Today’s mailbox: Light pollution, Earth Day and bailouts

Letters to the editor published April 22

Astronomical Society commends Whitehorse Ski Club for Low-Impact Ski Trail Lighting

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Yukon Centre (RASC Yukon / Yukon Astronomical Society) issued a Letter of Commendation to the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club for adopting low-impact lighting on the ski trails.

The Whitehorse Ski Club installed new fully-shielded trail lighting as part of its trail upgrades. The warm-white or amber-coloured lights produce three to five times less light pollution relative to the equivalent bright-white light commonly used in most LED lighting.

This new system provides adequate light for skiing and avoids “over-lighting” the trails with excessive light. We also applaud the ski club’s decades-old good practice of turning off their sports facility lighting when the trails close each night.

The RASC Yukon commends the Whitehorse Ski Club for demonstrating community leadership in reducing the environmental and societal impact from its lighting facilities. The club also reduced its energy consumption and saved on operational costs.

Funding for this low-impact lighting was provided the Yukon government’s Good Energy Program for commercial and institutional buildings. This provided a 75 per cent rebate off the costs for dark-sky listed lighting and other greenhouse gas reduction measures.

This is second Letter of Commendation issued by RASC Yukon. The first was issued to ATCO Electric Yukon in 2016 for adopting and implementing International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) approved roadway lighting.

The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Yukon Centre provides technical advice, at no cost, to organizations interested in helping reclaim the Yukon’s night sky heritage. Contact us at yukonastronomicalsociety@gmail.com.

Forest Pearson

Light Pollution Abatement Project Lead

Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Yukon Centre

Action is the theme for this year’s Earth Day

April 22 is Earth Day. It’s been 50 years since the first Earth Day was organized. On April 22, 1970, twenty million Americans took to the streets to protest environmental ignorance and demand a new way forward for our planet. The first Earth Day is credited with launching the modern environmental movement.

One hundred and ninety-two countries now observe Earth Day, so you might think that in last 50 years the Earth’s citizens have increased their appreciation and protection of our planet. You would be mistaken.

The theme for this year’s Earth Day is climate action. The enormous challenge, and vast opportunities, of action on climate change have distinguished the issue as the most pressing topic for the 50th anniversary.

We hear the phrase “existential threat” often these days, usually referring to things that are not. Climate change is the real deal. We are endangering the very life-support systems that make our world habitable.

We don’t have to.

The first Earth Day was a unified response to an environment in crisis. The environmental problems in 1970 were mainly pollution of various types — of fresh and ocean water, air and soil. Acid rain. They were serious, difficult problems, but ones that now seem simple and easy compared to climate change.

The Earth needs your help. There’s plenty you can do. Personal actions like reducing your fuel consumption, avoiding disposable products, growing a vegetable garden. Group actions like organizing a carpool or a joining a community cleanup. Political actions like attending a demonstration or asking your elected officials to make better environmental choices.

One June 17, 2019 the Government of Canada declared a climate change emergency. The City of Whitehorse did the same on September 25, 2019. The Yukon Government declared its climate change emergency on October 10, 2019.

Now that we’re in the COVID-19 crisis though, we are seeing what it looks like when governments actually think there’s an emergency.

The COVID-19 crisis is showing us all how much our governments can do and how quickly. It’s showing us what we can do as a society. It’s showing us that large-scale international cooperation is possible and effective. All important lessons.

The effects of COVID-19 have been intense and are likely to last another year or more. Climate change will be even more catastrophic though, and it won’t be over in a year or two.

In the last few weeks all of the public discourse has been taken up by COVID-19. But climate change, and our many other environmental problems, aren’t fixing themselves while we self-isolate.

When you’re ready to think about something other than COVID-19 again, think about our planet.

Happy Earth Day everyone.

Lenore Morris

President, Yukon Riding Association

Green Party of Canada

Invest in people, not corporations

The following is an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, MP Larry Bagnell and Finance Minister Bill Morneau

Some of the recent initiatives your government is talking about or are about to put into place really soon will be good, like financial support for all workers from all sectors who need income support in order to preserve personal and public health, including migrant and undocumented workers. Please put them in place quickly.

But now I’m asking you to only bail out people and communities and definitely not corporations and billionaires. With global markets ‘in the tank’ for crude oil, the price of oil right now is far too low for any new oil and gas development to get any financial assistance. A handout now will not save this industry, nor will it protect workers. We need urgent investment in transitioning to a renewable energy economy.

In 2019, the top five oil and gas companies in Canada profited a total of $10 billion, while the number of jobs in this industry continued to shrink. More than 53,000 jobs have been lost in this industry since 2014, despite seemingly endless public subsidies.

In 2018, the Canadian government bought the Trans Mountain pipeline for $4.5 billion and it will continue to cost us billions more over the coming decades. The same year, a $1.6-billion bailout was given to the oil industry in financing and investment, globally. Export Development Canada gave $62-billion in financing and insurance to the oil and gas sector between 2012 and 2019.

Despite all this support, the industry has been laying off workers and chose to not invest in their own projects like the Trans Mountain Expansion Project and the Teck Frontier mine. And that was before the economic crisis brought about by COVID-19 and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Instead of bailing out big oil, make money available for orphan well cleanup that is administered by an independent fund with representation from Indigenous communities, local governments and landowners.

Many of the necessary solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic are the same measures we need to address the climate emergency. I’m calling on you to put people and communities first in this crisis instead of letting corporations hoard the wealth they’re extracting from communities as they have been doing for decades, encouraged by Conservative governments and too often by Liberal governments.

Stop taxpayer money being spent propping up businesses that only worsen the effects of climate change. Every dollar spent on share purchases, loan guarantees and other forms of corporate bailouts is a dollar not spent immediately and directly keeping people healthy and keeping food on their tables.

The future is in renewables and low carbon economy — it’s time to start bailing out the workers instead of the CEOs. It’s time for a just transition and recovery, with a post-crisis Green New Deal.

The government must invest in industries and products we need right now, like medical supplies, and that we’ll continue to need in the future, like low carbon energy sources, caring industries, clean water for Indigenous communities, and other green solutions.

Pandemics, pipelines and privatization don’t mix. Our children future depends on people-powered government, not oil-industry-and-corporation-controlled government.

Theo Stad

Carcross

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