Category: Preservation

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About one-third of the world’s crops depend on the honeybees for pollination. The past decades honeybees have been dying at an alarming rate. Fewer bees will eventually lead to less availability of our favorite whole foods and it will also drive up the prices of many of the fruits and veggies we eat on a daily basis.

While some actions have been taken in the past, our bees are still dying and something needs to be done to make sure our most favorite foods don’t go into extinction.

What’s Causing Massive Bee Deaths?

About fifty years ago our world looked a whole lot different. Bees had an abundance of flowers to feast on and there were fewer pests and diseases threatening their food chain. These days however, nature has to make place for industrialization and our bees are having a hard time finding good pollen and nectar.

And if clearing their dinner tables from good quality food wasn’t bad enough already, farmers are extensively using herbicides and insecticides, which cause a phenome called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) where bees get disorientated and poisoned and can’t find their way back to the hive. Or when they manage to get back, they die from intoxication.

“We need good, clean food, and so do our pollinators. If bees do not have enough to eat, we won’t have enough to eat. Dying bees scream a message to us that they cannot survive in our current agricultural and urban environments,” states Marla Spivak, an American entomologist, and Distinguished McKnight University Professor at the University of Minnesota.

List of Foods We Will Have To Go without If The Bees Go

While we don’t need bees to pollinate all our food because they either self-pollinate or rely on the wind (like rice, wheat, and corn), many of our favorite foods will disappear from our kitchen tables.

Foods in the danger zone include:

  • Apples
  • Mangos
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Peaches
  • Berries
  • Onions
  • Pears
  • Alfalfa
  • Cashews
  • Avocados
  • Passion Fruit
  • Beans
  • Cruciferous vegetables
  • Cacao/Coffee
  • Cotton
  • Lemons and limes
  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Coconut
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Chili peppers, red peppers, bell peppers, green peppers
  • Papaya
  • Eggplant
  • Vanilla
  • Tomatoes
  • Grapes
  • Many seeds and nuts

A substantial drop in population, or complete extinction, of honeybees will make these food scares or even non-existent. So to keep our body healthy and our kitchen table interesting we have to take action before it is too late.

What You can Do

  • Plant bee friendly plants in your garden or green community space.
  • Limit the use of pesticides or use organic alternatives.
  • Buy local, organically grown produce and honey to support the beekeepers and farmers in your area.
  • Donate to non-profit organizations, like Pollinator Partnership, to help protect, grow, and strengthen bee populations.

Sources: CNNNCBI, and onEarth.

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Brazilian beans and Japanese barley shipped to Svalbard seed vault

Some 20,000 plant species from more than 100 countries and institutions will be added to the global seed bank in Norway
The entrance of Svalbard Global Seed Vault a repository for seeds, Norway

The Svalbard global seed vault is primarily designed as a back-up for the many gene banks around the world that keep samples of crop diversity for agricultural businesses. Photograph: Alamy

A Noah’s Ark of 20,000 plant species will unload this week at a remote Arctic port to deposit humanity’s latest insurance payment against an agricultural apocalypse or a man-made cock-up.

Brazilian beans and Japanese barley are among the botanical varieties that are carried aboard the ship that is shortly expected to dock near the Svalbard global seed vault, that celebrates its sixth anniversary this week.

The facility, which is bored into the side of a mountain by the Barents Sea, is primarily designed as a back-up for the many gene banks around the world that keep samples of crop diversity for agricultural businesses.

But its operators, the Global Crop Diversity Trust, say the “Doomsday Vault” could also help to reboot the world’s farms in the event of a climate catastrophe or a collapse of genetically modified crops.

Built to withstand a nuclear strike, a tectonic shift or rising sea levels, the vault has the capacity to store 4.5m different seed varieties for centuries.

Currently, it holds 820,619 samples of food crops and their natural relatives, but this is steadily increasing with one or two shipments each year, according to the trust, which maintains the seed vault in partnership with the Norwegian government and the Nordic Genetic Resources Centre.


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– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(Image: Honor the Earth)Native American communities are promising fierce resistance to stop TransCanada from building, and President Barack Obama from permitting, the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline.

“No Keystone XL pipeline will cross Lakota lands,” declares a joint statement from Honor the Earth, the Oglala Sioux Nation, Owe Aku, and Protect the Sacred. “We stand with the Lakota Nation, we stand on the side of protecting sacred water, we stand for Indigenous land-based lifeways which will NOT be corrupted by a hazardous, toxic pipeline.”

Members of seven Lakota nation tribes, as well as indigenous communities in Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Nebraska and Oregon, are preparing to take action to stop Keystone XL.

“It will band all Lakota to live together and you can’t cross a living area if it’s occupied,” said Greg Grey Cloud, of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, in an interview with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. “If it does get approved we aim to stop it.”

The indigenous-led ‘Moccasins on the Ground’ program has been laying the groundwork for this resistance for over two years by giving nonviolent direct action trainings to front-line communities.

“We go up to wherever we’ve been invited, usually along pipeline routes,” said Kent Lebsock, director of the Owe Aku International Justice Project, in an interview with Common Dreams. “We have three-day trainings on nonviolent direct action. This includes blockade tactics, and discipline is a big part of the training as well. We did nine of them last summer and fall, all the way from Montana to South Dakota, as well as teach-ins in Colorado and a training camp in Oklahoma.”

“We are working with nations from Canada and British Columbia, as well as with the people where tar sands are located,” Lebsock added.

“As an example of this nonviolent direct action,” explains Lebsock, in March 2012 people at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota held a blockade to stop trucks from transporting parts of the Keystone XL pipeline through the reservation.

In August 2013, members of the Nez Perce tribe blockaded megaloads traveling Idaho’s Highway 12 to the Alberta tar sands fields.

Descendants of the Ponca Tribe and non-native allies held a Trail of Tears Spiritual Camp in Nebraska in November to prevent the construction of the pipeline.

More spiritual camps along the proposed route of the pipeline are promised, although their date and location are not yet being publicly shared.

The promises of joint action follow the U.S. State Department’s public release on Friday of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS). This report has been widely criticized as tainted by the close ties between Transcanada and the Environmental Resource Management contractor hired to do the report.

While the oil industry is largely spinning the report as a green-light for the pipeline, green groups emphasize that it contains stern warnings over the massive carbon pollution that would result if the pipeline is built, including the admission that tar sands oil produces approximately 17 percent more carbon than traditional crude.

The release of the FEIS kicked off a 90-day inter-agency review and 30-day public comment period. The pipeline’s opponents say now is a critical time to prevent Obama from approving the pipeline, which is proposed to stretch 1,179 miles from Alberta, Canada, across the border to Montana, and down to Cushing, Oklahoma where it would link with other pipelines, as part of a plan to drastically increase Canada’s tar sands production.

The southern half of the Keystone XL pipeline — which begins in Cushing, passes through communities in Oklahoma and East Texas, and arrives at coastal refineries and shipping ports — began operations last month after facing fierce opposition and protest from people in its path.

“Let’s honor the trail blazers from the Keystone XL south fight,” said Idle No More campaigner Clayton Thomas-Muller. “Time for some action, and yes, some of us may get arrested!”


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Interview with GP Director Kumi Naidoo

breakingtheset breakingtheset


Published on Nov 27, 2013

Abby Martin interviews Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace about their lawsuit against the NSA, their fight against giant Canadian logging corporations and the status of the “Arctic 30” protestors.

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Greenpeace International

Kumi Naidoo accompanies many major NGOs in walking out of the UN climate negotiations

Press release – November 21, 2013

Warsaw, 21 November 2013 – In regards to the massive NGO walk-out today from the UN climate negotiations, Kumi Naidoo, Executive Director of Greenpeace International said:

“The Polish government has done its best to turn these talks into a showcase for the coal industry. Along with backsliding by Japan, Australia and Canada, and the lack of meaningful leadership from other countries, governments here have delivered a slap in the face to those suffering as a result of dangerous climate change. The EU is being shackled by the Polish government and its friends in the coal industry, and must resume leading on the climate agenda if Paris is going to deliver a treaty that matters.”


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Konza Prairie Preserve.

  • A tall grass prairie in the Flint Hills, northeastern Kansas.

Image Source  :  Wikimedia. Org

2005 photo by Edwin Olson  PD



First Look at Diverse Life Below Rare Tallgrass Prairies

Oct. 31, 2013 — America’s once-abundant tallgrass prairies — which have all but disappeared — were home to dozens of species of grasses that could grow to the height of a man, hundreds of species of flowers, and herds of roaming bison.

For the first time, a research team led by the University of Colorado Boulder has gotten a peek at another vitally important but rarely considered community that also once called the tallgrass prairie home: the diverse assortment of microbes that thrived in the dark, rich soils beneath the grass.

“These soils played a huge role in American history because they were so fertile and so incredibly productive,” said Noah Fierer, a fellow at CU-Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and lead author of the study published today in the journal Science. “They don’t exist anymore except in really small parcels. This is our first glimpse into what might have existed across the whole range.”

CIRES is a joint institute of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The remarkable fertility of soils beneath the tallgrass prairie — which once covered more than 150 million U.S. acres, from Minnesota south to Texas and from Illinois west to Nebraska — were also the prairie’s undoing. Attracted by the richness of the dirt, settlers began to plow up the prairie more than a century and a half ago, replacing the native plants with corn, wheat, soybeans and other crops. Today, only remnants of the tallgrass prairie remain, covering just a few percent of the ecosystem’s original range.

For the study, Fierer, an associate professor of microbial ecology, and his colleagues used samples of soil collected from 31 different sites spread out across the prairie’s historical range. The samples — which were collected by study co-author Rebecca McCulley, a grassland ecologist at the University of Kentucky — came largely from nature preserves and old cemeteries.

“It was very hard to find sites that we knew had never been tilled,” Fierer said. “As soon as you till a soil, it’s totally different. Most gardeners are familiar with that.”

The researchers used DNA sequencing to characterize the microbial community living in each soil sample. The results showed that a poorly understood phylum of bacteria, Verrucomicrobia, dominated the microbial communities in the soil.

“We have these soils that are dominated by this one group that we really don’t know anything about,” Fierer said. “Why is it so abundant in these soils? We don’t know.”

While Verrucomicrobia were dominant across the soil samples, the microbial makeup of each particular soil sample was unique. To get an idea of how soil microbial diversity might have varied across the tallgrass prairie when it was still an intact ecosystem, the researchers built a model based on climate information and the data from the samples.

“I am thrilled that we were able to accurately reconstruct the microbial component of prairie soils using statistical modeling and data from the few remaining snippets of this vanishing ecosystem,” said Katherine Pollard, an investigator at the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco and a co-author of the paper.

Fierer and his colleagues are already hard at work trying to grow Verrucomicrobia in the lab to better understand what it does and the conditions it favors. But even without a full understanding of the microbes, the research could bolster tallgrass prairie restoration efforts in the future.

“Here’s a group that’s really critical in the functioning of these soils. So if you’re trying to have effective prairie restoration, it may be useful to try and restore the below-ground diversity as well,” Fierer said.

Story Source:


The above story is based on materials provided by University of Colorado at Boulder.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.



Journal Reference:

N. Fierer, J. Ladau, J. C. Clemente, J. W. Leff, S. M. Owens, K. S. Pollard, R. Knight, J. A. Gilbert, R. L. McCulley. Reconstructing the Microbial Diversity and Function of Pre-Agricultural Tallgrass Prairie Soils in the United States. Science, 2013; 342 (6158): 621 DOI: 10.1126/science.1243768

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By Ari Phillips on October 31, 2013 at 10:08 am

A Sierra Nevada reservoir.

A Sierra Nevada reservoir.

CREDIT: Shutterstock: Katarish

California is known for its massive water infrastructure in which northern reservoirs, which fill up from the Sierra Nevada snowpack, supply the populous southern and coastal regions of the state. However going into a third year of dry winter conditions, many of these northern man-made oases are at precariously low levels, hovering between one-third and one-half capacity, far less than the average for October.

More than 20 million Californians and many farmers in the state’s crop-intensive Central Valley depend on northern reservoirs for their water.

“Both the State Water Project and federal Central Valley Project heavily depend on the Sierra Nevada snowpack,” Mark Cowin, director of the state Department of Water Resources, told The Fresno Bee. “We are now facing real trouble if 2014 is dry.”

Cowin said that dwindling reservoirs should be a wake-up call to Californians, and indicate that it’s time to prepare for additional water-conservation measures.

Pete Lucero of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, owner of the Central Valley Project, told the Fresno Bee that January through May 2013 were California’s driest in about 90 years of recordkeeping.

Currently the San Luis Reservoir, which gets water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is only 22 percent of its historical average for this time of year.

At a recent workshop that brought together leaders to hear about California’s water challenges, Cowin said that decades of disagreement among environmentalists, farmers, water agencies, and other interests in various parts of California has “resulted in gridlock.” And that with “environmental laws, climate change, and population growth intensifying the conflict, there’s simply no time to waste.”


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Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources negotiations aim to ban fishing across much of Southern Ocean

Graphic: proposed areas of protection in Antarctica

Emperor Penguin in Australian Antarctic Territory

Emperor Penguin in Australian Antarctic Territory. Photograph: Pete Oxford/Corbis

Fishing and oil drilling could be banned across more than two million square kilometres of the frigid seas around Antarctica in a historic attempt to conserve the last pristine ocean.

Negotiations this week at a meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) will centre on a proposal for a 1.25m square kilometre “no take” zone, which would cover much of the Ross Sea. Another proposal would establish several other smaller protected areas in the seas around East Antarctica, adding a further 1.9m sq km protection zone. A third reserve, proposed by Germany and backed by Britain, would bar fishing from a large portion of the Weddell Sea, which is the site of the British Antarctic Survey’s research station, and where Ernest Shackleton’s ship Endurance was crushed by ice in 1915.

The prize, says a coalition of 30 conservation groups including Greenpeace and WWF, is the long-term protection of the nutrient-rich seas around the continent, which are home to more than 10,000 unique species – including most of the world’s penguins, whales, seabirds, squid and Antarctic toothfish. The seas are also full of krill, the minute shrimp-like creatures that eat algae and plankton and are the main food for whales, penguins, seals, albatrosses and petrels, but are also increasingly used as feed for fish farms and health supplements.

According to some scientists, the two proposed marine protection areas are vitally important because they support a high percentage of all marine life. At the moment just 1% of the world’s oceans is protected, with the result that most of the world’s fishing grounds have been significantly depleted.


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Butterfly decline a worrying portent

ButterfliesButterfly decline in the US may be getting out of hand. Photo: Getty Images

Butterflies are the essence of cool in the insect world, a favorite muse for poets and songwriters who hold them up as symbols of love, beauty, transformation and good fortune.

But providing good fortune apparently goes only one way. As humans rip apart woods and meadows for housing developments and insecticide-soaked lawns, butterflies across the US are disappearing.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced that two brown, moth-like butterfly subspecies are likely extinct in south Florida, which some entomologists say is ground zero for the number of butterfly species on the verge of annihilation.

The rockland grass skipper went missing in 1999, and the Zestos skipper hasn’t been seen since 2004. Several other species, such as the ebony-and-ivory-colored Schaus swallowtail, are listed as endangered, and many others are threatened, including the silvery Bartram’s hairstreak.

“We look at it as a signal that we’ve got a serious problem with butterflies and other insects and pollinators here in Florida,” said Larry Williams, a supervisor for the ecological services program at Fish and Wildlife. “We’re looking at this as sort of a wake-up call that we need to be watching butterflies more closely.”

At least one species of butterfly has vanished from the United States, along with the two subspecies in Florida. Seventeen species and subspecies are listed as endangered nationwide, and two are listed as threatened.

Habitat loss is a major problem, as are insect sprays, especially those used by municipalities and homeowners to control mosquitoes. “We know that it’s becoming increasingly popular for individual homeowners to use misting systems to spray low levels of pesticides. As those become more abundant, we have to evaluate if those are contributing to the decline,” Williams said.

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Two South Florida butterflies declared likely extinct

  Seen here are the Zestos Skipper and Meske's Skipper  butterflies. The Zestos butterfly is likely extinct, federal wildlife managers say.

Seen here are the Zestos Skipper and Meske’s Skipper butterflies. The Zestos butterfly is likely extinct, federal wildlife managers say.

Federal wildlife managers on Monday pronounced two South Florida butterflies likely extinct.

The announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came after surveys going back more than a decade failed to find any Zestos skippers or rockland grass skippers.

Larry Williams, the service’s regional supervisor for ecological services, said in a statement that he hoped the loss “serves as a wake-up call that we really need to intensify our efforts to save other imperiled butterflies in South Florida.”

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NEWS Channel 5


Schaus Swallowtail butterflies: A glimmer of hope for endangered butterfly at University of Florida


WPTV Schaus Swallowtail butterfly

An entomologist at the University of Florida is raising seven immature butterflies belonging to Schaus Swallowtail, a species of butterfly that is critically endangered and just “hanging on.”

Photographer:   By: Phil Gast, CNN


(CNN) — At his version of an ICU unit, Jaret Daniels pays extraordinary attention to his young charges.

Each of the creatures is kept in its own plastic cup, isolated to prevent the spread of disease.

Not just any food will do. In their climate-controlled environment, the Schaus swallowtail caterpillars munch voraciously on wild lime.

Daniels, an entomologist at the University of Florida, is raising seven immature butterflies belonging to a species that is critically endangered and just “hanging on.”

The pressure, Daniels said, is enough to keep him up at night.

He and others are trying to save an insect that is on the brink of extinction and in need of human intervention.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued an emergency directive in 2012 to collect females in Biscayne National Park and raise their eggs.

While no females were collected last year, officials announced this week that an adult female was snared on the park’s Elliott Key last month, along with six larvae. The female produced one egg.

Federal and state officials say the Schaus’ hopes might depend on a breeding program that may help safeguard a portion of the remaining population.

“I know what I am doing,” Daniels told CNN on Tuesday. “I am going to do the best that I can do.”

The Schaus swallowtail, contained to a relatively small area in southeastern Florida, in 1976 was listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. It reached the endangered status eight years later.

The colorful butterfly’s numbers have dropped precipitously over the decades. Captive breeding was tried in the 1980s and 1990s, boosting the Schaus numbers for a time.

That didn’t last long.


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World Heritage Centre has extended heritage listed boundary by more than 170,000 hectares

Scoured out old growth forest tree at Mt Field National Park, Tasmania.
Scoured out old growth forest tree at Mt Field National Park, Tasmania Photograph: James Lane/AAP Image

Almost 200,000 hectares of Tasmania’s old growth forest have been world heritage listed, bringing hope that a three-decade fight between environmentalists, politicians and loggers is over.

The World Heritage Committee has extended the heritage listed boundary of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area by more than 170,000 hectares after accepting a proposal from the Australian government which will give the areas the highest level of environmental protection in the world.

The old growth forest areas now added to the heritage listing are in the Upper Florentine as well as within the Styx, Huon, Picton and Counsel River Valley.

Logging will continue in the forest in areas Environment Minister Tony Burke described as “less contentious”.

The proposal the government put to the World Heritage Committee was the work of people within the forestry industry as well as environmentalists, including Miranda Gibson who famously spent 457 days living in a tree in the old growth forest in a campaign for extended environmental protection.

Speaking from Hobart where she had watched a livestream of the World Heritage Committee handing down the decision, Gibson said she was thrilled and had contemplated returning to the tree if she was unhappy with the decision.

“It’s good to know I don’t have to go back to the tree unless I want to visit,” she said.

“The hardest part [of living in the tree] was not knowing how long I would be up there or if the loggers would come and log around me.

“It was obviously also very isolating.”

Gibson started living at the top of the 60 metre eucalypt tree in December 2011 and was driven out by bushfires in March this year. By then the proposed extended areas for world heritage listing had been granted temporary protection.

She decided to campaign from the ground until the committee handed down their official decision.


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Reblogged from: Blavatar Earth First! Newswire

31 May

Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press

Cross Posted from CBC

The B.C. government has officially expressed its opposition to a proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline project, saying it fails to address the province’s environmental concerns. 

The province made the announcement in its final written submission to the Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel.

“British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project, including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents,” said Environment Minister Terry Lake.

“Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

Lake said the province has carefully reviewed the evidence presented to the panel.

“The panel must determine if it is appropriate to grant a certificate for the project as currently proposed on the basis of a promise to do more study and planning after the certificate is granted,” Lake said.

“Our government does not believe that a certificate should be granted before these important questions are answered.”

In a news release, Enbridge executive vice president Janet Holder said the province’s five conditions can’t be fully met until the end of the review panel process, saying the company is working hard to meet the conditions and earn the confidence of the government and the people of B.C.

“As a British Columbian, I am personally committed, as is Northern Gateway, to building a pipeline project that meets the highest possible safety and environmental standards anywhere in the world and a project that creates new jobs and opportunities for British Columbians,” she said.

“At Northern Gateway, we are driven by our responsibility to do what’s right for B.C.’s economy and for B.C.’s environment.”

The review panel will hear final arguments starting next month, and must present a report to the federal government by the end of the year. The federal government will have the final say on whether the pipeline goes ahead.

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Posted by   on June 3, 2013 12:42 pm

VICTORIA, British Columbia, Canada, June 3, 2013 (ENS) – Oil spill cleanup concerns have led the British Columbia Government to reject a proposed multi-billion dollar tar sands oil pipeline that the Canadian company Enbridge wants to construct across the province.

In its final submission Friday to the federally-appointed Northern Gateway Pipeline Joint Review Panel, the province states that it cannot support the Enbridge Northern Gateway project because the company “has been unable to address British Columbians’ environmental concerns.”

Environment Minister Terry Lake said, “British Columbia thoroughly reviewed all of the evidence and submissions made to the panel and asked substantive questions about the project including its route, spill response capacity and financial structure to handle any incidents. Our questions were not satisfactorily answered during these hearings.”

Terry Lake

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake, right, presents environmental awards, 2011 (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)

“Northern Gateway has said that they would provide effective spill response in all cases. However, they have presented little evidence as to how they will respond,” Lake said. “For that reason, our government cannot support the issuance of a certificate for the pipeline as it was presented to the Joint Review Panel.”

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Project, as proposed, is a twin pipeline system between Edmonton, Alberta and a new marine terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia, which would carry tar sands oil by pipeline across the province, to be loaded onto supertankers for transport to Asia.

The pipelines would cross B.C.’s sensitive Pacific North Coast ecosystem, and threatens First Nations’ land and salmon economy. A spill threatens long-term loss of marine life, pristine waterways, and coastal ecosystems.

First Nation opposition has been strong and united in the position that the Northern Gateway pipeline would never be allowed to cross their land. The pipelines could not be constructed without breaking First Nation unity through financial inducements or land seizure.

The provincial government has established, and maintains, five “strict conditions” in order for British Columbia to consider the construction and operation of heavy-oil pipelines in the province.

  1. Successful completion of the environmental review process. In the case of Northern Gateway pipeline, that would mean a recommendation by the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel that the project proceed.
  2. World-leading marine oil spill response, prevention and recovery systems for B.C.’s coastline and ocean to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines and shipments.
  3. World-leading practices for land oil spill prevention, response and recovery systems to manage and mitigate the risks and costs of heavy-oil pipelines.
  4. Legal requirements regarding Aboriginal and treaty rights are addressed, and First Nations are provided with the opportunities, information and resources necessary to participate in and benefit from a heavy-oil project.
  5. British Columbia receives a fair share of the fiscal and economic benefits of a proposed heavy-oil project that reflect the level, degree and nature of the risk borne by the province, the environment and taxpayers.

“The five conditions cannot be fully met until the end of the Joint Review Panel process,” said Janet Holder, Enbridge’s executive vice president of Western access, told reporters. “As a British Columbian, I am personally committed, as is Northern Gateway, to building a pipeline project that meets the highest possible safety and environmental standards anywhere in the world—and a Project that creates new jobs and opportunities for British Columbians.”


An Enbridge pipeline is laid out for installation (Photo courtesy Northern Gateway)

In its written submission to the review panel on Friday, the company emphasized “the enormous economic benefits that the Project would deliver to Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Aboriginal peoples.”

“The evidence provided by Northern Gateway … demonstrates that the Project would be safely designed and constructed, and that Northern Gateway is committed to ensuring excellence in operations. It shows that the pipelines would be constructed and operated without causing significant adverse effects to the environment,” the company wrote.

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Tar Sand

What are the Tar Sands?

The “Tar Sands” (or if you are a business executive, “unconventional or heavy oil”) are naturally occurring deposits of petroleum, sand and clay mixed up to make an asphalt-like substance technically known as bitumen. For much of the 20th century, these deposits were largely ignored by oil companies as a source of petroleum due to the comparably inefficient process used to turn bitumen-in-the-ground into gasoline-in-the-tank, if you will. Now, because of dwindling production of conventional petroleum sources since the cresting of Hubbert’s predicted peak oil scenario, every major oil company in the world is now investing in tar sand extraction.

Bitumen, aka tar sand.

Where are the Tar Sands?

Bitumen deposits can be found all over the world, however most of these are too small or inaccessible to make development of these sites feasible. The only deposits currently under commercial development are in Venezuela’s Orinoco Basin, and Alberta, Canada’s taiga forest. The oil industries operations in the Alberta Tar Sands constitute about 90% on the world’s “unconventional oil” industry. The Alberta bitumen deposits stretch across an area roughly the size of Florida and are speculated to contain the world’s second largest (measured by recoverable barrels of oil) deposit of oil after the Saudi Arabian oil fields. Some studies suggest the Alberta Tar Sands are in fact the largest deposit.

Recently, plans have been submitted to begin extracting oil from tar sands in eastern Utah, as well.

Bitumen deposits in Alberta

Well, what’s so bad about that?

The tar sand boom in Alberta has been called the largest, most destructive industrial operation on the planet, ever. At a time when a changing climate and dwindling biodiversity across the globe threaten to drastically alter our way of life, at best, or wipe out all life on Earth, at worst, expansion of the tar sand industry is a step in the wrong direction if we are to develop a sustainable human existence. Tar sand mining irreversibly destroys landscapes, threatens the health of whole watersheds, negatively affects human communities, and accelerates climate change through greenhouse gas emissions and deforestation.

What impact does the tar sands have on the land?

The tar sand mines of Alberta are the site of the second fastest rate of deforestation in the world, behind the slashing on the Amazon Rainforest. Bitumen is located deep underground and is too thick to be pumped to the surface by traditional means. Oil companies have learned that it is most profitable to dig the bitumen up using strip-mining techniques, such as those used in the coal industry’s mountain top removal mines. Vast expanses of pristine, old-growth taiga (aka boreal) forest are clear-cut. The timber is sold, pulped, burned or otherwise disposed of, along with several meters of peat moss (which any home-gardener can tell you is the richest, and rarest, soil-type there is) and every other living thing in the forest. Unlike regular logging operations, the clear-cutting that occurs before tar sand mining fails to offer even the most cynically token chance of forest recovery. This is because after the forest-scape is removed, the top layer of earth (referred to in the industry as “overburden”) is dug up and hauled away. This surface removal often reaches depths of several hundred feet. Only now is the bitumen accessible and promptly removed, leaving a lifeless moonscape where once there was a lush green wilderness.

This… from horizon to horizon

What impact does the tar sands have on the water?

Tar sand operations use extraordinary volumes of water. Certain types of bitumen extraction (known as “in-situ”) require great quantities of superheated water to be pumped deep underground to essentially melt the tar into a viscous enough substance to pump it to the surface. Bitumen, being too thick to flow naturally through transport pipelines, is diluted at giant facilities near the mines in preparation for pumping to distant refineries. This process, called “upgrading”, results in this localized cluster of tar sand facilities using as much water as the city of Calgary (population ~2 million).

The primary source of water for these processes is the Athabasca River. The Athabasca, a glacier fed river which feeds giant Lake Athabaska 765 miles downstream (this subsequently flows into the Mackenzie River system and, eventually, the Arctic Ocean). The tar sands sit approximately halfway, and this is the point at which great impact occurs. For every barrel of oil produced at the mines, ten barrels are sucked out of the Athabasca, up to half of which becomes so oily and toxic that it can never be excusably returned to the river. This oil-water is stockpiled behind some of the world’s largest dams (built from the overburden of the strip-mining process) to “settle,” or separate… an unproven process which even at best is expected to take several decades to complete, if ever. Meanwhile these toxic ponds grow to such vast size that they are visible from space.

Despite oil companies’ claim to the contrary, environmental reports state that more than five million gallons of this waste-water leaks out of the ponds and back into the river or groundwater annually. In communities downstream that have seen spikes in environmental red-flags such as mutations in wildlife and rare cancers among humans, the once pure Athabasca River is now considered poisonous and off-limits to drinking.

Wildlife near the tailings ponds face their own risks when mistakenly treating the ponds as hospitable, such as the 10,000 estimated waterfowl that die each year when coming into contact with the water’s surface. One such incident included between 500-1200 migrating ducks which died together when the flock landed on the pond.

Duck in a Syncrude Oil Co. waste pond

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Moving Wisconsin Beyond Oil through Clean Transportation:

As our oil supply decreases, our dependence becomes more and more risky.  Everyday, we spend $1 billion overseas on oil that could be reinvested in our own economy.  This includes countries that are listed as having “long term, protected conditions that make a country dangerous or unstable,” including Iraq, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia.

Moving Beyond Oil:

With decreasing supply, oil is becoming harder to find and we are going to extremes to get it, including deep into the sea, threatening wildlife refuges, and destroying forests in Canada. Until we can kick our addiction, we will continue to go to great lengths to get every last drop of oil.

We saw the problems associated with offshore oil drilling on Earth Day of 2010 with the worst oil spill in our history; drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge will likely result in a similar travesty.  At the same time, the cost of importing oil from the Middle East has it’s own share of problems.

Tar Sands Before and After Photo

Stopping Tar Sands Development:

Tar sands oil is a dangerous and carbon-intensive way to extract oil from sand. In Wisconsin, a lot of our gasoline comes from tar sands oil.  As a result, we must fight harder to reduce our dependence on the dirty oil source. Click here to learn more about tar sands oil.

Wisconsin has its own proposed Keystone XL, the expansion of Enbridge 67, which would increase the amount of tar sands oil pumping through it to 800,000 barrels per day!

The answer is not the best form of oil, but to reduce the amount of oil we us


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Tar sands supporters suffer setback as British Columbia rejects pipeline

Canadian province rejects plan for Enbridge Northern Gateway, saying company failed to demonstrate adequate clean-up plan



Tar sands Canada

Tar sands in Alberta, Canada. The Northern Gateway was going to connect the province to the Pacific coast. Photograph: Orjan F Ellingvag/Dagens Naringsliv/Corbis


Efforts to expand production from the Alberta tar sands suffered a significant setback on Friday when the provincial government of British Columbia rejected a pipeline project because of environmental shortcomings.

In a strongly worded statement, the government of the province said it was not satisfied with the pipeline company’s oil spill response plans.

The rejection of the pipeline – which was to have given Alberta an outlet to Pacific coast ports and markets in China – further raises the stakes on another controversial tar sands pipeline, Keystone XL.

Barack Obama is still weighing a decision on that pipeline, intended to pump tar sands crude to the Texas gulf coast.

British Columbia, in its official submission to a pipeline review panel, said the company had failed to demonstrate an adequate clean-up plan for the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. It set five new conditions for the project’s approval.

“Northern Gateway has presented little evidence about how it will respond in the event of a spill,” Christopher Jones, a lawyer representing the province, said in a statement to the federal government panel reviewing the project.

“It is not clear from the evidence that Northern Gateway will in fact be able to respond effectively to spills either from the pipeline itself, or from tankers transporting diluted bitumen,” Jones added.


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