Monday, March 29, 2010

Seabirds And Climate Change

This story caught my attention for a few reasons. Among them, the article references an area of Canada I used to live in, I have an interest in birds (though, admittedly I don't see many seabirds here in Northern Alberta) and it involves a hot button issue (and it's not like I never touch on those on this blog). Silly as this may seem, back before I had even given a thought to Nunavut, let alone considered spending 6 years of my life there, I remember being quite surprised to discover that there were birds of any kind there. Afterall, I knew there were few if any trees at that latitude so where exactly would all these birds supposed to nest? The answer of course is cliffs and rocky shorelines, which according to the above news report, are threatened by erosion brought on by climate change.

I know the debate here can get pretty vitriolic and I'd rather stay out of all the political silliness involved as well. I've included below a few pictures to give you an idea of what the shoreline looks along the south eastern coast of Baffin Island. I never had a chance to visit Qaquluit mentioned in the article but I did get down to Kingnelling Fiord, where these pictures were taken in the fall of 2004.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Proposed Ban On Polar Bear Trade Defeated

I've been meaning to comment on this recent headline regarding polar bears for a few days now but haven't found the time until now. It seems that the polar bear has become the poster child in recent years for the climate change nuts and any other person who feels the need to bash Aboriginal hunters for "over hunting."

Groups like Polar Bears International and IFAW love to make the case that over hunting is a major threat. More mainstream groups such as the World Wildlife Federation mention over hunting, but more importantly, climate change, as a big problem facing sustainable polar bear populations. Actually Polar Bears International. IFAW and many other like-minded groups mention climate change as well but find they get more mileage for their causes by plugging the over hunting angle. Also, it helps if you portray polar bears as soft, cute and cuddly rather than as they actual are in the real world.*

Stats on bear populations vary depending on what source you want to look at but I decided to do some quick math with some of the numbers that are most commonly tossed around just to get an idea of what the situation is really like. Now depending on who you talk to, current international polar bear populations lie somewhere between 20,000 to 25,000. Let's be conservative and for the sake of argument, take the figure of 20,000 as accurate. Approximately 65% of the world's total number of polar bears are found in Canada. That's around 13,000 cuddly bears. It's important to mention that each community in Nunavut, where the bulk of Canada's bears are found uses a quota system for harvesting bears. Something like 300 bears are hunted for sport each year. 300...out of 13,000. That's about 2% of the population. Let's be honest, if the big threat here is climate change, as many alarmist groups emphatically state, then how is a trade ban going to solve things? I would submit that Canada has a much better management system in place than say that other large country across the top of the North Pole. Perhaps the alarmists should pay more attention to Russia.

Now, why US-based groups fighting to put a trade ban in place, fail to mention that a mere 2% of Canada's bear population is taken yearly through sport hunting, is interesting. I wonder why? I largely suspect that by having a ban in place, the US, by far, one of the world's major contributors to green house gas emissions, can give the impression of actually doing something. A ban is much cheaper, and consequently more political palatable to voters. It also draws attention away from issues surrounding drilling for oil in Alaska.

*Interestingly, the kids are here watching a DVD this morning and got pretty excited over a preview of a movie about Knut, the young polar bear raised in captivity. The preview mentions climate change rather than over hunting as a threat and, mean step-dad that I am, I pointed out to the kids that Knut is now fully grown, prone to follow his natural instincts to hunt and eat, and consequently, likely not the best of choices for a family pet.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Way Way Up Turns 4!

Today I mark another anniversary as my little blog turns 4. I never thought I'd make it this long in the blogosphere, particularly last summer when I left Nunavut and moved out west to Alberta. While the number of posts has slowed a little, I apparently still have much to say (hopefully some of it is coherent and enlightening). 948 posts and I'm still here. Thanks again to my merry little band of followers and for all those who have taken the time to drop a comment. Thanks for your questions and correction and gentle criticisms. They help keep me on my toes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oh My God! Who's In Charge?

My apologies for being woefully behind on my posts. There are a few issues I had been hoping to blog about but I've been distracted with a new house purchase and my stepson has had one doozy of a fever this weekend but one seemingly endless political drama caught my attention so here goes.

With a population of something like 32 000 people one could be forgiven for thinking not much goes on there politically. There are many issues though that deserve the attention of all Canadians let alone Nunavummiut...Arctic Sovereignty, North West Passage issues, resource and mineral development, the seal hunt, and climate change concerns spring to mind. It's easy to think that politics must be pretty boring. I've been out of the loop for a few months now, being out in Alberta, but I recall that after the last Nunavut election (for which I was present and eligible to vote in) there was a lot of tension between former Premier, Paul Okalik and incoming Premier, Eva Aariak. Every time I read a political story it seemed Okalik wasted no breath or opportunity to criticize Aareak in the Legislature.

I was hopeful that the former Premier (and it always gives me great pleasure to refer to Okalik as the "former" Premier) would come to his senses and get on with the task of working with his fellow MLA's to tackle the many issues the territory. Sadly, it seems Okalik would rather continue to grind political axes for the sake of scoring cheap political points. The whole tirade smacks of sour grapes. Not allowing a member to continue their statement is simply classless.

Among the many burrs lodged up his posterior, Okalik was concerned that no one was apparently in charge of the territory while Aareak was off attending the Olympic Games. I'm not aware of any law that a leader of any province or territory in Canada losses their authority once away from their home jurisdictions. According to Okalik, if you're a Premier of Nunavut and happen to fly out for a stint, you "leave your authority to make legal decisions for the territory at the border." HUH?? Now, perhaps the former Premier was just confused because to me this makes no sense. And even if what he said is true, the question remains "why is this even important? who cares?" Okalik's "concern" sounds like something that might be brought up in some tin pot African dictatorship. Oh look, the leader is away. Someone needs to be in charge. Hey, that someone should be me." Sadly, I a have few doubts that thoughts similar to this actually went through the man's brain.

Honest to God, it's silly garbage like this that cheapens politics even more than it already is. Grow up "former Premier." Your grandstanding is childish and idiotic to say the least. Frankly, much of what you're saying is illogical and makes no sense. Its sad that someone making such uneducated statements like this ever rose to the position of power you did.

So congratulations! You got your little hissy fit in and made some headlines. Now, could you kindly pull your head out of your ass and at least attempt to do your job?

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Quiet Places

As I mentioned in my last post, Arctic Bay had plenty of places to escape to. Nunavut is one giant piece of real estate, so finding your own little place to chill (sorry for the pun) is easy but also difficult. There is just so much to see and you'll never see it all. Uluksan Point was at the top of my list of quiet places to reflect, however, which got me to thinking about some of the other places I've experienced over the years. I mentioned some of them in my previous post so here are some visuals.

Slave River, Northwest Territories, August, 2000(?)

Looking out over South Indian Lake, Manitoba, September, 2001.

Lac La Loche, Saskatchewan, December, 2002.

Inuksuk overlooking Qikiqtarjuaq, Nunavut, July, 2003.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

My Quiet Place

View from Uluksan Point, July 2008

I've been lucky in that most places I've worked around the North had their share of great views. Places that drew me to them. Places I could go to be inspired. Quiet places where I could head to when necessary to relax, reflect and recharge. In Fort Smith, that place was the boardwalk overlooking the pelicans below the rapids of the Slave River. In South Indian Lake, it was the lake of course, where I would gaze up at some fantastic Northern Lights. In La Loche it was a quiet patch of shoreline behind the elementary school where I would watch glorious sunsets across the lake. In Qikiqtarjuaq, it was a large inuksuk, on a small granite knoll behind the Northern Store where, on clear summer days, I could see for great distances over much of the island. In Arctic Bay, there were many places. King George provided some awesome views, though of course getting up there required a little bit of work, which often defeated the purpose of relaxation. While I've posted many many pictures of King George V Mountain over the time I worked in Arctic Bay, an easier, and just as enjoyable place to head to for its calming effect (and some nice views too, I should add) was Uluksan Point. Here on a warm summer or fall day, I could sit in among the rocks, soak up the heat, enjoy great views of the mountain and ponder the remains of the qarmait (traditional houses) to be found there.

Ah, those dreamy days.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Ban Bordeaux?

Nunavut MLA plans to introduce a motion calling for a ban on EU wines into Nunavut. This, in retaliation for the European Union's decision to ban Canadian seal products. Since a) I used to live in Nunavut and like to consider myself at least somewhat familiar with the importance of subsistence seal hunting to the lives of Nunavummiut and b) I have a passion for red wines, I found myself inexorably drawn to this issue.

While wine sales as a percentage of total alcohol sales have been slowly increasing over the past 10 years or so, Canada remains one of the few wine-producing nations in the world where domestic wines do not hold a dominant share of the market. Having grown up within a days' drive of all 3 of Ontario's major wine-producing areas, I know there is still pretty of room for the industry to grow and would love to see it do so. A ban on EU wines, not just into Nunavut, but into all of Canada could mean more sales for our own home-grown wines. According to the VQA, wine sales in Ontario tripled in value between 1997 and 2007, to almost $2 billion. Clearly, there is growing demand for Canadian wines.

Beyond mere nationalism, buying domestically helps to cut down on the amount of carbon emissions it takes to get that bottle of Bordeaux from some little vintner in France. Given how anal the EU has become on the climate change front, I'm sure they won't mind if more Canadians decided to buy from Niagara or the Okanagan rather than say Burgundy. The decision then is up to us whether or not we want a good domestic wine gracing our dinner table or some EU import. Personally, I've never understood the big deal over French or Italian wines. In the past year, I've had perhaps one bottle of Bordeaux, nothing to sneeze at. Personally I'd much spend my money on a home-grown wine from Colio's, Sandbanks, Chadsey's, Erie Shores, Black Prince, even Huff's. With all the New World wines, especially from Chile, Argentina and Australia, not to mention the United States, perhaps the EU should be careful about wanting to ban certain trade items. The French wine industry, not having the monopoly on the world wine market it once did, is facing stiffening competition from New World wine and (I say this with a smile) they struggle to compete at times. Yes, I know I'm ranting here. Bear with me. Don't worry though, EU, Canada is a fair country. We can always make "exemptions" and then blindly protest they will work even though history says otherwise....just like you guys do. Perhaps we should just ban French and Italian wines but make exemptions for Hungarian tokaj. I'm sure the EU will understand that.......

Grief, trying to make EU politicians grasp anything these days, I think I need a glass of wine myself. No wonder those guys drink so much. Anyhow, while I don't think a Nunavut ban on EU wines would be anything more than symbolic, one can always dream about what a wonderful world that would be.