A Bitter Lesson – California Wildfires

Camp Fire, one of three recent wildfires in California, resulted in near total destruction of the town of Paradise with large loss of life. Over the last two decades increased wildfire activity  in California has led to greater damage to property, increase in the loss of life,  and sky-rocketing costs of forest management. President Trump …

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Toronto Mayoralty Campaign – A Welcome Announcement

In February of this year 4RG sponsored a well attended Forum on the threat to Toronto’s Tree Canopy.  The panel of Jeff Cullen, Janet McKay and Hilary Cunningham explained how the December 2013 ice storm had devastated the trees that we depend on

  • for shade that can mitigate the effects of extreme heat;
  • to sustain many natural forest areas within the City,
  • as a desirable feature of Toronto’s many Parks,
  • as a way to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere;
  • as a means of reducing ground saturation – which is important in controlling floods, and
  • as a setting for our recreational environment.

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Why a community forum on trees?

Toronto has been described as a “city of trees”.   This description reflected a civic belief that trees were an amenity that mitigated the impact of intense urban construction.  Yet over the years the citizens of Toronto have tolerated “densification”, a policy of current city planners. As buildings grow taller and crowd out to the boundaries of property, trees disappear.

I recall a law school lecture on planning where the lecturer, a downtown Toronto lawyer, explained that it was less expensive for his clients to take down trees and retain him if there were any legal repercussions.  In the long run, this was cheaper than engaging in long negotiations with neighbours.

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Are the tar sands ecocide?

For six decades Canadians regarded the tar sands as a natural resource to be developed.  The site of the tar sands, located in Canada’s Northern boreal forest, was very sparsely populated, mainly by aboriginal peoples. Apart from sporadic mine sites, there was no other large economic activity carried on until tar sands development arrived in the early 60’s.

Initially no one recognized the risks that could result from the development of the tar sands.  Certainly the extraction of the bitumen from the tar sands would destroy trees and the landscape, but this destruction could later be remedied over time by restoration of the forest.  It was assumed that the toxic substances released by extraction and processing would be in minimal quantities, and so absorbed in the vast space until nature had rendered them harmless. If by chance health consequences did arise, the long-suffering aboriginal peoples would be unlikely to complain until the tar sands reached the status of national resource. The generation of CO2 emissions was not foreseen as a risk until the development was well underway.

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