Global Insights: Alberta, Canada

by Marcelo Kawanami

The extraction of oil sands is one of the main economic activities in the Alberta province in Canada, which led millions of Canadians to migrate for working purposes in the region over the last years. Nevertheless, this strong Canadian economic source that generates millions of jobs and profits is also polluting rivers and lakes in the province of Alberta.

An aerial view of the Suncor oil sands extraction facility on the banks of the Athabasca River in Alberta, Canada

Additionally, an increasingly large share of U.S. oil comes from Canada’s tar sands. There are environmental consequences of this development, but until recently, Canadian regional and federal governments left it to the industry to monitor these effects.

A dead fish floats belly up on the water near Fort ChipewyanRecently, a renowned Alberta scientist discovered deformities in fishes in the Athabasca River downriver from oil sands developments, bearing a striking resemblance to ones found in fish after spills in U.S. waters. are environmental consequences of this development, but until recently, Canadian regional and federal governments left it to the industry to monitor these effects.

How to leverage economic development without putting into risk communities and interest groups that rely on the water resources in Alberta? This is quite a challenge that corporations need to work better, fighting for the interests of the entire society, and not only for their own profit gains.

One organization that I discovered today promotes exactly this, taking actions on watershed protection for the public interest in Alberta. Called Water Matters, this organization develop projects that involve the raising of public awareness and the empowering of communities in order to protect Alberta’s watersheds. Visit their website to know more about their projects: http://www.water-matters.org/

Global Insights: Lac-Mégantic, Quebec

By Marcelo Kawanami

Today our journey will take us to a place that is close to my heart. Back in 2009, I had the chance to live in Montreal to complete my studies and had the opportunity to visit the region of Parc National du Mont-Mégantic and its surroundings. Recently, the region was in the global spotlight due to a derailment that led to a tragic fire and explosion which destroyed almost half of the downtown area of Lac-Mégantic town.

Chaudière River

The environmental impacts caused by the accident are still hard to predict, according to specialists. Nevertheless, the oil leaking from the derailment has already contaminated both the town’s namesake lake and the Chaudière River. As we can observe in this picture on the right, crude oil from the Lac-Mégantic explosion flowed down the Chaudière River, threatening towns and ecosystems downstream.

Workers collecting crude oil from the lake Megantic

Some four million liters of contaminated river and lake water have been contained, officials say, but the site soil still needs to be cleaned or replaced, a work that can take up to a year.

 

The accident also impacted the local economy which relies strongly on tourism mainly during the summer season.

After some research I was very glad to discover that many organizations are supporting the clean-up process of the lake and fighting for the protection of the local environment. Gamiing is also part of this group and I would like to promote two organizations that are seriously fighting for the protection of Mégantic lakes and its ecosystem:

  • David Suzuki Foundation: join us in telling Prime Minister Stephen Harper that we will not tolerate compromising the safety of our communities and environment in the name of oil transport – http://action2.davidsuzuki.org/lac-megantic
  • Association pour la protection du lac Mégantic: local organization that promotes projects and actions in order to protect Lake Mégantic – http://aplm.lac-megantic.org/

Canada, let’s save Lake Erie!

By Marcelo Kawanami

This last week an urge to protect Lake Erie against algae bloom was spread out in allnews across Canada and the US. This is a recurrent problem in Lake Erie mainly caused by the phosphorus runoff into the lake that feed algae. The excessive blooming of algae produces harmful toxins and contributes to oxygen-deprived “dead zones” where fish cannot survive.

Lake Erie in July 2013

According to recent reports regarding this topic, different sources of phosphorus runoff have emerged – primarily large farms, where manure and other fertilizers are washed into tributary rivers during storms and snowmelt. They accounted for more than half of the phosphorus that reached the lake in 2011, while one-third came from smaller farms and nearshore communities as well as city sewers.

The satellite picture above was taken last July and showcases the spread of algae along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair, affecting the beaches of Chatham-Kent, Ontario.

To know more about this topic and get involved, we recommend two organizations that are focused on the Great Lakes protection and conservation:

• International Joint Commission: http://www.ijc.org/en_/
• GLSLCI: http://www.glslcities.org/index.cfm

The protection of lakes and the education of communities surrounding wetlands are core purposes for Gamiing. Visit our website (www.gamiing.org) to know more about our initiatives and projects in the Kawartha Lakes region!