Apr 192019
 

Despite Ford’s reckless and self-serving attacks on intelligent climate policy, signs of hope remain.

Next Monday is Earth Day, an occasion that for me evokes bittersweet emotions.  As a teacher, I was involved in organizing numerous Earth Day events to inspire students to learn and care more about the environment. In the 1980s and 90s, Earth Day reflected a true sense of excitement that a much greener future was within reach. At Edmison Heights Public School, we had set up a school-wide recycling and a litterless lunch program; we carried out classroom waste audits; we raised money for everything from the Lakefield Marsh to the Costa Rican rainforest; and we even naturalized a corner of the schoolyard. Earth Day assemblies were a celebration of all these initiatives. Every year we would sing “Signs of Hope”, an environmental anthem composed and song by Ontario elementary students. And, yes, many of us believed the song’s lyrics that “signs of hope are coming, they’re beginning to appear, signs of hope are everywhere, the time to act is here.” Over the years, however, Earth Day has become little more than an occasion to pick up litter or at best plant a tree. Optimism has given way to the reality that real change is not at hand, even though environmental threats and degradation have become infinitely worse – the biggest case in point being climate breakdown, which threatens the very future of civilization as we know it.

You don’t have to look any further than the Ford government for the most current example of why so many of us feel despondent. It’s hard to think of anything more laughable, albeit deeply depressing, than Progressive Conservative politicians being photographed filling up their tanks at gas stations as part of a well orchestrated campaign to fight Trudeau’s 4.4-cent-litre levy on fuel. The hubris of these reality-denying politicians is beyond the pale. On the same day there was a chilling report from Environment and Climate Change Canada showing that our country is warming at double the global average and that the Arctic is warming even faster. This warming goes a long way to explaining why severe weather cost Canada $1.9 billion in insured damages last year. I guess the Ontario government feels that none of this matters when “The People” can save a few bucks when filling up.

If all of this was not distressing enough, we must now stomach Ontario’s legal challenge to the fuel levy and brace ourselves for the outrageous sight of the coming anti-carbon tax stickers on gas pumps. Being a strictly political ploy, the stickers make no mention of the fact that the money paid for the fuel tax will be returned to Ontario households in their tax refunds. I agree with stickers, but they should be reminding us of how our use of fossil fuels contributes to the climate crisis we are facing! As Dr. Diane Saxe, Ontario’s recently fired environmental commissioner, said in a news conference, Ontario’s climate response is “very inadequate, very frightening.” If ever there was an example of a government being on the wrong side of history and science, this is it.

What remains of hope?  

It’s little wonder that so many Canadians feel paralyzed in the face of climate breakdown. I don’t blame people for thinking “there’s nothing I can do” and carrying on as if everything is fine. For many, it’s the only way to maintain sanity and enjoy life in the present.

Where do you find signs of hope today? Are there any, or are we just grasping at straws and deluding ourselves? A growing number of environmentalists believe the latter. Call it delusional, but I’m not ready quite yet to join their ranks. How can I with six grandchildren?

I believe there is more hope out there than meets the eye. Jeremy Lent, author of “The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning” argues for a non-linear way of looking at things. Small changes at one level can have indirect, amplified, and unpredictable effects on a larger scale. There’s an inherent mystery in how change comes about, and it rarely happens in a linear way. He argues that it’s helpful to think about change through the metaphor of the Butterfly Effect, which links a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the planet. It may take a very long time, but had the butterfly not flapped its wings at just the right point in space and time, the hurricane would not have happened. This effect is especially true in 2019, thanks to the hyper-connected society in which we live.

This means that the actions we take as citizens – be it on climate change or anything else – can have unforeseen, unknowable impacts. We can’t know, for example, to what extent they are noticed and copied by other people. We’re all embedded in a network, and the way we behave and relate to each other is part of the future we’re creating. Recognizing this fact provides a reason for hope. Not hope based on statistics or scientific reports, but on the recognition that there’s nothing inevitable about the way that this complex system of interconnected human beings and their actions will unfold. We are rarely able to predict tipping points, but history is replete with miraculously rapid changes. And the more we envision them, and work toward them, the more likely they become.

Knowing this, we should feel more positive about those climate actions we can take, be it minimizing our red meat consumption, buying carbon offsets when we fly, making climate change a regular topic of conversation with friends and family, or supporting aggressive climate policies on the part of government, including Trudeau’s carbon tax. Trudeau’s missteps in recent months are regrettable, but they pale in comparison to the damage on climate progress that would occur if ever Andrew Scheer was to become prime minister. If you believe the science, climate change policies are what matter most to the future of civilization.

It’s vitally important to express your concerns about climate change with friends and family.

Reducing our consumption of red meat is one step we all can take in the fight against climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada’s leadership

Trudeau is often portrayed as a climate sellout by activists, especially given his support of the TransMountain pipeline. However, according to Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University, there is actually a consensus among foreign climate experts that Canada has become a global climate policy leader. As Jaccard wrote in the Globe and Mail earlier this week, global experts are not only impressed by Trudeau’s national carbon tax but also by several other of his climate policies. These include his government’s phased closure of Canada’s coal plants by 2030. Their closure will remove the equivalent in emissions of 1.3 million cars from roads. With Britain, the Canadian government has co-founded the Powering Past Coal Alliance, a growing force of jurisdictions committed to phasing out coal. Jaccard says that his counterparts in India and China are already noticing the influence on their own countries’ policies.

In addition, the Trudeau government’s clean fuel standard, which comes fully into force in two years (should he be re-elected) will greatly accelerate the switch in transportation from gasoline and diesel to electricity and sustainably-produced biofuels. Several U.S. states are already considering a version of this policy. Jaccard also writes that the Trudeau government’s pending regulation on methane emissions is another policy of global significance.

“In just for years, these and other policies have transformed Canada from a global pariah to a model of climate action under Trudeau,” says Jaccard. He sees these globally influential policies as extremely important, even if a new TransMountain oil pipeline goes ahead. Jaccard even speculates that the pipeline could shift in the future to transporting hydrogen produced from the oil sands or biofuels from the prairies.

Role of radical action

Humanity’s efforts to minimize the extent of climate breakdown must be fought on multiple fronts. In addition to personal action and supporting the Trudeau government’s initiatives, there is also a role for more radical interventions. Most notable is the Extinction Rebellion (XR). This worldwide movement believes that government can be forced to address climate change by using long term, non-violent civil disobedience. XR demands that our governments tell the truth about the climate breakdown, commit to a timeline for net zero carbon emissions, and create a citizen-led panel to evaluate progress. Variations of this tactic can be seen in Swedish teen, Greta Thunberg’s Global Climate Strike, which brought out 40,000 students in Montreal and 1.5 million protesters around the world in March, including here in Peterborough. Under the leadership of Peter Morgan, the Peterborough Alliance for Climate Action has organized various events to challenge the slow pace of change in Ottawa and Toronto. More disruptive action should be expected if our leaders fail to act.

In addition to the arguments I’ve laid out above, I am greatly encouraged by how much more attention mainstream media are giving to the climate crisis. This is evident to anyone reading the Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, the Peterborough Examiner, or watching or listening to CBC. So, yes, I believe that “signs of hope” are real, just like the Earth Day anthem suggests. Knowing so should strengthen our commitment to making changes in our personal lives, to talking more about climate change, to letting MPP Dave Smith know how damaging his party’s policies are, and to supporting Trudeau’s initiatives – or equally strong or stronger policies from another party. Who knows? Maybe more of us will even surprise our friends and families by taking part in upcoming climate change protests. The future has yet to be written, and we can find inspiration in the knowledge that we can influence how it might unfold.

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 152019
 

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 13:15 by Sarah Bonnett
– Mather’s Corners Meltwater Pond, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Previously seen here, Very pink! White forehead, no green in head! Goodbye nemesis bird, thank you Peterborough for needing me to come visit this way.”

Eastern Whip-poor-will (Antrostomus vociferus) (1)
– Reported Apr 22, 2019 20:31 by Drew Monkman
– 51 Maple Crescent (home), Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55288603
– Comments: “Calling repeatedly from neighbor’s property across road (Rob Moos)”

Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 18:34 by Scott Gibson
– 1_Gibson Home – Bissonnette Dr., Peterborough, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55316044
– Comments: “was in yard as it flew directly above head”

White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) (1)
– Reported Apr 23, 2019 18:50 by Tony Barrett
– CA-ON-Otonabee-South Monaghan-13-59 Whitfield Rd – 44.2053x-78.3822, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
– Checklist: https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S55317518
– Comments: “At feeders ”

Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (1)
– Reported Apr 15, 2019 17:17 by Brendan Boyd
– Rice Lake–Hall Landing, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Found earlier by C Douglas. East side of boat launch in large raft. Grey sided dabbler with pink breast, cinnamon head and white forehead.”

Eurasian Wigeon – male – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red-necked Grebe (Podiceps grisegena) (3)
– Reported Apr 15, 2019 12:09 by Matthew Garvin
– Peterborough–300 Water St to Edgewater Blvd Loop, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Continuing”

Red-necked Grebe in breeding plumage – Wikimedia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) (4)
– Reported Apr 13, 2019 08:46 by Donald A. Sutherland
– Briar Hill Bird Sanctuary, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Small-billed, short-necked, grey-backed”

Cackling Goose (small bird) with two Canada Geese – Brendan Boyd

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) (1)
– Reported Apr 13, 2019 09:00 by Matthew Tobey
– Peterborough–Airport Rd Railroad, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:
– Comments: “Adult, occupying same nest as last year.”

Great Horned Owls in nest – Drew Monkman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) (1)
– Reported Apr 10, 2019 15:40 by Scott McKinlay (Note: still present on April 13)
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Horned Grebe in waves – April 2018 – Don Munro

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors) (1)
– Reported Apr 08, 2019 18:55 by Chris Risley
– Peterborough–Little Lake, Peterborough, Ontario
Map:
Checklist:

Male Blue-winged Teal in flight (Wikimedia)

 

 

 

Apr 122019
 

Against a backdrop of more dire climate change reports, we can still enjoy the arrival of spring

Following on the heals of last fall’s International Panel on Climate Change report, which stated that global warming must be limited to 1.5-degrees Celsius to avoid a non-stoppable, runaway climate crisis, two other dire climate reports were released in the past month. Both reports highlighted the speed and intensity at which climate change is progressing.

In March 21,  a report commissioned by the Chicago-based Environmental Law & Policy Center was released explaining that the Great Lakes region – the region in which Peterborough and the Kawarthas  is located – is warming faster than the rest of the US. Since 1910, the annual mean air temperature in the region increased 0.89 C compared to 0.67 C for the rest of the country. The report explained that as air warms, it holds more moisture, causing more extreme storms and flooding, while also degrading water quality, worsening erosion and posing tougher challenges for farming. Drinking water quality may also be degraded by more releases of untreated sewage during heavy storms and nutrient runoff that feed harmful algae blooms, some toxic. Warmer temperatures will produce less ice cover, boosting evaporation and pushing lake levels down. As for temperature, summers are expected to become hotter and drier. Heat waves with days exceeding 32 C are likely to become more common, posing risks for elderly people and children with asthma.

As if this wakeup call was not enough, on April 1, federal scientists and academics warned that Canada’s climate is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world and that Northern Canada is warming even more quickly, nearly three times the global rate. Three of the past five years have been the warmest on record, the authors said. According to Chris Derksen, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, the changing climate has meant extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, rapidly thinning glaciers, warming and thawing of permafrost, and rising sea levels in Canada’s coastal regions.

Against this frightening backdrop, it is no wonder that the timing of events in nature are being affected. I would still like to remind readers, however, of the mileposts of spring’s progression. Regardless of what the weather throws at us, the order of the events, which are listed chronologically, should remain the same.

April

·       It’s time to start indoor sowing of annuals for your pollinator garden. Some great species include Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia), Common Sunflower (Helianthus annuus), catnips (Nepeta), salvia and zinnias.

Monarch on Tithonia – (Drew Monkman)

·       The Peterborough Field Naturalists hold Sunday Morning Bird Walks throughout April, May, and June. Meet Sundays at 8:00 a.m. in the north parking lot of the Riverview Park and Zoo. From there participants carpool to various birding hot spots as determined by the leader. Outings generally last about 3 to 4 hours. Bring binoculars and some change to help out with gas.

·       Don’t be too surprised if a half‑crazed robin or cardinal starts pecking at or flying up against one of your windows or even the side-view mirror of your car. Being very territorial birds, they instinctively attack other individuals of the same species – in this case, their reflection!

·       With a bit of work, you should be able to find a dozen or more species of migrating waterfowl this month. Some hotspots include Little Lake, the Otonabee River and the Lakefield Sewage Lagoon on County Road 33.

·       April is a busy time for feeders. In addition to Dark-eyed Juncos, Song Sparrows, Common Grackles and resident species like chickadees and cardinals, small numbers of Common Redpolls are now showing up in Peterborough backyards, adding a splash of much needed colour. Later in the month, White-throated Sparrows will be moving through. May will bring White-crowned Sparrows and sometimes rarer species like Lincoln’s Sparrows.

Common redpolls may show up at feeders in the Kawarthas this winter – Missy Mandel

·       On April 21 from 1 to 5 p.m., discover Harper Park, a provincially significant wetland within our City boundaries. Learn about the history of the site, its interesting groundwater-based ecosystems, heritage trees, and vernal pools. Wear waterproof footwear and bring binoculars.

·       When water temperatures reach 7 C, Walleye begin to spawn. Along with suckers, they can sometimes be seen spawning at night at Lock 19 in Peterborough or below the pedestrian bridge in Young’s Point. Take along a strong‑beamed flashlight.

 

 

·       The Peterborough Garden Show runs from April 26 to 28 at the Kawartha Trades and Technology Centre at Fleming College, 599 Brealey Drive.  On the Sunday afternoon at 2:00 pm, butterfly expert and author Carol Pasternak will present “Drama in the Butterfly”. Carol’s book, How to Raise Monarch Butterflies: A Step-by-Step Guide for Kids, will be available ($10) after the presentation. Carol will explore the secret lives of insects in your yard or nearby natural area. From 12 pm to 12:30 pm, she will also present a butterfly workshop suitable for ages six and up.

·       The muffled drumming of the Ruffed Grouse is one of the most characteristic sounds of April. The birds drum to advertise territorial claims and to attract a female.

Ruffed Grouse – Jeff Keller

American Woodcock – Karl Egressy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

·       If the weather is mild, local wetlands come alive in early April with the clamorous calls of countless frogs. The first voice usually heard is that of the Chorus Frog. To learn amphibian calls, go to naturewatch.ca. In the menu at the top of the page, click on FrogWatch.

·       The courtship flight of the American Woodcock provides nightly entertainment in damp, open field habitats such as fields at the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary. Listen for their nasal “peent” call which begins when it’s almost dark

 

May

·       A variety of interesting butterflies is already on the wing as May begins. These include the Compton Tortoiseshell, the Eastern Comma and the Mourning Cloak. Petroglyphs Provincial Park is a great destination for butterfly watching.

·       On May 8 at 7:30 pm, Ellen Jamieson, a master’s student at Trent University and a Peterborough native, will present a talk to the Peterborough Field Naturalists entitled “A Day in the Life of a Shorebird in South Carolina”. Shorebirds undergo one of nature’s most fascinating migrations, but they are in trouble with many populations experiencing drastic declines. The talk takes place at the Camp Kawartha Environment Centre at 2505 Pioneer Road.

·       The yellow-gold flowers of Marsh Marigolds brighten wet habitats in early May. By mid-month, White Trilliums blanket woodlots throughout the Kawarthas. A closer look will reveal numerous other wildflowers, too, like Yellow Trout Lily.

Yellow Trout Lily – Drew Monkman

 

·       With many species nesting, try to keep your cat indoors. It’s no wonder so few baby robins ever make it to adulthood in Peterborough any more.

·       The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds usually return on about May 5, so be sure to have your nectar feeders up and ready to greet them.

 

 

·       The long, fluid trills of the American Toad can be heard day and night. They are one of the most characteristic sounds of early May. Later in the month, Gray Treefrogs serenade us with their slow, bird-like musical trills.

·       The damp morning air is rich with the fragrance of Balsam Poplar resin, a  characteristic smell of spring in the Kawarthas.

·       If you are looking for pollinator plants for your garden, don’t miss the Peterborough Horticultural Society Plant Sale on Saturday May 11, 2019, from 9 – 11 am at Westdale United Church, 1509 Sherbrooke St.

·       Mid-May sees the peak of songbird migration with the greatest numbers of warblers, vireos, thrushes, orioles, flycatchers and other neo-tropical migrants passing through.

Baltimore Oriole – Karl Egressy

·       That large, streaked sparrow-like bird at your feeder is probably a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Males are black and white, with a red breast. Just in from Costa Rica, grosbeaks are attracted to sunflower seeds. Watch, too, for Baltimore Orioles and maybe even an Indigo Bunting.

·       The showy, yellow and black Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterfly appears by month’s end and adds an exotic touch to our gardens.

 

 

June

·       In downtown Peterborough and Lakefield, Chimney Swifts will be putting on quite a show. Pairs can be observed in courtship flight as they raise their wings and glide in a V position.

·       Watch for turtles laying their eggs in the sandy margins of roadsides and rail-trails.  Remember to slow down when driving through turtle-crossing zones and, if safe, help the reptile across the road.

·       The first Monarch butterflies usually appear in the Kawarthas in June. Make sure you have some milkweed in your garden on which they can lay their eggs. In January, World Wildlife Fund Mexico announced that the total forest area occupied by overwintering Monarch colonies this winter covered 6.05 hectares, a 144% increase from the previous season!

·       Five-lined Skinks, Ontario’s only lizard, mate in early June and are therefore more active and visible.  Look for them on sunny, bare, bedrock outcroppings with deep cracks such as near the Visitors Centre at Petroglyphs Provincial Park.

Five-lined Skink, Ontario’s only lizard and a Species at Risk – Joe Crowley

·       The Summer Solstice occurs on Friday, June 21 at 11:54 am. The sun will rise and set farther north than on any other day of the year. Celebrate this profound celestial event with your family.

 

 

 

 

 

ARGUMENTS FOR ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE

              Some people argue that Canada is such a small greenhouse gas emitter that it is irrelevant whether we cut our emissions or not. You can counter this by pointing out that: 1. Canada is actually the world’s 10th biggest emitter, ahead of even France and Brazil. 2. On a per capital basis, Canadians are the fourth largest emitters in the world – about the same as Americans and quadruple that of Swedes who live in a similar climate. 3. No one argued during WW II that given our small population, any contribution by Canada to the war effort would be meaningless. Sixteen times more Americans fought than Canadians, but Canada still played a very significant role in the war. The same logic applies to climate change. We have a moral imperative to do our part in this fight, which requires no less than a war-level response. What moral weight would we have to tell less fortunate countries to cut emissions if we are doing very little ourselves?