjournal.ca

How do you keep up to date on health news? I read


industry journals like The Vital Link and websites like
naturopathiccurrents.com. PubMed is a semi-permanent
tab on my browser, as it is with many other healthcare
practitioners.

41:2

2015

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

* A\J ONLINE *

AlternativesJournal.ca
Outdoor Playtime For Everyone

ajmag.ca/health
Top Healthy Living Tips

Head to our blogs for easy advice on


greening your home and healthcare!
@Mcural Spring Cleaning
@dcaWcW^db6McW]U^]M3dQURc
8aRR]:RMZcVDR\RQWRb
:^fc^:MeRMEdbcMW]MOZR3WacV
4aRMcW]UM@^]F^gWP@dabRah
4^]ca^Z;]bRPcbIWchout Chemicals

PAUL HABSCH

ajmag.ca/backstage

Spending time in nature is important at all stages of life (see Prescribing a Dose of Nature,
page 36). Get inspired by tips for building natural playgrounds (ajmag.ca/playgrounds), and
examples of nature programming for seniors (ajmag.ca/seniors).

Alternatives Medicine
Back issue bundle: Get three more issues on health in convenient PDF format for just
$10 thats three for the price of two! ajmag.ca/healthbundle

Treating Health 25:3

Childrens Health 28:1

Treating Medicine 31:3

Environmentalism is as
much about lungs as
landscapes. This issue
investigates poverty,
wealth and human health;
health policy strictly for
kids; and measuring
elusive health hazards.

A\J gives voice to


environment and health
organizations that are
addressing the complexities
and challenges surrounding
the special vulnerabilities of
Canadas youngest citizens.

This issue exposes the


effects of climate change
in a world challenged by
SARS, AIDS and avian flu;
prescribes a new vision
for ecosystem health; and
shows ways hospitals are
greening health care.

The Best Things Ever


Of All Time, This Week!

Discover great books, podcasts,


documentaries and more as A\J staff
share our favourite facts and findings
of the week.

Go Digital!
Any device, any time.

Check out your options at

ajmag.ca/digital

A\J is your environmental

facebook.com/AlternativesJ

AlternativesJ

community. Stay connected.

youtube.com/alternativesjournal

@AlternativesJ

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

Event Location: Ryerson University


Downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada
WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/GREENROOFSFORHEALTHYCITIES

@GRHCNA

Join us at the Grey to Green Conference on June 1st


Roger Schickedantz - The Emergence of Agritecture: Integrating Agriculture & Architecture
Jeffrey Bruce - Designing Integrated Water Management - Towards Net Zero!
Dr. Cathrin Winkelmann - Community Development Through a Jane/Finch Local Urban Agriculture Network
Scott MacIvor - Bees as Tools for Interdisciplinary Curriculum Development in Landscape Architecture
Eric Corey Freed - The Seven Secrets of How Nature Designs: How Natural Resiliency Applies to Your Business
Lorraine Johnson - Urban Livestock: Opportunities and Constraints
Dr. Youbin Zheng - Indoor Plant ProductionScience and Technology
Hamid Karimi - Urban Agriculture Policy in the District of Columbia, USA
Janaki Hadida - Farmers Market Development
Susan Antler - Soil, Compost and our Living Earth
Melissa Daniels - Green Wall Farming
Andres Bernal, Jennifer Mallard, Heela Omarkhail - Developers Designing for Resilience
Lauren Mandel, Ben Flanner, Mark Winterer - The Economics of Urban Rooftop Farming
Lauren Baker, Debbie Field, Lisa Prime - Accelerating Urban and Regional Food Systems
Tours, training and more...

Sponsored by:

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

The Climate Case for Earth Day Every Day


2010 to 2020 is the critical
decade, the timeframe in
which global carbon emissions
must consistently decline
if we are to stay within the
moderate climate impact
scenario outlined by the
Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change less than
a 2C rise in overall global
warming. There is reason to
feel a glimmer of hope as we
reach the halfway mark in 2015.
According to the International
Energy Agency, 2014 marks
an historic year global CO2
emissions did not rise from the
previous years levels, even as
the global economy grew by
three per cent.
This is a significant sign
that we can indeed carve a
path toward a more moderate
climate change scenario and
more harmonious relationship

10

with the Earth.


2015 is Earth Day Canadas
25th anniversary and my 25th
year in the environmental
sector. For many of us in the
movement, this milestone could
not have come at a better time.
It provides hope that we can
reduce the impact of climate
change, transition to a lowcarbon economy and achieve
greater balance and harmony
with the natural world.
Where do we go from here?
We must stay the course, make
good green choices and build
on our successes, creating
more opportunities for the
market, consumers, educators
and policy makers to chart a
progressive course of action.
This year represents a
significant opportunity both
at the grassroots level and
internationally. In December,

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

196 countries will meet in Paris


to sign a new international
climate agreement. The current
agreement signed in 2009
set targets that will help us
achieve 50 per cent of the
carbon reductions needed by
2020 in order to stay within the
two-degree warming scenario.
The Paris agreement needs to
set new targets that get us to
100 per cent of the emission
reductions needed by 2020.
To mark this critical decade
and support the efforts of
Canadians at the grassroots
level, Earth Day Canada (EDC)
is launching its Earth Day Every
Day campaign, providing an
online, mobile-friendly platform
for Canadians to act to reduce
their personal carbon emissions
and share their profiles and
green achievements.
Those who sign up for the

challenge to tackle climate


change will be recognized
on the Earth Flag we will take
to Paris in December. The
2015 Earth Flag is inspired by
EDCs 1992 Earth Flag which
included 500,000 signatures,
illustrating Canadas collective
will to protect the planet. The final
signatory, then Prime Minister
Brian Mulroney, took the flag to
the 1992 Rio Earth Summit where
the first international agreement
on climate was signed.
The Earth Day Every Day
campaign launches across the
country on Earth Day, April 22,
2015. Visit earthday2015.ca
to make Earth Day Every Day,
sign the 2015 Earth Flag and
help set us on a path to living
in balance and harmony on the
planet.
Deborah Doncaster,
President, Earth Day Canada

Thats Not Food!

VIRGINIA Its not just microplastics that are


a hazard to marine organisms. Last August,
biologists from the Virginia Aquarium and
Marine Science Centre were called about
a young, disoriented female sei whale
swimming up a busy industrial tributary
of the Chesapeake Bay. After she died, it
was discovered that the endangered species
had swallowed a shard of a broken DVD
case that had lacerated her stomach and
prevented her from feeding. Sea turtles and
birds are also frequent victims of lethal
plastic ingestion. Laysan Albatrosses are
reported to consume larger amounts of
plastic, more frequently, than any other
seabird. Chicks have been found with
Styrofoam, beads, fishing line, buttons,
disposable cigarette lighters, toys, golf tees,
dish-washing gloves and magic markers
inside them. bit.ly/ingestedplastic

20 graduate students from the State University of New York at Fredonia set sail on the Great
Lakes in search of plastic. Aboard the Flagship Niagara, a wooden replica of a War of 1812 tall
ship, her group trawled for plastic pieces floating in open water. The results from 21 samples
identified up to 450,000 individual plastic particles per square kilometre.
We thought, we are looking upstream from the ocean, so what were going to pick up are
bags and bottles, Mason told A\J. Instead it was the exact opposite. Seventy per cent of the
plastic we are pulling out of the Great Lakes is actually incredibly small, less than one millimetre.
A substantial portion of the floating Great Lakes plastic comes from exfoliating microbeads
found in facial scrubs. Viewed under the microscope, a significant percentage of the plastic waste
Mason and her team hauled from the Lakes was brightly coloured, perfectly spherical balls.
How bad is the problem? Research by Marcus Eriksen at the Five Gyres Institute in Los
Angeles found an average tube of facial cleanser contained roughly 330,000 microbeads.
Theyre easily flushed down the drain and into local water bodies since water treatment
plants cant detect and remove such microscopic pieces.
Once released, these colourful pieces are ingested by everything from planktonic organisms
at the very base of the food chain and up. The potential for plastic to bioaccumulate throughout
the food web is enormous, Mason said. And since plastic absorbs polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs) and other toxins, the poisonous trail is affecting many levels of aquatic life.
In response, cosmetics companies like LOreal, The Body Shop and Johnson & Johnson
have committed to phasing out plastic microbeads by 2015. Proctor & Gamble has promised
to do so by 2017.
However, further study showed the bigger fear for Lake Michigan is straggly microplastic
fibres. When clothes are washed, thousands of synthetic fibres from polyester, nylon and
fleece break away and go down the drain. They too end up in nearby water bodies where
they may pose an even larger threat to aquatic life than microbeads do. While a fish may
ingest a plastic bead, by 24 to 36 hours later that piece has likely been excreted, Mason said.
But stringy fibres become entangled in a fishs digestive tract, making it easier for toxins to leach.
While industry is moving to reduce or eliminate microbeads in body wash, numerous
state governments are moving to ban products containing them. Mason recently met with
Environment Canada to discuss how Ottawa can help divert plastic waste from the Great
Lakes. And the rest of us? Avoid plastic bags in grocery stores, Mason suggests, and buy
products that shun microbeads. As for that warm fleece jacket? I dont know what to
recommend with regard to microfibre, Mason said with a laugh, because Im definitely not
going to come out and tell people they cant wear fleece in winter. Andrew Reeves
Get the full story and take action: ajmag.ca/microbeads

Plastic Particle Counts in the Great Lakes


LAK

E SUPERIOR

LEGEND
Particle count/km2
0 - 480
LAKE
HURON

AN

USA After a three-and-a-half-year


study, researchers at the University
of Georgia determined that between
4.8 and 12.7 million tonnes of plastic
trash flowed into the worlds oceans in
2010 from 192 coastal countries. The
latest multinational research, led by
the Five Gyres Institute in Los Angeles
and published by PLOS One in December
2014, estimates more than 5.25 trillion
individual pieces of plastic are present
in the worlds oceans at all depths in
all corners of the globe. The discovery,
published February 13 in Science, was
the first time scientists were able to
attach a volume to the amount of plastic
waste entering the worlds waterways.
Using social math to help wrap her
head around the massive quantity, lead
researcher Jenna Jambeck calculated
that the total input of plastic into the
oceans every year is equivalent to finding
five retail shopping bags full of plastic
trash for every foot of coastline in the
world. When I did that conversion, I was
shocked, Jambeck told A\J. Solutions
to waste mismanagement will differ
between countries, the study concluded,
but all start with reducing litter and
boosting recycling and sorting programs.
Full story at ajmag.ca/plasticocean
Listen to Jambeck on CBC Radio:
bit.ly/drowningplastic

CHEMISTRY PROFESSOR Sherri Mason made a splash in 2012 when she and a crew of

HIG

Pointing to Polluters

Beads Befoul Great Lakes

481 - 3,000
3,001 - 10,000

MIC

Focus on Ocean Plastic

IN BRIEF

10,001 - 25,000

LAKE

esearch
Digest

Toronto

Milwaukee

Buffalo
Detroit

Chicago

L A K E O N TA R I O

Hamilton

LA

KE

ER

IE

Erie

25,001 - 50,000
50,001 - 100,000
100,001 - 463,423
City (pop. > 100,000)

Cleveland

With counts in excess of 100,000 per km2, Lake Erie is hit hardest by microplastic pollution.
Adapted from Microplastic pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes, Marcus Eriksen, Sherri Mason et al.,
published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, 2013.

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

11

News From the Gyre

INTERNATIONAL The planet has five


major ocean gyres areas of the open
ocean with rotating currents where
plastic garbage accumulates. The most
well-known of these is the North Pacific
gyre, where a famous accumulation of
trash the size of Texas has been widely
reported since the 1990s. A six-year
study of the plastic found in all of the
gyres was published in the December
10, 2014 issue of PLOS ONE. The most
comprehensive examination of the
situation to date, this study reveals that
the marine garbage patches cannot be
considered as repositories, but rather as
shredders and redistributors of trash.
Sunlight, oxygen, wave action and
grazing fish all break large plastics into
tiny fragments, which then leave the
gyres for dangerous interaction with
entire ocean ecosystems, says lead
researcher Marcus Eriksen. The tiny
microplastics are popping up in ice cores,
coastal sediments, zooplankton, bivalves,
fish and seabirds. Small particles have
a greater surface area than large ones
and act like sponges to absorb PCBs, DDT,
flame retardants and other persistent
organic pollutants in the oceans. The
garbage patches could be a frightfully
efficient mechanism for corrupting our
food chain with toxic microplastics,
says Eriksen. bit.ly/5trillion

Polar Polymers

ARCTIC Researchers were shocked and


saddened to discover large quantities
of microplastics from populated areas
in the south stored in frozen sea ice.
The study results were published in
Earths Future (June 2014). Lead author
Rachel Obbard reports that she saw a
lot of small threads, some solid chunks
in oranges and reds and a bunch of
small blue nodules. She accidentally
discovered the plastic while studying
microscopic algae living under the ice.
Until then, she had consider[ed] the
Arctic to be a pristine and remote area.
The investigation revealed that Arctic
sea ice contains concentrations of the
pollutant several orders of magnitude
greater than what has previously been
found in highly contaminated areas
such as the North Pacific gyre. The
impact of increased ice melting due to
climate change, and the resulting release
of this contamination into the worlds
oceans, is unknown. bit.ly/arcticplastic
Compiled by Janet Kimantas and
Andrew Reeves

12

alternativesjournal.ca

Virtuous Loop of Cow Poop


SOME PEOPLE, when handed lemons, make lemonade. Other people, like family
farmer Bern Kotelko of Alberta, redefine what it means to get lemons, reframe the
challenge of making juice from them, and create something far more useful and selfsustaining than lemonade. At least, thats what Kotelko did when life handed him 500
tonnes of cow poop per day.
Kotelko didnt just see a mountain of manure he saw an opportunity to turn shit into
Shinola. Or more specifically, turn it into biogas, electricity, heat and fertilizer. I always
think of my grandfather and what he taught us about agriculture, says Kotelko. He
did things in a sustainable way. He grew his own energy to produce food because he
had a team of horses and so now were doing it at just a little different scale and using
some different technology. But what were doing is producing our own energy so we can
produce food.
Canadas first Integrated Bio Refinery, Growing Power Hairy Hill, uses a virtuous circle
of technology to link a cattle feedlot, an anaerobic digester and an ethanol plant. The
ethanol plant produces wet distillers grain as a by-product, which gets fed back to the
cattle, completing the virtuous loop.
The anaerobic digester, as well as consuming all of the cow poop, takes another 200
tonnes of organic waste each day from several area municipalities. The organic waste has
three times the energy by volume as the manure. The business partners conceptualize
this as adding value to both streams of waste by mining them for their energy. The
methane produced by the digester is burned in a 2.5-megawatt electricity generator,
creating sufficient electricity for the 2,500 homes in the local community of Vegreville. The
generator produces what lesser thinkers might imagine as surplus wasted heat. But
Kotelko added a fuel-grade ethanol plant to soak up this extra heat, because nothing is
waste when you look at it the right way. The plant is responsible for creating 40 million litres
of ethanol per year that is sold to refineries in Edmonton.
Trever Nickel is the general manager of Himark Biogas, the company that designs the
technology used at Growing Power. He says that if Albertas very low carbon price of
$15 per tonne were to increase to $35 or $40, there would be an opportunity to finance
many more of these plants in the province. For instance, Germany offers a feed-in-tariff
to producers and has over 6,000 digestors. By contrast, Albertas two biogas and cogeneration plants (the other one is in Lethbridge) make only a fraction of the 265 million
litres of fuel-grade ethanol mandated to be used in the province.
A slightly different configuration with the same creative mindset is operating in
Chatham, Ontario. The Devries family farm sells corn to Greenfield Specialty Alcohols, a
biorefinery that produces 200,000 million litres of ethanol per year. Not only do they buy
back distillers grain to feed their cattle, but they are planning to take the heat and CO2
created by the ethanol plant from their corn to heat their greenhouse and grow up to
5.85 million kilograms of tomatoes per year. Sustainability can be as simple as seeing the
lemons around you in an entirely new way. Janet Kimantas
Video: See Growing Power in action at ajmag.ca/biogas

Cow Poop

Solid Municipal Waste

In-feed
System

Feedlot

Anerobic
Digester

Methane

Electricity

Hot Water

Steam

Generator

Ethanol
Plant

Cattle Feed (Distillers Grain)


The virtuous loop: Manure from livestock fed with grain by-product from the ethanol plant
provides the methane used to power the plant and provide surplus electricity to the community.

41:2

2015

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

13

could increase risk of exposure.


Why is the rise in temperature by three or
four degrees so significant?
A 1 C change in average annual
temperature could mean the difference
between ice and no ice. People who live
in the Arctic depend on ice for travel. Its
how they bring food home and put it on
the table. They have already reported
challenges with that.
It also changes the types of species
that are up North. Beavers are entering
communities where they have never
been before and carry pathogens that
cause beaver fever (giardiasis). There
are different bugs up there now that did
not exist there before. These things are
all changing because of that few-degree
increase in temperature.

PHILIP BAKER

Is the funding the Canadian government


puts toward climate adaptation shifting the
discourse away from prevention?

Climate Change Already


Makes Us Sick
THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION has identified three major areas in which
climate change may impact global health: waterborne and foodborne diseases; malnutrition
and food availability; and vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, which is spreading as
mosquitoes follow rising temperatures to new locations.
Sherilee Harper is working to combat these problems. An epidemiologist and assistant
professor in the Department of Population Medicine at the University of Guelph, Harper has
joined an international team to tackle food security, malaria and waterborne disease through
a research initiative called the Indigenous Health Adaption to Climate Change project. The
project works closely with Indigenous peoples and their organizations in the Canadian Arctic,
Ugandan Impenetrable Forest and Peruvian Forest.
A\J: What are some of the specific ways
climate change is affecting health in Canada?
Sherilee Harper: In the Canadian Arctic,
they are already seeing a lot of the
impacts of climate change. There are
already areas that have experienced
three- or four-degree increases in
temperature. One area of impact is that
of waterborne disease. After a period of
heavy rainfall or rapid snowmelt there
are increased pathogens in the drinking
water and we see significant increases
in clinic visits for diarrhea after those

14

alternativesjournal.ca

events. In Southern Canada, we do have


a lot of drinking water infrastructure that
should protect us against some of those
impacts but most Canadians actually
rely on untreated groundwater, which is
vulnerable to this type of contamination.
Also in Southern Canada, increased
numbers of storms, the increased number
of hot days in the summer, increased
flooding we can say those are linked to
climate change. We are also expecting
to see a [northern] extension in the range
of ticks that carry Lyme disease, which
41:2

2015

It is actually the opposite. Climate change


adaptation tends to receive less funding
than mitigation. Both of them are equally
important and both areas are currently
underfunded. Adaptation is really
important because climate change is
already happening. Even if we reduced
all of our emissions to zero, we are still
expecting the climate to warm over the
next few decades.
What is a good way to respond to
these threats?
I think the most important thing that people
can do is talk about it, and pay attention to
what is happening in the Canadian North
and abroad. Once you start talking about it,
then politicians will listen.
With a federal election coming soon,
what is the most important climate-related
promise the parties can make?
The Canadian government used to make
a lot of information publicly available
online thatdescribed climate change
projections, what types of changes
people across Canada might expect to
see and how those changes might impact
health.In other words, taking the science
that the Canadian government has been
participating in and translating it for
public consumption. I think that making
this type of information available to the
publicwould be a really important thing to
look for.
Gideon Forman interviewed Sherilee Harper
in January.

AlternativesJournal_1_AlternativesJournal 15-03-06 5:01 PM Page 1

Celebrating Our 31st Anniversary!


Ontarios 1st Certified Organic retailer.
Specializing in local, organic, Non-GMO
and environmentally safe products.

Natural Food Market


416.466.2129

Wholistic Dispensary
416.466.8432

348 Danforth Avenue


thebigcarrot.ca

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

15

Healers on
the Front Lines

ILLUSTRATIONS BY NIK HARRON

Five healthcare professionals share the


secrets of their successful campaigns.

16

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

WELCOME TO THE NEW FACE of Canadian medicine! These five


health professionals assist patients not just through annual check-ups
and drug prescriptions, but also by protecting our planetary home. Their
inspiring victories from closing coal plants to stopping the northward
shipment of Torontos garbage are helping to clean our air, water and
land. Here are their success stories and the things you can do to promote
environmental health in your own community.

Dr. Warren Bell is a family physician


in Salmon Arm, BC, and past founding
president of CAPE. He lobbied to reduce
the footprint of a new shopping centre by
60 per cent.
Why are you concerned about
environmental protection?
I never was very good at respecting the
division between the world of medicine
and the rest of society. The best model
for us to use is one of a web or network

of interactions among all living creatures


and their physical environment. If
the environment is ill (contaminated,
disrupted, reduced in biodiversity), this
will eventually be reflected in human ill
health or susceptibility to ill health. The
medical profession still tends to see its
ministrations as occurring in a bubble,
outside the general flow of social and
ecological life. Unfortunately, that image
is false and will increasingly fail to address
health issues over time.

biologists actually made gross errors in their


report. This, combined with our groups
rigorously detailed presentations, forced
the government to ask SmartCentres to
start again.
Eventually, the shopping centres
footprint was reduced by 60 per cent.
This was the first time such a reversal was
brought about in BC, and our complaints
to the BC Ombudsperson resulted in a
systemic review of legislation and 25
recommendations for change.

What were your keys to success?


I was part of a group of biologists and
other professionals who were horrified
when SmartCentres, the largest builder of
open-format shopping centres in Canada
usually anchored by Walmart laid
out plans to build in the middle of the
wetlands and floodplain of the Salmon
River. We formed Wetland Alliance: The
Ecological Response (WA:TER) and poured
an enormous amount of energy into
underlining the folly of this plan.
The BC provincial government uses the
professional reliance model in which private
developers hire biologists to determine if
theyre doing things right. Unfortunately,
because developers pay biologists directly,
the latter often slant their findings toward
the developers plans. In this case, the

Do you have advice for others who are


working on environmental protection in
their community?
Start with an issue or problem that you care
deeply about. Gather friends and likeminded neighbours together dont try and
go it alone. Technical experts are especially
valuable. Work out a plan for speaking to the
people involved in the project or process,
to various authorities (municipal, regional,
provincial) and, of course, to any and all
media you can interest. Then, simply keep on
going. Adapt to changes. Make contact with
anyone sympathetic to your work. Keep your
language polite but relentless and firm, even
if the other side gets rancorous. And keep
going until its resolved or youve completely
run out of steam. Then, make advocacy a
lifelong commitment.

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

17

RNAO

communities health and wellbeing. Climate


change, pesticides and other toxins are
well-known causes of ill health. It is much
healthier and more cost-effective to
prevent pollution. Access to clean air, a safe
environment and reliable and sustainable
forms of electricity are not a frill but a
necessity to help preserve our planet and
secure the future for our children.

Doris Grinspun is the CEO of the


Registered Nurses Association of Ontario
(RNAO). She was involved in campaigns to
ban lawn pesticides and phase out coal
in Ontario.
Why are you concerned about
environmental protection?
As nurses we know that environmental
protection plays a critical role in our

What was your key to success?


The key to success was coalition building
based on a common vision. This, layered
with the diversity and expertise of
our partners, gave us the strength to
persuade premiers and ministers and
counterbalance influential industrial
interests. In our coalition against pesticides,
our members were powerful voices in
both environmental advocacy and the
nursing and medical professions. Some
partners were associations, like RNAO, with
strong credibility in health policy and wellestablished relationships with all political
parties. We are proud to have the added
strength of our dynamic membership who,
armed with knowledge and passion, were
ready to mobilize and push the issues on
the ground with local MPPs.
As RNAOs CEO, I am constantly inspired
by our members, board of directors and

dying from these phenomena. I see them


every summer in my emergency department.

Why are you concerned about


environmental protection?
Environmental problems become health
problems. The number-one health problem
for humanity is climate change. Doctors have
a duty to prevent such a catastrophic scenario.
Just think about heat waves and pollution:
More and more people are suffering and

What was your key to success?


The group. Many of us were involved
as individuals for 10, 20, 30 years in
the movement to close Quebecs only
nuclear plant. During the summer of 2008,
when the Quebec government quietly
announced that it was going to refurbish
Gentilly-2 (G2), more than 60 NGOs in
the province got together within a matter
of weeks and created the Mouvement
Sortons le Qubec du Nuclaire (MSQN).
About a dozen citizens from the area of
G2 engineers, physicians, economists,
teachers and students met frequently,
and we all learned a lot from each other.
Every specialist in the group tried to know
his or her topic as well as they could; I read
everything about nuclear power plants and
health risks.
We made ourselves available to
journalists who were writing more and more
about the issue. We organized symposiums
and conferences at universities. We invited
specialists from abroad and convened
debates with people from the industry and
the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.
Politicians from different parties came to
the meetings. In 2008, a documentary
producer, Guylaine Maroist, began following

18

41:2

Dr. ric Notebaert is a Montreal physician


and CAPE board member. He played a key
role in the successful campaign to close
Quebecs Gentilly-2 nuclear plant.

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

staff, whose unwavering commitment to


build a better future has no boundaries.
Add to this the remarkable leadership of
people like Gideon Forman, Jack Gibbons
of the Ontario Clean Air Alliance, Lisa
Gue of the David Suzuki Foundation and
RNAOs Kim Jarvi, and youve got the
recipe for success!
Do you have advice for others who are
working on environmental protection in
their community?
The strongest advice I can provide is to
not work in silos, but to form powerful
coalitions that are genuine and determined
in intent, robust in knowledge and strategic
in approach. Diversity adds enormous
value to collaboration by bringing together
environmental expertise, including technical
knowledge, as well as strength in developing
policy and mobilizing political will.
Engaging nurses and other health
professionals, along with our power of
conviction, to craft better environmental
determinants of health in order to protect
our planet and its people this will serve
us all well in overcoming the tremendous
power of greed. I offer this advice and my
heartfelt kudos to those who are working
toward a cleaner, healthier tomorrow for
Canadians and for people all over the world.

the MSQN and produced the film Gentilly


Or Not To Be. When it was released in fall
2012, it had a big impact in the province:
At the end of the year the newly elected
government decided to close G2.
Do you have advice for others who are
working on environmental protection in
their community?
Pick one topic that you are ready to put your
heart, your brain and your energy into.
Know your topic very well and be
intellectually honest. When things are
uncertain or unclear, say it. This is a matter of
credibility. If you dont know some aspects
of the problem, dont pretend you do.
Nuclear power plants are complex machines.
I was happy to have an engineer and a
mathematician to explain many issues to the
rest of us.
Find friends to work with. The bigger
the task, the more important this is. People
involved in different fields will help you
better understand the issue.
Big things take time to do. Be patient. We
worked on the closure of Gentilly-2 for more
than 20 years.
Celebrate your successes, even if small
this is very important and take care of
the human beings in your group. People get
burned out sometimes. They have a right to
stop if they want to.

illness may affect everyone in the family.


Now, we look at the prevention of disease,
and one of a doctors roles is being an
advocate for the patient, the family and
society to prevent diseases that arise from
our environment.

Dr. Richard Denton is a physician and


former mayor of Kirkland Lake, Ontario. He
was a leader in the successful fight to block
the shipment of Torontos garbage to the
Adams Mine in Northern Ontario.
Why are you concerned about
environmental protection?
Doctors used to treat patients for diseases.
Then general practice became family
practice, and we treated not only the patient
but also the family, because one persons

What were your keys to success?


First, it was very much a team effort.
I worked with Toronto Councillor Jack
Layton and benefited greatly from his
advice and help when I went to Toronto.
Up here in the North, we had a core
of about 10 people who worked
well together.
Second, we realized that it would be
a long struggle. From 1990 to 1995, we
were opposing the project on our own in
Kirkland Lake. Then from 1995 to 2000,
we worked with the Algonquin people,
farmers and environmentalists in the area.
A doctor colleague ran for mayor and
nearly won. A friend joined the city council
in 1991, and I joined in 1994 and was
mayor from 1997 to 2000.
Third, it was fun making new friends.
People loved Mel the Moose, a wire-frame
sculpture of a moose that we filled with
recycled containers and took down to
Toronto, and the Adams Mine song that

FARRAH KAHN, CAPE

scientific credibility and relationships


with the community and our patients.
As a pediatrician, it is much easier for
me to prevent a problem than to fix one.
Environmental protection is the same. I am
always thinking about the world my children
and my patients will inherit and that also
gives me daily motivation.

Dr. Hilary de Veber is a Toronto


pediatrician and vice president of CAPE.
She was instrumental in the successful
campaign to shut down Ontarios coal-fired
power plants.
Why are you concerned about
environmental protection?
Human health is intimately connected
with the health of our environment. After
going into medicine I realized that doctors
have powerful voices if they speak out to
protect the environment. We have both

What were your keys to success?


Firstly, we started a media campaign to
spread understanding and concern about
coal in the community. Public support
gave decision makers in this case the
Liberal government the confidence to go
through with their commitment to close the
coal plants.
The second, and probably the most
important factor, was our partnership with
several other like-minded organizations,
including the Registered Nurses
Association of Ontario, the Asthma
Society of Canada and the Canadian Lung
Association. This increased the power of
our voice exponentially.
Thirdly, we remained non-partisan
We made sure we had positive working
relationships with members of the other
parties in case they won the provincial
election.
Lastly, we always made an effort to present
not only a no to coal message, but also a
41:2

2015

Charlie Angus (NDP MP, Timmins-James


Bay) composed [look it up!]. We served
food potluck at our meetings. We were
together at the Toronto City Council and
in Ottawa on Parliament Hill and many
members of our group set up camp on the
Ontario Northland Railway and blockaded it
for over a week.
Fourth, we put in a lot of work contacting
other mayors on both sides of the OntarioQuebec border, dealing with ministers both
provincially and federally and using tactics
such as phoning bank managers with
political connections.
Fifth, it came down to money, with neither
the proponents [of the dump] or the City
of Toronto wanting to take on the liability
of contaminated groundwater. The city
put more effort into reducing, reusing and
recycling instead.
Do you have advice for others who are
working on environmental protection in
their community?
Consult books like How to Save the World
in Your Spare Time by Elizabeth May, The
Troublemakers Teaparty:A Manual for
Effective Citizen Action by Charles Dobson
and A Manual for Direct Action by Martin
Oppenheimer and George Lakey.

yes to renewables message. We wanted


decision makers and the public to have a
confident vision of how we could still meet
our energy needs without relying on coal.
Do you have advice for others who are
working on environmental protection in
their community?
Partnership with other individuals and
organizations is very powerful. There are so
many people who are concerned about the
environment, but often they feel isolated
and discouraged as no one else seems to
care the way they do. Even I feel this way at
times, especially in the medical community
where the awareness of environmental
issues as health issues is not yet where
it needs to be. With social media and the
Internet, like-minded individuals can find
and support each other and strategize.
Remaining positive is also essential, as
we all can be paralyzed by the daunting
tasks that face us. Surrounding yourself
with other people who see hope and
possibility for change is important.
We are all so busy with our daily lives that
protecting the environment often does not
reach the top of our to-do lists, even if it is
important to us. But no effort a person makes,
even if it is sending one email or signing one
petition, is too small. If each person does a
little bit, much will be achieved.
alternativesjournal.ca

19

A\J is looking for


your creativity!
Are you a writer, photographer, illustrator or researcher looking to get in print?

We want to hear from you! www.alternativesjournal.ca/contribute

Heroes
Wanted
A\J is looking for One Hundred Heroes
to help us build our legacy fund.
Learn more at 100heroes.alternativesjournal.ca
20

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

Beautiful Destruction is a large-format, high-quality collection of over


200 stunning, full-colour aerial images by noted art photographer and
pilot Louis Helbig that transcends the often shrill polarities of public
discourse about the largest industrial project in North America: the
Alberta bitumen sands.
Included are short essays by well-known personalities from both sides of
the debate, including Bill McKibben, Charles Wilkinson, Duff Connacher,
Elizabeth May, Eric Reguly, Ezra Levant, Jennifer Grant, Rick George, Gil
McGowan, Allan Adam, Megan Leslie and Francis Scarpaleggia.
One of the most ambitious, provocative and unique photography
projects to be published in years.
AVAILABLE AT YOUR FAVOURITE LOCAL OR ONLINE BOOKSTORE.
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

21

Doctors
Under
Fire
Despite pressure to be silent, physicians
speak out for the environment.

Dr. John OConnor warned of possible links between tar sands


and his patients poor health. He was pilloried. Hed do it again.
JANUARY 3, 2006, is a day I will never
forget. It was the day a CBC reporter
called to ask me about health concerns in
Fort Chipewyan, the largest community
downstream of the tar sands. The call would
change my professional and personal life.
Situated on the north shore of Lake
Athabasca, Fort Chip is Albertas oldest
settlement. Its 1,200 or so residents rely
on a traditional lifestyle of fishing, trapping,
hunting and gathering. Given that, and its
isolation, I had been shocked as its primary
healthcare provider to discover the many
pathologies, including cancers, afflicting the
residents. Hearing vivid descriptions from
the Elders of changes in the environment
and the water in and around the community
over the previous 20 years, I became
concerned that there might be a causal link
with the polluting effects of tar sands mining
occuring upstream.
In posing the question publicly on CBC
Radio, however, I unleashed a torrent
of reprisals. Health Canada and Alberta
Health both laid complaints against me

at the Alberta College of Physicians,


accusing me of raising undue alarm. (The
charge was disproven.) Right-wing industry
apologists like Ezra Levant attacked me
publicly, causing deep distress to me and
my wife, Charlene. But I also got support
from my peers: the Canadian and Alberta
Medical Associations and individual
physicians within and outside Canada. The
questions I raised became the subject of
several books and documentaries, including
Leslie Iwerks Downstream, shortlisted for
an Oscar nomination in 2008.
The abuse was shocking and totally
unexpected. But the reactions both good
and bad altered my life in a way I could
not have imagined. Attention toward the
tar sands continues. I still receive frequent
requests to speak on the subject. Advocacy
preoccupies my time.
I believe it was not just my right to
advocate for my patients it is my sworn
duty. Until Fort Chip I never realized how
much that duty entails, but the effort was
worth it. My actions helped highlight

22

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

the despicable attitudes of the Alberta


and Canadian governments. Despite
commitments to do so, neither has ever
followed up with any health study of the
land and people in the sacrificial zone
downstream of the tar sands.
And whether it was pleasant or effective,
I would not hesitate to do the same again.
Fort Chip is a microcosm of a bigger battle
we must all fight. When our grandchildren
ask what we did for the planet, we must at
least be able to say that we tried.
Dr. John OConnor is a family physician
practising with his wife Charlene (a
registered nurse). They work downstream
from the tar sands of Alberta, in communities
exposed to the toxic environmental impact
created by the industrialization of
vast areas of wetland and
boreal forest.

ILLUSTRATION BY NIK HARRON

Dr. David Colby gave turbines a clean bill of health


and became the object of an anti-wind vendetta.
SEVEN YEARS AGO, a ChathamKent municipal councillor asked me for
information about health effects from wind
turbines. I felt comfortable researching
this because I had studied physics in
university, worked for an engineering firm
and have had a lifelong technical interest
in high-fidelity audio. The medical literature
turned up no evidence that wind turbines
cause health problems. My reply triggered
requests for elaboration and a report to
Council, which received news coverage and
became available on the Internet.
When angry letters castigating me
appeared in the newspaper, I learned I
had been targeted by organized activists
who oppose turbines from any standpoint:
economics, health, esthetics, ecological,
nuisance, human rights, ethics and
justice. These groups and individuals
value anecdotes over science, dismiss
contradictory evidence and attack the
character of people expressing contrary
viewpoints. I was labelled a shill for the
wind turbine industry, Colby the noise-

denier, a quack and much worse. Antiwind websites vilified me; a phone caller
threatened vandalism.
The worst came when the College
of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
notified me that it had received three
identical complaints alleging my unethical
conduct and conflict of interest. Although
I was eventually exonerated, the colleges
comment that, Dr. Colbys expertise
is in medical microbiology and infectious
diseases, an area quite distinct from
audiology or other fields related to the
physical impact of wind turbines on human
health, gave anti-wind activists a field day
when quoted out of context. I objected
that expertise is not determined solely by
medical qualifications. The college declared
that my only recourse was to appeal my
exoneration! Further complaints, alleging
that I needed to be silenced, were also
dismissed. Nevertheless, appeals by antiwind activists delayed the full clearing of my
name for years, at an immense personal toll.
There were positive responses as well.

41:2

2015

I was invited to join an international expert


panel convened to determine if health
effects were, or even could be, caused
by wind turbines and to advise Ontarios
chief medical officer of health, the
Ontario Ministry of the Environment and
the province of Nova Scotia. Invitations
arrived to chair scientific sessions at
international conferences on wind
turbines and health.
George Orwell said, If liberty means
anything at all, it means the right to tell
people what they do not want to hear.
With the authority society grants to medical
doctors comes the duty to convey the truth
and sometimes the necessity to shoulder
large burdens. Academic freedom is ours
to use.
Dr. David Colby is medical officer of health
for Chatham-Kent, Ontario, and professor of
Physiology & Pharmacology and Microbiology
& Immunology at Western University. He is
recognized internationally as a medico-legal
expert in wind turbine sounds and health.

alternativesjournal.ca

23

TPN KPL, FOTOLIA.COM

24

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

SECOND OPINIONS

Medical Interventions
Two physicians weigh in on how far doctors
should go to protect the planet.
Veteran activist Dr. David Swann explains why its
important for doctors to engage in direct action.
SHOULD DOCTORS get involved
in direct action and physically place
themselves on the front lines over threats
to human and environmental health? My
experience testifies to my belief that the
answer is yes.
I was involved in movements against
nuclear weapons (Physicians for Global
Survival, in the 1980s), challenging unsafe
living conditions in the Philippines (1989),
urban pesticide use in Alberta (1998),
and sanctions on Iraq (2002-2003). In
2002, I lost my job for criticizing the Klein
government on behalf of my fellow public
health officers in Alberta for ignoring
climate change.
So far my actions have stayed within the
law, but its clear to me that in those rare
instances that threaten present and future
generations, there may be a need to push
legal boundaries. Where I live in Alberta,
it is apparent after 43 years under one
government that a lack of science-based
policy and some current practices threaten
our future. Every responsible citizen, including
doctors, must summon their courage to stand
up against such political failure.
Ive been conscious since the 1960s
that citizens need to play an active role
in political change and public policy.
Physicians are also citizens and we carry
a responsibility to fulfill dual roles those
include informing elected representatives
of medical facts, but also resisting pressure
from vested interests to maintain the status
quo. Changes to tobacco legislation showed

how accurate medical information and


public pressure can result in better policy,
but those changes took decades to achieve.
On issues like climate change, it is clear
that many governments will drag their feet
until forced to legislate. In the face of such
intransigence, the only conscientious act
left is to take direct action.
Everyone has a responsibility to act
against injustice, public risk and government
negligence. Physicians have a particular
role in relation to social and environmental
risks to human health their technical
knowledge is important to better public
policy. Social status and resources carry
an extra degree of responsibility. Indeed,
the physicians advocacy role beyond
their one as citizens is now explicit in
the training of Canadian doctors. Medical
officers of health have a legislated
responsibility and authority under the Public
Health Act to advocate for public health and
safety policy and to stop certain activities
that have the potential to harm people.
Climate change is the most significant
threat to health on the planet it affects
water quality and quantity, food production
(including through ocean acidification),
and is responsible for increasingly
extreme weather, killing hundreds of
thousands each year. Political leaders,
such as Prime Minister Harper and Alberta
Premier Prentice, have shown little or
no commitment to real reductions in
greenhouse gas emissions, preferring
instead to pay for health and environmental

41:2

2015

emergencies. Clearly they favour the


political advantage of short-term economic
returns over science-based actions in the
long-term public interest that would reduce
this profound global health risk.
If we physicians take our credo Primum
non nocere (First, do no harm) and the
precautionary principle seriously, we must
be active politically in demanding the
changes that are essential to life and the
preservation of climate systems.
As a human, a citizen, a politician and
as a physician and grandfather, I frequently
call upon Canadians to overcome our fears
of being political and work together for
long-term economic and environmental
well-being. History is clear about power:
The struggle too often falls in favour of the
deep pockets and the status quo. People
must fight for their right to life and basic
needs and hold elected representatives
accountable for decisions that unfairly
risk people and life-giving environmental
systems.
Direct action moves people beyond ideas
and words to a courageous act of physical
presence at a time and place that creates
the political discomfort thats necessary for
political change.
Dr. David Swann is Member of the Legislative
Assembly of Alberta for the constituency
of Calgary Mountain View. He initiated
the Healthy City Project in Calgary in 1987
and was part of developing the citys first
pesticide-free park in 1998.

alternativesjournal.ca

25

SECOND OPINIONS

Dr. Richard Denton argues that physician-activists should stay within the law.
law by participating in civil disobedience?
I will tackle this from three points of view.
Will it work? Is it necessary? And, what
special considerations apply for a doctor or
healthcare professional?
Will civil disobedience work?Will you
be respected or even seen by the people
you are trying to influence? The tactics of
direct action are volatile. Infiltrators, be it on
behalf of police or business, may become
informants. Your peaceful demonstration
may turn violent when so-called anarchists
join you for the fun of breaking things or
when theyre sent in by your opponents to
discredit your cause.Sometimes you will
be attacked directly. Its important to know
what you will be up against, and whether
your civil disobedience will create the
response you want or work against you.
Is civil disobedience necessary?
Alternatives exist. You might start with
writing letters to your elected local,
provincial or federal representatives. You
can visit those office-holders in person.
You can seek public support through
letters to the editor, in op-eds or by
creating online petitions through platforms
like Avaaz. Social media is also becoming
increasingly influential.
In the end, it all comes down to money.
You need to make resistance financially
disadvantageous for your opposition.
Finally, there is the ballot box:

Canadians will vote this year for a


new Parliament. Thus, there are many
alternatives to civil disobedience that will
get your point across legally.
As a doctor or a nurse, our greatest
asset is our professional standing
in the eyes of the public. Thats why
organizations such as Physicians for Global
Survival (PGS) or Canadian Associations
of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
are so often sought out by other groups
to lend credibility to their causes. Civil
disobedience can undermine that
professional standing anything we do
that erodes it is unhelpful to our cause.
There is always a cost to advocacy
even when it is legal. Some will oppose
you and hate you for your stand. But civil
disobedience may also get you arrested.
You may face criminal charges, legal fees
and, if convicted, a financial penalty or time
in jail. You may have restrictive conditions
put upon you. A criminal record may curb
your future travel or chance of getting a
job.Participation in civil disobedience,
with all the risks it carries, can even
destroy friendships and divide families.
If you are with a charitable group and
opposing current government policy, civil
disobedience can risk your organizations
tax status.
As mayor of Kirkland Lake when the
town was faced with receiving Torontos
garbage for disposal, I didnt participate

26

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

in blockades of the Ontario Northland


Railway or the Trans-Canada Highway for
just those reasons. Others did, among
them farmers and Indigenous groups, and
they did get publicity. Police were sent in
and while confrontation was avoided at
those protests, thats not always the case: I
recall the violence that happened a decade
ago at Ipperwash.
In the end, the garbage did not come
to Kirkland Lake. Not because of civil
disobedience, but because neither the
proponent nor the City of Toronto wanted the
liability of groundwater possibly becoming
contaminated. It was a financial decision.
Civil disobedience may not work. There
are alternatives. And for a healthcare
professional, it damages our standing in
our community, which in turn destroys our
credibility, while creating other costs that can
have long-term consequences.Dont do it!
Dr. Richard Denton is an associate
professor at the Northern Ontario School
of Medicine. He has served as president of
the Canadian Association of Physicians
for the Environment and Physicians for
Global Survival and is the North American
co-chair for International Physicians for the
Prevention of Nuclear War.
Perspectives on civil disobedience from
Tzeporah Berman, John Bennett, Franke
James and more: ajmag.ca/resistance

AL62, FOTOLIA.COM

SHOULD PHYSICIANS break the

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

27

SECOND OPINIONS

Nukes or Not?
The pros and cons of nuclear power
from a health perspective.
Dr. Linda Harvey says nuclear power is dangerous
every day, not just when disaster strikes.

NY FORM OF electric power could be considered clean

and green if you only look at what happens after it enters


the grid for distribution. Nuclear power is often afforded
this privilege.
Reasons for this are partly political and partly biophysical.
Ionizing radiation, the main medical and environmental scourge of
the nuclear industry, often exerts its visible effects years, decades
or generations after the original exposure, making it easy to
downplay, discount or deny.
Radiation is not kind to living tissue. Any of the forms of
radiation given off by uranium-235 (the isotope used for energy
generation) and its decay products, including uranium split in
a nuclear reactor or in spent fuel, can rip through a cell and
damage any component of that cell, including the DNA, carrier
of the cells genetic information. Damage to DNA can begin the
process leading to cancer. Damaged DNA in a reproductive cell,
an egg or sperm, can be passed on to the next generation if the

28

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

offspring live. This damage is cumulative over generations if the


environment remains contaminated.
The nuclear industry not only digs up and distributes buried
natural radioactivity while mining uranium, it renders the uranium
hundreds of thousands of times more radioactive by the process
of nuclear fission in currently operating power-generating
reactors. The waste it leaves is fiercely radioactive and must be
segregated from all biological organisms for thousands of years.
These activities, particularly the mining, milling and reactorconstruction phases, are also extremely fossil fuel intensive
there is no substitute for diesel-driven heavy machinery
releasing copious amounts of greenhouse gases when the climate
can least afford it.
And uranium, just like fossil fuels, is in finite supply. Reasonably
assured reserves of uranium in the world as of 2013 are at
3,698,900 tonnes, and estimated annual reactor requirements
worldwide are 59,270 tonnes. At this rate of usage, reserves will

ION

T
STRA

ILLU

IK
BY N

RON

HAR

Y
TO B
| PHO

EKRIS

SPAC

.COM

TOLIA
FO

29

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

41:2

last a little over 60 years less if we ramp


up nuclear power generation.
Radioactive contamination has not been
responsibly contained by the industry. When
uranium is removed from ore, 85 per cent of
the radioactivity in the original deposit is left
behind as tailings. Since these are now on the
Earths surface in finely crushed form, they
are free to migrate, to leach through water,
blow away, be absorbed by plants, be eaten
and find their way into human living spaces.
Containing tailings is not easy and the list of
documented spills and dam failures is long.
After the Serpent River was diverted by a
breached containment wall at a mine near
Elliot Lake for a period in 1975, an official
report found no living fish in the entire river
located downstream from the mining wastes.

Levels of tritium, a radioactive by-product


particularly of Canadian CANDU reactors,
have been increasing in Lake Ontario and
elsewhere. Increases in childhood leukemia
have been detected near some European
reactors. Lung cancer is well-known in
uranium miners, and more recently hints of
genetic damage have also been found.
Both tritium and plutonium, another
reactor by-product, are required for
making nuclear weapons and carry a
proliferation risk.
Then, there are the accidents that come
with the nuclear industry. Apart from
innumerable poorly publicized incidents,
the major ones are Three Mile Island,
Chernobyl and Fukushima. Chernobyl
has by some estimates resulted in up to

800,000 premature deaths. It has left parts


of eastern Europe heavily contaminated and
contributed to serious health issues among
people living in these areas. Fukushima
is on a similar track and has released
unprecedented volumes of radioactive
water into the Pacific Ocean.
There is nothing sustainable about
destroying an element (uranium-235),
damaging the human genome and
contaminating parts of the globe for
centuries.
Dr. Linda Harvey is a retired family physician
in Ontario and past president of Physicians
for Global Survival (pgs.ca). She has a personal
interest in radiation and health stemming
from events involving her own community.

Asthma Society president Robert Oliphant says


nuclear lets us wean ourselves off fossil fuels.

HE OECD, Scientific American and

NASAs James Hansen have argued


that the world must add nuclear
capacity if it wants reliable, sufficient,
carbon-free energy. Its also the healthier
way to go.
Air is necessary to life, but fossil fuels
turn it into a health hazard. According to
the World Health Organization (WHO), 3.7
million people die annually from outdoor air
pollution, mainly from the burning of fossil
fuels. Few risks, Dr. Maria Neira of the
WHO has said, have a greater impact on
global health today than air pollution; the
evidence signals the need for concerted
action to clean up the air we all breathe.
The Canadian Medical Association
estimated that air pollution cost Canada
$8-billion in 2008 an annual cost adding
up to over $250-billion by 2031. With
hotter, muggier conditions, people with
asthma and other respiratory problems will
suffer more and die earlier.
In Ontario, however, air quality has

improved. The province experienced


zero smog days in 2014, compared to 53
in 2005. Some credit goes to a coolerthan-usual summer. But while in 2005
coal supplied nearly 30 per cent of
Ontarios electricity, it now supplies none.
Instead, nuclear stations generated 58
per cent of the provinces power in 2013.
A consultants report to the province
estimated in 2005 that dropping coal
from Ontarios power-generating mix
would eliminate roughly 1,000 ER visits
and more than 900 hospital admissions a
year, at an annual savings of $2.6-billion in
healthcare costs.
It takes fossil fuel to build a nuclear
plant but virtually none to operate one. A
research review funded by the Canadian
Nuclear Association concluded that lifetime
emissions from nuclear power were on par
with those from wind.
Uranium is a finite resource, but unlike
other non-renewable fuels, it can be
reprocessed and reused. Additionally,

30

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

it is fear, not the engineering challenge,


that blocks waste disposal in secure
geological sites.
The spectacular meltdown of the
primitive Chernobyl nuclear plant may,
by the most inclusive reckoning, have
contributed to as many as 800,000
premature deaths since 1986. Air pollution
causes that many deaths, worldwide, every
three months.
There is no perfectly safe energy.
Renewable technologies hydro, solar and
wind create environmental impacts and
suffer intermittent output. But the costs of
nuclear power need to be weighed with a
more honest appraisal of its benefits.
Robert Oliphant is the president and CEO
of the Asthma Society of Canada
(asthma.ca), a national health charity
advancing the interests of Canadians with
asthma and respiratory allergies through
research, education and the promotion of
clean indoor and outdoor air.

Why the Resistance to Wind?


Community input and cash generate support for turbines.

ILLUSTRATION BY NIK HARRON | PHOTO BY PEDROSALA FOTOLIA.COM

IND TURBINES ARE a safe, renewable

form of energy that can efficiently replace


carbon-based sources. So why is there so much
resistance to the technology?
Critics of wind power point to a long list of anecdotal
accounts of health impacts, including but not limited to:
stress, sleep deprivation, hearing loss, seizures, high blood
pressure, tinnitus and cardiovascular disease. In response,
governments around the world have commissioned
extensive health reports investigating all of the above.
Most studies also looked at effects on the surrounding
environment and ecology, as well as highly circumstantial
and rare accidents such as those caused by ice thrown from
the blades, shadow flicker (suggested as a cause of some
seizure events in people) and structural failure.
Ultimately, all of the studies returned the same
conclusions. Assuming that prevailing residential setbacks
of at least 400 metres are observed, there is no scientific
evidence linking any adverse health effects with the
presence of wind turbines. There is only the small caveat
that further research is warranted into methods for gathering
and measuring sound levels as elusive, low-frequency
sound effects have been reported as nuisances in a wide
variety of settings.
Nonetheless, one theme recurs independently of
geography and demographics. Proximity, both in terms of
distance and sight lines, is directly correlated with the level
of annoyance that surrounding residents express over the
presence of wind turbines. Significantly, their annoyance
was exacerbated when the wind turbine project was
commissioned and completed without their input, or when
they did not receive any form of compensation.
While annoyance is not recognized as a health impact by
the World Health Organization, and may even be groundless
in terms of physical cause, it can still negatively affect a
community and contribute to NIMBYism that blocks the
expansion of critical renewable energy supply. With that in
mind, most reports exonerating turbines from alleged health
and safety issues also suggest and some governments
require that local communities have the chance to provide
input on all wind-generation projects.
Alex Roberts is an MBA student from Wilfrid Laurier
University with an aspiring green thumb.
Redirecting Anti-Wind Energy, The Nocebo Effect and more:
ajmag.ca/wind

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

31

AN NE BELL

Fight of the
Humble Bee

Six tactics that are winning the war


against pesticides in Ontario.

32

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

COMPOSITE BY NIK HARRON | HONEY BEE PHOTOGRAPHY BY SAM DROEGE, USGS, CC-BY-2.0 | SPRAY CAN BY JAROSLAV SIROKY, FOTOLIA.COM | HONEYCOMB BY AFRICA PHOTO, FOTOLIA.COM

N NOVEMBER 25, 2014,

the Government of Ontario


announced a bold plan to reduce
the use of neonicotinoid pesticides on corn
and soybean crops in the province by
80 per cent by 2017. Warmly welcomed
by beekeepers, environmentalists,
health professionals and some farm
organizations, the announcement set
Ontario apart as the first jurisdiction in
North America to begin to rein in the
significant harm these pesticides do.
Introduced in the 1990s, neonicotinoids
commonly known as neonics are the
most widely used insecticide in the world.
In Ontario they are used on virtually all
seed corn. Neonics act by paralyzing
insects central nervous systems and
some are considered to be up to 10,000
times more toxic than DDT. Persistent and
water-soluble, neonics contaminate soils
and water for months after application,
accumulating with repeated use.
The case against neonics crystallized
in the summer of 2014, with the release
of the Worldwide Integrated Assessment
on Systemic Pesticides. This global
review of over 800 scientific studies
found these pesticides are having a
wide range of negative [and] substantial
impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem
functioning. Of central concern was
neonics role in the decline of insect
pollinators essential to food security and
healthy ecosystems. The studys authors
urged a sharp reduction in their use.
With all eyes on Ontarios precedentsetting reduction plan, chemical companies
will likely try to discredit, delay and
undermine its implementation. Strategies
that secured the plans announcement
will be just as important in the days ahead
to make sure its followed through.
1. Demonstrate public interest. People
relate to bees. Canadians understand
intuitively that if bees are in trouble,

so are we all, says Lisa Gue, senior


researcher and analyst at the David Suzuki
Foundation. To convey public investment
to the government, environmental
groups including Ontario Nature, the
Canadian Association of Physicians for
the Environment (CAPE) and the David
Suzuki Foundation commissioned polls.
In August 2014, they found that 92 per
cent of Ontarians wanted the government
to protect pollinators and 87 per cent
were concerned about neonics. After the
Ontario governments announcement
in November, polling showed that
77 per cent supported its goals.
2. Define the issue. While the media
focused largely on the decline of honeybees
and associated costs, we have preferred
instead to highlight the broader public
interest. Routine and widespread use of
neonics is harmful, explains Kim Jarvi,
senior economist at the Registered Nurses
Association of Ontario (RNAO). While
approving of Ontarios important first step,
Jarvi says, Nurses are urging a complete
ban to prevent the grave implications these
neurotoxic chemicals have for the food
supply, biodiversity and human health.
3. Inform the political agenda. Through
letters, questionnaires asking candidates
views and face-to-face meetings,
environmental and health organizations
sought to ensure that neonics were in the
platforms of every major political party
going into Ontarios 2014 election. The
winning Liberal party and others committed
to action. Letter writing and meetings
with all parties continue, to maintain
the issues priority with government.
4. Build bridges. From the outset, groups
like mine, Ontario Nature, sought to
understand the perspective and concerns of
farmers the people best placed to deliver
solutions, but who would also be most
directly affected by restrictions on the use of

41:2

2015

neonics. Through meetings and informationsharing, farmers and environmentalists


are finding common ground from which
to create a plan for the pesticides phasedown that is fair and workable for all.
5. Network. Burgeoning networks
have been the backbone of the
campaign to date. Environmentalists
and health professionals are working
with beekeepers, farmers and
scientists. Though we share common
objectives, we have no central command
overseeing the whole. Our efforts are
only loosely coordinated, leaving us
nimble, diverse and able to tap into
other networks as opportunities arise.
At Ontario Nature, our provincial Youth
Council organized a pre-election postcard
campaign calling on Premier Wynne
to restrict neonics. Council members
continue to reach out through personal
networks, blogs, videos, presentations
and workshops, encouraging youth
to participate in public consultations
on the governments proposal.
6. Uncover and share good information.
Science-based campaigns are the
hallmark of organizations like Ontario
Nature, CAPE, RNAO and the David Suzuki
Foundation. One of the most helpful
events in this campaign to date was the
release of the Worldwide Integrated
Assessment on Systemic Pesticides last
summer. As it and other subsequent
reports have been released, we have
made sure that the evidence they bring
to light is shared with stakeholders and
reaches the eyes of political leaders.
Anne Bell is the director of conservation and
education at Ontario Nature. Read her article
on endangered species: ajmag.ca/bell
Previous neonics coverage: ajmag.ca/bzzz
More campaign advice: ajmag.ca/action

alternativesjournal.ca

33

ELISE MARION

Five campaigns to rid your life


of hazardous chemicals.

and elsewhere to ban or restrict a


variety of toxic chemicals shouldnt
invite complacency. Numerous compounds
linked to a wide range of negative health
effects remain in use, appearing in
thousands of everyday products. Here are
five active campaigns targeting toxics in
Canada and around the world.

Triclosan out of toothpaste


This antibacterial chemical found in hand
sanitizers, toothpaste, garbage bags and
clothing is linked to liver and inhalation
toxicity, can disrupt thyroid function and is
toxic to aquatic life.
A coalition of health and environmental
groups, led by Beyond Pesticides and Food
& Water Watch, is currently working to
remove triclosan from the market.
beyondpesticides.org/antibacterial

Toxic chemicals out of cosmetics


Almost 80 per cent of personal care
products used by Canadians contain at
least one toxic substance linked to health
and environmental concerns. BHA and BHT,
preservatives in makeup and moisturizers,
are suspected endocrine disruptors. Coal
tar dye blue pigmentation has the
potential to cause cancer and may be
contaminated with heavy metals that are
toxic to the brain. Moreover, ingredients
such as dibutyl phthalate, parfum and
siloxanes are harmful to aquatic organisms
and other wildlife.
The David Suzuki Foundation is calling
for Canada to strengthen its cosmetic laws

34

alternativesjournal.ca

and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is


making headway with major manufacturers
in the US.
davidsuzuki.org/whatsinside
safecosmetics.org

Lead out of paint


While lead is highly restricted in Canada,
many corporations still produce lead-based
pigments for colouring paints, plastics and
ceramics sold in other countries. Exposure
to lead-contaminated water, soil, paint chips
or dust can cause lead poisoning. Lead
poisoning affects every organ and system
in the body including nerves and muscles.
Symptoms vary and often dont appear until
dangerous amounts have accumulated,
but can include developmental delay and
behaviour problems in children. There is no
safe threshold for lead exposure.
The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead
Paint, led by the World Health Organization
(WHO) and the United Nations and
supported by over 120 countries, works
with manufacturers to stop producing leadbased pigments.
unep.org/noleadinpaint

Mercury out of mouths


Dental amalgam is currently 50 per cent
mercury, which pollutes the environment,
endangers our health and damages teeth
by removing healthy tooth matter. Mercury
poisoning from dental fillings can cause
nausea, vomiting, dizziness, anemia, chest
pain, muscle weakness and insomnia.
The Campaign for Mercury-Free Dentistry
promotes mercury-free alternatives to

41:2

2015

protect the environment, consumers and


dental workers from mercury exposure.
toxicteeth.org

EDCs out of everything


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)
are synthetic chemicals that, when
ingested, can mimic or block hormones
and disrupt normal bodily functions. Known
human endocrine disruptors include
diethylstilbestrol (the drug DES), dioxin,
PCBs, DDT and BPA. There are many
other suspected EDCs, mostly pesticides
and plasticizers (such as phthalate esters
used in PVCs to increase flexibility), but
also additives or contaminants in food and
personal care products. Effects include
altered reproductive functions, increased
incidence of breast cancer and changes
in immune function.
The World Health Organization and the
United Nations Environment Programme
are jointly raising public awareness on
EDCs through research and advocacy.
bit.ly/SynthChem
Elise Marion has a masters degree in
Comparative Literature from Dublin City
University and a bachelors degree in English
and Classics from McMaster University.
Visit ajmag.ca/health for tips on reducing
toxics in your life and ewg.org/skindeep
to research chemicals in products you use.
Check out Theres Lead in Your Lipstick by
Gill Deacon and Toxin Toxout by Bruce
Lourie and Rick Smith for way more info.

PHOTO BY KOSMOS111, FOTOLIA.COM

UCCESSFUL Initiatives in Ontario

ENVIRONMENTAL AND RESOURCE STUDIES/SCIENCE PROGRAM


Join an interdisciplinary program
in a university committed to
environmental leadership
Study the environment in a
beautiful campus of forests,
fields and the Otonabee River
Work with professors who are
devoted to teaching and to
research and action for global
environmental and social change

opportunities to specialize, or gain a broader


perspective. Many enrichment options are

one of the oldest and largest of its kind in


North America. We offer an Honours B.A.

available: study-abroad years in Ecuador,


Ghana, Thailand and elsewhere, research

in Environmental and Resource Studies,

placements with community organizations,

an Honours B.Sc. in Environmental

and joint degrees with more than 20 Trent

and Resource Science, and an Honours

departments or programs. Advanced

Bachelor of Environmental Science/


Studies (B.E.S.S.) that integrates the study

environmental education is offered through


Trents M.Sc., M.A. and Ph.D. programs.

of science and policy. In cooperation with

All this is available on our 580 hectare

other departments, we also offer a B.Sc. in

riverfront campus. With a dozen nature

Water Sciences, a B.Sc. in Environmental

areas, 30 kilometres of trails, and our own

Chemistry, a B.A. and B.Sc. in Indigenous


Environmental Studies, a B.A. and B.Sc.

experimental farm, it is the perfect place to


begin building your environmental career.

rent Universitys Environmental and


Resource Studies/Science Program is

in Sustainable Agriculture and Food


Systems, and, with Fleming College, a
B.Sc. in Ecological Restoration! A huge
range of courses in everything from
ecological agriculture to toxicology offer

Trent ERS: The first university


environmental program to be
accredited by ECO Canada!

1600 West Bank Drive, Peterborough


Canada K9J 7B8

For more information:


www.trentu.ca/ers www.trentu.ca/agriculture

705-748-1011 ext. 7199

ers@trentu.ca

+0*/

0OUBSJP
/BUVSF
A charity protecting wild species and wild
spaces through education, conservation and
public engagement since 1931.

Photo: Missy Mandel

POUBSJPOBUVSFPSH

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

35

ELIZABETH NISBET & MELISSA LEM

Prescribing a
Dose of Nature
Modern medicine is rediscovering the
simple healing power of being outdoors.

Psychologist Elizabeth Nisbet explains why greenery takes away the blues.

UCH OF OUR discourse

around environmental issues


involves hazards like air and
water pollution, deforestation, species
extinction or the looming consequences of
global climate change. Rarely do we ponder
the importance of protecting the natural
environment as a mental health resource.
Yet, increasingly, scientists from varied
disciplines are investigating how interaction
with the natural world can improve both
physical and psychological health. For those
feeling discouraged about the seemingly
overwhelming environmental problems
we face and the many barriers to changing
destructive behaviour, the notion of nature
as a source of health, healing and even
happiness is exciting.
A growing body of evidence points to the
importance of green space for mitigating the
health hazards associated with urbanization,
such as heart disease, respiratory illness,
low birth weight, poor immune functioning
and higher mortality. Several decades
of research in Japan, Korea and Finland
have demonstrated that natural and urban
environments affect the human stress
response differently. People immersed

in nature show benefits on a variety of


physiological indicators, such as heart rate
variability, levels of cortisol (the fight or
flight hormone), the presence of anti-cancer
proteins and the natural killer-cell activity
important for immune functioning.
Contact with nature improves mental
health as well. People suffering from clinical
depression ruminate less and have more
positive emotions after walking through an
arboretum than after walking in an urban core.
Beyond simply reducing stress and ill-being,
natural environments can enhance problem
solving, concentration and social cohesion.
Not surprisingly, in greener communities
neighbours interact more with each other and
people feel safer and better adjusted.
Even brief contact with unspectacular
urbanized nature can increase happiness
more than we realize. Researchers who
asked people to predict in advance
what their mood would be like after a
short walk in nature found they tended
to underestimate how much it would
boost positive emotions. Other research
indicates that the greater the amount
of nature time, the larger the happiness
boost. An additional benefit of nature

36

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

contact is a stronger sense of connection


with the natural world. This has important
implications for both happiness and
environmentally friendly behaviour.
Because nature contact is lacking
in our daily routines, researchers and
organizations including the Nature
Connectedness Research Group at the
University of Derby and the David Suzuki
Foundation are testing interventions
that promote more nature time (see Up
Your Dosage on page 39).This emerging
research is informing nature-based
programs like hospital gardens, therapeutic
gardening, schoolyard greening, animalassisted therapy, forest schools, mood
walks and ecotherapy. As natures potential
as a mental health resource is recognized,
we can hope it will inspire further research,
new clinical applications and, most
importantly, a greater desire to protect our
happy nature places.
Dr. Elizabeth Nisbet is an assistant professor
of Psychology at Trent University. Among
other things, her research explores links
between human-nature relationships,
happiness, health and sustainable behaviour.

ILLUSTRATIONS BY NIK HARRON

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

37

38

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

Dr. Melissa Lem dispenses practical tips on reducing stress through nature.

ROM NORTHERN NURSING

stations to urban campus health


clinics, my career as a family
physician has taken me to some two-dozen
communities across Canada. Though every
practice population is unique, mental health
issues cross socioeconomic boundaries,
affecting one in five Canadians each
year. Whether it is cross-country skiing
on Inuviks world-class trails or running
through Torontos ravine system, I seek out
nature daily to unwind and recharge after
hectic emergency shifts and long office
days. Given the disparity in local healthcare
resources, connecting with nature is a
powerful way to combat stress, mood and
attention disorders.
Nature exposure is certainly not a panacea
for mental illness. Social inequalities, among
other factors, also contribute to poorer
health status. But for residents of rural and
northern areas, who encounter higher rates
of depression, access to green space and a
close community could both be harnessed to
improve well-being.
Just looking out a window at nature
helps lower stress, but exercise in nature
has still more positive effects. Since wellattended sports leagues exist in most
towns, nature leagues would be a logical
next step. The Mood Walks program jointly
run by Hike Ontario and the Canadian
Mental Health Association is a prime
example of a partnership that emphasizes
the health-promoting role of nature in
neighbourhoods of all sizes.
Although it may be more challenging
to find a meadow within a metropolis,
mindfulness is key to getting more
green time even there. City-dwellers
can enjoy daily micro-experiences in
nature by walking or biking to work and
taking scheduled mental health breaks
using nearby parks, gardens and trails.
Detailed urban greenspace maps, like the
groundbreaking one launched by Scotland
in 2011, could help locate these calming
green pockets. And because recreation in

greener environments produces greater


benefits, urbanites should make a routine
of weekend encounters with wilderness in
provincial and national parks.
Children have the most to gain from
everyday green time an effective remedy
for the modern malady of excessive screen
time. Sleep, school performance and social
skills all suffer in avid television watchers.
By contrast, stress goes down and selfesteem and cognitive function improve in
youth with more nature contact. In fact, a
2009 study by A.F. Taylor and F.E. Kuo in
the Journal of Attention Disorders showed
that the attention-boosting effects of a
20-minute walk in the park for children
with ADHD rivalled those of prescription
stimulant medication. For developing brains,
unstructured time in green space, cloud
watching, tree climbing or fort building
form the basis for a sound relationship with
nature that can last a lifetime.
Removing barriers to green space
access is essential. One-quarter of
Japanese citizens regularly escape to
government-funded shinrin-yoku or
forest-bathing sites. Our governments
could consider offering tax credits for
passes to parklands or dues paid to nature
societies. Physicians also have a role to
play: Like recently introduced exercise
prescriptions, nature prescriptions could be
an effective motivational tool. To address
parental concerns about stranger danger,
organizations like the Children & Nature
Network focus on linking up and educating
families aiming to get outside together.
Finally, advocating for greener cities and the
preservation of wild spaces will help make
nature more accessible for all.
Dr. Melissa Lem is a Toronto-based family
physician who also works in rural and remote
communities across Canada. She appears
regularly on CBC Televisions Steven and
Chris and holds a faculty appointment with
the Department of Family and Community
Medicine at the University of Toronto.

41:2

2015

Up Your Dosage

The Finding Nature app a spinoff of research from the Nature


Connectedness Research Group
(pictured above) helps you become
more aware of your positive nature
experiences, encouraging you to seek
more such moments. Get it free on
Google Play: bit.ly/findnature
Since 2012, thousands of Canadians
have joined the David Suzuki
Foundations annual 30x30 Nature
Challenge, pledging to spend 30
minutes in nature each day during the
month of May. Join the challenge:
30x30.davidsuzuki.org
Download the Mood Walks manual
for advice on starting a hiking group:
moodwalks.ca
Find and share resources for activities
and more through the Children &
Nature Network:
childrenandnature.ning.com
Get inspired by great examples of
nature programs for seniors and tips
for building a natural playground:
ajmag.ca/issue412
Elizabeth Nisbet and Laura McDonald

alternativesjournal.ca

39

Are Cellphones Safe?


How wireless devices compare to other sources of radiation.

28

Cellphone
subscribers
MILLION in Canada
Cellphones and Wi-Fi routers emit non-ionizing radiation in the form of microwaves.
So far theres no conclusive evidence that microwaves negatively impact human
cells, and most animal and lab studies have found no increased risk of cancer from
exposure to microwave radiation.
Still, some researchers advise precaution, citing indications of adverse effects,
especially on children and young adults. In one study, published in the Journal of
Microscopy and Ultrastructure late last year, teenage girls who carried their phones
in their bras were reported to have a higher risk of breast cancer. Microwave
exposure was also linked to the potential degeneration of myelin sheaths in
neurons (an effect similar to symptoms of multiple sclerosis) in lab animals.
The World Health Organization has designated Wi-Fi signals as a Class 2B
Carcinogen, which means its not considered carcinogenic, but more research is
needed to make sure.

Where devices fall on the electromagnetic spectrum

X-rays

Wavelength 0.1nm

1nm

Ultraviolet

TV remote control,
humans, heat (fire,
radiators etc)

10nm 100nm 1m

Infrared

10m

How radiation works


When electromagnetic energy is emitted from a source, it is called
radiation. Travelling as waves, the shorter the wavelength and therefore
the higher the frequency the greater the energy of the radiation. Higherfrequency ionizing radiation has enough energy to displace electrons
from atoms and mutate cells. Microwave radiation such as that emitted
by radar, GPS, TV broadcasts and cellphones is at the lower-frequency
end of the energy spectrum.
The atmosphere is not transparent to all forms of radiation. The
portions of the spectrum that can pass unimpeded through the air are
those utilized for communication, such as microwaves and radio waves.

40

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

Non-ionizing Radiation
Cellphones,
AM & FM radio, TV transmisisons
microwave
garage door openers, satellite
ovens, radar
tracking and telecommunications

2015

Microwaves

100m 1mm

1cm

Radio Waves

10cm

1m

10m

100m

1km

How antennae work


In communication devices, such as cellphones,
satellite services, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
connections, radiation is created by the vibration
of electrons in antennae. When an oscillating
electric current passes through a conductor,
its electrons radiate an oscillating magnetic
field, which can in turn be picked up by another
antenna tuned to the same frequency to produce
a corresponding electric signal.

CELLPHONE ILLUSTRATIONS BY STDEMIRIZ, FOTOLIA.COM

Gamma Rays

Welding
equipment,
tanning beds
Visible Spectrum

Ionizing Radiation
Nuclear
X-ray imaging
explosions,
and therapeutic
lightning
applications

SAM AN T HA HUI & E LISE MARI ON

The REM (Roentgen Equivalent to Man) is a common unit of measurement for radiation dose.

0.055% 5 REM
Yearly occupational radiation
dose limit for Canadian workers

Chance of developing cancer


from a 1 REM radiation dose

100

REM
0.1 REM 41%

Annual Canadian dose limit for exposure


to regulated sources of radiation such as
smoke detectors and emergency lighting

More exposure
from natural radiation
sources than artificial

The minimum short-term


radiation dose likely to
cause Acute Radiation
Syndrome which, if left
untreated, can be deadly

Sources of Radiation Exposure


Typical chest CT scan
Inhalation* (radon gas)
Terrestrial* (from ground)
Average annual Canadian
radiation dose (180 mREM)

Ingestion* (food, air and water)


Cosmic radiation* (from space)
Typical chest X-ray
Total from consumer goods* (US)
Typical cross-country flight
0
100
200
Dose (millirem)

* Annual dose

300
400
500
600
700
Shades indicate possible dose range

Radon gas is the largest single source of natural radiation exposure. Odourless and tasteless, radon is an
indirect decay product of underground uranium and thorium that is naturally released from the ground.

If you want to take precautions until more


research is available, here are some tips:
Use hands-free adapters to keep
your cellphone away from your head.

Turn off wireless devices at night


or when they are not in use.

Get wired: use cables to reduce


exposure to wireless networks.

Limit the amount of time you spend


using wireless devices.

Maintain a distance from the


wireless router in your home.

Avoid jobs that carry the risk of


high exposure to microwaves.

Sources available online: ajmag.ca/cellphones


41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

41

WAYNE ROBERTS

The Organic /
Conventional Divide

The whole culture of food from field to fork needs transformation.

REAT MEALS ARE commonly

made with a lot of pinches and


dashes of this and that. And great
food organizers commonly strive for an
inclusive approach that brings as many as
possible around the table.
But Indian food leader Vandana Shivas
insight that this togetherness associated
with everyday food practices leads to
movements of ands, not buts is, alas,
far-fetched.
We can use words such as discourse
and dialogue, but the reality is that most
discussions about food are polarized
debates. Some people are vegetarians
or vegans, and some are carnivores, for
example. Some favour high carbs, and some
favour high fat. Some want junk food, and
some want healthy food.
Organic has been trapped in this food
tradition of polarization almost from the
beginning. Even before organic certification
became essential to differentiating and
gaining a price premium for food that
was produced according to formal and
comprehensive organic rules, organic
methods were almost never presented or
understood as a wide range of possible
production options that might be followed
in particular places at particular times.
The mood on both sides of the organic/
conventional divide was you are either with
us, or against us.
Beginning in the 1990s, organic food sales
broke through two barriers. First, they broke
into health food stores, which previously
made more money selling ageless powders
and pills than fresh food. By the late 1990s,
health-conscious shoppers were able to
shop for both organic ingredients and some
basic organic prepared packages. Spanish
rice, tofu dogs and macaroni and cheese
remain most vividly in my and my suffering
daughters memories of those times.

The next breakthrough came when


health food stores featured something akin
to full-service organic options, and when
supermarkets offered the most popular
options, such as organic milk and yoghurt.
Something special was needed to justify
the price premium rewarding those farmers
and processors who learned all the tricks
of producing organic offerings. Thats how
certification of the entire supply chain,
backed by government regulation, came to
seal the differences between organic and
conventional.
Obviously, some kind of big deal has to
be made about this difference, or else few
people would pay more for organic and
then few would work harder to produce to
that standard.
But to blow the differences up to claim
that one supply chain intrinsically leads to
superior nutrition or health or environmental
responsibility or food democracy led
to the waste of a lot of research dollars
on results that are very uncertain and
mixed, and created major barriers to public
understanding of food issues.
Elementary logic explains why the
organic/conventional divide cant explain
very many outcomes. Organically grown
lettuce doesnt require toxic pesticides, but
the plastic case that protects the lettuce
on its trip from California to Nova Scotia is
nowhere near as environmentally pure as
the lettuce. Organically grown tomatoes
may take up more complex nutrients from
compost-enriched soils, but any number of
nutrients may be lost during long storage
times in trucks, supermarket display shelves
or kitchen fridges.
As for social and economic outcomes,
once organic shoppers wanted as much
processed product as conventional
shoppers, organic moved in the same
corporate trajectory as conventional. As

42

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

often as not, big sellers from the organic


side of life are owned by a conventional
Big Food corporation and sold through a
superstore behemoth.
I, along with many organic shoppers,
enjoy a much wider range of product options
at much more affordable prices than were
available 25 years ago. But I cant claim to
have lived through a transformation just
a duplication.
If transformation is whats being aimed
for, then we need to look at a lot more than
certification of the ways food is grown and
processed. A holistic transformation will be
based on such matters as better income
levels and occupational environments of food
workers, and changes to food cultures
respect for food preparation, rituals of the
dinner table, attitudes toward wasting food
and so on.
Ultimately, transformation cannot come
from a privately controlled supply chain,
however certified. It can only come from
an entire food system, encompassing the
complete life cycle of food, and governed
by policy objectives and incentives set
with the public interest (health, equity and
sustainability, for example) front-of-mind.
Im not minimizing, dismissing or
disrespecting what organic pioneers
have accomplished. But now that a new
generation is taking the reins of the food
movement, its time we reset the horizon
a lot more broadly than the certifiable
standards of organic permit.
Wayne Roberts, who headed up the Toronto
Food Policy Council for 10 years, is the author
of three books about food. He is a member of
A\Js editorial board and regular contributor
to the magazine.
Hungry for more? Dig into A\Js food blog,
The Mouthful at ajmag.ca/mouthful

COMPOSITE BY NIK HARRON

Transformation can only


come from an entire food
system, encompassing the
complete life cycle of food,
that is governed by policy
objectives and incentives
set with the public interest
front-of-mind.

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

43

Resilience
is the ability
of a system
to absorb
disturbance
and still retain
its basic
function and
structure.

44

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

MICHAEL TORREITER

Bouncing Back
How we can apply the concept of
resilience to achieve better health.

COMPOSITE BY NIK HARRON

ESTERN MEDICINE has

made great strides in disease


control in the last century.
Diagnostic technologies and surgical
procedures have advanced. Life expectancy
has increased dramatically in most parts
of the world. Antibiotics, improvements in
sanitation and hygiene, as well as vaccines,
have eradicated or reduced many of the
worlds deadliest communicable diseases.
Yet many other diseases are on the rise:
allergic rhinitis, inflammatory bowel disease
and autism, to name a few. Asthma occurred
in 2.3 per cent of Canadians 15 years of age
and over in 1979; its now over 8 per cent.
Most experts believe that food allergies are
more common today than a generation ago.
Just as medicine cures one disease, it seems
a new plague emerges. Despite all of the
medical advances, we are in some ways less
healthy than before. And there is evidence
that some of our efforts to control disease are
creating further problems.
There is no simple explanation for these
contradictions. But the complexity of the
factors at play from human physiology, to
personal lifestyles to public health policy,
all interacting and evolving constantly
suggest that what we face is a systems
problem. As such, systems theory and
resilience thinking may give us better tools
for managing health in the 21st century.
Donella Meadows, lead author of The
Limits to Growth, defines a system as an
interconnected set of elements that is
coherently organized in a way that achieves
something. Systems are maintained by

feedback loops that either reinforce or


brake trajectories within the system. For
example, when your body needs food, a
feedback loop triggers hunger and you eat
until youre full, when another feedback
loop triggers the release of Cholecystokinin
(CCK), a satiation hormone, and you stop
eating. Feedback loops can be slow or quick,
depending on the systems reaction time.

Complex and unpredictable


Feedback loops with different strengths
often pull in different directions. Change
to the system may weaken one loop and
strengthen another, altering the overall
balance of forces. If you consume more
calories than you require at dinner either
before your CCK kicks in or for emotional
reasons your body may speed up your
metabolism to burn excess calories or store
them as fat (or both).
Science deepens our understanding of
the bodys complex system, but the real
world is dynamic and unpredictable. We
can still be surprised by its response to an
intervention. And well-intended attempts
to manage our health and its care can have
unintended consequences.
Unpredictability in physiological
response is well documented. Vaccinations
have successfully reduced infectious
diseases, making the flu vaccine seem a
logical public health response to reduce
flu incidence and mortality. Yet Canadian
officials are reporting that in healthy adults
[the 2014-2015 influenza vaccination] offers
almost no protection. Even more surprising:

41:2

2015

Some recent studies suggest that receiving


last years flu shot may be a factor in making
this years less effective.
The overuse of antibiotics reflects
another attempt to control disease that
is creating more problems. The World
Health Organization has declared antibiotic
resistance a major threat to public health.
Antibacterial chemicals like triclosan and
triclocarban used in household products
can disrupt endocrine hormones, the
molecules that coordinate physiological
activity around the body yet another
systems issue. And now emerging evidence
links antibiotic disturbance of our bodys
diverse microflora (all those bacteria
resident in our gut and elsewhere) to the
increased prevalence of syndromes such as
asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. As
these chemicals are flushed down the drain,
residues enter the water cycle and find their
way back to the kitchen tap.

Thinking resilience
With effects like those in mind, scientists
and practitioners increasingly advocate
the systems concept of resilience to
achieve better health outcomes. Resilience,
according to Australian researchers Brian
Walker and David Salt, is the ability of a
system to absorb disturbance and still retain
its basic function and structure. To illustrate
how resilience-management concepts
could be applied to our health, Ive adapted
four of seven principles articulated in a 2014
paper called Applying Resilience Thinking
by the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

alternativesjournal.ca

45

1. Foster complex adaptive thinking.


Adopting systems thinking for health
means recognizing that when a
disturbance occurs, its cause may lie in a
part of the system remote from where the
disturbance appears.
On an individual level, work and family
responsibilities leave many of us with little
time for self-care; downtime can seem like
an inefficient luxury. Eventually, however,
stress may weaken our immune system and
leave us open to a cold or flu. If we ignore
our illness without changing our pace, or
rely on medication to mask its symptoms,
our body cannot recuperate and may push
us eventually to burnout and collapse.
We might instead take the time to heal
and adjust our routine to get more sleep,
relaxation and exercise, so that the next
time we encounter a virus our body will
have a stronger defence system. Stronger,
but not infallible. Despite precaution, we
might still get sick or be injured. We age.
Our capacities and vulnerabilities change.
Resilience thinking also helps us accept the
unexpected and change as opportunities
arise to develop new responses.
Healthcare providers can help by
drawing attention to interconnections
between aspects of a patients life or
environment and their health and wellbeing. That may require longer patient
visits, or an end to the rule in some
physicians offices of discussing only one
complaint per visit.
Governments can encourage
collaboration among health-system
stakeholders, and support experimentation
and the timely integration of new ideas.

2. Virtuous redundancy. Systems with


many components are more resilient than
systems with few. Those with redundancy
more than one way of dealing with an
issue are more resilient than those that
emphasize efficiency. Eating a variety of
foods regularly lowers the likelihood of
developing food sensitivities. Cross-training
between running, cycling and swimming
helps prevent injury in all activities.
Extended employer healthcare plans that
include preventative or holistic medicine
(naturopathic doctors, massage therapists,
chiropractors etc.) can improve employee
health while reducing lost productivity. And if
such preventative therapies were sufficiently
covered by provincial health insurance
plans, the shift in approach couldsave
healthcare dollars inthe long run by stopping
a disease before it starts and reducing the
need formore extensive and expensive
conventional medical treatments.

46

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

3. Manage feedbacks. Systems respond


only slowly to some feedbacks. Unhealthy
diet and sedentary lifestyle are such socalled slow variables they might not
impact health right away but over time
can lead to irreversible diabetes or heart
congestion. Understanding your genetic
susceptibilities, individual vulnerabilities and
stress thresholds can reinforce good habits
and dampen negative ones. Regular visits to
healthcare practitioners encourage an early
response to emerging problems.
Similarly, programs to encourage health
literacy, clean air and water, and safe
outdoor space for exercise recognize the
importance of engaging slow variables.
2015

4. Encourage learning. Resilience theory


recognizes that knowledge is never
complete. When our health changes, we
need to re-examine existing knowledge to
adapt appropriately. In social institutions
power can influence that re-examination,
such as when Western medical knowledge
is favoured over other wisdoms. Policy
makers need to encourage an openminded health community that respects
varied perspectives.
Healthcare engages complex
interconnections among systems at
multiple scales: physiology, behaviour,
healthcare provision and public policies.
Additionally, the prevailing neoliberal
economic system is a powerful influence
on all the foregoing. Its little wonder we
manage healthcare at some peril.
Resilience thinking reminds us that while
change and surprise are part of a healthy
life, we can also learn and adapt. We can
step back and look for those connections
across systems and scales before we
intervene. As Donella Meadows said, We
cant control systems or figure them out.
But we can dance with them.
Michael Torreiter is A\Js finance manager
two days a week and a naturopathic doctor
the rest of the time. He is a graduate of the
University of Waterloos Environment &
Resource Studies program.
Learn more at resalliance.org and in A\Js
2010 Building Resilience issue [36:2].
Get it at: ajmag.ca/magazine

KOLIDZEI, FOTOLIA.COM

Systems with redundancy more than one way


of dealing with an issue are more resilient
than those that emphasize efficiency.

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

47

TODD KRISTENSEN & ALWYNNE BEAU D OIN

Paleo Disasters
Y

OU WILL BLEED. Sean Lynch, a

consulting archaeologist in Calgary,


reminds himself of this every time
he works a glassy volcanic rock called
obsidian into an arrowhead. Obsidian is
one of the sharpest naturally occurring
materials on Earth and was used in Canada
for over 9,000 years to make weapons that
sliced through animals (and now the hands
of archaeologists like Lynch).
Aside from obsidian, volcanoes have also
long been sources of cataclysmic danger
that humans have feared and revered.
Awareness of their dangers is largely nonexistent in modern Canada, but researchers
have recently found evidence that ancient
volcanic eruptions not only dwarf those from
modern times, but happened more often
than youd think. Should paleohistory repeat
itself, will we be ready?

Without a single active volcano in the


province, perhaps Albertans can be forgiven
for not having an eruption response plan.
It may be hard for residents of the province
to believe that its largest environmental
catastrophe in the human era was a volcanic
ash fall. Approximately 7,600 years ago, the
skies were blackened for weeks in southern
Alberta as more than 10 centimetres of ash
descended on the prairies. The airborne
debris came from what is now Oregon,
when 100 cubic kilometres of ash spewed
from Mount Mazama Crater Lake now
occupies the site of the eruption. For
context, the Mount St. Helens eruption in
next-door Washington in 1980 ejected just
two km3 of ash and the Icelandic eruption of
Eyjafjallajkull in 2010 (which cost the airline
industry over 900-million Euros in six days)
ejected barely 0.25 km3.

Mazama ash fall


circa 7,600
years ago

Extent
of ash
Up to 10 cm of ash
covered southern
Alberta and BC

Relative depth of ash


fall in Alberta and BC

Mt. Mazama,
Oregon

Children and elders may have


experienced severe eye and
respiratory problems.

Over 1 m of
volcanic ash
covered much
of Oregon

Dogs were likely a major means


of transportation and would
have been hit hard by the ash.

Ash depth

Despite its location in Oregon, the Mazama volcanic eruption


reached southern British Columbia and Alberta.

48

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

TODD KRISTENSEN

The massive explosive force propelled


Mazama ash high into the atmosphere
where winds spread it over a vast area east
and northeast. It took an estimated 12 hours
for the wall of ash to reach Alberta, then
the dry snow fell for days. The ash fouled
drinking water, killed food plants and left
smothered forests susceptible to wildfires
and mudslides. Archaeologist Gerald
Oetelaar of the University of Calgary has
found evidence that many human-occupied
landscapes across the province were
abandoned at this time.
Today, few Canadians are aware of the
magnitude of this event or the frequency of
past volcanic eruptions. Yet research into
our paleo past suggests we may wish to
consider its lessons for the present. How
would we cope with a Mazama-scale event?
Can we prepare for the smaller but more
frequent disasters megafloods, droughts
and lesser eruptions that recent research
suggests punctuated our past? Even
with better briefings from paleoscientists,
governments might still be unable to deal
with a one-in-10,000-year ash blanket
across the continent. But with 67 smaller
volcanic eruptions in North America in the
past 100 years, its worth girding for higherprobability, geologically modest but still
serious events.
At the University of Alberta, Duane
Froese and his graduate student Lauren
Davies are studying volcanic ash particles
to understand how far ash travelled from
eruptions over the past 100,000 years.
Davies explains that, due to its fiery
spectacle, People focus on lava, but ash
[has] the real impact. Their team uses
electron microprobes to find geochemical
fingerprints from ancient ash particles
that allow them to trace preserved ash
layers back to their volcanic sources, often
thousands of kilometres away. They recently
detected ash from an Alaskan eruption in
Newfoundland and Ireland. The implications
for modern air travel, which takes place

AUSTIN POST, UNITED STATES GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Public policy needs to awaken to the threat of an ancient enemy.

Mount St. Helens, showing the upper third of the mountain, in


eruption on the day of the massive explosion which removed its
entire north face. Skamania County, Washington. May 18, 1980.
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

49

TODD KRISTENSEN

Obsidian is a glassy rock produced by


volcanoes that was ideal for making weapons,
such as this translucent and banded obsidian
arrowhead from Alberta.

50

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

DR. ALEX WOLFE AND DR. WILL HOBBS

largely at the same altitudes as ash plumes,


are significant.
Froese and his team learned that megamagnitude eruptions those that scatter
ash over distances of more than 500 km
occur every few hundred years in western
North America. Their ecological impacts,
however, have been relatively short-lived.
Based on the study of layers of microorganisms (like diatoms) and plant pollen in
lake-floor sediments, northern landscapes
may be devastated by ash falls, but they
rebound quickly. Nutrient-rich ash layers in
Albertas prairies have actually increased
modern agricultural productivity.
In a basement lab lined with the bones
of Albertas former megafauna, including
mammoths and camels, paleontologist
Chris Jass of the Royal Alberta Museum
observes that local fossil records dont
indicate any ash-induced extinctions.
Nomadic animals such as bison probably
vacated the barren ash-lands for a while
but returned within a few years to forage
on lush new plant growth.
Although other parts of the ecosystem
bounced back in a hurry, volcanoes
impacts on people might have been
longer-lived. In the Yukon, for example,
abrupt technological changes coincided
with a colossal volcanic explosion about
1,200 years ago, driving out the human
population. When people returned to
the region, they brought with them the
previously unknown bow and arrow, a
weapon that forever changed local hunting
and warfare practices.
University of Alberta archaeologist Jack
Ives believes this northern eruption (dubbed
the White River ash event) triggered one
of the largest and quickest migrations
of prehistoric people in the New World.
Albertas Dene languages and those of
the Navajo and Apache in the US are very
closely related, despite the presence of
wildly different languages in between. This
suggests a very quick migration from the
high northern latitudes to the Great Basin
some time within a 200-year period. Ives
has unearthed supporting evidence from
excavations in Utah, including preserved
Dene-style moccasins. The appearance
of Dene-influenced cultural artifacts and
language so far away, so soon after the
eruption would be, in Ives words, an
awfully big coincidence.
Unlike more mobile ancestors, modern
communities, with support from other
places, may be better prepared to wait out
the immediate aftermath of an ash-fall in
place. But as climate disruption threatens
the habitability of some heavily populated
areas, the paleorecord of large-scale,

Diatoms are intricate microorganisms preserved in lake beds that enable


scientists to reconstruct past impacts of environmental events.

permanent cultural migrations should


remind us that geological events on this
scale do occur.
The modern relevance of paleoscientific
research extends beyond fire and ash.
David Sauchyn and his colleagues at the
University of Reginas Prairie Adaptation
Research Collaborative (PARC) have
studied tree rings in the Rocky Mountains
to reconstruct past droughts, floods and
the climatic forces that drive them. The
implications of Sauchyns work are directed
to the future, however. When we plan for
tomorrow, he explains, How do we know
41:2

2015

whats ecologically normal or unusual? We


look to the past.
By connecting droughts to broader
climatic drivers over the past thousand years,
Sauchyn hopes to help modern planners
better predict the local impact of similar
climatic conditions down the road. Sauchyn
has shared his research with Agriculture
Canada, the Government of Alberta and
the cities of Edmonton and Calgary, and
says he has seen all of them take a longer
perspective on their water outlook.
The PARC groups successes in
collaborating with policy makers may be a
alternativesjournal.ca

51

n=67

16
12

TODD KRISTENSEN, WITH DATA PROVIDED BY THE GLOBAL VOLCANISM PROGRAM, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

Number of eruptions

Volcano that has erupted


within the past 11,000 years

8
4

11

Number of eruptions

Thousands of years ago

20
16
12
8
4

1000

800

600

400

200

Years ago
Around 319 known volcanoes have erupted in North America and adjacent northeast Russia in
the past 11,000 years. The frequency appears to have escalated sharply in the last 200 years but
this is likely due to the advent of concerted monitoring.

relative anomaly, but could serve as a model


for other subjects on which paleoecologists
have had little impact such as eruption
and flood disaster planning. Despite years
of research about periodic prairie flooding
events going back centuries, communities
continue to develop in flood zones. Residents
of Calgary were caught by surprise when the
Bow River flooded in 2013, creating the most
expensive natural disaster in Canadas history
with an estimated $6-billion in economic
impacts alone.
Listening to paleoscience might have
better prepared the city and province. We
are often poor planners, says Lee Foote, an
expert in public policy and environmental
thought at the University of Alberta, because
modern memory tends to span two to three
generations at most. People hear stories
from their grandparents, but beyond that,

the details get lost in time. Foote argues that


academics bear a moral obligation to extend
our short-term personal memories by sharing
their research about earlier times with policy
makers and the public.
Foote and Sauchyn share the concern that
basing major decisions for the future such
as where to site important infrastructure on
conditions during the last few hundred years
is risky. Our abbreviated memories can lull
us into a false sense of comfort. As Foote
puts it, the Mazama eruption makes modern
disasters like the Mount St. Helens eruption
look like a sneeze.
Climate destabilization is further weakening
the utility of recent memory. We dont
experience floods as our ancestors did even
100 years ago, because we have altered
runoff patterns and hydrological flows with
dams, storm drains and dikes. The extra heat

52

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

infusing the climate is also breeding more


extreme weather events, such as droughts
and storms, with frequencies and intensities
that may never have been experienced by
modern human societies.
But even when knowledge about
the deep human past is shared, the
perception of its modern relevance may be
tempered. Andrew Wilson is a director in
the Government of Albertas Mitigation and
Resilience Branch. Although he is familiar
with many large-scale disasters in Albertas
deep past, he is cautious about how far they
can or should inform modern policy.
How far, he asks, are we justified in diverting
funds from other pressing needs to prepare
a response to a disaster that may not happen
in our lifetimes? Volcanic episodes are
termed low probability, high risk events:
Their impacts are large, but their chances of
occurring in any given year are low.
Climate instability further erodes policy
makers confidence in what studies of the

WASHINGTON NATIONAL GUARD, EARTH SCIENCE PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE, USGS

The Mazama eruption created a huge crater in Oregon roughly 7,600 years ago.

past can say about the future, Wilson adds.


Society, he suggests, might be wiser not to
defer immediate benefits against that longodds event. It would be a tough sell to pull
funds from education or healthcare initiatives
for an eruption-response plan that might not
be utilized within 50 years.
Perhaps, but seismologists uncertainty
about the precise timing of the next big
one in several well-identified earthquake
zones around the world has not prevented
governments from raising building code
standards and investing in seismic upgrades
to public structures.
When a volcano erupted and showered
Alberta with ash 7,600 years ago, people
got up and left. Times have changed.
Moving away for a decade is less of an
option for a society with fixed infrastructure
the first question that many Albertans
asked after floodwater destroyed their

homes was, How soon can we return? The


wise answer might be never.
How do we mobilize people and
resources to respond effectively? Federal,
provincial and municipal governments
could extend emergency planning to
handle large-scale and long-duration
human migrations in response to megadisasters within or beyond our borders.
These would need to address two temporal
scales: simpler immediate needs to move
to safe environments; and the longer-term
adjustments necessary across national
or even international regions to adapt
economic activity to dramatically altered
conditions. For instance, where would
the populations of cities like Calgary and
Vancouver relocate if a months-long
eruption made their air unbreathable?
Governments also have it in their power to
enforce mobility in other instances, such as
41:2

2015

banning construction in flood zones.


Catherine Hickson, an adjunct professor
at the University of British Columbia, has
spent much of her career as a volcanologist
advising policy makers and industry on
the threats posed to aviation from volcanic
ash plumes as they circle the globe. She
stresses a sad reality and catch-22 in
public policy making: It often takes direct
experience of a large-scale catastrophe to
make us prepare for the next one. In fact,
she finds, there is a window of just nine
months to a year following a major disaster
to enact change before public interest and
political motivation fade.
Shortly after a near-fatal encounter
between a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines 747
carrying 236 passengers, and airborne
volcanic ash over Alaska in 1989, Hickson
spearheaded a world-leading program to
alert the aviation industry to volcanic ash
plumes which can clog airplane intake
vents, coat turbines and lead to engine
alternativesjournal.ca

53

100-MILE HEALTH CARE

Reclaiming the Right to Heal Ourselves

Heal Local

ALWYNNE BEAUDOIN

20 Essential Herbs for


Do-it-Yourself Home Healthcare
Dawn Combs
US/CAN $29.95
MOTHER EARTH WISER LIVING CHOICE
an excellent reflection on integrating
the western medicine model and local
medicine communities.
Cheri Dinsmore, R.N., B.S.N, President
Harmony Farm

Thick bands of light-coloured ash are visible in archaeological sites like this one in Alberta.

failure. The program wound down after


funding cuts to the Geological Survey of
Canada in the late 1990s.
It is hardly sensible to have a disaster
act as a wake-up call, only to let ourselves
figuratively fall asleep again as soon as
the public memory of the event fades. The
temporal landscape of high-impact natural
events is longer than a political cycle, more
than a generation, and goes beyond even
the patchy, 5,500-year written record.
Paleoscientists owe it to Canadians to make
the distant record relevant today. Canadians,
and their leaders and administrators, would
benefit from listening closely. While it is
clearly a bad idea to build on a floodplain,
or not to keep an eye on a volcano given
to eruption, the current fabric of urban
society, with large fixed populations and
vulnerable infrastructure, combined with
the short-term perspectives of modern
politics may in fact be weakening our
resilience to large-scale disasters.
Sean Lynch takes solace in knowing
that his numerous lacerations from
making stone tools will heal quickly and
without scars, because obsidian cuts
so cleanly. Perhaps gnarly scar tissue
would be a better reminder that, in his

54

alternativesjournal.ca

words, obsidian needs to be respected.


Ecological disasters have been shaping
Canada for many thousands of years and
natural landscapes possess a built-in
resilience to their disturbance. The land
heals quickly and our memory is short,
so the scars of those paleodisasters
fade until they can only be identified
by scientists and archaeologists. There
is inevitable uncertainty about when
the next disaster will strike, or what its
modern impact will be, but researchers of
ancient catastrophes should be reminding
us of forces we need to respect.
Todd Kristensen is a regional archaeologist
with Albertas Archaeological Survey and
a PhD student at the University of Alberta
where he studies the historical depth of
relationships between First Nations and
landscapes in Western Canada.
Alwynne Beaudoin is head curator of
Earth Sciences and curator of Quaternary
Environments at the Royal Alberta Museum
in Edmonton. Using plant remains, such as
seeds and pollen, she investigates postglacial
landscapes, especially in relation to Albertas
human history.
41:2

2015

The Joy of Missing Out


Finding Balance in a Wired World
Christina Crook
US/CAN $17.95
Christina Crook has crafted a wellresearched, utterly readable field guide to
finding quiet, and ultimately, ourselves,
within todays electronic cacophony.
Mike Tennant, co-author, The Age
of Persuasion

www.newsociety.com

Available at fine bookstores,


ebook retailers and online.

Small class sizes, world class teachers and researchers in an unparalleled natural setting, combine to make
UNBC one of the best small universities in Canada in which to study environmental and sustainability issues.

Environmental Studies
t #"&OWJSPONFOUBM4UVEJFT
t #"+PJOU.BKPS&OWJSPONFOUBM4UVEJFTBOE1PMJUJDBM
4DJFODF
t #"+PJOU.BKPSJO&OHMJTIBOE&OWJSPONFOUBM4UVEJFT

Outdoor Recreation
and Tourism Management
t #4DJO0VUEPPS3FDSFBUJPOBOE$POTFSWBUJPO
t #"JO/BUVSF#BTFE5PVSJTN.BOBHFNFOU

Explore the north, learn the issues, and make a difference.


IUUQVOCDDBFOWJSPONFOUBMTUVEJFT

VOCDDBPSUN

GBDFCPPLDPN035.6/#$

CSNN MISSISSAUGA
SCHOOL OF

Natural Nutrition
Diploma Programs:





OR

R.H.N. Registered Holistic NutritionistTM

GA

 
  


ACCEPTING REGISTRATION
for Spring 2015 Classes

NI

CALL NOW

(905) 891-0024
EMAIL
Our admission process starts with a phone
conversation and is completed with a meeting mississauga@csnn.ca
at our Mississauga school location.

csnn.ca/mississauga
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

55

56

alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

THE ENERGY MATRIX

ANDREW NIKIFORUK

Industry Made Quakes

Ignoring the science on fracking puts us on shaky ground.

PHOTO BY DOREEN DOCHERTY

FOR YEARS NOW


the oil and gas industry
has argued that seismic
activity caused by
hydraulic fracturing is not
a hazard or a nuisance.
The powerful industry,
ANDREW which bills the bruteforce technology as safe
and proven, repeatedly downplayed the
earthquake risks the same way it belittled
the threat of climate change.
The Colorado Oil and Gas Association
confidently declared, for example,that
pumping large volumes of pressurized
fluids to crack rock will indeed create small
magnitude quakes but this activity cannot
be detected at the surface.
The American Petroleum Institute was
even bolder. It boasted that hydraulic
fracturing does not cause earthquakes or
create vibration of noticeable size.
But Canadian and American fracking
operations have since proved the lobbyists
very wrong. The industry has also
rewrittenthe continents seismic record in
shale gas fracking zones.
Last January, a massive frack job in the
Duvernay shale in Northern Alberta created
a swarm of earthquakes that culminated with
a magnitude 4.4. It caused walls to shake,
rattled beds and felt like a rollercoaster. Until
the frackers arrived, this patch of the boreal
forest was seismically quiet and averaged
zero to three small quakes a year. Now it
averages zero to four a day.
In neighbouring BC, geologists once
portrayed the Peace River country as
aseismic. But high-volume frack jobs in
the Montney shale set off more than 200
earthquakes between 2013 and 2014.
Nearly half a dozen could be actively felt at
the surface and one registered as high as
4.4 magnitude, too.
That sort of shaking is significant and can
lead, according to one energy firm, to costly
shutdown, wellbore integrity losses, and
serious public and regulatory concerns.

But fracking isnt the industrys only


subversive earth-shaker. Wastewater
disposal wells have set off unprecedented
swarms of tremors in Oklahoma, Ohio,
Texas, BC and Colorado. These wells, an
essential companion to fracking, flush down
high volumes of salty wastewater extracted
from fracked shale formations deep into the
earth. Fluid from these wells then migrates
underground and reactivates faults.
Injection wells have set off so many
earthquakes in the central United States
in the last couple of years that federal
authorities are now encouraging citizens

quake begins at depths of 10 kilometres; an


industry-made quake rumbles from depths
of one or two km or even shallower.)
While natural earthquakes cause
structural damage in buildings at a
magnitude of 5, says Atkinson, tremors
triggered by fracking could possibly cause
destructive ground motions at magnitudes
as low as 3.5 to 4.0 due to their shallowness.
Right now, scientists have no accurate
way of predicting whether one in five
fracked horizontal wells will provoke
industry-made earthquakes or whether one
in 1,000 will. The industry simply doesnt

Right now, scientists have no accurate


way of predicting whether one in five
fracked horizontal wells will provoke
industry-made earthquakes or whether
one in 1,000 will.
to partake inearthquake drills in places
like Oklahoma and Kansas. One even
damaged more than 12 buildings in Prague,
Oklahoma.
Between 2010 and 2013, the US Midwest
recorded more than 100 felt quakes over
a magnitude of 3 annually. Until fracking
came around, the normal average had been
21. One US geologist compared the seismic
upsurge to planting a volcano in the region.
According to Gail Atkinson, a seismic
hazard expert at Ontarios Western
University, industry-made quakes pose
more dangers than natural ones for a variety
of reasons. For starters, they can exceed
the hazard of a natural quake in magnitude.
Second, they can produce more damaging
ground motion at lower magnitudes due to
their shallowness. (On average, a natural

41:2

2015

know where the faults are or the likelihood


of triggering fault movement.
Nor do they know how large or destructive
an earthquake triggered by hydraulic
fracturing or fluid injection might be.
Albert Einstein once noted that our
technology has exceeded our humanity.
Fracking and its related earthquakes
forcefully prove the point.
Andrew Nikiforuk writes regularly for The
Tyee about the politics and economics of the
energy industry. His latest book, The Energy of
Slaves, examines the vulnerabilities of highspending cultures. andrewnikiforuk.com
Read more Energy Matrix columns:
ajmag.ca/nikiforuk

alternativesjournal.ca

57

Yukon Artist in Action

Celebrating Swans | 2014, 20 x 24, mixed media (acrylic, ink, cut paper)

mber Church is a writer, artist and


climate change researcher who
lives in Whitehorse and still believes she
can change the world. Her work is being
exhibited at a solo show from May 1 to
31, 2015 at the Artists at Work Gallery,
Whitehorse, Yukon Territory.
Matthew Ryan Smith: How does the place
you call home, Yukon, figure into your art?
Amber Church: A large portion of my work
is influenced by the Yukon there arent
a lot of places like it left in the world. We
have an almost mythic cultural history in
many peoples eyes but when it comes to
the reality they often have an imperfect
view. I like to express elements of that
reality in my work.

Its vital. We are living in a time when


we are bombarded by environmental
and social issues and where apathy and
disengagement are easy options. The best
way to combat this is to engage with your
community. And its also really fun.
Your mixed media works are fantastical
visions of nearly impossible places.
I use my work to challenge the status quo
and traditional institutions especially
the representation of women in history
and current environmental issues. If I can
create a scenario where the audience
sees the world in a new light, I feel like I
have succeeded.

and climate change to my current work


with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness
Society to protect the pristine Peel
Watershed in northern Yukon.
Can you tell me about teaching in
Antarctica?
Teaching in Antarctica was amazing. I
was there as part of the education staff
of Students on Ice, a group that brings
high school and university students to the
Polar Regions and helps them foster a new
understanding and respect for the planet.
Im lucky to have taught in both the Arctic
and Antarctic.

Water figures into many of your works.

You were also involved in the negotiations for


the United Nations Climate Change program.

Youre involved in your community through art,


fundraising and environmental activism. Why?

Water has always played an important


part in my life, from living in Yoho National
Park to my masters degree in glaciology

I attended three sets of UN climate


negotiations. First in Montreal in 2005 with
the International Youth Delegation.

58

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

The Journey | 2011, 11 x 14, mixed media (acrylic, ink, cut paper)

I then led the Canadian Youth Delegation to


Copenhagen in 2009 and Cancun in 2010. I
was part of the team who helped to draft the
text for Article Six, which deals with public
participation in the process. I stepped back
in 2011 to focus at a more grassroots level in
the North. The UN process is draining and it
can easily disillusion you. I needed an outlet
where I could inspire others and myself and
re-foster my belief that we can solve the
issues we face.
Matthew Ryan Smith is a freelance writer,
independent curator and educator based in
London, Ontario. His writings have appeared
in several Canadian and international art
publications.
Miles Canyon | 2013, 20 x 24,
mixed media (acrylic, ink, cut paper)
41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

59

IN REVIEW

GROUNDSWILL
Groundswell: The Case for Fracking

Ezra Levant, Toronto: McLelland & Stewart, 2014, 272 pages.


Reviewed by BARBARA D. JANUSZ

f recent crises in Ukraine and Gaza


are any indication of how our global
thirst for energy is destabilizing the
world order, then Ezra Levant author
of Groundswell: The Case for Fracking
has got it right. Levant astutely allocates
an entire chapter to Russias Gazprom in
How the Shale Gas Revolution Weakens
Russias Energy Monopoly. The Wests
economic sanctions against Russia for its
aggression against Ukraine have not only
jeopardized the European Unions energy
security, but also cemented the resolve of
neighbouring Poland to develop its own
shale gas reserves. The next chapter,
Shale Gas Around the World, sums up
the environmental policies of regions with
significant shale gas deposits Quebec,
China, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, France
including Israel, where after the Arab
Spring toppled Egypts Hosni Mubarak, [the]
natural gas pipeline [that supplies Israel
with Egyptian natural gas] was bombed
fourteen times.
While Levant makes a compelling
geopolitical argument for economics
and energy self-sufficiency trumping the
environment, he stumbles when referring to
peak-oil theorists as doomsayers. Levants
position that energy conservation and the
development of alternative renewable
sources of energy (such as wind and solar)
are ill-conceived because of our planets
plentiful shale oil and gas reserves is
seriously flawed. It is because of diminishing
conventional reserves that industry has had
to resort to the messy business of fracking.
Levant emphasizes that by endorsing
shale oil and gas as a transitional energy
source, the US under Obama has not only
achieved greater energy security, but has
also become a gas exporter. However,
half a decade later, Obama has introduced
legislation to sharply curb GHG emissions
sourced from coal-generated power plants.
Given that the US has had to contend with
numerous climate-related disasters, its
not surprising that Obama has refused to
approve the Keystone XL pipeline and has
prioritized tackling GHG emissions. And
now China, the worlds second-largest
emitter, with its hundreds of smoggy cities,

has committed to weaning itself off dirty


coal as its primary energy source. But
despite Levants assurances that fracking
neither contaminates water nor triggers
earthquakes, the jury is still out on the
environmental impacts of fracking.
In order for shale gas to live up to its
reputation as a clean, transitional energy
source, scores of petroleum engineers,
geologists and geophysicists are urging
industry to invest in air quality monitoring
equipment and to develop technology to
reduce the risk of methane leakage. Methane
is a highly flammable gas with mysterious
migratory properties and the potential,
during the fracking process, to pollute not
only the atmosphere but also to contaminate
subsurface water reserves. To safeguard
their groundwater, France, Bulgaria and three
Canadian provinces have banned fracking.
Where fracking persists, it is incumbent
upon government to effectively regulate
operations and to enforce regulations.
Levant also overlooks the environmental
footprint of the thousands of kilometres
of pipelines that connect gas wells to
compressor stations and processing
plants. To the dismay of landowners, the
same lending institutions that finance
the oil and gas industry are reluctant
to accept land subjected to fracking as
security for a mortgage. In North Dakota
and Texas, where a fracking boom has

60

41:2

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

boosted local economies, the benefits


are likely to be outweighed by irreversible
environmental degradation.
Despite Levants accolades for the
Chinese regime refusing to pander to
environmentalists, widespread political
unrest over fracking has been reported.
Chinas shale gas deposits are believed
to be the largest in the world, and yet it
recently negotiated a multibillion-dollar
framework agreement with Russia for the
supply of conventional oil and gas. As the
global economy comes to grips with a
carbon bubble and plummeting oil prices,
ratification of the agreement has stalled.
In many ways, Groundswell is a sequel to
Levants Ethical Oil: The Case for Canadas
Oil Sands, which defends against the dirty
oil label attributed to Albertas tar sands.
In both books, Levant urges his readers
to endorse fracking and the tar sands as
substitutes for the conventional oil and gas
supplied by non-democratic regimes like
Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia. The sudden
downturn in oil prices ostensibly caused
by OPEC refusing to cut supply reveals
how Levant has oversimplified the inherent
complexities of our global economys
dependence upon fossil fuels, not only
as its primary energy source but also as a
benchmark commodity. Alarming parallels
can be drawn between the mortgage crisis
of 2008 and the overvaluation of the oil and
gas industrys assets and net worth.
Notwithstanding Groundswells biased
analysis of the potential for shale gas
fracking to transition our increasingly
volatile, conflict-ridden globalized
economy to a more sustainable, energysecure world order, Levant has published
a well-researched, witty and thoughtprovoking book.
Barbara D. Janusz is a lawyer, educator and
author of the novel Mirrored in the Caves.
She has published environmentally themed
book reviews, opinion and analysis columns,
creative non-fiction stories, essays and poetry
in journals, magazines, newspapers and
anthologies across Canada.
See where fracking is happening in
Canada: ajmag.ca/fracking-map

ALMOST EXHAUSTED
Extracted: How the Quest for Mineral Wealth is Plundering the Planet

Ugo Bardi, A Report to the Club of Rome, White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2014, 368 pages.
Reviewed by STEPHEN BOCKING

few centuries ago humans ignited a


fossil fire, liberating stocks of carbon
long-buried in the Earths crust. Since then
this fire has powered civilization, enabling
the extraction of all other minerals. But it is
now flickering, its fuel almost exhausted,
even as the waste it produced threatens
the biosphere.
In Extracted, Ugo Bardi surveys
the history and consequences of this
conflagration, presenting a global view of
the past, present and future of minerals.
It is a story of limits. Todays rising oil
production and declining prices are,
Bardi argues, only a brief interruption in
a long-term trend of increasingly scarce
and expensive resources: not just oil but
almost every mineral, as our population
and economy bump against the limits of a
finite world.
This argument, of course, is not really
novel indeed, it was familiar long before
the Limits to Growth study of 1972. Like
that study, this book is also a report of
the Club of Rome the global think-tank
dedicated to challenges facing the future
of humanity and the planet. Extracted is
intended to update its essential message:
that decisions must be informed by
an understanding of global trends in
resource depletion, pollution, population
and technological change.
The book takes a comprehensive
view, surveying diverse resources and
explaining how, when and why we can
expect them to run out. But Bardi also
goes to some pains to explain that
depletion is more complicated than simply
running out of something. It affects
us long before minerals become truly
scarce. This is because the richest, most
accessible ores are always the first to be
mined. As these get used up, extraction
becomes more difficult, requiring more
energy and producing greater impacts.
(The tar sands epitomize this pattern,
but it has been observed for countless
minerals as well.)
The real limit on a resource is therefore
not geological, but economic: at some
point the cost of the energy required for
its extraction exceeds its benefit. The

result is peak everything and rising


energy costs will eventually make all
resources we dig out of the ground too
expensive. Its not just oil and gas: the
notion of a long-term supply of cheap and
abundant coal is also a myth.
Short essays by several authors profile
a variety of resources soil, uranium,
copper, lithium, nickel, zinc and other
minerals sketching their economic roles
and the constraints on their production.
These brief glimpses elaborate on the
volumes overall message of inevitable
depletion.
Bardi also examines and disposes
of several common beliefs. One is the
hope that fossil fuel depletion will solve
climate change by eliminating the source
of the problem. In fact, as oil and gas
become harder to access, their production
requires more energy, which means more
greenhouse gases. He also dismisses
hopes invested in other energy sources.
Fracking is no panacea as this source of
clean natural gas requires enormous
amounts of energy and other resources.
So does nuclear power: Besides its other
drawbacks, uranium supplies are subject
to the same limits as other minerals. The
belief that there is a substitute available
for any resource is also discarded

41:2

2015

producing any substitute always requires


energy and some essential resources,
such as phosphorus for agriculture, can
never be replaced.
Beyond these messages, the book
presents a sweeping view of the history
of minerals, including their use as
currency and weapons. This discussion
is interesting and ambitious, but less
successful. Bardi traces seemingly
every historical event back to minerals
presenting, in effect, a history of the world
as a miner might have written it. The result
is often simplistic: access to minerals
and energy explain phenomena as
disparate as Imperial Romes domination
of the Mediterranean, European victories
over the Turkish Empire, the rise of the
British Empire, the collapse of the Soviet
Union and the 2008 recession. The First
World War was a battle between German
coal and British coal, which won with
help from American coal. Similarly,
the Second World War was a war for oil
and other resources. Such views violate
more complex and realistic historical
perspectives and even clash with the
authors more subtle explanation of
mineral depletion and other phenomena.
So what is to be done? While prediction
and not policy is Bardis focus, he
presents a few ideas. He notes that
alternative sources of materials, such as
landfill mining and recycling (which is
really downcycling, as recycled materials
are usually of lower quality) are useful, but
limited. Instead, he calls as have many
others for industrial transformation:
more durable products that generate
less waste and are designed to enable
recovery of materials after use. While
depletion may be inevitable, at least it can
be shifted further into the future, allowing
more time for our transition to scarcity.
Its sensible advice, even as oil prices
continue sliding into the basement.
Stephen Bocking is chair of the
Environmental and Resource Science/Studies
program at Trent University.
Read more articles from Stephen Bocking:
ajmag.ca/bocking

alternativesjournal.ca

61

Norm Hann glides along the proposed Northern Gateway supertanker route off the coast of British Columbia.

ADVENTURE SPORT ENVIRONMENTALISM


Stand

Anthony Bonello, Nicolas Teichrob (directors). Canada: b4apres Media, 2013, 46 minutes.

here is a paddleboarder named Norm


Hann. In 2010, he stood on his piece
of polished wood and paddled through
the misty straights in coastal Northwestern
British Columbia. His journey took him
along the route supertankers will use if the
proposed Northern Gateway pipeline is built.
Though today the pipeline is still only a plan,
even in 2010, the trip evoked a farewell tour.
The location lends itself to elegy. A
cloudy sky threatens to leak rain into grey
seas, the islands Hann glides between are
painted dark green and brown with the
thick and dripping Great Bear Rainforest,
and the towering Haida Watchmen poles
are solemn, sombre symbols of an ancient
culture so connected to the environment
that an oil spill is an existential threat.
Of course, the pipeline is by no means
a done deal. It has received a conditional
yes from the federal government,
a maybe later from the provincial
government and a resounding no from the
First Nations communities along the route.
Provincial demands and legal challenges
may postpone the project for years, and of
course if the Conservatives are defeated in
the next federal election, a new government
might add more conditions or revoke
permission entirely.
What is certain is that opposition to the

project has been ferocious and that isnt


changing. Interviews in Stand show that
people connected to this territory dont
care that the Northern Gateway promises
to get Canadian companies a better selling
price on bitumen and it is small comfort
that Enbridge vows to improve its abysmal
safety record. The people looking down the
barrel are convinced that a spill is inevitable,
which will poison the land, destroy the local
economy and rob their children of a future.
If youve seen many documentaries
before, much of Stand will feel familiar.
Theres an opening montage of nature
cinematography complete with a musical
crescendo and accelerating editing that
build to the title. Then we meet the central
figure (thats Hann) who will guide us
through the story. After that, animated
infographics explain the threat (thats the
pipeline). There are many impassioned
sound bites from those who will be
affected by the pipeline. Then, right at
the end, the tone surges suddenly toward
optimism, and we are reminded that a small
group of committed individuals can change
the world.
But woven into this sturdy old formula is,
well, a lot of paddleboarding and surfing.
When I saw the trailer, I figured this would
be a straightforward movie that used the
cinematic advantages of paddleboarding
to convince us that the pipeline is bad. But

62

41:2

Reviewed by BEN WILLIAMSON

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

for long sections, it feels more like a movie


that used the pipeline to grab our attention
and convince us that adventure sports like
paddleboarding and surfing are awesome.
That the movie is presented by Quicksilver
may go some way in explaining the duration
of these scenes.
Dont take that as a complaint. If you,
like me, arent very familiar with the sport,
then these extended interludes will be
interesting and memorable. Even if the
extended surfing montages arent exactly
essential to the structure of the film, they
add an exhilaration to balance out the
sobering message that this beautiful place
is threatened.
A subplot follows local teenagers who
make their own paddleboards as a school
project, and Hann stops by to teach
them the sport. In this way, they become
invested in the oceans health and the
pipeline becomes personal. As we watch
the film, this happens to us a little bit too.
We see their faces and hear the waves
and hope that their story will not be a
sad one, and this is the measure of a
successful documentary.
Ben Williamson is a freelance writer in Ottawa.
He tells stories about nature, science and policy.
Buy the film at standfilm.com or watch it
on Netflix.

6<9
=60*,:
4(;;,9
6<9
6705065:
*6<5;
/,37<:;6
:7,(2-69
;/,-<;<9,
,QDQXQFHUWDLQQDQFLDODQG
SROLWLFDOFOLPDWH\RXUYRLFH
LVWKUHDWHQHG
$VDQRWIRUSURWPHGLD
RUJDQL]DWLRQ(C1QHHGV
\RXUKHOSWRHQVXUHWKDWZH
FDQFRQWLQXHWRSURGXFH
DQGVKDUHFULWLFDOVWRULHV
DERXWHQYLURQPHQWDOLGHDV
DQGDFWLRQ
7RJHWKHUZLWKRQHYRLFHZH
VWDQGIRUZKDWZHEHOLHYHLQ
7RJHWKHUZLWKRQHYRLFH
ZHFDQDOOVSHDNIRU
&DQDGDVHQYLURQPHQW

:\WWVY[
(C1[VKH`
HS[LYUH[P]LZQV\YUHSJHKVUH[L
0DNHFKHTXHVSD\DEOHWR(S[LYUH[P]LZ0UJ
.LQJ6W:.LWFKHQHU211*%
&DOOWRGRQDWHE\SKRQH

Become a

Sponsoring Subscriber
Connect your organizations
environmental programs and
initiatives with our growing
readership.

Join the program for an annual fee of $1,000 and receive:


Complimentary digital subscriptions for all environmental students on campus
An institutional subscription (valued at $75 + GST)
One full-page colour ad (valued at $2,000) in one issue + 20% off additional advertising
Recognition in this house ad in six issues of Alternatives
Recognition in our e-newsletter and links on alternativesjournal.ca & thegreenstudent.ca
For more information, contact Anne Galang Hammoud | anne@alternativesjournal.ca | 519-888-4442

Alternatives Journal is sponsored by:

alternativesjournal.ca/sponsoringsubscribers

Next in A\J

Fashion

Guest-edited by Jennifer Lynes, director of the Environment and


Business program at the University of Waterloo.
Whether youre a certified fashionista or have worn the same jacket since 1971, your
clothing choices have consequences and were here to help.

The High Costs of Fast Fashion

What led to the Bangladesh tragedy and what the clothing industry is doing to
curb its social and environmental impacts.

Red Carpet, Green Dress

Suzi Amis Camerons campaign is weaving sustainability into the Academy Awards.

Your Planet-Friendly Wardrobe

Easy ways to reduce your fashion footprint, from learning labelese to creating your
own you-niform.
How Black Creek Community Farm is feeding a social justice movement;
and what Toronto Pan Am and Parapan Am Games organizers are doing to
put long-term legacy ahead of short-term spectacle.
In the meantime, fill up on more great stories at alternativesjournal.ca

41:2

2015

alternativesjournal.ca

63

ROBERT GIBSON

FALLEN ICARUS, AGRIGENTO, SICILY | JULIA MAUDLIN, FLICKR | CC-BY-2.0

WHATS THE B IG IDEA?

HUBRIS
Napoleon paid for his. Ours looms.
IN JUNE 1812, when

short campaign.
The French general had reasons for
confidence. He had been instrumental in
the defeat of Frances ancien rgime, had
risen from Corsican outsider to Emperor
of France and now controlled almost all of
continental Europe. Even his enemies said
he was among the most brilliant military
tacticians of all time.
Napoleon thought the Russian forces
would confront him and lose, as so many
other armies had done across Europe.
He thought his troops could feed
themselves through pillage of captured
lands, as they had done before. But this
time, he understood neither his opponents
nor the land.
The Russians mostly retreated, burning
crops and villages as they went. Napoleon
pushed the Russians back a thousand
kilometres without a decisive victory. Three
months after the invasion had begun,
the French occupied an abandoned and
burning Moscow, with few supplies and the
Russian winter coming.
It was Napoleons turn to retreat and it
was a disaster. He had crossed into Russia
with about half-a-million able soldiers. In
December, maybe 40,000 made it back
into Poland. The rest had been captured

or killed in battle, succumbed to sickness


and starvation, deserted or frozen to death.
Similar numbers of Russian soldiers and
civilians perished. In total, roughly a million
people were dead due to an overreaching
six-month campaign from which nothing
was gained.
The world has seen many versions
of Napoleon and his Russian campaign.
Probably they have been with us forever.
The ancient Greeks saw the phenomenon
often enough to adopt hubris as the word
for the dangerous combination of arrogance
and error, overconfidence and disrespect.
While the meaning varied somewhat
in ancient usage, the lasting application
was to overweening individuals who act
in defiance of limits fixed by the gods or
by nature, or at least fail to recognize their
own limitations or understand the realities
before them.
Accusations of hubris were warnings as
well as criticisms. Hubris was not merely
dishonourable. It also stirred Nemesis, the
primordial goddess of divine retribution.
Individuals with hubris remain common
today. Maybe we have more now than ever
before. That would be no surprise in a world
that routinely urges competitors in business
and sport to reach beyond their grasp and
deliver 110 per cent, in clear defiance of
the gods of physics and statistics.
Whats different is that hubris is no
longer merely individual. The most
important modern forms are collective
and institutional. Todays equivalents of
Napoleon and his Russian campaign include
the political and economic arrangements
that support ever-growing fossil fuel

64

41:2

ROBERT

Napoleon Bonaparte led


his Grande Arme across
the Neiman River to
attack Russia, his troops
carried only their summer
gear. The Russian army,
Napoleon assumed,
would be dispatched in a

alternativesjournal.ca

2015

extraction and consumption when the best


science says greenhouse gas emissions
are already disrupting climate stability.
They are also evident in the institutions
that have allowed 80 individuals to amass
wealth equivalent to that of the poorest
3.5 billion of the worlds human population,
disregarding the practical as well as moral
perils involved.
Hubris today is global. It is entrenched
in the ambition and blindness of whole
systems of convictions and organizations
that guide most human activities on this
planet. And the effects are mounting.
As the rippling consequences lead
to more evidently desperate needs for
change, we may expect calls for bold and
authoritative action, for confident and
charismatic leadership, for the granting of
exceptional powers. Effectively, these will
be calls for a green Napoleon and a Grande
Arme of sustainability.
We would do well then to remember
Napoleons fate. As the Greeks recognized
more than two millennia ago, hubris will not
lead us anywhere good.
We have gotten into the present fix
through undue confidence and disregard
for limits, ours and natures. We can only
get out of it through a strategy of antihubris with initiatives that are modest,
multiple, diverse, experimental, flexible and
collaborative. We must all learn and lead.
And we must carry our winter gear. It will
be a long campaign.
Robert Gibson is the chair of A\Js editorial
board and a professor in the Faculty of
Environment at uWaterloo.

Want to change
the world?
Erin travelled the world growing up and fell
in love with the cities she called home. Now,
shes in our Planning program learning about
how those cities were built and where they
are going in the future. Shes even worked to
SUHVHUYHWKHLUKLVWRULFURRWVRQKHUUVWFRRS
term.
At the University of Waterloos Faculty of
Environment, we have eight undergraduate
programs dedicated to shaping the
sustainable future.
Environment and Business
Environment and Resource Studies
Geography and Aviation
Geography and Environmental Management
Geomatics
International Development
Knowledge Integration
Planning
&RRSSURJUDPVJLYH\RXWKHRSWLRQWRJDLQ
experience while still in school, while students
in regular programs can work with professors
on real research projects. When you graduate,
youll join thousands of proud alumni working
in vibrant environmental industries around the
world.
You have a passion for the environment.
Let us help you turn it into a career.
Learn more about why
Erin chose Waterloo
uwaterloo.ca/env/erin

Ideas Start Here


uwaterloo.ca/environment

sustainability.dal.ca

TEACHING IT.
BY LIVING IT.

BRINGING CHANGE TO THE CAMPUS AND THE WORLD

At Dalhousie, sustainability is woven into all we do: teaching, learning, researching,


working, and living.
Our urban campus is enhanced by a LEED Gold building policy, active transportation
strategies (including over 900 bike spots), and a natural environment plan ensuring biomass replacement. Since 2008 we have invested $45 million in sustainability infrastructure and were on our way to a 50% reduction in green house gas emissions by 2020. We
have a 60% solid waste diversion rate on campus, along with a comprehensive water and
energy master plan. Students conduct hundreds of campus and community sustainability projects each year.
Here, faculty, staff and students collaborate on all aspects of campus sustainability
through our Presidents Advisory Council.

Environment, Sustainability and Society


Double major available in seven degree programs and more than 40 subject areas.