By Robin Hadac
Robin has been SPEC’s outreach facilitator since January. She wrote this piece for her course on climate change.
From the Elephant Hill Fire in the Ashcroft/Cache Creek area. Photo by Chris Gooderham. Be sure to check out the rest of the photos at the end of the blog piece.
One summer evening this July, I walked to Kits Beach to watch the sunset. The sky was lit up an unusually dark orange, with a noticeable haze in the horizon. Little did I know, that evening would only be the beginning of a long reign of smoke and haze clouding the lower mainland. The 2017 fire season had started in BC, and it was going to be one of the worst ones in BC history.
Like many other areas of the world, BC has a historical pattern of summer fires. However, fire seasons in recent years have been more severe. The summer of 2015, a notable fire year for BC, had 1,858 total fires with 280,000 hectares (Ha) burned. More recently, 2017 had a record-breaking amount of land burned with significant impact to human lives. Since April 2017 to September 2017, 1,282 fires were reported, with 1,212,000 Ha. (12,120 sq km) burned across BC. For comparison, that is over four times the size of Metro Vancouver, and almost half the size of the lower mainland.
Air quality was one of the most widespread effects to humans this season, even in areas far away from active fires. On an Air Quality Index out of 10, certain parts of BC received “very high risk” air quality scores of 18 and even as high as 36.
Forest fires and other disturbances are normally part of a healthy ecosystem. Fires can stimulate new growth by opening up the canopy to sunlight, release valuable nutrients stored in the forest floor, and allow certain tree species to reproduce by opening up cones (Natural Resources Canada, 2016). However, there is clear evidence to suggest that climate change is impacting BC’s forests, affecting fire probability and severity.
Climate change is resulting in an increase in average global temperatures. While there is variation in temperature differences and effects depending on location, BC on average is experiencing warmer weather, hotter temperatures, and more water vapor in the air. You can see more of the ways climate change has affected BC here.
This can mean more precipitation, which might boost plant growth and be beneficial for some forests. However, warming climates are altering the seasonality of rainfall. Most precipitation is falling in the fall and winter, leaving summer to be hot and dry. Glaciers are also melting earlier, contributing to earlier run-offs and drier summers (The Climate Examiner, 2017).
When water stocks are decreasing faster than usual, the resulting droughts and drier summers can impact a forest’s health and make trees vulnerable to insects and pathogens. When forests and foliage die, it increases the amount of fuel for burning and the probability of fires. (van der Kamp, 2016; Natural Resources Canada 2017).
With conditions dry and prime for fires, there just needs to be a spark. Studies show that the probability of lightning, which on average is responsible for 61% of BC fires, increases by 12% per each degree Celsius of warming.
But the cycle does not end there; the increase in forest fires creates an amplifying feedback loop. As climate change increases rate and intensity of fires, the CO2 emissions given off from forest fires further contributes to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
While official reports will not be available until next year, it is estimated that the 2017 fires emitted 190 million tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. That is almost triple BC’s annual carbon footprint. In addition, data from the last 25 years suggests that fire emissions are only increasing. Between 2003 and 2012, 271 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted from forest fires over the 10 year span. Compare this to the previous 10 years (1993-2002), where only 41 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted (Wieting, 2015).
In conclusion, the mechanisms by which climate change affects forest fire intensity and probability rate include many factors, but can be simplified as follows; temperatures are increasing, altering precipitation levels available for growth and increasing fire fuels. Those fires then release greenhouse gases back into the atmosphere, creating a feedback loop and exacerbating the issue. As Natural Resources Canada puts it, “One thing is clear: the future will not be like the past.”
The logging road to Chris's cabin. "It used to be 14ft wide, but BC Wildfire team used it as a firebreak and now its 25ft wide road with another 25ft of clearcut."
"Putting out a fire deep underground where 2 logs continued to burn, they happen to extend under our driveway."
A trail that used to be extremely lush.
All photos are from SPEC Board member Chris Gooderham.
BC Wildfire Service. (2017). Current Statistics. Retrieved from http://bcfireinfo.for.gov.bc.ca/hprScripts/WildfireNews/Statistics.asp
Carman, T. (2017, Jul 29). Area of B.C. burned by wildfires at a 56-year high. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/area-of-b-c-burned-by-wildfires-at-a-56-year-high-1.4226227
Desmog Canada. (2017). Overview of Forest Fires in British Columbia. https://doi.org/10.1029/2004GL020876
Elledge, J. (2016, May 26). Where are the world’s largest cities? Retrieved from http://www.citymetric.com/fabric/where-are-worlds-largest-cities-2131
Hernandez, J. (2017, Aug 24). “It”s alarming’: Wildfire emissions grow to triple B.C.’s annual carbon footprint. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/it-s-alarming-wildfire-emissions-grow-to-triple-b-c-s-annual-carbon-footprint-1.4259306
Johnson, L. (2017, Aug 2). Health risk from smoky skies off the charts in parts of B.C. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/smoke-bc-august-2-wildfires-1.4232156
Little, S., & Yuzda, L. (2017, Aug 16). 2017 officially B.C.’s worst ever wildfire season. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3675434/2017-officially-b-c-s-worst-ever-wildfire-season/
National Resource Canada. (2017, May 10). Impacts. Retrieved from http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/climate-change/impacts/13095
Natural Resources Canada. (2016, May 20). Why forests need fires, insects and diseases. Retrieved October 2, 2017, from http://www.nrcan.gc.ca/forests/fire-insects-disturbances/forest-need/13081
Province of British Columbia. (2017). Wildfire Averages. Retrieved from http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/safety/wildfire-status/wildfire-statistics/wildfire-averages
Suzuki, D. (2017, Aug 17). Wildfires are a climate change wake-up call. Retrieved from http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2017/08/wildfires-are-a-climate-change-wake-up-call/
The Climate Examiner. (2017, Jul 20). BC wildfires caused in part by and contributing to climate change. Retrieved from http://theclimateexaminer.ca/2017/07/20/bc-wildfires-caused-part-contributing-climate-change/
van der Kamp, D., & Metro Vancouver. (2016). Drought, wildfire, and climate change in Metro Vancouver’s water supply area. Metro Vancouver. Retrieved from https://sustain.ubc.ca/sites/sustain.ubc.ca/files/Sustainability%20Scholars/2016%20Sustainability%20Scholars/Project%20Reports/Drought%2C%20Wildfire%2C%20and%20Climate%20Change%20in%20Metro%20Vancouver%27s%20Water%20Supply%20Area_van%20der%20Kamp_2016.pdf
Wieting, J. (2015). B.C. Forest Wake-Up Call: Heavy Carbon Losses Hit 10 Year Mark. Sierra Club BC, (June).
By Olga Lansdorp
Project Coordinator Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale FarmersSociety Promoting Environmental Conservation
Have you ever had your eyes opened to a new way of seeing the world, to find that there is no turning back? I first experienced this when I was 18 and worked studying birds in the Rocky Mountains; suddenly the forest was alive with alarmed parents, begging chicks, predators, and males showing off, to name a few examples. It was a whole new world opening up before me, and I loved it.
I did not expect to have a similar experience at an IPM field day with experts Dru Yates and Kiara Jack of E.S. Cropconsult, organized for farmers to help them manage their diseases and insect pests. It wasn’t until the end that things got truly interesting. First we went over the principles of Integrated Pest Management, which produces economically feasible recommendations for farmers dealing with pests and diseases. It looks at proper identification, monitoring and thresholds for your diseases and pests, relying on Biological, Cultural, Physical and Chemical control options to deal with them.
Once we went over the theoretical background, we decided to go out on to the vegetable crops to identify pests and diseases. I thought it would take a lot of time to find a single insect, so I stood back and let the experts do the work. Within seconds Kiara cried “An aphid!”, followed shortly by “.., a parasitized aphid!”
Did you know that parasitic wasps lay they eggs inside a developing aphid larvae, turning the aphid into what is known as a mummy aphid? I certainly didn’t. A mummy aphid is a completely different colour from its sisters, a metallic shiny brown rather then green or black, and it also has a different shape, growing into a round blob rather than its more svelte sisters. Sometimes you can even see a round hole in the top of a mummy aphid: in this case, the wasp larvae burrowed out and flew away. IPM experts like to see mummy aphids, because they are a sign that the aphid populations are being controlled.
Within fifteen minutes there were many more examples of insect pests and beneficial insects. There were beneficial serphid larvae, tiny green larvae whose intestines you can see through their skin, and who move around as if there foot is tethered to the ground; there were tiny thrips and collembola who cause damage by sucking the leaves; weevils who cause characteristic notched damage to leaves; diamondback moth caterpillars, who are distinguished from similar species because they “freak out” when their heads are poked, moving their heads rapidly back and forth while they back up away from the stimulus. There is a whole world of creatures whose unique characteristics make them either a pest or a beneficial to farmers.
By knowing more about the insects and diseases farmers open themselves up to new methods of control. For example, many beneficial insects are limited by water availability, so including some buckets of water between plants may boost their populations. Or a young seedling being eaten by wood-lice or sow-bugs may be helped by spreading diatomaceous earth, which clogs up breathing organs and cuts up soft-bodied organisms.
It was an eye-opening experience to explore the farm fields with experts Dru and Kiara. Near the end of the day Dru cried out “An aphidoletes larva!!” Kiara rushed over to have a look, and together they counted 5 of these orange midge larvae, voracious aphid-eaters, which they were not expecting to see. It was good to see that they were still just as excited as I am about new creatures after all these years of monitoring crops.
The Climate Change Adaptation for Small Scale Farmers project is supported by Vancity enviroFund, Vancouver Foundation, SPEC individual donors, the Gow-Jarrett -Millard Family and Whole Foods Market.
SPEC Fundraiser and Celebration Speech,
by Janey Lee
Thursday, September 14, 2017
Good evening everyone. My name is Janey Lee and for the past 19 years I have been proudly teaching at Thunderbird Elementary. Thunderbird is a Tier 1 inner city, east side school in Vancouver. Thunderbird is located across the street from the largest social housing project in the province which is where many of our students live. In our school, we have a lot of students from working poor families, single parent households, and immigrant and refugee families. Each year, I usually have 8 to 12 different languages represented in my classroom and it is beautifully diverse. We have many vulnerable students who in spite of the challenges that their families face, are resilient and amazing.
In February of 2012, our school formed a wonderful community partnership with SPEC after Russ Evan, the tech teacher from Tupper, worked with all the students at our school to help build 4 beautiful planters and a compost bin so that we can start a community garden at Thunderbird.
School gardens are so important as it engages learners on how to grow food and provide food systems that are sustainable. Today, I would like to share with you what I have seen as some the benefits of having SPEC deliver “school garden education” at Thunderbird over the past 5 years.
There are few, if any, opportunities for many of our students to be exposed to gardens and gardening as many of them do not have a yard. This is where SPEC comes in. The biggest benefit I see is that the SPEC “garden education program” compensates for this missed opportunity by connecting our students to food, to nature and to their environment by introducing the power of gardening. The Thunderbird school garden is an empowering way to engage our students in real life experiences, where they learn about food security and how to grow their own organic fruits and veggies.
The children are always highly engaged in all the fun and hands-on lessons and activities, which SPEC provides. It just ignites their curiosity and passion. It warms my heart to see the sheer joy and excitement exuding from our students as they learn about soil, worm composting, how seeds travel, flowers and pollinators and especially insects in the garden. Each year, Nikoo, the amazing SPEC coordinator, who runs the lessons, even spends the day at our school dressed up in a bee costume when she is teaching the children about flowers and pollinators. They just adore her and she has a great rapport with our students.
In addition to the fabulous SPEC lessons that Nikoo provides throughout the school year, we also use the Thunderbird school garden as an “outdoor classroom”. Throughout the year, our students will bring out magnifying glasses, string and meter sticks to observe, measure, compare and discuss about the different types of plants that are growing. You will often see our Thunderbird students outdoors with clip boards and pens making observational drawings of leaves, plants, flowers and even insects they see in the garden. It is easy to see the students’ overriding sense of pride and ownership of the school garden they so fondly care for.
One of the highlights brought about by the SPEC “garden education program” is the “year end harvest and celebration” in June. It is difficult to get parent volunteers into our school as many are working multiple minimum wage jobs or they may be intimidated to come in because of language barriers. However, when it comes to harvest time, we have many parents who are eager to help harvest the wide range of vegetables and plants from the planters with their children. The school garden has helped to transcend some of these language barriers and has helped to bring our community closer together.
Another fabulous partnership that came out of the gardening program was that Murray, the youth worker at Van Tech, who helps to transition at-risk grade 7s to highschool collaborated with Nikoo from SPEC. They worked together to support Thunderbird’s grade 7 leadership group. In the Spring, these students helped to maintain our school garden with jobs such as building trellises for the peas and also composting. The “Leadership and Resiliency Program” that Murray runs has a large outdoor propane oven. The Thunderbird leadership students came up with the brilliant idea of using some of the vegetables that were harvested to make pizzas in this outdoor oven for the year end harvest celebration. These students had the opportunity to proudly prepare, cook and serve the garden pizzas to over 200 students at our school during our afternoon harvest celebration. The garden pizzas were a huge hit and the kids were keen for 2nd and 3rd helpings. What an empowering learning opportunity these grade 7 students had to be able to display their leadership skills in such a positive way. They also gained valuable life experiences in helping to give back to their own school and community.
To conclude, the benefits and impact of the SPEC “garden education program” can not be underestimated. We would love for you to come join us at our school for a lesson and to watch the children in action to truly experience the joy and excitement the school garden program brings to our students. On behalf of the Thunderbird community, I would like to thank the generous donors and other community partners for your continued support of SPEC. Please know that you are making a lasting and positive difference by providing our appreciative students the opportunity to participate in the SPEC “garden education program” and for that we are most grateful. Thank you.
Teacher at Thunderbird Elementary
By Dr. Art Bomke, SPEC Director
The article (See link) in the September 8th Vancouver Sun refers to recent census data that is reflecting a loss of farms and fewer farmers in Metro Vancouver.
It may seem odd that an urban based environmental organization like SPEC would be engaged in supporting local farmers, however, our ongoing Climate Change Adaptation Project for Small Scale Farmers is clearly aimed at two of the concerns mentioned in the piece, “willingness of the existing farm base to be there" and “transference of knowledge for the next generation.” The problem is current, not something to be faced in the future although climate change adaptation will likely change the future farming environment. As such, we have been striving to forge collaborations with several other NGO, government, university and private sector organizations to provide more on-farm advice in managing soils, crops and protecting crops against insect pests and diseases.
We at SPEC believe that the vast majority of urban Metro Vancouver residents are interested in and supportive of local farmers and our goal is to direct that support to practical solutions to the problems facing new farmers currently and those arising with changing climate.
Art Bomke, Director
SPEC Food and Environment Committee
By Daniel Rotman
Daniel is a co-facilitator of Master Recycler Vancouver.
I'm a strong believer in the idea that sustainability requires us (all of us) to reach beyond our circles and networks and biases to empower change. It won't be easy and it won't look like we think it will.
Take ZooShare for example. This new project takes local animal and food waste to feed an anaerobic digester that then produces energy and fertilizer for the local community, closing the loop on those resources. The bio-gas cooperative is working closely with Miller Waste, the Toronto Zoo, the local community, the local government and its 600 members/funders to make this happen.
Check out Lodge Farm in north Wales, another great example of how animal and food waste are being used locally from a corporate player.
Collaboration also helps us make others do and feel good! Those of us with the passion and energy can't do it all, so we can simply help others achieve what we all want, a sustainable future. It's not about being a hero, it's about cultivating heroes all around us.
DHL definitely puts the above into practice. How can a shipping company go net zero? They are empowering their employees by training them to help their customers ship more efficiently and through using zero emission, or carbon neutral delivery options. Have you seen their delivery bicycles? DHL is also developing their own in-house electric vehicle technology, and has been a sponsor of the Formula E racing series since it started in 2014.
Those of us who are doing everything in our power to move towards a greener, cleaner future, you are definitely not alone, and that's a message we all need to share.
By Amrita Pooni
Amrita is a student entering her final year of university. She is majoring in a B.A. of International Relations at the University of British Columbia. She is currently interning with the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) as the facilitator of the annual Westside Community Food Market (a partnership with Kitsilano Neighbourhood House).
Personally, to know the exact person who has harvested the veggies I put into my meals or the snacks that I ate during lunch has provided me with a new perspective on what I am eating. It was amazing hearing people’s stories of how they got started with the market. When I listened to the conviction behind people’s personal stories, it showed me the passion people have for the work they do and that was reflected in the products they made. Renee from True Nosh, coming from a family with a history of diabetes, decided to make a company that helps balance your blood sugars and prevent ups and downs. Roger from Farmhouse Bard discussing the power of food in helping people grow and bringing people together. Sheila from Zero Waste Christmas who as a child of Depression-era parents always saved and reused wrapping paper from gifts, but decided to take it further last year by sewing gift bags for all the little gifts. It was thought provoking and I found myself questioning every purchase that I made and where I chose to spend my money in my everyday life. It lead me to make certain lifestyle changes such as supporting my local coffee shop instead of a chain coffee shop. Learning theoretical concepts in class is one thing, but having the opportunity to actually take action and see ideas come to fruition, has been life changing.
Did you know that the BC Motor Vehicle Act here is 60 years old? The way the roads are being used has changed, and so should the rules that govern them. Please take action today. Check out what our friends at the HUB are proposing, lets make our voices heard, and ask our government to take action. Let's be part of the solution and not the problem.
If you are interested in this topic and want to volunteer and meet like-minded people join us at our next SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday August 16 at 6:00PM, at 2305 West 7th Ave. Or email us at email@example.com to learn more about volunteering with SPEC.
The SPEC Energy & Transportation Committee
The City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health combine to host discussion on catalyzing social connections
In 2012, the Vancouver Foundation presented the results of a survey of metro Vancouver revealing that people in the region identified their greatest concern as a growing sense of isolation. You can read the entire study at: https://www.vancouverfoundation.ca//sites/default/files/documents/VanFdn-SurveyResults-Report.pdf
Since that study, social isolation and ways to remedy it has been the subject of frequent discussions. In December, 2016, the City of Vancouver, Vancouver Coastal Health and Metro Vancouver presented CONNECT: Catalyzing a Social Movement, a day-long event that offered a range of activities to engage and teach participants about making connections. The conference was facilitated by The Leverage Lab, a project incubated by SPEC, and Richard Drake, Coordinator of the SPEC Elders Circle, co-hosted the workshop on inclusiveness.
The conference brought together people from diverse backgrounds to share music, food, and workshop experiences. Workshops were presented by academic, non-profit and government practitioners who study, advocate and deliver services to vulnerable populations or who are responsible for preparing for events that threaten our normal systems of communication, transportation, medical support, food security, etc. Participants explored our collective impact on energizing a movement around social connectedness in the Metro Vancouver region.
Workshop topics included:
measuring social connection,
Besides the workshops, there were a number of ‘connecting experiences’ that quickly crossed the barriers of separateness and put participants in touch with each other. I met several new people, some peripherally but with four new people I exchanged cards and put them immediately on a list to follow up with to build on our common interests.
This is a good news story at a time when we seem to be pulling apart and straining the seams of our social bonds. Kudos to the local political and health authorities for addressing the barriers of isolation and separation. These barriers make us vulnerable to messages of fear that lead to suspicion of differences and indifference to vulnerabilities. We can bring civility, preparedness and resiliency into our relationships through housing and other programs that rebuild our sense of ‘The Commons.’ And we can revitalize bonds of trust, mutuality, and safety that are the heart of community and allow us to respond effectively and compassionately to crises.
The City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Coastal Health are seeking ongoing feedback and connection with citizens about this issue and these concerns. SPEC, an urban environmental organization recognizes the profound link between social and environmental sustainability and supports all elements of this outreach to citizens. If you’re someone who feels drawn to start a neighbourhood conversation or learn information and/or skills that support these connections, download the city’s VanConnect APP at http://vancouver.ca/vanconnect.aspx Or you can call or email SPEC. We are partnered with Kitsilano Neighbourhood House in an ongoing outreach to our urban community to make and sustain the connections of social harmony, resiliency and environmental integrity.
— Carole, SPEC President
Society Promoting Environmental Conservation – now in our 48th year.
www.spec.bc.ca or firstname.lastname@example.org
Article from Vancouver-Point Grey Community Office Fall 2016 Newsletter, David Eby, MLA
We had a quick chat with Oliver Lane, Exec Director of SPEC on the role of this great organization in the community.
Q. What’s the best thing about working with SPEC?
A. The people. It is a pleasure to work with staff and volunteers that bring such a diversity of knowledge, interests and culture and that share values and a passion for sustainability. SPEC is like a container for great people and great ideas to flourish. And we do our best to support that.
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