East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Fukushima Safety Hanging By Fingernails

B. McPherson

Journalists had an opportunity to tour the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station on Tuesday. They witnessed wreckage still littering the plant grounds and makeshift repairs done to some of the critical systems that are keeping the radiation under control. For instance, plastic water pipes that supply cooling to the defunct reactors split during a cold spell and were repaired with tape. It is expected that the ultimate clean up of the site will take years.

"I have to admit that it's still rather fragile," said plant chief Takeshi Takahashi, who took the job in December after his predecessor resigned due to health reasons.TimeWorld

An independent group investigating the actions of TEPCO and the government in the critical days following the nuclear emergency, Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, delivered their report on the March 11, 2011 triple crisis which saw a massive earthquake, tsunami and radiation release combine. The report highlights the confusion and connivance of the Tokyo based power company to downplay the extent of the danger from the nuclear facility. They criticized both government and private industry for clinging to “a myth of safety” with regard to Fukushima.

Earlier I wrote about the announcements about the safety ofthe crops grown within 50 km of the crippled plant and the subsequent reversal of opinion. At the same time the US Nuclear Regulatory Agency was telling US citizens to evacuate to at least 50 miles(80 km) from the epicentre of the radiation. The US was also preparing to evacuate their citizens from Japan.

While the Japanese government was seeking to soothe worries about the spread of radiation a 10km evacuation zone was established. At the same time, officials fretted about having to evacuate Tokyo. Unacceptably high levels of radiation are being found periodically in Tokyo.

When the inquiry into the events surrounding March 11th requested the minutes of meetings held by TEPCO in the days immediately following, they were stonewalled. Officials claimed that minutes were not kept, minutes were destroyed or minutes could not be found. Since the crisis, TEPCO has released information that is at odds with other sources. While TEPCO denies it, former Japan Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the power company to keep personnel in the plant to fight fires to try to bring the crisis under control when the company executives wished to abandon the plant to self destruct.

No one has died of radiation poisoning since the early days of the meltdown, but that does not mean that deaths from the Daiichi plant will not occur. One of the results of exposure to radiation is damage to genetic material and subsequent cancers. Another is the tragic results when sperm and eggs are damaged by radiation resulting in fetal deaths or malformations.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Prince Rupert Says No to Enbridge Pipeline

B. McPherson

Prince Rupert city council joined a growing list of BC coastal communities that are saying “No” to the Enbridge proposal to build a twinned pipeline from Edmonton to the coast. The decision of the Prince Rupert city politicians was unanimous. Already the village of Kitimaat, Terrace and the Skeena Queen Charlottes Regional District have voiced their opposition to the project.

There are ongoing hearings by a federal court appointed Joint Review Panel which are gathering input from interested parties about the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline which would bring crude petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta to the coast of British Columbia. The proposal would see a twinned pipeline run over the Rocky Mountains and through wilderness to the treacherous west coast. The proposed terminus at Kitimat would require tankers to wend their way through the maze of islands and reefs to load up at the head of Douglas Channel.

While the hearings and the findings of the appointed panel are supposed to be reviewed on face value, both federal and provincial politicians have made clear their bias towards building the pipeline. The provincial and federal coffers stand to swell once the crude oil starts flowing to Asia. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has already stated that a pipeline to the west coast is in the ‘national interest’.

What many fear is that more than money will flow if the pipeline is completed. The oil from the Exxon Valdes wreck 20 years ago is still affecting the beaches in Alaska. The BC Ferry, Queen of the North that sunk a couple of years ago is still burping oil near Hartley Bay. A breach in the pipeline would pollute pristine territory.

The proposed project is sure to bring out strong opinions on both sides of the issue. If the people of BC do not see that their opinions matter, the nascent separatist movement for the province will likely gain traction.

The hearings resume on the islands of Haida Gwaii in Massett.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Greenpeace Accuses EU of Subsidizing Plunder of African Fish Stocks

B. McPherson

Greenpeace International is accusing the EU of subsidizing the plunder of West African fish stocks. Loans to fishing companies have enabled consortia to modernize their fleets of trawlers and factory ships allowing them to take ever more fish from the waters off Morocco and Mauritania.

This has had the effect of depleting the fish populations in the area, forcing the African fishermen to venture ever further out in their small, low tech vessels in search of diminishing catches. In effect, the taxpayers of the European Union have been paying corporations to plunder the fishing grounds off West Africa.

Ten years ago alarm bells were ringing about the unsustainability of the fishing activity in the Mauritanian waters. Permits to foreign trawlers amounted to about 25% of the Mauritian economy. The native fishermen are badly outclassed when it comes to harvesting fish. They have open boats often powered by the wind. What used to take them less than a day to catch enough fish for their needs now can take up to two weeks.

“In one day,” confirms Greenpeace, “these behemoth vessels can capture the same amount of fish as thirty or forty traditional pirogue boats would catch in one year.” ViennaReview

While agreements with W. African governments make the exploitation of fish stocks legal, little money received seems to trickle down to the people that the overfishing affects the most. Aside from the EU countries, Japan, China and Russia have signed agreements to fish in the African waters.

Another problem facing the artisanal fishermen is the presence of pirate fishing vessels poaching large quantities of fish. An estimated $1 billion in poached fish are caught in African waters each year. Vessels from South Korea, China and Panama have been named as having poached fish. Much of the illegally caught fish finds its way to European plates.

Aside from paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to non-sustainable fishing fleets, the policy of sieving the oceans of their bounty leaves the fishermen of W. Africa without a way to make a living. The fishermen of Somalia found that fleets of vessels in their traditional grounds hoovered up the bounty and left them with little. They turned to small scale piracy and finding success turned to ever more ambitious schemes.

This looks like a case of the wealthy again exploiting the poor. The fishing grounds of Europe and the Grand Banks have been depleted and the focus is on the rich fishing of the people who are too poor to protect their wealth.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sea Shepherd Gets Boost From Dutch Lottery

B. McPherson

If you have ever participated in a Swim With the Dolphins or Dolphin Show, you have an obligation to watch this brutal video. It will open your eyes to what is happening to these intelligent and social animals.

The Sea Shepherd Society received a big boost to their funding today with a donation of 900 000 Euros (about 1.2 million USD) for their anti-poaching campaigns. The Dutch National Postcode Lottery funds many different environmental and humanitarian groups. Since its start in 1989 the lottery has donated the equivalent of 4.6 billion US dollars to these groups.

Currently the Sea Shepherd society is fighting whale poaching in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary. There are three harpoon vessels and a factory ship in the Antarctic area. Using a loophole in the language, Japanese whalers seek to kill about 1000 whales each hunting season under the guise of scientific research.

Good news regarding activist Erwin Vermeulen who was found not guilty of assault for his attempt to record the slaughter of dolphins and other sea mammals in Japan at the infamous Cove(Taiji). Vermeulen was jailed for 60 days prior to his trial under poor conditions. In a surprise judgement at Wakayama, the presiding judge ruled that the prosecutor did not have sufficient credible evidence for a conviction.

Not all the dolphins trapped in the cove are slaughtered. Some are sold for entertainment at various aquatic attractions. If you attend one of them, you are indirectly supporting the slaughter and mistreatment of these wild creatures.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Northern BC Community Opposes Enbridge Northern Pipeline

B. McPherson

Skeena Queen Charlotte Regional District has joined others in opposing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The regional district provides government services to the residents. They join many others living on the coast of British Columbia who are opposed to the build out of the twin pipelines that would carry Alberta Oil Sands petroleum from Edmonton to the village of Kitimat.

Jennifer Rice, a Prince Rupert councillor, said in a statement. "Any effort to ram this project through will be a direct attack on our First Nations, the fishing industry and other coastal economies. We encourage development, but the risks are too great with this particular proposal." CNews

The pipeline if built would carry bitumen from Alberta to waiting supertankers which would supply petroleum products to the Asian markets. At build out it is expected that about 200 supertankers would ply the treacherous waters leading up the channel to Kitimat.  The proposed route is through the Great Bear Rain Forest, a block of unspoiled wilderness that National Geographic magazine has dubbed the Wildest Place in North America. It is home to the rare and elusive Kermode bears.

Currently a more southerly pipeline – Trans Mountain – carries crude from Alberta to the BC coast ending near Vancouver. Kinder Morgan is applying to fully twin the pipeline in order to carry more product. Much of the product goes to the US currently where refineries supply the west coast of America. Currently fewer than 100 tankers take on cargo in Vancouver each year, but that number is likely to increase as well.

With the price of oil hitting over $100 per barrel today, there is the prospect of some making very good profits selling the oil. The federal government has already revealed its bias towards supporting the building of the Northern Gateway pipeline. In contrast to that is the very real probability that increased tanker traffic among the numerous islands and shoals of the BC coast will result in a catastrophic spill.

From my point of view on the BC coast, it looks as if the BC residents are being asked to accept the risks while a consortium of foreign owned oil companies will reap the benefits.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Forget Frankenfoods the Next Big Thing Will Be Stem Cell Steaks

B. McPherson

Perhaps stem cell steaks are a bit of a reach but scientists at the Dutch Eindhoven University of Technology are culturing beef strips from beef stem cells. Chief scientist Mark Post has predicted that they will have enough of the in vitro produced muscle by October to produce a hamburger.

While this may sound like science fiction, the basics have already been dealt with and tiny strips of beef muscle have been cultured.

The scientists involved estimate that this will be a more efficient way of producing beef for consumption. Conventionally raised beef takes about 100 pounds of resources to produce 15 pounds of useable meat. The lab raised beef is estimated to produce 50 pounds for every 100 pounds of resources. Of course the first stem cell burger will actually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The race is on to produce more meat for the growing human population. As living standards rise, people can afford more protein and often consume it in the form of animal flesh. In conjunction with that, the realization that industrial feed lots  and other confined animal feed operations require massive amounts of antibiotics to keep the animals healthy, methane produced in animal guts adds to the greenhouse effect  and the resources required to deal with massive amounts of animal feces could be used elsewhere.

Other sources for meat and meat like substitutes are also being tried out. Perhaps the most bizarre to date is that produced by a Japanese researcher who has made meat from poop. According to TreeHugger researcher Mitsuyuki Ikeda has combined soya, steak sauce essence and the protein extracted from sewage mud.

I don’t know about you, but the prospect of a turd burger for lunch is enough for me to become a strict vegetarian.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Victory for the Whales Habitat Protection Mandated

B. McPherson

A federal court of appeal in Canada has ruled that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had failed in its duty to protect killer whales (orcas) by not protecting crucial habitat for them. Last year EcoJustice brought suit against the DFO for failing this duty and the lower court agreed with them. The decision of the lower court was appealed by the DFO.

“The court ruled that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans must legally protect all aspects of killer whale critical habitat — including their food supply and the quality of their marine environment.” EcoJustice

The iconic black and white whales have two main populations on the coast of British Columbia, the northern and the southern. The northern group is made up of 264 individuals and is considered threatened. The southern group is now reduced to 87 and listed as endangered. The southern group travels mainly in the Strait of Georgia south to Juan de Fuca Strait. Both are listed under the Species At Risk Act (SARA).
Looking at the surface of the water gives little indication of the changes that have come to the coast with increasing human activity. Threats to these top predators are numerous.

·         Lack of food – orcas are fish eaters and the populations of salmon and other fish have declined steeply. Whales need layers of fat in order to survive in the cold coastal waters.

·         Disturbances – noise from boats, seismic surveys, “bangers” to scare predation on open net industrial farming, military sonar all contribute to disorientation and increased difficulty in locating ever dwindling fish stocks.

·         Toxins – runoff from agricultural operations, sewage dumping and accumulation of toxic chemicals in the body fat can disrupt metabolic functions.  Chemicals used in the open net fisheries leak into the surrounding ocean waters.

·         Oil spills – with increased shipping of petroleum products from BC terminals, the danger of an oil spill increases. Orcas do not avoid oil slicks and can develop chemical pneumonia from breathing petroleum fumes. When the Exxon Valdes polluted Alaskan shores with an oil spill, the population of orcas plummeted.

The Canadian federal government has a window in which to appeal the latest judgement against the DFO. After two judgements against it, one would hope that they would start working on a way to save these magnificent, intelligent creatures from extinction due to human activities.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

GM Alfalfa Soon to Be Released in Canada

B. McPherson

Currently genetically modified alfalfa is not released in Canada, but is probably will be soon. The US approved it about this time last year with no restrictions. A farmer can plant Roundup Ready alfalfa next to an organic farmer and ignore the inevitable genetic pollution of the organically grown crop.

Monsanto has developed a patented seed that will allow farmers to spray their fields with Roundup or glyphosate to kill weeds. As with other GM seeds, if the modified plants are found growing in a neighbouring field, the farmer with the intrusive plants is in trouble and all kinds of hurt comes down on him from the corporation owning the patents.

A few GM plants in an organic farmer’s field are enough to disqualify him from using the organic label and consequently his crop losses mount as his crop loses value. Because farmers who do not qualify for the organic label, but eshew GM seeds cannot label their product as GMO free, people can only be sure that they are not consuming genetically engineered food by buying organic. Even this strategy is losing power as genetic pollution spreads across the world’s croplands. Now a tiny amount of pollutants are being allowed in the product.

While many city dwellers may be unfamiliar with alfalfa other than alfalfa sprouts in their deli sandwiches. It is a hugely important forage crop for animals, high in protein and nutrients. As a bonus, it is also a nitrogen fixer which means it can take the nitrogen out of the air and stabilize or fix it adding to the soil fertility. This plant goes by the name of Lucerne in many parts of the world. It is related to peas.

Roundup Ready alfalfa may end up being a sour joke on the farmers who choose to plant it. A healthy alfalfa field will eliminate most weeds by choking them out. It takes about three years for a conventionally planted field to come into its own. During that time, judicious hand weeding eliminates the worst pests. Roundup ready seeds are already losing their effectiveness against intrusive weeds. Since the introduction of glyphosate in the 1970s many types of ‘superweeds’ have evolved forcing farmers to buy and spray increasing amounts of poison onto their crops. The seeds cost more than the old-fashioned ones and the escalating spraying adds more to the cost.

Already some of the biotech firms are working on engineering plants that can withstand Agent Orange(2, 4-D). While the public is assured time and again that these substances sprayed onto food crops are harmless that stand has been disputed by many including the Sierra Club. 2, 4-D was a major ingredient in that horror story known as Agent Orange which was declared safe enough to drink until long term health issues surfaced. It has also been blamed for catastrophic birth defects in SE Asia where it was sprayed to defoliate the jungle during the Vietnam Conflict.

The Canadian government is currently making friendly sounds to agri-businesses and encouraging the use of GMOs and terminator seeds. If you do not agree that these are good ideas, take the time to write to your MP and MLA expressing your concerns.

Monday, 13 February 2012

Monsanto Guilty of Chemical Poisoning

B. McPherson

A French court ruled today that Monsanto is guilty of chemical poisoning. In a landmark ruling the court ruled that farmer Paul Francois was harmed by inhaling Monsanto’s weedkiller Lasso. Lasso is now banned in France.

The incident took place in 2004. Francois maintained that there were inadequate warnings on the Lasso container. He suffers from neurological damage – memory loss, headaches, stammering.
This weedkiller also goes by the name of Alachlor,Lasagrin, Lassagrin, Lazo, Metachlor, Pillarzo, Alanox, Alanex, Chimichlor. According to the Environmental Protection Agency this plant poison is the second most widely used plant poison in the US.
Alachlor is the second most widely used herbicide in the United States, with particularly heavy use on corn and soybeans in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, and Wisconsin.EPA

The EPA allows for a maximum of 2 parts per billion in drinking water. It also lists damage to humans exposed to contaminated drinking water over a long period of time. Damage to liver, kidney, spleen and cancer are some of the ailments expected with long term exposure.

In light of the agribusiness corporations gearing up to introduce genetically modified plants resistant to the plant poison 2,4-D(agent orange) as the plant poison Roundup(glyphosate) becomes less useful, the knowledge that yet another plant poison is widely used in the fields of corn and soybeans is discomfiting.
It is a myth that genetically engineered plants are what is needed to feed the world’s hungry. There is enough food grown to feed our present population. What is needed is a better distribution system. In the meantime, if you can’t grow your own vegetables and fruit, buy organic and buy local.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Sea Shepherd Society Vows to Continue Operation Divine Wind

B. McPherson
Many people criticise Paul Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for their methods. The following video allows him to explain his motivation.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has issued a statement that they will continue their Operation Divine Wind in the Antarctic until the end of the Japanese whaling season at the end of March. While the Japanese government maintains that their whaling operation is non-commercial and within the bounds of the whale protection treaty, many people would dispute their stand.

Each year a fleet of three whaling vessels has set out from Japan to the Antarctic during the southern summer to hunt whales. They set a quota of about 1 000 whales per season for scientific purposes. Australian researchers have offered to help the Japanese train in ‘no-kill’ whale research but have been rebuffed.

The Sea Shepherd Society has attempted over the past eight years to thwart the killing of whales in the Southern Sanctuary. Their efforts have been documented by  AnimalPlanetTV under the title Whale Wars. And a war it has been. Arrests have been made, boats have been rammed, whalers have been pelted with rotten butter bombs and in turn, been the target of flash bang grenades and water cannons.

 This year added security  was supplied to the whaling fleet in the form of a fourth vessel, the Shonan Maru 2. Captain Paul Watson has alleged that the funds to send added security to the southern sanctuary has cost about $30 million and was filched from the tsunami and earthquake funding. This is not substantiated independently.

This year has been counted as a success by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They have estimated that their efforts have saved over 500 whales from a gruesome and lingering death.

Modern harpoons are not the hand thrown spear that was used in historical times. Harpoons are shot from a deck cannon, and are equipped with an explosive that detonates inside the struck whale. They do not kill quickly, but the whale eventually succumbs to its internal injuries. Factory ships process the dead whale at sea.

 Paul Watson is quoted:
“We will not give this fleet of whale poachers a break,” said Captain Watson. “We will chase them until Hell freezes over and it will do just that by the end of March when the Antarctic ice will force the whale serial killers from these waters. As long as they are running they can’t kill whales and every day we prevent them from killing whales is a victory for Sea Shepherd and the whales.”

Japan is not the only nation that maintains a commercial hunt for marine mammals. Norway, Iceland and Denmark also hunt marine mammals.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ode to a Sealice in the Style of R. Burns

B. McPherson

Many people do not understand the serious nature of the numerous parasitic sea lice that attack the wild salmon stocks on the west coast of British Columbia. These creatures attach themselves to the outside of salmon and feed on them.

Before the advent of commercial net pen salmon ‘farms’ sea lice were fairly rare.  They are now found in great numbers near the net pens and prey on the wild babies emerging from their natal streams. Sea lice are increasingly being blamed for the massive mortality of some of the salmon runs.

This ode was penned by a friend of mine – Andy Mathisen – and he has given me permission to reprint it here.
To a Sealice
With apologies to Robbie Burns
Ha! Where are you from, you slimy critter?
That blemish coho's silver glitter
Perhaps yon pens have spawned your litter
Over floats and nets?
By God! You must feed well
On such tame pets!
You parasitic, sucking blunders
Scourge of all the fish you plunder
How dare you spread to wild wonders
So fine as these!
Go somewhere else to seek your feast
On lesser fishes.
Bugger off! To landlocked pits
Where you may suck and sup and stick
To weaker fish ensconsed in shit
Eat your pills and pellets full
In safe plantations.
But DO NOT set those nets in sounds
In inlets rich where wild abounds
With little care for Nature's needs
A mess we make
And only be concerned with greed
And what we take.
O would some Power the gift to free us
To see what Nature has to give us
And maybe then the Future see us
With great emotion
As those with caring hearts within us
Saved the oceans
(and all within it!)
Andy Mathisen adapted from Robert Burn's poem "To a Louse"

Greenpeace Activist Paulo Adario to Receive UN Award Today

B. McPherson
The following video shows a soybean harvest in progress. The farm is said to be eight years old and encompasses 8 000 ha of soybean plantings.

The United Nations in New York will honour Greenpeace activist Paulo Adario for his work in defending the Amazon Rain Forest. Adario has worked with Greenpeace since the 1990s in the Amazonas area uncovering illegal logging of the rain forest. Working with local tribespeople and the government he has helped protect about 1.6 million hectares from logging.

Among his innovations was his original concept of maintaining buffer zones between industrial development and the forest. His work also resulted in the banning of trade in mahogany in 2003.

"Following a campaign on illegal logging, which led to a moratorium in 2003 on the international trade in Mahogany, the impacts of Paulo’s work attracted death threats from forest criminals across the Amazon." Greenpeace

The gains in protection to the Brazilian rain forest are never permanent. The conservation group is speaking out about the proposed new Forest Code that is before the Brazilian government for consideration. The new code would replace an outdated and unworkable code formulated in the 1960s.

Opinions are sharply divided as to whether this new code will protect the rain forest or lead to further degradation and expansion of agribusinesses. Those that stand to gain from the booming soybean industry maintain that the new forest guidelines are very restrictive. Conservationists on the other hand point to the sections in the revised legislation that allow for amnesties for illegal deforestation and cheating that is currently going on in order to expand agribusiness operations.

"According to Mato Grosso-based NGO Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), the perspective
for approval of new environmental legislation has triggered a deforestation spree in the
state. In April, when the Chamber of Deputies still debated the project, Imazon’s SAD
already showed an upward trend of 22% in deforestation and 225% in forest
degradation between August 2010 and March 2011" ReporterBrasil 

The areas illegally cleared are huge, amounting to over 50 000 hectares(123 553+ acres). Law enforcement in these areas is often spotty and ineffectual. 

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Yokohama School Next to Radiation Hot Spot

B. McPherson

The news from Japan just keeps getting worse and worse. The newspaper Japan Today is reporting that a radiation hot spot has been found in Yokohama next to a school. According to their report radioactive cesium has been found next to the school at a level 12x the allowable amount. The topsoil will be removed from the hot spot. Where it will be dumped is open to speculation.

There is no news about how long the radioactive hot spot has been emitting its toxic energy or the effect on the school children adjacent to it.

Yokohama is located south of Tokyo and well away from any evacuation/exclusion zone.

The handling of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant continues to unfold revealing incompetence and coverups. Now RT is revealing even more bad news. Over eight tonnes of water from the plant has leaked out of its containers because cold weather has split the pipes. The electrical company which has been presiding over this disaster has stated that the water is not radioactive and hasn’t leaked into the sea. That begs the question – If not the sea, did it go into the water table?

 TEPCO made statements when this radioactive disaster unfolded last March that there wasn’t much of a problem and that everything was under control. Since then a litany of woes have been made public: workers dead of radiation poisoning, an ever growing exclusion area, farmland poisoned for generations, thousands displaced, explosions, partial meltdowns of the nuclear fuel containers, radiation spread around the world.

“TEPCO claims that most of the leaked water is not radioactive, and has come from a dam. Though the company admitted that some of the water could be radioactive, it stressed that none of it has leaked to the sea.” RT.com

Minutes of the crucial emergency meetings when the TEPCO executives met to discuss action have disappeared and are unavailable to the public inquiries.  TEPCO will pay damages for this disaster, but there is a limit and the massive costs associated social and physical damage done by the pollution from this power installation will eventually be borne by the Japanese taxpayer.

Friday, 3 February 2012

UFW of America Calls for End to Methyl Iodide on Strawberries

B. McPherson

The United Farm Workers is calling on California Governor Brown to review the use of methyl iodide now that a new head of the Department of Pesticide Regulations is in place.
Methyl iodide replaces the use of methyl bromide to kill unwanted plants and their seeds, insects and nematode worms. It has also been implicated in causing miscarriages and cancers. It has been dubbed one of the most toxic chemicals on earth by Pesticide Action Network. It is also a known neurotoxin and endocrine disruptor.

The agricultural workers as well as those living in close proximity to non-organically raised strawberry fields are exposed to traces of this toxin which is injected into the soil and may infiltrate groundwater.

Methyl iodide is a known carcinogen that could cause spontaneous miscarriages and contaminate groundwater. Injecting it as a gas into the soil presents unacceptable risks to farm workers, nearby rural communities, pregnant women and children. Clearly, this toxic chemical is dangerous and should be banned. United FarmWorkers of America

California supplies about 85% of the strawberries grown in the US. Lush, large berries are starting to show up in Canadian supermarkets. There is little problem with mold growing on the berries, no bug damage, no bacteria spoilage. Consumers should ask themselves why that is.

Take a look at the following list of pesticides that the USDA  routinely found on fresh strawberries in 2008. These are the conventionally grown, non-organic berries.The list is in decreasing order of incidence from 55% occurring to 0.1%. Little work is done on the synergistic effect of multiples of these residues in humans.

The USDA found a total of 54 different pesticide residues on fresh strawberries. Of those 9 were known or suspected to cause cancer, 24 known or suspected to be hormone disruptors, 11 are known neurotoxins, 12 found to be problematic in developmental and reproductive matters and 19 were found to be toxic to bees.

 If you are planning something special for your honey on Valentine’s Day you might decide to forego the strawberries dipped in chocolate unless they were grown organically. Of course, chocolate itself is a whole other story …

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Northern Gateway Project May Damage Canadian Economy

B. McPherson

Economist Robyn Allan has strong words about the economic feasibility of the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. Allan is quoted in the Calgary Herald this morning:

"The emperor has no clothes," Allan said in an interview. "We're told it is a gross producing economic opportunity, but in fact it's an oil price shock to the economy."

Allan, a respected economist, once named in the top 200 CEOs in Canada, presented her report to the commission charged with hearings about the project which would ship bitumen (oil sands product) overseas.
Her report that the proposed pipeline would have a depressing effect on the Canadian economy is in sharp contrast to the sunny predictions put about by the Canadian PM Steven Harper and his Minister of Natural Resources of many good jobs and wealth to the government coffers. The cards seemed stacked from the start of the hearings into the pipeline project when the Minister of Natural Resources dubbed those in opposition to the project radicals and pawns of foreign interests. Confidence in the neutrality of the commission is further eroded by the refusal of the National Energy Board to grant Allan intervenor status at the table. The Alberta Federation of Labour(AFL)  which did have status chose to use her report in their presentation.

The AFL has also made the full report available on line. It makes for particularly interesting reading
in the section that specifically addresses the ownership interests of the PRC (People’s Republic of China)( starting page 33). The report addresses the expected economic impact of shipping the crude product offshore rather than refining it in country and garnering the value added impact.

The promise of widespread employment in the $5.5 billion project may also be a dream of a different kind of pipe. The federal government is pushing for a free trade agreement with Europe. The agreement well into its final stages call the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will have far reaching labour consequences which will allow foreign companies to import labour for projects that they will be able to bid on. Currently the TILMA agreement between Alberta and British Columbia mandates that municipalities and improvement districts must not restrict contracts worth more than $50 000 to local bidders.

Vancouver construction workers saw a similar event when an extension to the taxpayer funded SkyTrain was being built. The company that won the bid brought in low paid workers from Mexico, shutting out locals.

There have been vocal presentations about the environmental costs and risks in building the Northern Gateway pipelines, but have been told that the risks are worth it for the ‘greater good’ of the country. Now it seems that the ‘greater good’ will be those offshore interests that will refine Canadian petroleum and sell it back to us for our ‘greater loss’.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Dead Sea Lions Showing Up on Seattle Beaches

B. McPherson


Someone in the Puget Sound, Seattle area is shooting sea lions. To date eight dead sea lions have been found. Both the local Department of Fish and Wildlife and NOAA are investigating the crimes. According to Seattle’s King 5 News one of the dead was a Stellar sea lion, supposed to be protected by the endangered Species Act and another, a California sea lion, protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

There have been no arrests in the latest spate of shootings, but the Sea Shepherd Society has stepped up to the plate to offer a $10 000 reward for the apprehension and conviction of the killers.

Sea lions and seals have come under attack by fishermen because of their conflicting agendas. The fishermen want to harvest as many fish as they can and the sea mammals want to eat their fill of the fish. Some of the mammals have learned to fish the locks in Seattle where salmon get trapped in a relatively small area and are easy to capture. Some fishermen blame the seals and sea lions for a diminished supply of fish, failing to recognize that before European exploitation of the resource, there were abundant fish eaters as well as abundant fish.

The California sea lions have a healthy population on the west coast of North America and can be a nuisance for some owners of docks and log booms. The bachelors migrate north in late winter and congregate on easy haul outs to socialize and establish rank. In some instances their large numbers can sink a dock, much to the chagrin of the owner. On the other hand, people have made a good living by charging people for sea lion tours.

The Stellar sea lions have been declining in recent years. While there is speculation as to why their population has plummeted there is no definitive answer.

To report information on the Sea Lion Shootings, please contact:

 NOAA Enforcement Hotline: (800) 853-1964