The Week This Friday Vol. 49

What’s’ Mine is Not Yours

The effects of climate change are beginning to emerge through constant changing temperatures, water supply fluctuations, and increased average global temperatures. It can be felt all around the world in little ways.

In Toretsk, Ukraine, a local coal mine supplying 67 000 workers is on the road to catastrophe. Not because of the effect of coal being used in the industrial sector, rather  it has more to do with how they begin to harvest the coal from the deep bedrock in the ground.

 Abandoned mines, that are now harvested to their capacity, are being filled with toxic groundwater filled consisting of heavy metals and external pollutants. Because they are located stories underground it is close to groundwater aquifers. This puts freshwater resources at harm’s way for the tens of thousands of workers living in the area.  The toxic water can contaminate the ground by seeping into the soil which will then make the area unusable for farming and agriculture. If the water leaked by accident, it would migrate down the Kryvyi Torets and the Siverskyi Donets river where the whole area receives drinking water. On top of unavailable water, methane gas is being released to the surface that has the ability to cause earthquakes that are a  9.0 magnitude on the seismic scale and explosions on the surface that is surrounded by broken up bedrock.

According to the head of the Toretsk’s Civil Military Administration, Vasyl Chynchyk, only two of the mines are still in operation and the rest are abandoned. Their only solution is to remove the water and put it in safe containers away from freshwater resources.

“You can’t just close a mine and forget about it, because the risks are too high,” said Yevhen Yakovlev, a hydrogeologist who works at the natural resources department of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. “Mine waters will rise, pollute the drinking water and destroy the soil.”

Due to the constant war in Donbas’ no investments will be made to have better solutions. There is too much raised tension.Moreover, the solutions in place are not effective enough for the coal mines to continue to be in operation.

“According to our measurements of the water levels in the region, the pumping stations there [in occupied parts of the Donbas] are out of order,” said Viktor Yermakov, an environmental scientist, and a member of the Trilateral Contact Group.

Although the disaster may not be immediate, it will happen in the next 5 to 10 years. The effects are already being seen by experts in the field, and not giving the public enough information to make informed decisions to where their liability aligns.The first sign was the closing of an abandoned mine, and now it’s time to sign up to make serious changes to mitigate fossil fuel effects. 


A Fish Species Has Evolved Due to Climate Change

Source: McGill University

A species of fish has been shown to adapt its genetic traits due to seasonal shifts caused by climate change. This week, a team of lead scientists at  McGill University discussed their findings on the adaptation of the threespine stickleback fish due to persistent “climatic changes” observed over a period of time.

The research group suggested that specific genetic adaptations being more frequent in populations, were directly related to natural selection—described as the process in which populations of organisms randomly change (genetically or otherwise) to be more or less advantageous overtime. In which those adaptations that are more favourable to the environment will survive the longest, while the other traits will likely die out.

In the case of this species, natural selection pertaining to adaptation in response to temperature change was observed. Specifically, only individuals which had genome sequencing that aided in the construction of different habitats during (unprecedented) wet winters and dry summers, were able to survive into the next season. The scientists believed that such habitat shifts similarly occurred 10 000 years ago, when the species first arrived in California due to alternative temporal conditions.

Experts at the university suggest that such rapid genetic changes speaks to how rapidly natural selection is occurring in the present. Moreover, it is a significant case in understanding how nature might adapt to changing environmental metrics caused by climate change.


Ford Government faces Lawsuit over changes to Ontario Environmental Assessment, Bill 197

Source: London Free Press

Bill 197  was passed last July in Ontario as part of the Covid Recovery Act. Included in the bill were sweeping changes to the Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) aimed at shortening the Environmental Assessment (EA) process and getting rid of “red tape”. These changes were the first major changes to the Ontario EAA in over 30 years. 

Environmentalists, however, have questioned the legality of the changes. This week environmental groups and various first nations groups will be in court challenging the Ford government’s changes to the Ontario EAA. The 2 major issues environmentalists have raised are that the government did not have the authority to cancel public consultations on the changes to the EAA and that the fast tracked EAA process will have detrimental environmental effects. 

One argument made this week was by Canadian Environmental Law Association Lawyer (CELA) Castrilli. Castrilli is contesting the government claim that the bill was urgent and is in violation of the Ontario Environment Bill of Rights. The Ontario Environmental Bill of Rights gives an ordinance that the Government must consult the public for 30 days for human changes to the environment.  During the COVID-19 pandemic the government suspended several environmental protection rules but lifted them a month before introducing the bill. The government passed the bill arguing that it was too “urgent” to wait for a full consultation due to COVID-19. Castriilli argues that the government still has to follow the rules, even during a pandemic. 

Also according to Castrilli, the bill will have earth shattering impacts on the environment. Bill 197 expanded the controversial practice of minister zoning orders (MZO’s). 

The court will hear arguments later this week from First Nations groups: the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, Attawapiskat First Nation, Chapleau Cree First Nation, Eagle Lake First Nation, Fort Albany First Nation, Magnetawan First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, Temagami First Nation and the Teme-Augama Anishnabai community. 

The outcome of the court hearing will be monitored closely and the outcome will have substantial effect on environmental issues in Ontario and Canada more broadly. 

International Energy Agency Report: Fossil Fuel Investment Must End Now

Source: CBC News

The International Energy Agency (IEA) released a report Tuesday that stated fossil fuel investments must be stopped for global climate goals to be met by 2050. The International Energy Agency is the most authoritative energy group in the world. This global climate goal is in line with several countries including Canada and the U.S goal to reach net zero emissions energy sector. 

The report outlines over 400 steps on how to achieve a net zero global energy sector by 2050. Examples may include an increased investment in solar and wind power by 2030.  It has been understood that the end to investing in fossil fuels are the key steps to reaching a net zero global energy sector. Another key takeaway from the report is that no internal combustion vehicles should be sold after 2035 to meet these goals. 

The report outlines how transforming the energy sector would bring tremendous economic benefits and create millions of new jobs. The investment in renewable energy would most importantly eventually have lower energy costs and prevent a “climate catastrophe” according to Greenpeace activist Keith Stewart.

However, there has been push back to the report from groups in the Canadian energy sector. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) labeled the report as “unrealistic”. The director of the CAPP Tim McMillan stated that solutions need to be “grounded in the real world”

Despite countries’ ambitious and bold goals for greenhouse gas reductions, emissions are expected to grow in the near future. Current demand for fossil fuels is predicted to increase over the next few years. The IEA stated that 2021 will have the second-largest annual increase in emissions since 2010. Some have argued that what the IEA says should be done like in the second largest producing country of North America.  a

If countries like Canada are to meet their bold climate change targets, emissions for 2021 and 2022 must be reduced drastically. The changes outlined by the IEA should be taken into consideration and implemented immediately for the targets to be met. Actions always speak louder than words.


A Sustainable Look at Cryptocurrencies

Source: CNBC

As a young individual getting into the working world, I am being encouraged to invest and “let my money work for me, …to build your wealth, you should invest your money.” Investing provides an avenue for one to expend money in such a way that there is potential to earn strong rates of return. I am very new to the investment world and have spent the last few months researching and subscribing to newsletters on why I should invest, what I should invest in, and how to invest. 

 This week, investment platforms have been buzzing over cryptocurrency- a digital or virtual asset based on a network that is distributed across many computers. This comes after Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, said he wouldn’t use or accept Bitcoin until he is sure it’s produced sustainably as he was “concerned about the rapidly increasing use of fossil fuels for Bitcoin mining and transactions.” Bitcoin has been receiving a lot of attention on its negative environmental impacts, and some of its investors have been reapportioning their digital assets to more sustainable investments; even though attempts have been made to reduce Bitcoin’s impact. 

 Mining cryptocurrencies, especially Bitcoin, requires a lot of electricity to keep the computers running as well as air conditioning needed to prevent them from overheating. Bitcoin mining is performed by high-powered computers that solve complex computational puzzles. This process of solving problems, referred to as “Proof of Work”,  is necessary to maintain the ledger of transactions and verifies the legitimacy of Bitcoin transactions, and thus, a lot of processing power to produce one single token. As a result, this process consumes a lot of energy. 

Research has shown that in 2019, Bitcoin was responsible for approximately 22-22.9 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The journal Nature suggests that emissions from Bitcoin mining alone could increase global warming by 2 degrees before 2050. For a better visual, emissions from Bitcoin are comparable to the total emissions from cities such as Hamburg or Las Vegas.  

Musk has suggested that the company will move towards a more sustainable cryptocurrency, Dogecoin. Dogecoin, although a more sustainable option than Bitcoin, does have its pitfalls as well. 

 There are over 4500 mineable coins and tokens in the cryptocurrency world, with a variety of parameters. This makes it difficult to highlight which currency is greener than the other. However, there are cryptocurrencies that are inherently more energy efficient than Bitcoin and Dogecoin. These cryptocurrencies use a “Proof of Storage” (or “Proof of Stake”) systems that use significantly less energy, and in some cases currencies that use a “block lattice” technology that does not require any mining. 

So, if you are a new or experienced investor consider allocating your assets in sustainable investments as well as eco-friendly cryptocurrencies that you (may) hold. Do your research and if you are not sure where to start, there are a plethora of blogs out there that list the most eco-friendly cryptocurrencies. Good luck with your sustainable investment adventures! 

Yanique McFarlane is a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability student at Western University. Her background in Conservation and Biodiversity, Linguistics and Molecular Biology, Immunology and Disease sparked her interests in healthcare and the environment, topics in climate change, conservation (of species, land, water, and energy), advancements in clean technology and sustainable life. Her professional interests lay in energy, waste, and resource management along with promoting and fostering environmental awareness and understanding. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, watching cartoons, and sharpening her calligraphy skills. 

 He is a Masters of Environment & Sustainability (MES) Candidate at the University of Western Ontario. He completed his BA in Urban Studies with a Focus in Planning at the University of Toronto. He is particularly interested in sustainable urban planning practices that work in line with market and consumer demands. In his spare time, Anthony enjoys cycling, calisthenics training and practicing martial arts.

Elizabeth is a Master’s in Environment and Sustainability student with a focus on corporate resource use. Their background is in the field of Environmental Studies with a double minor in Biology and Geographic Information Systems from Central Michigan University. Utilizing her skills in such a critical mindset, Elizabeth is determined to explore what the Earth has to offer to the corporate world and sustain life for the future to come. In her free time, she likes to learn about microorganisms, explore Northern Michigan, and find new hobbies to pursue in this time of isolation. 

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).