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Today’s mailbox: Railways and bears

Letters to the editor published Feb. 10, 2021

A2A: A pipeline on rails

The Alaska to Alberta Railway (A2A) would transport oil through the Northwest Territories and the Yukon to the coast of Alaska. But communications from A2A diminish the topic of oil, even though A2A are looking at transporting over one million barrels of oil a day.

That’s unsurprising. The Yukon has declared a climate emergency and climate science tells us that we need to reduce our production (and thus transportation) of fossil fuels, including oil, by six per cent annually to avoid severe climate disruption.

While the project might carry other commodities, the economic core of A2A is oil. An estimated million barrels a day will be transported, producing more emissions when burned than the Yukon produces in 6 months. Even if they reduced that amount by 50 per cent, even if some of that oil is used for non-fuel products, even if we build more local renewable energy to offset emissions, that’s still equivalent to months of Yukon emissions being transported everyday.

The argument that the railway could help cut emissions by allowing for the transportation of other products is pure PR spin at its ripest. This project is betting it’s financial success on the continued transportation of oil — betting directly on continued global emissions and our inability to avoid severe climate change.

Make no mistake, severe climate change would be a crisis worse than any we have faced.

We also need to protect 30 per cent of the earth to maintain biodiversity, which brings up the local risks of A2A. The key argument for building pipelines was that they were a safer way to transport oil than by train. Can that partially be mitigated by using solid state oil? Maybe, but oil itself isn’t the only local impact. The company says they will go around any First Nations opposed to the project, but the impacts of a railway are not limited to its immediate route.

Experts agree that A2A is an economically problematic project, especially as oil declines. Even the Keystone XL pipeline wasn’t actually necessary in terms of oil transport, given expansions to other pipelines and planned projects, so an oil railway definitely isn’t necessary. The cost to transport oil by rail is significantly higher than a pipeline, challenging even A2A’s short-term viability. A former pipeline executive at TransCanada Corp. Dennis McConaghy, has called A2A a “very challenged” project which would only make sense as an absolute last resort.

When green advocates and pipeline execs agree that says something! That’s why I started a petition against A2A, www.noa2a.ca.

The company says they want Indigenous ownership (just under half, of course) and that they want to work with communities to reduce impacts. There will be a verbal stream of green-washed ‘good will’ aimed at justifying the transport of oil. It will sound smooth — this is the new, friendly, face of oil. But this project is not climate friendly and tying local economies and industries to a liability like A2A is, at best, a collapse waiting to happen.

Instead let’s create a green economy for the generations to come.

John Curtis

Ibex Valley

Protection of grizzly bears vital

As a keystone species, grizzly bears have a positive effect on the ecosystems where they thrive. They regulate healthy populations of the animals they prey on, such as elk and moose, and keep forests healthy by dispersing seeds and berries through their feces. In regions where hunting sustains remote lifestyles grizzly management requires a delicate balance between human and grizzly bear needs. Caribou are the common target.

Winter is a time of year to think and realize who we are and what responsibilities we have in our communities. Every grizzly bear region in Canada demands an individual critical assessment to protect and maintain this keystone species. Humans die, grizzlies die but living in peace and respect for each other should never die.

History and cultures are a critical component of any resource management plan. We cannot forget the spiritual value and worth of living in synchronicity with the mighty grizzly bear. Humans have forgotten their place as only one species on a large planet. We see ourselves (as) superior and entitled. Many humans put money, the economic gain, above everything else. But to relearn how to be human in a place is to be able to respect the grizzly in his place. It’s time to manage better our humanity and our place in it.

The minority of hunters who engage in the killing of large carnivores, such as bears, wolves, and cougars for sport could threaten any socially acceptable grizzly management plan. Harvest management and human sporting activities are two very different activities.

Do you feel your place, your needs and your relationship with the grizzly bear (frame it) as a predator or a member of a common habitat and neighborhood.

When our neighbours are threatened we support them.

When grizzly bears are threatened we support their rights to be.

Climate is changing, times are changing, our environment is threatened.

The choice is simple — be part of a solution to protect and support within your neighbourhoods.

Sue Greetham

Director, Grizzly Bear Protection Yukon

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