Own the conversation this weekend with The WTF, a top-4 collection of the current and topical environmental news briefs, delivered with a side of humour.

The WTF: The Week This Friday Vol. 58

This is the Week This Friday! 4 quick-and-smart briefs about happenings in the environmental space.

Blanket Coverage

Source: The Guardian

Stumbled upon an interesting and somewhat amusing story of an Italian team that has been, since 2008, covering a glacier in northern Italy, the Presena glacier, with huge reflective tarps during summer months to minimize the ice loss due to rising heat. The glacier has already lost one-third of its volume since 1993, and the project has managed to grow from covering an area of around 30,000 square metres in 2008 to more than 100,000 square metres today.

The work is carried out by a private firm under contract to the government, and one of the project’s key goals is to protect a glacier that supports a wintertime ski economy. The article continues:

Once in place, the sheets, which measure 70m by 5m, are hardly distinguishable from the packed white snow beneath. The Austrian-made tarps cost up to €400 ($450) each and it takes the team six weeks to install them – and another six weeks to remove them before winter sets in again.

Which got me thinking about the other vital glaciers and mountainous ice caps like those that lie atop the Himalayas. And some glaciers and their kin closer to home here in Canada. As we ponder the best ways to mitigate the worst impacts of the climate emergency that are already present in our lives – with an eye towards minimizing the duration and degree of devastation that we’ll need to endure before the worst is over – we’ll need to start getting more creative in taking small but meaningful steps to protect species at risks, including glaciers.

And given the recent headline in the Washington Post…

Earth is now losing 1.2 trillion tons of ice each year. And it’s going to get worse.

…we’re probably going to need a lot more blankets!

Quebec Chooses Environment Over 14 Billion Dollar Gas Project 

Source: Montreal CTV News

Quebec has rejected 14 billion dollars from a natural gas project in Saguenay, as it works to reduce the province’s overall environmental impact. The proposed development had to do with the creation of a power and processing plant in Port Saguenay, Quebec—the plant would primarily function in liquifying natural gas transported from Western Canada. Additionally, the project would also fund the development of a 780-kilometre pipeline connecting to other natural gas lines in Ontario.

Premier François Legault had been in favour of this project In the beginning as it would diversify their economy, which had been largely dependent on metal and forestry industries. Although, this soon changed as the company in charge of the project had failed to pass three main criteria (provided by the provincial government) pertaining to its environmental impacts. This included: (1) aiding the province in the transition towards green energy; (2) lower the province’s greenhouse gas emissions; (3) garner public support for the project.

The company behind the proposal, known as GNL Quebec, had initial plans to make the plant carbon neutral in an effort to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions produced in the processing centre. However, the Quebec environmental review board estimated that these “reductions” would not likely occur. The project was then rejected by the province in lieu of consultation from the aforementioned review board and due to protests from many environmental groups; including most prominently the David Suzuki Foundation and Greenpeace. It is also important to note that many indigenous communities within the province had also opposed the project, likely further fueling the government’s decision to halt it.

Join Ontario’s Youth Environment Council!

Source: Ontario.ca

The Ontario provincial government is creating a new Youth Environment Council to allow young environmental activists to help solve climate change and other environmental issues in their area! The group would be a collection of passionate nine to 12 year-olds who would apply to have a position in the council through a volunteer-based system. The applications would be due on August 4th, 2021 and the program would begin in the fall of 2021 (at the beginning of the school year)—the final members will be announced this summer.

The list of topics that the government would like the youth group to work on would be as follows:

  • How can the government strengthen its understanding of youth climate issues regionally?
  • How can the government ensure that youth voices are fully inclusive in creating environmental solutions?
  • What connections/relationships can be created between policy-makers and young environmental activists?

This program would also provide learning opportunities to its council, such that they might have a future career in environmental assessment or law-making. The group is expected to meet monthly (from September 2021 – April 2022) and will be sourced from all regions of Ontario, including from Indigenous communities.

If you or your child is interested and has a passion for the environment, then this opportunity might be your gateway into changing the world for the better!

Ancient Threats Uncovered in Melting Glaciers

Source: BBC

This week, a team of scientists and researchers released a study detailing that they’ve recently uncovered 33 species of viruses found frozen in two glaciers in the Himalayas, 28 of which have never been detected before.

From the news report:

Researchers from Ohio State University report that the glacial ice containing the viruses dates as far back as 14,500 years. It was found more than 6,700 metres above sea level, at the Guliya ice cap in western China, and removed for analysis in 2015.

As you can see, we’re literally just scratching the surface of our knowledge of the natural world, while we wrestle with our own worst efforts to destroy much of nature. And all the while wrestling with the impacts of one virus – the coronavirus – on the human population across the planet. So should we be worried about the viruses ‘re-animating and inflicting some prehistoric pox upon the people?

Again, from the report:

The remaining viruses had previously been cataloged, and – perhaps adding another bit of relief to this discovery – tend to infect bacteria, not humans or animals. Additionally, the researchers say, environmental clues suggest that the newly discovered viruses didn’t attack humans either. More likely, they thrived in plants and soil.

So, in this case, we’re pretty sure that nothing untoward will happen. But with the number of potential viruses buried in permafrost and glaciers starts melting measured in the millions (if not billions), we humans have another good reason to be more careful as we engage with an awakening natural world less than enamored with our collective behavior

Ishani Dasgupta is majoring in Environment, Resources, and Sustainability (ERS), while also pursuing a minor in English & Literature Studies, at the University of Waterloo. She is a dedicated environmental writer and has worked throughout the course of her career to write about the challenges faced by communities, natural spaces, and activists alike regarding the destruction of the natural environment–she is interested in exploring global inequities created by the current Anthropocene. In her free time, Ishani likes to make music, read, and go on nature walks. Ishani is taking on the role of an editorial intern for Alternatives Journal (A/J).

David McConnachie is A\J’s publisher.