East Coast of Vancouver Island

East Coast of Vancouver Island
Natural Beauty is Worth Preserving

Monday, 30 April 2012

MIT Scientists Invent Self Cleaning Glass

B. McPherson                
This film shows an earlier version of water repelling glass.
Researchers working with nanotechnology at MIT have invented a new kind of glass. The possibilities for the new glass seem endless. Because of the special non-glare, self-cleaning surface engineered by the scientists, always clean car headlamps, more efficient solar panels, an end to window washing all seem possible.

Of course, like many new inventions, this nano-glass will likely take some years to filter down to every day use.
The description of the work is found in  MIT NEWS.

In a nod to Mother Nature, the scientists gave credit for their inspiration to Nature’s structures such as lotus leaves and insect eyeballs.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Capt. of Ady Gil Speaks of Differences Within Sea Shepherd

Captain Pete Bethune has left the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society organization. Actually, he left October 2010. I just happened to run across his You Tube video explaining why he felt the need to resign.

Many of you will remember that Bethune was captain of the high tech Ady Gil. That was the ship that was in a collision with a Japanese whaler in the Southern Ocean and subsequently sunk. After the sinking Bethune made a daring boarding of the Japanese ship in an attempt to arrest the captain.

He was taken to Japan where he spent four months in prison and was given a suspended sentence and deported.

His version of events differs from the Sea Shepherd's reasons for leaving. Because I have been a cheerleader for the Society's efforts to dissuade the hunting of whales, I felt I should put on both sides here. You will have to judge for yourselves which is the more truthful.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Sea Shepherd Society Turns Spotlight on the Faroe Islands

B. McPherson

Paul Watson and his crews of animal activists have announced their intention to disrupt the mass slaughter of pilot whales in the Faroe Islands. Their campaign recorded by Whale Wars Animal Planet is called Operation Ferocious Isles. They will be seeking to divert migrating pilot whales away from the Atlantic islands and failing that, interfere with the actual, bloody killing in the bays.

The Faroe Islands are located in the frigid North Atlantic between Iceland and Scotland. These islands are ultimately administered by Denmark although they are independent in most of their internal affairs. The people are descendants of Gaels who settled the islands in the 6th century and Norsemen who cling to their traditions, one of which has set them against animal rights activists – The Grind. The Grind or grindadrap is a slaughter of pilot whales after having herded them into a shallow bay.

The Faroese traditionally depended on whale meat to supplement their diets, but due to modern pollution of the oceans, the meat of whales is no longer recommended as fit for human consumption. This leaves the slaughter of the whales as a tradition that has outlived its history.

"Most Faroese consider the hunt an important part of their culture and history. Animal-rights groups criticize the hunt as being cruel and unnecessary. As of the end of November 2008 the chief medical officers of the Faroe Islands have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption because of the levels of toxins in the whales." World Law Direct

Pilot whales are not on the endangered list and the whaling is not done on a commercial basis, but the mass killing of intelligent animals in an extremely brutal way has much of the world reacting with repugnance. The result of the hunt turns the water red and the carnage is much the same as that seen in Japan in The Cove.
For up to date facts on these islands, a good source is the CIA The World Handbook which was updated in April of this year.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Chemical Arms Race in America Agent Orange Corn Next

B. McPherson

There’s an arms race going on in N. America’s cornfields. The race is developing genetically modified crops to resist ever more lavish spraying of herbicides. An early winner in the weed race was Monsanto, a corporation that developed seeds containing weed genes that could resist the spraying of that other Monsanto product, Roundup.

Roundup was an effective weed/plant killer for many years, but gradually as Nature will do, some weeds survived Roundup to reproduce. So farmers sprayed Roundup(or the generic glyphosate) in ever heavier doses. The effect has been to breed a wide number of SuperWeeds that will not die when sprayed with the herbicide.

Now rival Agro company Dow AgroSciences has developed a GM corn that carries a gene resistant to Dow Chemical’s herbicide 2,4-D. It is seeking to be allowed to start widespread planting of the genetically altered seeds in time for the 2013 crop year.

Fields planted with the new corn, dubbed Enlist, could be sprayed with the defoliant and not die. Many farmers who neighbour these fields could suffer major crop damage to their broad leafed plants.  In addition to killing broad leafed plants such as grapes, cabbage, deciduous trees, 2,4-D is a major component of Agent Orange that notorious herbicide that has caused so much sickness and birth defects.

“Others fear Enlist and 2,4-D may only be only the beginning of a new wave of dangerous farm chemicals. Chemical giant BASF (BASFn.DE) and Monsanto plan to unveil by the middle of this decade crops tolerant to a mix of the chemicals dicamba and glyphosate.” GM Watch

2,4-D is currently used in many domestic and agricultural uses. Many people attain a weed free grass lawn by applying it. Golf courses routinely apply it and agricultural uses may encompass wheat and other grains.
The manufacture of 2,4-D may contaminate the plant hormone with dioxin, a powerful poison.

The phasing out of Monsanto’s glyphosate may be welcome, but the replacement with Dow’s 2,4-D may bring on more unintended consequences. Numerous serious health effects from exposure to the chemical have been noted for quite some time. One dispassionate reference may be Cornell University’sfact sheet.

The news that yet another iteration of a GM, weed resistant organism is being considered for widespread planting is ironic in light of the very real and environmentally responsible work being done by HarvestPlus in breeding more nutritious and hardy plants.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Harvest Plus Saving Lives One Seed at a Time

B. McPherson

Put a new word into your vocabulary -- biofortified. The Harvest Plus organization is researching and breeding plants with enhanced micronutrients. This is not the high tech gene manipulation so in the news with companies like Monsanto. It is going back to basics in plant husbandry.

Howath Bouis initially floated his ideas about breeding food plants with increased micronuturients in 1994 when the shine was still on the science of gene swapping. He received little support for his initiative
Harvest Plus.

Now that the prospect of gene altered plants has been found wanting, Bouis has improved the amount of zinc, iron and a precursor to Vitamin A in cassava by selecting varieties higher in the micronutrients to plant, selecting the offspring that are higher yet, planting those and so on until the desired plant content is reached. The technique of artificial selection has been used by farmers for thousands of years and has given us such familiar organisms as  dairy cows, orange carrots, poodles and Siamese cats.

The initial crop targeted was cassava. It is the staple crop for approximately 500 million people. It will grow in poor, dry soil. Both the tubers and leaves are edible. The two countries targeted to receive the new super nutritious cassava variety were the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria with nearby countries eventually receiving cuttings as well.

Other crops that Harvest Plus is developing and distributing are: iron beans, iron pearl millet, vitamin A maize, vitamin A sweet potato, zinc rice and zinc wheat. The distribution of these carefully bred plants is estimated to save over half a million children’s lives each year.

A story on the foundation’s web page tells the transformation in the life of an Ugandan farmer who parlayed his small experiment growing the improved vegetable into a successful business which has transformed his life and that of his children.

The seeds of these enriched vegetables are owned by the farmers. They can save the seeds, sell the seeds and plant them without the interference of Big Agra. Additionally, the plants that the Harvest Plus group develops are suited to the climate and soil where  they are distributed.

Dr. Howath Bouis deserves our highest accolades for fighting hidden malnutrition among the worlds’s poorest people.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Scientists Beginning to Sound Warnings About Atmospheric Nitrogen Compounds

B. McPherson

                                                This short film explains very well the greenhouse effect on Earth.

While the world is focussing on the production and release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, other gasses are quietly adding to the catastrophe. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas and nitrous oxide is 300 times more efficient at keeping the Earth warmed.

While much of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of the element nitrogen, it is the nitrogen in reactive compounds that is starting to worry atmospheric scientists.

The Green Revolution was made possible by the industrial production of chemical fertilizers. It, combined with antibiotics has allowed the Earth’s population of humans to swell from 1.6 billion at the beginning of the 20th century to seven billion this year. Nitrogen is a key nutrient in plant growth. Unfortunately over application of nitrogen fertilizers to crops breaks down into nitrous oxide in the atmosphere and may be swept into watercourses polluting them and eventually finding its way into the air as well.

Well meaning people have passed laws to subsidize the production of ethanol from corn to partly replace gasoline from foreign sources. Because corn is a ‘greedy feeder’ nitrogen fertilizer is lavished on it resulting in the suplus adding to global greenhouse gases.

“Current biofuel targets impart other major problems for global warming and human health that Howarth says scientists have "long underestimated." Fertilizers release significant quantities of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas with 300 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide (CO2).”Scientific American

The industrialization of agriculture in N.America has seen the rise of concentrated confined animal husbandry. The waste of thousands of animals and sewage from humans contributes to the nitrogen compound loads being released into the atmosphere. The mass raising of meat animals has lowered the price per pound and allowed more people to afford more meat for their dinner tables.

The 20th century’s Green Revolution made possible an exponential amount of food around the world. It is in these later years that we are starting to see some of the unintended consequences of that revolution.

Major Greenhouse Gases – without these gases in the atmosphere too much heat would be lost from Earth and the planet would likely be locked in ice. Nature requires a balance to maintain homeostasis.
·         water vapour
·         carbon dioxide
·         methane
·         nitrous oxide
·         ozone

Friday, 20 April 2012

Bat Populations Rebounding in New York Caves

B. McPherson

This little brown bat has white nose syndrome. Note the white dusting on its muzzle

Some bat populations hit hard by White Nose Syndrome have rebounded in their numbers in some caves. Researchers in New York have counted increased populations of little brown bats this spring.  In some caves and abandoned mine shafts the population had plummeted by 90% to 100% due to the fungal disease.

While it is too early to cheer the spring bat counts as some of the population could have been missed during earlier counts, biologists are hopeful that this signals the rebound of the bat population.

Many people do not realize that bats are an important contributor to pollination and insect control, eating thousands of insects in their nightly excursions. With the death of millions of bats in eastern Canada and south in the US as far as Alabama, insect pests were expected to escalate.

White nose syndrome is a fungal disease that appeared in bat caves about six years ago and led to the deaths of approximately six million little brown bats in the US north east. The fungus infects the closely packed, hibernating bats and shows up as a white dusting on their noses. It interrupts their winter sleep and they leave their caves to look for insects to eat. They end up starving to death before the winter is over.

This fungal disease is present in Europe and has led to the speculation that it was brought to N. America by cavers on their equipment. This may lead to tighter restrictions on cave access in order to stave off an environmental disaster from population collapse.

Ref: Metro News 

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Harper government has declared war on our environment.

Please read and contribute if you can.

After months of attacking environmental charities they announced yesterday that they are gutting environmental oversight of pipeline, drilling, fracking and other destructive projects across Canada.
I am outraged. That’s why I’m helping ForestEthics launch a new organization – ForestEthics Advocacy -- that can act and speak freely in the face of this government crackdown.
Will you join me in defending our rights, forests, air and water by making a gift to ForestEthics Advocacy today?
Every dollar you contribute will be matched by a generous donor who has pledged $10,000 to help us fight against this Big Oil agenda. In order for the match to count you must make a gift by midnight this Thursday, April 19.
Recently, the Harper government set aside $8 million in the federal budget to muzzle environmental groups by giving the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) the authority to conduct aggressive investigations that remind me of the McCarthy era.
What Canada needs now is not less advocacy for the environment, but more, not less free speech, but more. As of today, ForestEthics Advocacy can now work on your behalf fighting the Harper Petro-State without interference from the government.
Please give and give generously and remember that every dollar you contribute will be matched by an anonymous donor. Feel free to forward this message to 3 of your friends and ask them to give too.
Thank you for joining me in defending our public lands and democratic rights.
-- Clayton Ruby, CM, QC, Civil Rights Lawyer

P.S. As I write this message ForestEthics' Co-Founder Valerie Langer is being grilled by the Canada Revenue Agency. This is not the first intimidation tactic we can expect from the Harper government, nor the last. If you believe, as Valerie and I do, that we must speak up for what is in the best interests of Canadians and NOT Big Oil, please make a gift today. 

Canadian Tories Declare War on Environment

B. McPherson

                                                       Tell me that an oil spill here could ever be cleaned up.

The federal Tories have declared war on the Canadian environment. In their rush to cash in on the appetite for oil, uranium and potash from emerging nations, the Tories have slashed the environmental review process turning over most of the responsibilities to the provinces.

Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver has tried to characterize the moves as a ‘streamlining’ and ‘cutting of red tape’, but for most people concerned about the environment it smacks as a bow to Big Oil and Big Business.

In the face of mounting opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project the Conservative government led by Stephen Harper has changed the law to apply retroactively in order to snuff out the chances of people who wish to speak about the project. The review process which is supposed to be neutral has been changed in the politicians’ jargon to “approval process”.

There are two main issues that opponents of the Enbridge project speak about – the route through the Great Bear Rainforest, a pristine wilderness and the likelihood of oil spills from hundreds of tankers plying the treacherous BC coastline. Many of the supertankers fly flags of convenience and will not carry much responsibility in the event of a catastrophic accident.

Other issues of concern are the disruption to the way of life for many of the residents along the proposed route. First Nations people across whose territory the proposed route snakes, have presented a united front in opposing the pipeline.

In an interview on the CBC, David Suzuki pointed out that these issues are trans-boundary issues. When asked if only those directly involved with an issue should be allowed to speak to it, he said that everybody breathes air and drinks water so everyone is affected. Whether it is a re-opening of the Taseko mine controversy or a uranium mine people are affected by the decisions.

The podium from which Joe Oliver spoke had the words “Jobs, Growth, Prosperity” on it. It is basic to our well being and that of our children and their children that we remember that uncontrolled growth is the mantra of the cancer cell.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Enbridge Pipeline Will Face Many Hurtles if Approved

B. McPherson

While the Canadian federal government is pushing hard for a speedy approval process to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project opposition to the scheme is gathering organization and force. Today the Financial Post is referring to the project as being in a “legal swamp”.

The proposed pipeline would transport bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands extraction to the British Columbia coast for shipment to markets in Asia. The proposed route would track through the Great Bear Rainforest, an area that National Geographic calls the wildest place on earth. It is home to rare ecosystems and the unique Kermode Bear. The terminal of the pipelines would end at Kitimat at the end of Douglas Channel. An estimated 200 super-tankers would navigate the treacherous waters each year. Enbridge spokespersons have assured the public that the chances of a spill are very low.

Oil tankers transporting crude from Alaska to the lower US states travel far off BC’s coast in order to avoid the numerous islands and shoals as well as to minimize damage to the shore should a leak occur.

The above photos were taken on the east coast of Vancouver Island, looking toward the mainland. This is the time of the northerly migration of the Black Brant geese which coincides with the herring spawn. It doesn't take much imagination to see what a minor oil spill would do to the geese and other shore birds.

Lawyers speaking on behalf of First Nations groups are adamant that the pipelines will not be constructed in their territories.

“There will be huge litigation. Absolutely,” said Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, an alliance of 10 native groups on British Columbia’s northern and central coasts that has been vocal in opposing the project.
“There have been many court cases that have defined the landscape in British Columbia. Aboriginal title exists here. It’s not just some vague concept.”Financial Post
Many people along the coast of BC are passionate about keeping the waters clean and safe for wildlife. Fishing, tourism and aquaculture contributing directly to local economies depend on continued clean, oil free waters.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Snuneymuxw First Nation Welcomes Public to Conversation About Douglas Treaties

B. McPherson                  Grand Chief Shawn Atleo, third from left, and Snuneymuxw
                                         Chief Douglas White, fourth from left

The Snuneymexw First Nation held the third in a series of information meetings about the historical Douglas Treaties signed in the 1850’s with groups of indigenous people on Vancouver Island. At the time Britain claimed Vancouver Island as a colony, but wished to engage in peaceful settlement and resource extraction.

This third in the series was held at the Nanaimo’s main library. The public was treated to native dancers in the Diana Krall plaza before the lecture. The young people carried on in spite of the rain, hail and finally a burst of sunshine and a rainbow over the harbour.

Inside the library, the overflow crowd was addressed by Grand Chief Shawn Atleo and by Snuneymuxw Chief, Douglas White. Both stressed the need for conversation between different parts of the community as well as the need for awareness and recognition of the historical treaties.

Vancouver Island University has been active in creating a conversation with the local First Nation people. Grand Chief Atleo has consented to be Chancellor.

The Douglas Treaties are named after the first governor of the Crown Colony who reached signed treaties. In the years since, the treaties have been largely ignored and forgotten by the newer settlers to the Island. The young, more assertive and well educated leaders are seeking to educate the public about these historical agreements.

Canada was a colony of Britain during the early European settlement. By and large it was a peaceful operation because of the treaties signed by representatives of the First Nations and the Crown. Unfortunately for the native people many of the treaties were subsequently ignored and the “Indians” were largely treated as second class citizens for many years.
                                           Dancers brave downpour to welcome public to lecture.

The Aboriginal Speaking Series will conclude May 10th and 11th with a conference at the local university. The conference is titled Vancouver Island Treaties, The Vancouver Island Treaties 1959 -54

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Americans Eat Pink Slime in Their Burgers

B. McPherson

Many Americans are eating Pink Slime in their burger patties. Not all, of course, those that can afford a better grade of hamburger made from freshly ground beef that’s not been frozen won’t be eating Pink Slime. Poor kids eating subsidized school lunches get to eat it.

What is Pink Slime? It does have other names. Big Agro calls it Lean finely textured beef (LFTB) or Boneless lean beef trimmings (BLBT). In an attempt to use as much of a beef carcass as possible for the food trade, some companies have come up with a technique to use meat scraps and connective tissue for human food. The bits are processed, heated and extruded. The product is disinfected of possible bacteria that it has picked up from the slaughter process by exposing it to either ammonia or citric acid. The term Pink Slime was used by Gerald Zirnstein in 2002 in describing the pink, jelly like substance when he was opposing the use of it in human food. He was an employee of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service at the time.

ABC News alerted the American public to this controversial food additive in March. Former employees of the USDA and Beef Products Inc. (BPI) supplied information on the processes.

Who sells Pink Slime in thei r grocery stores? The TV news station did some research, contacting leading grocery stores in the US.

·        Safeway used to buy ground beef with PS in it but will no longer accept it.
·         Ahold(Stop & Shop/Giant) sells ground beef with PS in it but does not sell any processed with ammonia.
·         Costco does not use LFTB(Pink Slime) I lifted a quote from their spokesperson on the ABC page. “Anything that we sell at Costco we want to explain it’s origins, and I personally don’t know how to explain trim treated with ammonia in our ground beef,” Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance for Costco, told ABC News. “I just don’t know how to explain that. I’m not that smart.”
·         Publix does not sell LFTB.
·         H-E-B does not sell LFTB
·         Whole Food does not sell LFTB
·         Kroger offers different grades/choices of ground beef including LFTB in some offerings
·         Tops Markets do not sell beef with LFTB in it.

Pink slime may also be found in some beef based processed meats. In the US there is currently no requirement that the package needs to indicate its presence.

Public reaction to the repugnant product has caused earnings at these Slime factories to plummet. One factory has applied for bankruptcy protection.

People demanding clean, wholesome food can make a difference. Cheap food doesn’t mean good food. It is everyone’s individual responsibility to demand the best and to be prepared to pay for it. N. Americans as a whole eat far too much meat for their health.

Canadians do not eat Pink Slime. That material that is used for Pink Slime goes for pet food or to the rendering plant.

You can be assured that you are not eating Pink Slime if you are a vegetarian, but if like me, you eat beef you can still be safe from it. I do not buy ground beef. I buy beef roasts and grind my own. Remember when hamburger meat was called “ground round”? There are still butchers who buy sides of beef and grind their own burger meat. Meat labelled “organically raised” won’t have PS in it. Buy locally and buy organic when you can. Those small producers will be happy to discuss how their animals are raised.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Enbridge Panel Turns Tail When Met by Singing Demonstrators

B. McPherson
Video of protest demonstration in Comox March 31st

Bella Bella people from the Heltsuk First Nation met the plane carrying their chief and the Enbridge Northern Pipeline Panel Sunday. The panel promptly cancelled hearings scheduled for the next few days and scampered back to Vancouver.

They have been met time and again with peaceful demonstrations that speak against the installation of the Enbridge Northern Gateway twinned pipelines through British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. The prospect of supertankers plying the treacherous waters of the coast grounding and spilling their cargo have many speaking out.

The RCMP officer stationed in the small village of Bella Bella spoke about the peaceful nature of the demonstration which was partly to welcome back a fellow band member.

"From what I understand it was a peaceful demonstration - there were religious regalia being worn by band members and there was drumming, and singing as well, at the airport," said Const. Lesley Smith, an RCMP spokeswoman for the North District of B.C.” Vancouver Sun

The provincial member of the legislative assembly also confirmed that he thought the demonstration was without threat.

Friday and Saturday saw hearings held in Comox on Vancouver Island. Protesters gathered outside the meeting room to register their disapproval of the proposed project.

The federal government has been pushing hard for this pipeline, not waiting for the panel to hear and assess in a neutral manner the value of the proposed project. Both the prime minister and the minister of Natural Resources have already given their support to the project. Joe Oliver, minister, has lashed out at what he terms radicals and foreigners who are interfering in a political process. He has included such charities as the Sierra Club in his condemnation.

Opposition to the project in BC is building as the public learns more about the project.