Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap Day Rant -- Too late to stop Site C?

The government of British Columbia keeps nudging us closer to making its Site C Dam project a reality. Even before the last hearings were held, shovels were in the ground, chainsaws were chewing up the forest.
While our neighbours to the south are de-constructing dams, we’re trying to build bigger ones. The prime example of dam removal in Washington state is on the Elwha River. That dam started providing power to industry in 1914. The last of its 100-year-old concrete walls were blasted away in 2014. Already the upstream movement of fish, birds and other wildlife has been dramatic. But the Elwha River isn’t the only place where this kind of de-construction has occurred. According to the organization American Rivers, over 1,200 dams across the U.S. have been removed. So, with that being the case, why is B.C. so committed to forging ahead with this plan – and not just for any old dam, but for one this massive?
The main component, the actual dam will rise 60 metres above the riverbed. That’s about the same height as a 19-storey building. Next, consider how long such a ‘building’ would be – 1,050 metres – just over a kilometre.
The reservoir created by the dam will have a surface area of 9310 hectares. Some of the area to be covered is forest, some of it other river systems, some of it agricultural land.
To put the size into more understandable terms, consider some conversions. The metric measure, 9310 hectares converts to just over 23,000 acres. An acre is a little bit smaller than a football field, but that’s way too many football fields to visualize.
Converting to square miles produces a more understandable figure: 36 square miles. The area of the city of Vancouver is 44 square miles. If you chopped off Stanley Park and Pacific Spirit Regional Park, what remained of Vancouver would be 39 square miles, a little bit bigger than the surface area of the proposed reservoir, yet comparable, a figure that’s graspable.
But that’s surface area, so it doesn’t represent how long the new body of water would be. This mega-reservoir would extend for 83 kilometres, greater than the distance from West Vancouver to Abbotsford (78 km).
The amount of agricultural land in the ALR that would be flooded (3433 hectares, 8483 acres) is equivalent to more than 8 Stanley Parks. Such an abundance of farmland is impossible to replace. When one considers the projected rise in population – or weather fluctuations from climate change – complicated by the paving/development of agricultural land in the Lower Mainland, we should probably not be so quick to toss aside this much farmland.
In addition to flooding land that may well be needed for growing food, there is a cultural concern. Many First Nations’ heritage sites will disappear beneath the waters. Owing to beliefs that location of graves is sacred and intended for family only, many such sites have not been reported to Hydro’s teams. As a result, it is possible that thousands of graves will be flooded. Lands that have been held sacred for generations, places of important rituals, will be gone. Archaeological artifacts – stone tools and implements, some over 10,000 years old – lie where the waters will cover them forever.
We point fingers at ISIL/ISIS for its horrendous destruction of temples and statues. Yet, how is this planned destruction so different?
BC Hydro’s website states that the promise of the Site C project is to provide “enough energy to power the equivalent of about 450,000 homes per year in B.C.” I try to imagine how many transmission towers will be required to bring all that energy south – and I question just how much more money from taxpayers this will require.
Hydro’s website further claims that power generated by the dam will be available “…for more than 100 years.” When the Elwha River dam system was opened in 1914, that same sort of optimism was touted. But really, how ‘forward-thinking’ is planning for a mere hundred years? At the end of this dam’s life, there will only be massive amounts of concrete, along with acres of irretrievably flooded farm and heritage lands. 
And there doesn’t appear to be any budget for de-construction or restoring the area when the dam’s lifespan ends. The province may still be paying interest on the money required to construct it. And with a number even they admit is close to ten billion, can’t they think of any better ways to spend it?
Many dam-building projects across the planet are being questioned and re-thought. We need to do the same in B.C. – quickly, while there’s still time.

Monday, February 22, 2016

What's wrong with this picture?

Or, for that matter, what's wrong with this house?

Aside from the boarded-up windows, it appears to be sturdy and well looked-after, right down to the up-to-date chimney fixture for a gas fireplace.

The only problem seems to be that its measurable footprint is probably only about 2,000 square feet. And it doesn't seem that anyone wants such a tiny, little house any more.

So yes, it's coming down -- not even being relocated (the way the Queenslanders seem to do). And considering that it was gone the day after I took this photo, I suppose there wasn't even any salvage of materials done.

This level of waste embarrasses me. And the most frustrating part is that I don't have a clue about what I can do about it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Looking back

It seems almost unbelievable, but it was ten years ago today that I started this little blog. That very first post didn't even include a photograph, but that was so long ago, I may not have even known how to insert one back then.

The whole reason I even started one was guidance from a talented tech and science writer, Derek K. Miller, whose blog Pen Machine served as my inspiration. Sadly, his blog is now defunct, though his final chilling entry remains.

But I'm not wanting this post to be a reason for looking back. In fact, the image today is one of looking upward. The flower is a shade-loving plant that was blooming this morning in among the trees and ferns outside our home. Its flower hangs down, like a bell, so I had to position the camera beneath the blossom and shoot upward.

Upward, not back -- that seems like a good direction for the next decade -- onward.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Hearts and frills

To celebrate Valentine's Day we took a tramp through the woods at a nearby park. The paths were 'mud-luscious' and everything smelled as though it was coming back to life.

I couldn't help but seeing valentines from nature just about everywhere. Besides the 'heart fungus' above, there were pussy willows fuzzy and ready to purr, even a bunch of frilly bracket fungi. All I had to do was the snap the photos, as there seemed to be lacy decorations everywhere.

And when we got home, I sliced the 'damaged' apple I'd bought the other day. I'd selected it because it was slightly misshapen, with one side grown 'dented' which made it look somebody's little bum. As I suspected, it sliced up into lovely little hearts. A perfect treat for after an after-walk snack.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Observations gleaned while pruning a blackberry thicket

On a beautiful day, it is important to find meaningful work to accomplish outdoors. A winter-tangled blackberry hedge provides such diversion. Such a job is perfect, as it requires just enough concentration and judgement to allow the mind to focus on other matters and takes up enough time to generate a number of observations.

Notice how the brackets where last year’s berries grew look remarkably like gnarled hands. Express gratitude to them for last September’s bounty.

Consider following the lead of golfer Tommy Gainey by wearing two gloves, not just one on the ‘pulling hand’. Add one for the ‘pruning’ hand too. It may be more difficult wielding the secateurs, but there is little doubt that there will be fewer scratches on the exposed hand and, as a result, less blood.
Note the differences between dead and living branches. Colour is the obvious marker: green as opposed to brown. But living branches also have much bigger thorns, though the thorns on the dead ones seem sharper, pointier as if they have withdrawn into a harder, tougher form of themselves. The biggest difference though is their weight. The dead ones, some of which are completely dehydrated, are oh so much lighter than the nourished (wet) living ones.

Next time, wear a baseball hat. The thorny branches seemed to enjoy grabbing me by the hair. At one stage, I considered using the pruners to chop my way out. Fortunately, with patience as my guide, my messy braid emerged intact.

Think about writing a letter to the City, requesting a larger ‘green bin’ container, as this one is now full to its 360-litre capacity brim. Luckily, pickup is every week.

Stand back and admire the important task of the season’s first prune.

Meditate on the sour-sweet flavour of blackberries on the tongue. Think of all those jars of jam that will result from autumn's crop. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

No groundhogs in sight

Just this robin and a few of his friends, digging around for worms today. They looked like a more reliable sign of spring than any rodenty shadowplay.

But hearing that 'the Donald' didn't win in Iowa also feels like a sign of better things ahead.

Oddly, there are two bi-elections taking place today right here in B.C. and there's hardly been a peep about either of those.

Maybe I'll be happy with just the happy-sounding peeps of the birds.