Quebec Student Protests: Forerunner to Stopping Plan Nord…er, uh… Energy East


These are my opinions.

I wrote this article in 2012 – I think my hunch was right but my target was wrong. What do you think?


Movement leaders egging Quebec students on to fight or die over a $325. per year tuition hike makes no sense, unless one looks at it in the context of the bigger picture of rising environmental opposition to the massive resource development of Plan Nord. [2016 – or Energy East]

What I thought in 2012

Everyone in Canada is scratching their heads over the now 13-week,  sometimes-violent student protest in Quebec that has been able to mobilize 100,000-plus people over a  nominal raise in tuition, while student tuition in Quebec is the lowest of anywhere in the country.

It just doesn’t make sense; or does it?

To me, it has little to do with tuition. I see it as a “test” of long-term mobilization against resource development.

Students are easily lead. Plan Nord is to Quebec what the oil sands is to Alberta; a multi- billion dollar northern resource development. But Plan Nord is not off the ground yet. In order to stop it, massive social unrest must be created. What better place to foment civil unrest than at university?

You have a body of young people who are prone to wild swings in ideology. They are easily led by their Facebook. Few of them have ever had to work for a living. They have time, synergy and tuition increases gave them a “cause.”

The tuition “cause” now includes social justice … and environment

I just heard one of the student protest leaders, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of Quebec’s  CLASSE, on CBC’s “The Current.” His talk drifted from student tuition protests to social justice and people being “concerned about resource development….” The penny dropped for me. It was about the time he said “…people are willing to be hurt or even die for…” — for what? $325 a year tuition hike? You’re egging people on to die over that?

No. This is boot camp for the big fight(s) that are coming soon.

Unelected, unaccountable social justice/eco-groups have boots on the ground

Once again I feel the riptide waves of a bevy of eco and social justice groups in all this. For instance, Tides Canada has been active in Quebec for some time and is managing the  Canadian Boreal Forest Secretariat. This is the green plan to turn most of Canada into a park. I know you weren’t consulted about it in advance. Like most things of this nature, unelected, unaccountable environmental NGO’s have conveniently made these decisions for you.

Too late to stop the oil sands; instead they’ll stop Plan Nord in its tracks

Had such eco-groups been active in Alberta 30 years ago, no oil sands resource development would ever have been permitted there. Without the oil sands today, Canada’s economy would be non-existent in this global recession. We’d be en route to Third World status.

So to me it is clear that the anarchist elements of the eco/social justice movement are gearing up to fight Plan Nord through student riots in Quebec. They will ratchet up their power through these test street battles over tuition.

Taking a leaf from the book of terror

Terrorists use these kinds of tests all the time. They test the fortitude of their target. They do a dry run to test the attention span and comprehension levels of the proposed victims.

How long did it take the system to respond? What of public opinion? Was the issue treated seriously? How easy was it to drive support for the accused? What did the false alarm cost the system?

So it is in Quebec. The student riots are now being collectively attached to big issues like “social justice” and “resource development.”

Resource development has always driven civilization’s economic growth.

Never mind that resource development has historically been the driver for all human activity. It is essential for our survival.

Cavemen sought sources of obsidian for strong, sharp stone tools for more successful hunting; modern day geologists and mining firms seek out certain forms of rock in the middle of nowhere, and in the process build communities alongside it.

$35 Million police tab – even an elephant will die from a thousand cuts

Someone out there wants Canada to weaken and fail. They want to stop the oil sands; too late. So they will try to stop Plan Nord. And the thing is they don’t have to be successful in one hit. The Mayor of Montreal asked the provincial government of Quebec for $35 million in March for additional police costs. That money probably would have covered all those tuition fees for a year.

And no amount of pandering to the students will resolve the issue — because they don’t want resolution! The invisible hands behind it all want a platform.

Be worried, Quebec and Canada. Stand on guard for thee.


NOW it is 2016. Energy East has been flatly rejected by the Mayors of Montreal and Laval. And I thought the battle would be against Plan Nord! Of course…it still may be.

But wait, you say. Nothing has happened to make the Mayors say ‘no.’

In my mind’s eye – and this is simply my imagination, I can see a short meeting between a few of these eco-radicals who point out “Look what happened last time. That was just over tuition!” Yep.  I’m sure the mayors would get the point.

Lots of foreign funding has gone to ENGOs in Quebec. One is GCCA which claims to have 450 ENGOs around the world in 70 countries aligned with it in efforts to stop fossil fuel use.  There are several more ENGOs in Quebec.

To me it looks like a trade war disguised as a climate crisis with ENGOs as the proxies while in the background someone’s pushing renewables – like wind and solar.

That’s what I see. How about you?

global climate action with quebec portal

PS – Why is the Quebec provincial logo with a live link to provincial services on their web?


Only 76 Scientists Make Up the 97% Who Agree on CAGW*


Claims of scientific consensus on catastrophic human-caused (anthropogenic) global warming do not stand up to scrutiny.

*Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming

Recently, the New York Times razzed a “climate denier”, Dr. Richard Lindzen, for having the temerity to go against the grain. After all, asserted the Times, “polls say 97 percent of working climate scientists now see global warming as a serious risk.”

I’ve heard this figure a lot, and never questioned it.

So, I thought I’d look up this claim.

Non-Scientist Challenges Scientific Consensus
There are three items I found on-line that review the surveys. The Science and Public Policy Institute offers an assessment by Dennis Ambler from December 2010 entitled “Climate Consensus Opiate: The 97% Solution” and another entitled “Controlling the Science: National Academies and Consensus”.

The first item found that in the 2009 Doron and Zimmerman paper (both scientists from the department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois) there seems to be significant manipulation of numbers.

Shocking Manipulation of Data – Only 79 Scientists Picked for Poll

According to Ambler’s review of the Doron/Zimmerman data, 10,257 scientists were contacted, 3,146 responded. That’s less than 31%. Of that group “only 5% described themselves as climate scientists, numbering 157. The authors reduced that by half by only counting those who they classed as “specialists.”

Ambler further dissects the consensus: “In our survey, the most specialized and knowledgeable respondents (with regard to climate change) are those who listed climate science as their area of expertise and who also have published more than 50% of their recent peer-reviewed papers on the subject of climate change (79 individuals in total). Of these specialists, 96.2% (76 of 79) answered “risen” to question 1 and 97.4% (75 of 77) answered yes to question 2.”

Questions Designed to Get the Answer You Want

Here are two of the questions that were asked:

1. When compared with pre-1800s levels, do you think that mean global temperatures have generally risen, fallen, or remained relatively constant?

2. Do you think human activity is a significant contributing factor in changing mean global temperatures?

These questions cannot elicit a scientific answer because they are asking about a person’s subjective opinion. Further I doubt any scientist of any persuasion would deny that human activity affects climate as in question number 2. Humans impact global temperatures; so can beavers, pine beetles, wild fires, volcanoes and solar flares. But how much is ‘significant’?
National Academy Climate Change Groups are Rife with NGO Political Influence

The second item about the National Academy is an interesting deconstruction of who’s who on the climate panels. Again, the evidence is shocking. Of 20 people on one panel, only 4 are climate scientists. Most of the other members are lawyers or business managers who are key figures in massive, well-funded eco-groups; people who have a clearly biased agenda and no science background whatsoever.

Leading Scientists Dissent
What will the media do now that scientist James Lovelock, creator of the “Gaia” theory and one of the leading CAGW alarmists has recanted saying: “The climate is doing its usual tricks. There’s nothing much really happening yet. We were supposed to be halfway toward a frying world now.”

But we’re not.

We are out of pocket for billions of dollars world-wide.

We Want Restitution

Shouldn’t someone pay for this fraud? It should be someone besides you and I, the taxpayers, and industry that can no longer afford to create jobs in this EPA restricted business ‘environment’, struggling to control the invisible “Carbon Boogeyman” who it turns out, is just as real as the monster under the bed.

James Cameron’s Space Mining Mission Needs an EIA*


Film director James Cameron questioned oil sands/tar sands environmental impact; in his quest for space, shouldn’t we expect a comprehensive plan prior. Could his extraterrestrial mining and water use upset the delicate balance of outer space?

Film director James Cameron’s hit space fantasy film “Avatar” was based on the geographic moonscapes</a> of the Alberta oil sands mega-projects. Now Cameron wants to make outer space mining fantasy into reality.

Planetary Resources, a company backed by Cameron and others, intend to mine near-space asteroids for precious metals.

We in Alberta where the oil sands are located are wondering if he has filed a complete EIA – Environmental Impact Assessment. These are public documents submitted to provincial and federal authorities. These documents detail the intended work and environmental impacts in diverse areas.

For earth bound oil sands mining, it takes about 5 years to complete an EIA. Without approval, no work goes ahead. At arms length international engineering firms like Worley-Parsons, Golder and Stantec engage dozens of specialists in fish and fish habitat, air quality,groundwater, hydrology, water quality, human health, socioeconomics,vegetation,soils and terrain, wildlife and, historical impact assessment.

On earth alone, oil sands mining EIAs involve more than 15 different civil engineers leading separate disciplinary teams. Most would be PhDs and have more than 10 years of experience working in oil sands.

So, if Cameron will be mining in outer space, who will be in charge of the review? Who can approve extra-terrestrial mining, when we know so little of outer space? Do we have an Outer Space Environmental Authority?

A couple of years ago, James Cameron toured Alberta’s oil sands, in answer to a First Nations request documented in an oil sands bashing, eco-propaganda film. The Alberta government and oil sands officials then gave him a tour of operations and an in-depth discussion about technical details, including reclamation.

Cameron subsequently made comments to the press about how bad it would be to grow up unable to ‘swim in the river’ (the Athabasca) leading people to believe this was due to pollution from ‘tar sands’ operations.

Cameron failed to mention that the oil sands occur naturally within the river, noted as far back as the 1800’s.

Here’s Charles Mair’s Treaty Diary. Read Chapter 9

Oil sands operators do not have a permit to release any process water into the river. A scientific review by Canada’s <a href=”; target=””>Royal Society</a> (RSC) found no evidence for the claims that oil sands activity was causing health issues. In fact, the RSC found that supposed water pollutants were well below Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines of which you can drink 1.7 liters a day for 70 years with no presumed harmful impacts.

But this all happens here on earth, a place we know well. Look at the controversy and misinformation that abounds!

For Cameron’s trek to space, he should have to file a complete Outer Space Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) plan.

How will he reclaim the space-scape of asteroids after mining; restore the natural beauty? Will he impact gravitational flow of asteroid streams – it could be catastrophic! Is it safe to burden this planet with imported mass weight? Does he have the right to take or contaminate extraterrestrial water?

What will be done with asteroid tailings or his carbon footprint?

Will Cameron be besieged by eco-activists, as the oil sands are…AsteroidEthics? Eco-Space-Justice? BluePlanetPeace? Will Greenpeace activists hang from his spaceship at blast-off?

Alberta’s Environmental Impact Assessments for oil sands developments take years to prepare and run to thousand pages. Hundreds of experts and scientists explain the project from start up to reclamation to decommissioning – some 20-40 years hence.

Plus, there’s the socio-economic element – the oil sands employ some 1,800 aboriginal people. With Cameron will we finally see the first First Canaidan First Nations astronaut?

If EIA and reclamation is the earth-bound oil sands requirement, Cameron’s EIA should meet standards that are “out of this world.”

“Tar” Sands Duck Deaths Lead to Advances in Avian Protection


Syncrude 2008 ‘duck deaths’ resulted in a creative sentence and judgement that is financing innovative avian monitoring and protection research in the oil sands.
Can migratory birds survive a landing on a “tar” sands tailings pond? Yes. Do birds see magnetic fields? Apparently yes. Can advanced marine radar track and drive an on-demand bird deterrent system to scare wildbirds away from tailings ponds? Yes.

High-tech marine radar, advanced photographic technologies and wireless transmission may be changing the face of avian monitoring in the oil sands of northern Alberta, according to University of Alberta professor of biological sciences, Dr. Colleen Cassady St. Clair.

In a panel presentation at the U of A’s Calgary Centre Dr. St. Clair began by explaining the importance of the Peace-Athabasca river delta to migrating birds.

Millions of birds, originating from 4 migratory flyways across North America, converge on the Peace/Athabasca delta – first using it as a staging area to breed – then in the fall returning prior to flying out.

Yet it is all within about 200 kilometres of oil sands industrial activity.

Advances in the fields of avian deterrents and monitoring received an unexpected boost with the much publicized Syncrude tailings pond bird deaths in 2008. The court decreed a large fine and a creative sentence – to develop means to prevent bird deaths – and that became a source of funding for some of Dr. St. Clair’s work.

Dr. St. Clair noted that from the early days of oil sands development, pioneer scientists/biologists extrapolated that tailings ponds might pose a problem to migrating birds, offering them an apparently inviting, but potentially lethal place to land.

From the early days, various types of deterrents were considered or deployed. In 1978, the US invented the acoustic cannon; in 1980 Boag and Lewis developed semi-active human effigies; later in 1984 the Phoenix Wailer was developed.

All these deterrents have problems. Some sound cannons – LRADs – are so loud (156 decibels) that birds can die from the shock of the noise. Human effigies quickly become a boring part of the landscape; the birds habituate to them. Phoenix Wailers offer a combination of sound, light, and bird call playbacks and timed activation.

But in 2005 Darrell Martindale proposed a system that activates only when birds approach. A colleague of Dr. St. Clair’s, Rob Ronconi, originated a concept that uses marine radar to activate deterrents when flocks are detected. With the financial support of the duck deaths court order, Dr. St. Clair and colleagues were able to develop a highly workable prototype.

Another challenge in the oil sands is that of bird monitoring and the human element. With about 40 very remote ponds, some as large as 11 square kilometers, and the requirement for early morning or late evening bird counts, the dangers to human monitors is high and the level of precision is challenging.

Again, with Syncrude funding, Dr. St. Clair’s team (which included industry, government and academic specialists) successfully developed an automated, photographic bird monitoring system with extremely high levels of precision and species identification.

The systems uses photographic magnification of 70X Zeiss optical zoom lenses, a laser range finder, various sighting scopes, a gigapan, electronic data recording and wireless technology to transmit images and results from various locations. It’s all off-the-shelf equipment. It works. And may one day replace human monitors.

In Alberta, avian specialists are working on research related to migratory birds. Part of Dr. St. Clair’s work related to monitoring is challenged by the human difficulty in determining whether a bird is a Greater Scaup …or a Lesser Scaup. To the human eye, there is very little difference. In terms of the automated photographic monitoring system, there was some improvement over human monitoring.

But new research from Europe proved to be even more helpful. The European research assessed how birds see the world – apparently very differently from humans. They see mostly in the Ultra Violet light spectrum. Birds apparently have four different cones in their eyes, unlike humans. When migrating at night, they need to see the short end of the light spectrum.

On the upside, birds use their “light” vision in mate selection. Dr. St. Clair illustrated the “bird’s eye” difference between two similar species; using a polarized filter, birds that appear very similar to the human eye, are suddenly dramatically different. So that’s how birds do it!

Birds apparently “see” the earth’s magnetic field, seeing a visual representation of the strongest magnetic pulse. They use the UV spectrum at sunrise and sunset perpendicular to the light as a means of navigation.

However, the human use of red lights in installations, and blue colored lights at industrial operations, confuses the birds – either attracting them to human-made dangers, or confusing them – as in urban centers where thousands of small birds crash into skyscrapers every night.

Dr. St. Clair illustrated an offshore drill rig that was outfitted with experimental green lights, and this greatly reduced the attraction to birds. Similar light spectrum applications may help keep protect birds in the area of oil sands operations – likewise this leading edge avian/oil sands research can be applied to industrial operations around the world.

Dr. St. Clair was enthusiastic about the support and cooperation her work had received from oil sands industry. The next steps include finding standardized methods and optimal solutions to apply this research and to take the prototypes from the test site to wide-spread operation in the field.

Originally published on Yahoo Contributor.

Beavers as Partners in Oil Sands Reclamation


GIS mapping comparison illustrates how ponds with beavers had 9 times more open water, even during severe drought – beavers may be important natural partners in wetlands restoration.


Beavers and human beings have some things in common. They’re big on land disturbance. It’s a kind of obsession for both.

This presents challenges in the oil sands where beaver tend to want to disturb installations and infrastructures that humans already disturbed – and vice versa. So, in 2009 CEMA – Cumulative Effects Management Association funded an independent research project by Dr. Glynnis Hood, Associate Professor of Environmental Science & Studies at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus. The objective was to complete an extensive review of scientific and unpublished literature to determine the potential effects of varying river flows on habitat of semi-aquatic mammals.

CEMA is the oil sands regional environmental stakeholder group charged with gathering and identifying cumulative elements and assessing mitigating factors related to oil sands development on the environment. Dr. Hood’s report findings were recently presented at a public forum at the University of Alberta’s Calgary Centre, to an audience of alumni and interested members of the public.

Dr. Hood is the author of the recently released book entitled “The Beaver Manifesto” She shared some of the aspects of that human-animal conflict research data as well her CEMA report.

Her focus in the CEMA report is related to potential increased water withdrawals from the Athabasca River, used for industrial processing and separation of oil from the bituminous sandy soil. There are several water-users on the river, including municipalities, agriculture, a number of pulp and paper mills, as well as proliferating oil sands operations.

Over the past few years, oil sands operators have improved their processing capacities and technologies so that some 85% of water withdrawn from the river is re-used; Alberta provincial environmental laws also set caps on industrial water withdrawals during seasonal low flow periods. Oil sands operators have established on-site water reserves for such times. However, there is still much to learn about how water withdrawals affect semi-aquatic mammals (muskrats, beavers, mink and river otters), especially in winter.

Beavers have an amazing ability to create massive impoundments that can offer massive water recharging to wetlands and ground water, equivalent to that of a 200 year flood. As some 65% of the oil sands region is made up of wetlands, the role of the beaver in ultimate reclamation will be invaluable. However, that also requires that beaver populations be maintained and human-beaver conflicts reduced.

Likewise, based on research, it appears that a symbiotic relationship exists between other small aquatic mammals such as river otters, mink and muskrat – so Dr. Hood’s work touched on all four.

To gain historical perspective, Dr. Hood, met with dozens of local elders and trappers and reviewed hundreds of pages of diaries and documents dating back to the early fur trade in the 1700’s. CEMA’s interest in muskrats was related to the animal’s importance to First Nation communities.

According to the recent testimony of trappers, historically it was possible to trap 300 muskrat a day from various locations; some people told of having to rent two float planes to fly out their furs. Even with such an astonishing ratio of trapping, muskrat populations were vibrant.

Not so the beaver. It was surprising to learn that by the 1940s, the beaver had all been trapped out of the Wood Buffalo park region and had to be reintroduced in 1948. Once reintroduced, they thrived and repopulated quickly as lifestyles changed and trapping declined.

A major concern to oil sands operators and environmentalists are issues related to water volume and flows and seasonal variations in the Peace-Athabasca Delta. Dr. Hood presented visual evidence of the devastating impact of the Bennett Dam (that began operations in late 1960s on the Peace River) which drastically reduced water levels throughout the delta.

None-the-less, the Athabasca and Peace Rivers are an extraordinary powerhouse. The Athabasca’s mean annual discharge reach some 20,860,000 dam3 at Fort McMurray and 68,200,000 dam3 for the Peace at Peace Point. This is many times that of any other river in Alberta where urban, industrial and agricultural withdrawals are substantially more than that of the oil sands in the north. Fast growing cities like Calgary in south are situated on the edge of the desert-like Palliser Triangle, and subject to severe drought and oversubscription.

However, there are concerns related to the expanding oil sands developments that center around water withdrawals -specifically in winter.

Dr. Hood explained that small river mammals, particularly beaver, create winter reserve caches of food under the water in fall. Their lodges have at least two under water entrances, which allow them free access to swim out and access their food reserves, under the winter ice pack. However, if unrestricted industrial water withdrawals occur which greatly lower the below-ice winter water levels, the beaver’s food caches may be frozen in or their lodge entries may become blocked by ice. This can also be caused by seasonal events like sudden melts/freezes or dam flow restrictions.

If the beaver succeeds in escaping its iced-in lodges, it must surface to search for alternate food. Beavers become easy prey for predators once on the ice. These factors can dramatically reduce the populations of all small aquatic mammals.

Dr. Hood noted that winter water withdrawals from rivers in large urban centers have the same impact.

Consequently, appropriate management of winter water withdrawals, including considering natural weather changes, are key to managing oil sands environmental impact.

Likewise, in terms of ultimate reclamation, beaver populations will be important helpers. Dr. Hood did a GIS mapping comparison of over a decade of air photos in east-central Alberta. Ponds that had beaver populations exhibited 9 times more open water, and this was true even in severe drought periods of 1950 and 2002 (a record dry year). In 2002, beaver ponds had 60% more water, than those same ponds had in 1950 when there was more precipitation, but no beavers!

Dr. Hood’s work also focuses on reducing beaver-human conflicts. Dr. Hood is working with Alberta Parks to implement- a “pond leveller” – a caged, flexible drainage pipe that runs through the dam in a natural beaver impoundment area, allowing the beaver to maintain a home. Yet when flood water levels reach a height that imperils nearby human enterprises or facilities, the pipe is triggered to draw water and release sufficient water to safely reduce the water level.

Now in the test stages, if successful, this method will allow the beaver to continue living in its chosen region where it will fulfill a natural environmental purpose to replenish the wetlands and recharge the water table, while at the same time, the device will protect human facilities from flooding.

Dr. Hood points out the wisdom and cost-efficiency of such an invention. “It’s about a $600. per device, versus trying to bring a backhoe into a remote, muskeg area for about $200-300. per hour to drain a pond that ultimately you really want to maintain for the health of the regional environment and all eco-systems, not just the beaver.”

By assessing decades of observations of wildlife patterns and combining an intimate understanding of the life cycles and habits of these small aquatic mammals we appreciate their role in the larger ecosystem. Then by applying common hydrological principles with simple, easy-to-maintain inventions like the pond levelers, Dr. Hood’s team is finding that we can ‘leave it to beaver’ to help maintain wetland health and ground water recharge. And humans can work side by side with nature, whether in an oil sands or urban/industrial context.

Is Oil Sands Reclamation a “Mission Impossible”?


Reclamation blends 100 years of reclamation science with modern advances in anthroposolic soils and integrated sciences.

When oil sands reclamation critics start to talk about impossibility of restoring the “the massive land disturbance” of oil sands mining, Dr. Anne Naeth of the University of Alberta calmly directs their attention to agriculture.

“We have been living with and accepting the massive disturbance of land through agricultural activities for over a hundred years in North America and for centuries in Europe. It’s just that we called it ‘settlement’,” says Dr. Naeth. “We forget that people came and plowed, cut trees, and began natural resource development. That has all been acceptable.”

Clearly the scope of global “settlement” land disturbance is much greater than that of the oil sands.

Dr. Naeth is a professor in the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences and the University of Alberta. She is a professional biologist and agrologist and her research program focuses on land reclamation and ecological restoration. She was one of the panelists at an evening public lecture on “Managing the Oil Sands Environmental Footprint” through the Calgary Center of the University of Alberta.

“I love doing talks like this,” she exclaims. “Reclamation work is fascinating and we are having many successes in the fields that no one talks about.”

Dr. Naeth presented images of a number of diverse test sites, some that assess a certain plant’s ability to thrive in restored land, some that assess ‘built’ soil – mixes of various combinations of dried tailings from the oil sands combined with peat moss and ‘overburden’ (the removed natural soil cover).

“I’m sure it will surprise many people to know that at a recent study we had over 70 species of natural plant life growing in fine tailings alone. Now some will say those plants might grow but they won’t thrive, however I can tell you the power of nature is amazing. We’re finding that by adding appropriate organic waste you can build appropriate soils that replicate natural soil development.”

According to Dr. Naeth, the science of reclamation enables her team to do in 30 years what it would take nature 1,000 years to do.

“The anthroposolic (human-made) soils and blend of native seeds then respond to external environmental factors like precipitation, water cycling, nutrient cycling and organic matter decomposition, and at some point the natural processes take over.”

Many critics question the so-called “science” of reclamation, believing it to be an entirely new field and thus unproven. Dr. Neath disagrees. According to her, reclamation as an intentional method was in process as early as the 1880s and the discipline has developed since.

“When I began working in this field some 30 years ago, it was becoming known as ‘reclamation.'” Yet Dr. Neath has worked at hydrocarbon related sites around the world and across North America for decades – dealing with issues of land disturbances, spills and restoration. She cites the Gregg River Mines reclamation as a successful coal pit-mining example.

“We’ve had great successes in minimizing the environmental impact, returning disturbed soil to capacity and restoring wildlife and their habitat.”

Dr. Neath points out that one bone of contention with the more vociferous environmentalists is ‘what constitutes reclamation’? The hard-liners demand a return to the land’s original state; others who seek a middle ground want the land returned to an equivalent capacity.

Dr. Neath points out that there are catastrophic natural events that irreversibly alter the landscape – forest or prairie fires, severe drought, or massive beaver dams.

“No matter what the cause, you’re not going to rebuild exactly what was there,” she states, “but that doesn’t mean the land won’t return to viability.”

Reclamation combines the knowledge of many disciplines – agrologists, hydrologists, geologists, aquatics and wildlife experts. Agrologists like Dr. Naeth concentrate on developing the right soil combinations, she is also an expert in natural vegetation and tries to create the right seed mix – which ironically requires attracting the wildlife back to the reclaimed land to fertilize the soil with natural manure.

“Animal manure is full of local seeds, scarified and ready for planting and germination,” says Dr. Naeth.

Development begins with molds, mushrooms and spores that offer essential micronutrients and processes that empower the earth to regenerate life. On a larger scale, experimental work in scattering LFH – typical forest floor litter in various states of decay – has demonstrated that this provides housing and nutrients for the tiny elements of life, as well as reducing erosion due to wind and water run-off.

On a larger scale, the overburden is planted with a crop of barley – a tasty treat to lure wildlife back to a new home and one that provides further ground clutter and strong roots to maintain the new soil in place.

“We’ve actually learned a lot from common agricultural practices that have been developed over the past 100 years here,” points out Dr. Neath. “No one summer-fallows their fields anymore for instance – that was a key cause of erosion and soil degradation in the drought of the Dirty Thirties.”

A key point in her work and presentation is that reclamation practices work with nature.

“We’ve visited a few abandoned sites from 20 or 30 years ago in the Fort McMurray area,” says Dr. Naeth, “and we were impressed with how nature was taking over with the building blocks, even though the plant diversity was lower than at our planned reclamations.”

Dr. Naeth looks forward to being able to offer public tours and field trips to her research sites. Presently these sites have restricted access as they are near active mining work sites.

Naeth’s team combines practical known methods, similar to those applied to agricultural land, with innovative thinking and scientific experimentation.

“We study how nature keeps things moving and apply that knowledge in the field. If you don’t believe me, take a look at how nature is responding in abandoned lots and industrialized areas in Detroit. Natural forces are magnificent. In our work, we provide the essential building blocks to enhance that natural power.”

Dr. Naeth also notes that human beings are impatient, but nature is not.

“If no one touched the mined sites for decades, nature would create her own form of restoration; however our restoration methods are intentional,” says Naeth. “We want to provide the means for accelerated restoration that maintains or enhances the biodiversity in most forms, while establishing a suitable replica of natural wetlands function. This means addressing the hydrology (water flows), water retention and recharge, filtration, and natural environments for regional plants and wildlife.”

Based on the evidence, oil sands reclamation is well in progress. She points out that in addition to the certified reclaimed 104 hectares of land, some 62 square kilometers have been reclaimed, but are not yet certified; an extended observation period is required by the Alberta government prior to certification in order to demonstrate that the eco-systems have returned to capacity without further human intervention.

“Oil sands land disturbance challenges are well within the scope of our experience and knowledge.”

Originally published on Yahoo Contributor.

“Tar Sands” or “Oil Sands” – Public Access to New On-Line Resources


Is it ‘tar’ sands or ‘oil’ sands? What does the science say? Search thousands of historic and scientific tar sands/oil sands documents and decide for yourself.
A recent study linked on the OSRIN website entitled “The Alberta Oil Sands, Journalists, and Their Sources” indicates that many journalists get their “tar” sands or oil sands information from the Internet. Good news — now everyone can access a listing of more than 1,500 oil sands papers, and in many cases find a link to a digital copy of the paper or its abstract, presented in a user-friendly, searchable bibliographic format, with more entries to come.

The Oil Sands Research and Information Network, operated through the University of Alberta, has provided funding for the online library project at CEMA, the Cumulative Environmental Management Association, drawn from an existing and growing repository of scientific papers and reference material.

One respondent in the journalist’s study stated: “…basically, the way I was able to become an expert on the oil sands was by using Google search. I went from having zero knowledge to a lot of knowledge in a couple of months.”

Why not use OSRIN?

Few people realize that from the 1970’s through AOSTRA (Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority), the oil sands constituted the second largest scientific research project in North America, second only to NASA. Few people would claim to be able scope out NASA’s 40 year heritage in a couple of months of online research. The oil sands represent an equally complex technological issue.

OSRIN’s executive director Chris Powter says that OSRIN is also generating new research-based information in five core areas: tailings reclamation, regional landscape reclamation, monitoring ecosystem impacts, increasing awareness and public access to scientific work by housing it on their site, and capturing social economic and regulatory factors relative to oil sands development. OSRIN is also rapidly becoming a repository of some 40 years of oil sands grey literature and historic documentation.

Journalists, government agencies, industry and members of the public alike can explore the actual history and science of the oil sands through the OSRIN and CEMA websites.

For air monitoring, look at the Wood Buffalo Environmental Association’s (WBEA) site (whose academic team have over 3,000 peer reviewed papers).

Authors of “The Alberta Oil Sands, Journalists, and Their Sources” study, Janice Paskey and Gillian Steward, both of Calgary, Alberta’s Mount Royal University note that 14 of the 20 journalists they interviewed “reported that the tension between economic/energy security and environmental impact is the driving issue for them when it comes to coverage of the oil sands”.

Indeed, the authors note that if development continues as planned, “it is expected that oil sands-related jobs in Canada will jump from the current 75,000 to 905,000 over the next 25 years. And for every two jobs created in Canada, one will be created in the U.S. Canadian Energy Research Institute“.(2011)

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil sands bitumen slurry to the southern U.S. for refining. Yet, this project, and the oil sands/tar sands often arouse fierce opposition. Much of it is amplified by consumer level campaigns like those conducted by eco-groups or companies like LUSH Cosmetics. These tend to simplistically vilify the oil sands — and downplay the science behind the work.

Authors of the Paskey/Steward paper note that “when asked how much of their research is done online, 11/19 respondents said 70% to 100%”.

Web-based eco-groups like the Pembina Institute are often a popular source of information for journalists. Yet according to testimony of Pembina’s Simon Dyer to Canada’s Standing Committee on the Environment on May 13, 2009, the “Pembina Institute has four staff to work on oil sands issues.”

By contrast, literally thousands of expert scientists, engineers and geologists participate in every oil sands development and dozens of experts review the applications, implementation and monitoring. It’s crucial that media, government and the public have access to the history and science.

As one journalist said “…there’s no other project like this in the world, and its history in the making, and you are watching this all come about …”

Chris Powter of OSRIN says, “There’s a lot of information out there and peer-reviewed papers are not the only valuable documents. I encourage people to develop a more informed opinion.”

And here’s his ebook:

These are my opinions. Originally published on Yahoo Contributor.