Most Canadians have never been to the North, much less the remote Peel watershed, but many are enchanted by it, nourished even by the idea that we still have vast, unspoiled natural areas where wildlife and biodiversity continue to evade the touch of humankind. Places like the Peel are becoming increasingly rare as humans -- the most demanding species ever to live -- continue to erode the intact wilderness on which we depend for clean air, water and food.
Water on First Nations reserves is a federal responsibility, but "severe underfunding" (in the government's own words) for water treatment plants, infrastructure, operations, maintenance and training has led to this deplorable situation. Canada has no federal standards or binding regulations governing First Nations' drinking water.
Humans are one species among countless others to which we are connected and on which we depend. Viewed that way, everything we do has repercussions and carries responsibilities. That we are part of a vast web is a biocentric way of seeing that we've followed for most of our existence. But in assuming the mantle of "dominant" species, we've shifted to thinking we're at the centre of everything.
The longer we delay addressing environmental problems, the more difficult it will be to resolve them. Although we've known about climate change and its potential impacts for a long time, and we're seeing those impacts worsen daily, our political representatives are still approving and promoting fossil fuel infrastructure as if we had all the time in the world to slow global warming.
Climate change is no longer a suspected diagnosis. It's a health emergency that is already causing systemic damage to the health and well-being of many around the world. Consequences reach beyond borders: climate-related drought and crop failure has been implicated as an exacerbating factor in the conflict in Syria. So what does it mean for Canada?
About four million Canadians -- including more than a million children -- lack food security, defined as reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Sadly, it's not just humans who are affected by mismanagement of food systems and the ecosystems of which they are a part. Wildlife feel the impacts as well.
Climate change is amplifying a long list of stressors salmon already face. Sockeye salmon are sensitive to temperature changes, so higher ocean and river temperatures can have serious impacts. Even small degrees of warming can kill them. Low river flows from unusually small snowpacks linked to climate change make a tough journey even harder.
As promising as solar and electric planes may be, these technologies still have a way to go and won't likely usher in a new era of airline travel soon. That's unfortunate, because aircraft are major sources of pollution and climate-altering greenhouse gases, contributing the same amount of emissions as Germany, about two per cent of the global total. As air transport becomes increasingly popular, experts project aircraft emissions could triple by 2050.
Industrial activity has profoundly affected the Blueberry River First Nations in northern B.C. In much of the territory, which once supported healthy moose and caribou populations, it's difficult if not impossible to walk half a kilometre before hitting a road, seismic line or other industrial infrastructure.
Ontario's health-based air quality standard for benzene is set to become law on July 1, 2016. Yet Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is working to accommodate a request from two of the province's largest industrial benzene emitters -- the petroleum refining and petrochemical manufacturing industries.
June 8 marks World Oceans Day, but what if we celebrated oceans every day? Covering more than 70 per cent of Earth's surface, oceans, more than anything, define our small blue planet. We should celebrate their complex and vibrant ecosystems, life-sustaining services, calming effects and unimaginable diversity, much of which we have not yet even discovered.
The human body evolved over millions of years, long before cars, escalators, laptops and remote controls. It's built to expend effort. Gas-powered vehicles enabled us to move over long distances or get somewhere quickly, but they're bad medicine when they're used to go two or three blocks. Our lives are easier but not necessarily healthier. It's time we put more thought into keeping our bodies active and well, minimizing sickness.
When I was a boy, we drank water from lakes and streams without a thought. I never imagined that one day we would buy water in bottles for more than we pay for gasoline. Canada has more fresh water per capita than any nation, but many indigenous communities don't have access to clean drinking water. Surely, in a nation with so much natural wealth, we should expect better appreciation, treatment and protection of the air, water, soil and rich biological diversity that our health, prosperity and happiness depend on. The right to live in a healthy environment is recognized by more than 110 nations -- but not Canada.
Fossil fuel companies have not managed to get a much coveted seat at the actual negotiating table during COP decision-making. But they are lobbying so hard that they hope politicians will come up with pro-industry solutions. A growing number of public interest groups want the fossil fuel lobby barred from the UN process.
Asking companies to shut down plants isn't easy but as Alberta wades into this challenge it behooves us to examine successful case studies where coal power producers, workers, governments and environmental groups worked together to shut down a coal plant in a smart, humane and economically responsible way.
As the president of Tree Canada, an organization that's helped plant more than 80 million trees over the past 20 years, you might expect an argument against cutting down a "live tree," but make no mistake -- you are helping both the environment and the community you live in when you choose a real tree.
90 per cent of all new wells drilled in B.C. that would supply the province's proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) industry will be fracked. Fracking demands massive amounts of freshwater, industrializes large areas of northeast B.C. and has major impacts on the climate. So, how is the B.C. government getting away with touting this industry as a "clean" energy resource?