Category Archives: Sustainability

Canada and the Ivory Trade

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Many people understandably don’t understand the connection between global markets and the killing of an elephant for its ivory. But with poaching continuing to present the gravest threat to the very existence of elephants (one every fifteen minutes is killed |70% total decline in population in less than 40 years due to poaching, and only 415,000 remaining), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has called for all countries to close their domestic markets.

Canadians are often surprised to learn that the Canadian domestic “legal” ivory trade is still open. The legal trade is one in which the product is dated prior to 1975. The issue with the legal trade is that it is difficult to date ivory and as a result illegal ivory flows through legal domestic markets.

Canada also allows the importation of legal trophies. Under its obligation to CITES (The Convention on the International Trade on Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) those trophies can only come from countries regulated by CITES, and thus it is legal under those circumstances.

Below are the instances in which ivory can enter the country:

In order to legally possess ivory in Canada, the following criteria must be met, in accordance to the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (13 (1)):

http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/regulations/SOR-96-263/page-2.html#docCont

    (a) the person who possesses it establishes a reasonable probability that it or, in the case of a part or derivative, the animal or plant from which it comes, was taken from its habitat before July 3, 1975;

    (b) the person who possesses it establishes a reasonable probability that it was legally imported into Canada; or

    (c) the person who possesses it establishes a reasonable probability that the distributing of it or the offering to distribute it would be in accordance with any applicable federal and provincial laws that relate to the conservation and protection of the animal or plant.

 However, these criteria are not applicable to elephant ivory from appendix II. Appendix II ivory is only required to be legally imported into Canada.

 Appendix I items must have import and export permits, while appendix II items are only required to have export permits.

Canada’s position on ivory at international conferences:

  • IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii  in 2016 results in an international commitment to close domestic ivory markets. Four countries object – Canada, Namibia, South Africa & Japan
  • At the 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, Canada voted against moving all African elephants to Appendix I to provide them the highest level of protection.

In recent years there has been some movement from large ivory markets such as the US and China to close their domestic markets which has the potential to have a significant impact on decreasing the ivory trade and give elephants a chance to survive the war being waged on their existence.

  • 2015     China and US announce an agreement to a “nearly complete ban” on ivory import/export and commercial domestic ivory trade7 in both countries (no completion date given).
  • 2016     January: Hong Kong pledges to a complete ban on commercial domestic ivory trade by 2021.
  • June: US passes new regulations that ban almost all domestic ivory trade. August: IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii results in international commitment to close domestic ivory markets. Four countries object – Canada, Namibia, South Africa & Japan.
  • October: CITES conference in Johannesburg fails to put all elephant populations in Appendix I by only 9 votes – Canada, US, UK & EU vote against it. However, Botswana, with the most elephants, reverses their pro-ivory trade policy and supports a total ban.
  • 2017      January: Price of raw ivory in China falls to US$730 per kilogram (65% drop in less 3 years) due to Chinese economic slowdown, anti-poaching team success and crackdown on corruption.
  • February: Draft EU guidance document indicates possible ban on raw ivory exports by July 1, to make sure that illegal tusks are not laundered with legal tusks.
  • March: China closes the first of its 67 licensed ivory carving factories and retailers, and promises to close its domestic ivory market by end of 2017.
  •  March: Hong Kong says a bill on ivory trade will be introduced by end June. Hong Kong also convicts 2 people for illegal ivory possession, using radiocarbon dating to prove post-1990 ban.

It would be great to see Canada take pro-active steps to save one of the world’s most iconic, intelligent, keystone species by closing the domestic trade, banning the importation of trophies into Canada and vote to have all elephants moved to Appendix 1 of the CITES convention. I want Canada to be the country who does everything it can to save these magnificent animals from extinction  not only because it can but because it should.

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Fashion and Saving Forests:Shifting the Supply Chain

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Many years ago when I worked in publishing I met a woman named Nicole Rycroft. She had started an organization called Markets Initiative whose aim was to save the world’s vanishing forests. Her approach was to educate sectors and transform their supply change management.

At the time I worked at Raincoast Books in Vancouver, Canada. We had just landed a little book called Harry Potter. What better way to elevate an issue than by changing what kind of paper a book  of that stature and print run would be printed on.  Nicole approached Raincoast and proposed that we print the book on post-consumer recycled paper. The idea was presented to J.K. Rowling, who loved it and Raincoast ran with it. The rest is history. All of the Canadian editions of Harry Potter were printed on Ancient Forest Free paper. Paper had to be sourced and printers had to change how they did things.

Today Markets Initiative is called Canopy and it continues to work sector by sector to change how companies use forest products in their supply chain. Now the focus is on creating paper out of straw, ” “Human beings require oxygen and forests produce it; printed books require paper but paper need not be made from virgin forests.”  says Margaret Atwood whose book of speculative fiction was printed using straw pulp.

Now Nicole and CanopyStyle are taking on the fashion industry.  Little did I know (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) that materials like rayon are made of wood fibre, often from some of the world’s ancient forests. Viscose production consumes 140 million trees each year and is slated to double within the decade. This includes Gap (and their brands) and H&M.

Nicole just did an article in GREENBIZ where you can find out more about how the fashion world’s supply chain is being disrupted by a single woman with a big vision to save the world’s forests. Read the full article here.

Takeaway – One determined person can change the world.

 

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The Four Tribes of Climate Change (via the Tyee)

I haven’t done a comprehensive scan but there don’t seem to be  many general news sources  that do a great and consistent job of covering climate change.  But there are two that I do know of – the first being the  The Guardian UK who does an excellent job but there’s also an online site right  here in Vancouver  called The Tyee that does a great job of covering the issue and trying to educate people about what it is and its impacts. As someone who is currently known to put people in comas talking about saving elephants and the planet, you can only imagine my delight at this story. It’s probably en par with finding out that the British are sending the army in to help fight against poaching in Kenya.

So without further ado, check out this juicy story posted here  offered by the mighty Tyee.  A big thanks to them and the Guardian for taking on the challenge for talking about and  trying to educate others on what is  the most important issue facing us today. If there are others out there and I’m sure there are, let me know who they are.

The Four Tribes of Climate Change

More than ever, influential subcultures shape our response to global warming. Which do you belong to?

By Geoff Dembicki, Today, TheTyee.ca

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People have always disagreed about climate change. But for two fleeting years starting in 2006, it really seemed like most North Americans had accepted the climate narrative pushed into the mainstream by Al Gore and Lord Nicholas Stern: that in global warming humankind faced its greatest ever challenge, but solving it would make us all richer and stronger.

That worldview was so compelling, you may recall, that itwon Gore the Nobel Peace Prize and elevated environmental worries to the top of North America’s political agenda. It also caused Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to assert in 2007 that global warming is “perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today.” Well, we all know what happened next.

Wall Street collapsed. So did climate talks in Copenhagen. Americans elected a Congress more polarized than any other in U.S. history. Cap-and-trade legislation fell to pieces. Activists declared war on Canada’s oil sands. Harper’s government declared war on activists. Media mostly ignored a global boom in climate-saving technology. And humankind’s carbon emissions continued their inexorable rise.

It now seems improbable that a single, compelling climate narrative could recreate the environmental zeitgeist of 2006 and 2007. Instead, four influential subcultures have risen in the intervening years, each with its own story to tell about the limits and opportunities of a warming planet. Taken together, they represent the fears and hopes of a generation living through tumultuous global change.

 Read the rest right here.

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What the heck is the IPCC and why does its report on climate change matter?

So I have discovered this great online learning tool called wildflowers Coursera. There are a number of different courses you can take that are offered by universities and I am currently enrolled in a course on Climate Change. This is also a credit course but because it deals with science I wanted to do the free online course first and then consider taking it for credit. For those of you who are life learners, I would highly encourage you to check it out. It’s extremely well done.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail recently by Andrew Weaver with the headline – “Now that climate change is beyond doubt, focus on solving it

One of my objectives in taking a course on Climate Change is that I want to understand the global policy initiatives and the science more clearly so I can make more informed decisions on a course of action or activism.

“Climate Change is Beyond Doubt”

So back to the headline – ‘Climate change is beyond doubt’- where does this consensus come from? Well, it comes from the IPCC report that was recently released that shows that scientists are 95-100 per cent certain that humans are causing global warming. Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

So what is the IPCC and why does what they report matter?

The IPCC stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was created in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. This body does not conduct research but rather reviews current science, studies and papers to provide an objective assessment to policy and decision-makers.

IPCC is made up of three working groups:
– the first group addresses the science of climate change
– the second climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability including effects on human health and the environment
– the third group addresses climate mitigation

Each group draws on a wide range of scientists that are selected by a process ensuring that a broad range of disciplines are represented.

The IPCC is one of the largest scientific collaborations ever undertaken. These scientists meet regularly and collaborate to provide the most accurate data possible for governments and governing bodies to draw on. If criticisms are leveled at the body, it’s that they are too conservative in their views.

Key findings (via Globe and Mail) m this report which was released in September 2013 are:

Global warming is “unequivocal,” and since the 1950’s it’s “extremely likely” that human activities have been the dominant cause of the temperature rise.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40 per cent increase in cabond-dioxide concentrations since the industrial revolution.

Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C, or 0.5-8.6 F, by the end of the century, depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.

Most aspects of climate change will continue for many centuries even if carbon-dioxide emissions are stopped.

Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82 centimetres by the end of the century.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass over the past two decades. Glaciers have continued to melt almost all over the world. Arctic sea ice has shrunk and spring snow cover has continued to decrease, and it is “very likely” that this will continue.

It’s “virtually certain” that the upper ocean has warmed from 1971 to 2010. The ocean will continue to warm this century, with heat penetrating from the surface to the deep ocean.

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Become a Climate Change Geek with the Tyee’s Crash Course & Geek Quizz

Vancouver’s The Tyee has published an 8 part series on Climate Change written by  Eric Nadal – after reading the 8 short pieces readers are invited to take the Climate Change Geek Quizz in which you can earn a certificate of understanding that will allow you to wax on poetically and knowledgeably at the next dinner party, elevator ride, bus trip or grocery lineup. Check it out right here! 

If you’re wondering what The Tyee is it’s BC’s home for news, culture and solutions. It’s also a fish.

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Carol Off interview with Joe Oliver – Gerald Kaplan “Harper is right: Foreign radicals are after the oil sands”

I am not a political person but I’ve always had an interest in politics and history. I read the paper, I listen to the radio – I vote – I can hold a semi-intelligent conversation on the issues of the day. And while I can feel passionate about issues there’s not much that could make me want to write about them or god forbid – go out and protest. I am so not French:)

A few months ago I was cooking and listening to Carol Off (CBC As it happens)  interview with Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver. This is what I heard. A full transcript of the interview is here:

Carol Off : Mr Oliver, who are these radical groups you mention in your letter?

Oliver : Well I’m not going to name names but there are, as people know, a number of groups who are opposed to the development of hydro carbons – they even oppose hydro-electricity development. I don’t know where they think we’re going to get the energy to maintain our current level of civilization but that’s where they’re coming from and they’re trying to game the system.

Carol Off : Why can’t you tell us who they are?

Oliver : Well because I don’t think we need to get into that level of specificity. The point is they’re there, some of them are being financed by, er, by groups, and we think that these decisions which are so important for the Canadian economy, for Canadian jobs, should be made by Canadians in Canada.

Carol goes on to ask what the difference is between the multi-billion dollar foreign oil company investments in Alberta and the so-callled foreign capital fuelled interests of Canadian environmental groups? (I left radical out on purpose)

I thought it was one of the most interesting interviews I had heard in a long time because it’s the first time I had heard government refer to environmental groups as ‘radical’.  In the end the Minister looked foolish but not so foolish for the government to alter its course. Because by keeping the message deceptively simple – ‘environmentalists are radicals’ and they are funded by foreign money and therefore foreigners are driving our national agenda…they have been able to put environmentalists on the defensive by making simple but wrong connections. Smart. We happened to watch Good Night, and Good Luck last night about the honourable Joe McCarthy who used a similar tactic to ruin people’s lives.

Anyways, that interview gave me the chills. It actually scared me. Because I realize the world is not necessarily filled with people who have the best intentions. That I live in a country where I can speak my mind (still). That I don’t want scientific research to be muzzled. I don’t want to live in a climate of fear. We have a government that means business. Serious business. So as a public service I will continue to bring relevant articles where I can. Because I can.

Now this is a very interesting article about the Koch Brothers and their investments in Alberta. It’s also about funding for the Fraser Institute.

Harper is right: Foreign radicals are after the oil sands

GERALD CAPLAN

Globe and Mail Update

Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have courageously chosen to expose and confront foreign interests that have surreptitiously been infiltrating the Canadian oil industry – and they don’t mean their Chinese Communist partners. They are apparently in possession of revelations about these extremists and criminals that, in the words of Senator Nicole Eaton, “would make your blood boil.”

Launching a much-needed Senate inquiry into “interference of foreign foundations in Canada’s domestic affairs” and their “abuse” of registered charitable status, Ms. Eaton stated: “There is political manipulation. There is influence peddling. There are millions of dollars crossing borders masquerading as charitable donations.” I am glad to contribute to their work.

Welcome to the world of American brothers David and Charles Koch. According to Forbes, in 2011 Koch Industries was the second-largest privately held company in the United States with annual revenue of about $98-billion; the total revenue for the government of Canada for 2011-12 was $248-billion. The brothers each had a net worth of $25-billion, more than the Walton family of Wal-Mart fame. Among the most powerful men in the world whose holdings included major commercial investments in the Alberta oil sands, for years the Kochs have moved heaven and earth to protect the unrestrained pursuit of oil from environmental considerations. Continue reading

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David Suzuki: What’s so radical about caring for the earth and opposing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline?

Here’s an excellent editorial piece by David Suzuki and communications specialist Ian Hannington in this week’s Georgia Straight about our government and the proposed development of the two pipelines. Very well done.

By David Suzuki, January 17, 2012

Caring about the air, water, and land that give us life. Exploring ways to ensure Canada’s natural resources serve the national interest. Knowing that sacrificing our environment to a corporate-controlled economy is suicide. If those qualities make us radicals, as federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver recently claimed in an open letter, then I and many others will wear the label proudly.

But is it radical to care for our country, our world, our children and grandchildren, our future? It seems more radical for a government to come out swinging in favour of an industrial project in advance of public hearings into that project. It seems especially radical when the government paints everyone who opposes the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project as American-funded traitors with a radical ideological agenda “to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”

It’s bad enough when our government and its “ethical oil” and media supporters don’t tell the truth, but it’s worse when they don’t even offer rational arguments. Their increasing attacks on charitable organizations and Canadians from all walks of life show that if they can’t win with facts, they’ll do everything they can to silence their critics. And we thought conservative-minded people valued free speech!

The proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline projects and the massive, mostly foreign-controlled expansion of the tar sands are not about finding the best way to serve Canada’s national interests. If we truly wanted to create jobs, we would refine the oil in Canada and use it to reduce our reliance on imported oil, much of which comes from countries that government supporters say are “unethical”. If we really cared about using resources for the national interest, we would slow development in the tar sands, improve environmental standards, increase royalties and put some of the money away or use it to switch to cleaner energy, eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and encourage Canadian companies to develop the resource.

Instead, we are called radicals for daring to even question the wisdom of selling entire tar sands operations to China’s state-owned oil companies and building a pipeline so that the repressive government of China, rather than Canadians, can reap most of the benefits from the refining jobs, profits, and the resource itself. We are radical because we are concerned about the real dangers of oil-filled supertankers moving through narrow fiords with unpredictable weather conditions and through some of the last pristine ecosystems on Earth. We are condemned by our own government because we question the safety of two pipelines crossing more than 1,000 streams and rivers through priceless wilderness—a reasonable concern, in light of the more than 800 pipeline spills that Enbridge, the company in charge of the Northern Gateway, has had since 1999.

And so here we are, a country with a government that boasts of our “energy superpower” status but doesn’t even have a national energy plan. A country willing to sacrifice its manufacturing industry, its opportunities in the green-energy economy, its future, and the health of its people for the sake of short-term profits. A country hell-bent on selling its industry and resources wholesale to any country that wants them, without regard for the ethics or activities of those countries. Continue reading

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