SEN Info Bulletin

December 12th, 2014

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Action Alert




SES Solar Power Co-op is Closer Than Ever to Reality!

SEN member group the Saskatchewan Environmental Society (SES) is closer than ever to seeing their vision of a community owned solar energy co-operative become a reality. Over the past month, SES launched an Indiegogo campaign as part of the Affinity Credit Union's "Business for Good" contest. By the end of the fundraising period, the campaign raised over $50,000 for the project, beating their fundraising goal by over $40,000. Over 30 people contributed over $1000 to the campaign, making them the first members and solar panel owners in the co-operative.

The Affinity contest was on a "vote with your dollar" basis. The SES campaign raised significantly more funds than the other two competing projects, but the votes are calculated per-vote, so this doesn't guarantee their success. But if SES did in fact receive more votes than the other contestants, Affinity will chip in another $50,000, giving them over $100,000 to start the project. The solar farm project is expected to cost about $340,000 to become a reality, but after only one month of fundraising, things are looking good for the future of community based solar in Saskatoon.

Read a CBC News article on the project here, and find out more at SES's website here.

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Canada's First Ever Solar Thermal Plant in Medicine Hat

Medicine Hat is known as the "gas city," for its sizable natural gas reserves that have dominated the city's economy for decades. In 2007 the now mayor, Ted Clugston noticed the need for the city to diversify, and that the current "all eggs in one basket" approach could eventually lead him to be mayor of a ghost town.

Medicine Hat was in a unique position thanks to their abundant resources to make a financial commitment toward this diversification. Now the city is set to cut the ribbon in June 2015 and officially open Canada's first ever solar thermal plant. In areas that receive a lot of solar radiation like southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, solar thermal plants can be an excellent alternative to traditional photovoltaic panels.

This move by the city of Medicine Hat sets a great example for western Canadian cities and towns who are dependent on resource revenues. The resource industry is what supports many cities and towns in Saskatchewan. Mayor Clugston and the city of Medicine Hat have learned that this revenue can be used to safeguard the future of these cities and provide long-term jobs in the clean energy sector.

Read more about the city of Medicine Hat and their solar thermal plant here

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Environment Canada Study Shows Tarsands Tailings Ponds Emit Atmospheric Toxins at Much Higher Levels Than Reported

In the first Environment Canada study on tarsands tailing pond emissions to use actual field measurements, it has been found that the amount of atmospheric toxins they release has been dramatically underestimated. Elisabeth Galarneau, the scientist who ran the study says the amount of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons emitted is "just a bit under five times higher from the ponds than what's been reported.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons are commonly found in fossil fuels and can be released by incomplete burning of any material that contains carbon. This includes a large group of compounds which vary widely in their toxicity, but 32 of them are considered priority pollutants by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and are linked to cancer. Exposure to these compounds during pregnancy can also lead to decreased cognitive abilities and asthma in children.

This news may come as no surprise to some aboriginal groups in the area, who have claimed they are seeing elevated rates of cancer in their communities. Though Galarneau is confident in her main conclusions, she says more needs to be done to research the extent of the risk from tarsands tailings ponds. This particular study only looked at compounds released from certain sample of tailings ponds, and did not measure what happens to these compounds once they reach the atmosphere. She is hopeful that the findings of this study will allow for more analysis of tailings ponds, and for more sophisticated testing methods to be implemented.

Read more about the findings of the Environment Canada Study here

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Clean Energy Canada's First Annual Assessment of Canada's Clean Energy Performance

Clean Energy Canada has released their first ever annual "Tracking the Energy Revolution" report to show how Canada is faring in our transition to a clean energy future. The report documents some encouraging numbers and statistics, even noting that jobs in the clean energy sector now accounts for more jobs in Canada than in the tar sands.

The report also applauds Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia on their great policy leadership and the savvy business decisions of people across the country who are finding innovative ways to transition to clean energy. Wind, solar, run-of-river, and biomass capacity has nearly doubled over the last five years, with cumulative investment in Canada's clean energy sector amounting to $25 billion in that time.

Despite these encouraging numbers, the report found that the federal government and some provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan especially are not yet doing their part to unlock the country's clean energy potential. Canada's stronger provinces on this issue have proven that is possible to make significant strides with provincial legislation and promoting talented business men and women to pursue clean energy opportunities.

Read the press release and full report here.

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Survey Finds Acceptance of Climate Change Science is Rising in Canada

Environics and the David Suzuki Foundation partnered to conduct a survey of Canadians to find out how citizens feel about climate change, and it's effect on future generations. This survey of 2,020 people revealed that 50 per cent of respondents are "extremely" or "definitely" concerned about a changing climate, and 78 per cent of those fear the kind of legacy it will leave for future generations. The poll also found the percentage of people who believe in the scientific fact of climate change has grown to 63 per cent, up from 60 last year.

Regarding climate action, the poll showed that one third of people think Canada's performance is better than other developed nations, one third thinks it's the same, and only one third of people think Canada's performance is worse. This goes to show that even though Canadians appear to support climate action, it is unlikely to be an issue at the polls next October if the majority of voters think Canada is on-par or better than other nations.

Read the full CBC article on this poll and its implications here.

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Action Alert

Help Urge TransCanada to Stop PR Firm's Intentional Manipulation Tactics

Leaked documents from TransCanada showed that the company has hired a US-based public relations firm to build a pro-pipeline "activist base" in an attempt to manipulate Canadians into thinking there is grassroots support for the Energy East Pipeline. This firm has a history of helping companies like ExxonMobil and Halliburton to oppose climate change legislation and green energy initiatives in the United States, and has had great success in doing so.

The Energy East Pipeline would pump 1.1 million barrels of toxic bitumen to the Atlantic coast on a daily basis, where it would be exported to the global market. This pipeline is potentially threatening to communities and waterways across six provinces and would release 32 million tonnes of global warming pollution every year. Because of this, opposition to the project has grown significantly. TransCanada is attempting to spend millions of dollars to sway support in the pipeline's direction.

Nearly 4000 people have sent a letter to TransCanada through LeadNow. Send your own personal letter to TransCanada here.

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Petition: Pass the Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest

The Northern Gateway Pipeline project would place 1,177 km of oil pipeline from Alberta straight through the heart of BC's Great Bear Rainforest, to send bitumen overseas for refining. A new bill in Parliament called the Act to Defend the Pacific Northwest would ban the mega-tankers needed to make this project a reality. These tankers would have to run through some of the roughest waters on the Pacific coastline in order to ship Canadian oil oversees.

Sign on to the petition to send a clear message to MP's that you value people over pipelines. When 75,000 people sign this petition, Avaaz will run a massive ad campaign in western ridings that face the greatest risk. You can sign the petition here.

Help Support the Get Out To Parks Initiative

Get Out To (GOT) Parks is a joint initiative of the Canadian Parks Council and the Child & Nature Alliance of Canada. The initiative's ultimate goal is to provide an online destination for young people to learn about Canada's National, Provincial, and Territorial parks and to encourage Canada's youth to get outside and experience parks first hand. Canada's parks are amazing reminders of the environment that Canadians hold dear and serve as the inspiration for many to take on a variety of activist causes. The more Canadian youth get out and visit our many parks, the more will be inspired to protect our beautiful environment in the years to come.

GOT Parks is a fairly new initiative and could use your help to spread the word on this great initiative to Canadian youth by sharing their website, and their Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages.

Opportunities/Call for Proposals

Call for Nominations: 2015 SEN Environmental Activism Awards

Do you know someone who has gone above and beyond in your community to promote sustainable living, green technology, or other environmental values? Is there someone you know who you admire as an environmental activist and you think deserves recognition for their contribution to the community? Planning has begun for the 2015 SEN Environmental Activism Awards to be presented at our 10th Annual Environmental Film Festival in spring of 2015, and we are accepting nominations for potential recipients of this award.

Send in your nominations to with the subject line "*NOMINATION* 2015 Environmental Activism Awards".

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Call for Nominations: 2014 Waste Minimization Awards

The Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council is seeking nominations for the Saskatchewan Waste Minimization Awards for 2014. If you know of an individual, business, municipality or community organization that should be recognized for their waste minimization efforts, please visit their website here and submit a nomination. Help us celebrate the good things happening in Saskatchewan!

The awards ceremony will be held in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Waste Reduction Council's 2015 Waste ReForum conference occurring April 22 to 24 in Saskatoon. Watch for registration information for this event on their website here.

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Get Your Initiative Mapped on EJAtlas

EJAtlas is a project aiming to increase the visibility of environmental degradation around the world while building a case for corporate and state accountability. The Atlas, which maps cases of environmental conflict, struggles, and resistance, is organized by a global network of activist organizations, think-tanks, and policy-makers united under the Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade (EJOLT).

EJOLT and the EJAtlas are highly collaborative projects, and they are looking for help from Canadian activist organizations to not only fill in their map, but give their input on a more specialized map of the environmental conflict and resistance across Canada. There are currently no environmental conflicts mapped in Saskatchewan and only one in Alberta, so with your help we can provide a much more accurate representation of environmental conflict in our region.

Check out the EJOLT and EJAtlas websites here and here. For any other questions or to add to their map, you can contact them

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Earth Expeditions Master's Program

Miami University is offering a Master's program called the Global Field Program, which combines summer field training with online web learning communities. This program can be completed part-time from anywhere in the world. Applicants who currently hold a Bachelor's degree of any major can elect to enroll in either a Master of Arts in Teaching degree in the Biological Sciences, or a Master of Arts degree in Biology. The Global Field Program brings Master's degree candidates, scientists, educators, community leaders, and others together at conservation hotspots in Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas for firsthand experience with inquiry-driven education, environmental stewardship, and global understanding.

Find more information on the program here.

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Coming Events


Effects of Oil Field Development on Grassland Songbirds

Wednesday January 21st, 7:00pm, Saskatchewan Science Centre

Jason Unruh of the University of Regina, will talk about his research on the Effects of Oil Development on Grassland Songbirds at 7 pm, Jan. 21, at the Saskatchewan Science Centre as part of PCAP's Native Prairie Speaker Series. Biodiversity of abundant avian populations are a measure of the health of our native prairie. In his research, Unruh has set out to effectively assess the impacts of oil development on grassland songbirds to determine if more rigid guidelines or restrictions are required from legislators.

Find out more on Prairie Conservation Action Plan's Native Prairie Speaker Series here.

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Aquatic Invasive Species: Understanding the Issues

February 12th, 8:30am - 4:00pm, Cabelas Regina

Prairie Waters Working Group is hosting a workshop on Aquatic Invasive Species: Understanding the Issues in Saskatoon (Feb. 11) and Regina (Feb. 12). Of particular concern are quagga and zebra mussels. The workshop will cover identification, prevention, and opportunities for eradication. Registration for this workshop is $50 and will include a lunch.

To find out more and to RSVP, you can find the workshop poster here.

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Green Drinks Saskatoon

Friday December 12th, 5:30pm, The Hose and Hydrant, 612 11th St E

Green Drinks will be at the Hose and Hydrant this Friday. Everyone who would like to discuss environmental issues, ideas, sustainable living, green building, renewable energy, permaculture, cycling, walking, electric cars, waste reduction, or just enjoys a nice beverage is welcome to join.

To find out more you can visit their websitehere, their Facebook group page here or email

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Saskatoon Nature Society Birding Field Trip & Christmas Bird Counts

Bird Counts throughout December Field Trip Sunday January 11th, 2pm - 4pm, Saskatoon Sanitarium

Anyone who appreciates birds is encouraged to join in the Saskatoon Nature Society's Christmas Bird Counts. Beginners are especially welcome - no expertise is required. You will be assigned to an experienced leader. Just dress warmly and be prepared to spend a few hours counting birds in your neighborhood or an assigned sector.

Dates, locations and more on Christmas Bird Counts can be found here.

For more information on these field trips visit the Saskatchewan Nature Society website here

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Christmas Bird Count for Kids

Friday January 2nd, 10:30am - 3:30pm, Affinity Learning Centre at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm

The Young Naturalists are hosting their third CBC4Kids- A Christmas Bird Count for Kids. Between 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM you will be counting the birds you see in the Forestry Farm Park and contributing to citizen science studies of bird biodiversity. At the top of each hour you will head out into various parts of the Forestry Farm Park for about 30-45 minutes to look for birds. Then you'll head back to the Affinity Learning Centre and warm up with some cookies and hot chocolate. Stay for one round of bird counting or come for the whole day!

Dress warmly and bring your binoculars. The Saskatoon Nature Society has lots of spare sets of binoculars to loan out if you don't have any. You don't need to be an expert on birds. This is a great way to learn about winter birds and bird watching.

For more information visit the Saskatchewan Nature Society website here

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Native Prairie Restoration & Reclamation Workshop

January 28th & 29th, TCU Place

Join leading experts & prairie restoration practitioners from across the Northern Great Plains to share knowledge, gain insight, & network with colleagues. The theme of the 2015 Native Prairie Restoration and Reclamation Workshop is "The Building Blocks of Restoration." The workshop will feature Chris Helzer, from The Nature Conservancy as well as "Prairie Ecologist" fame as the keynote speaker.

Find out more about the workshop and the Saskatchewan Prairie Conservation Action Plan here.

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Aquatic Invasive Species: Understanding the Issues

February 11th, 8:30am - 4:00pm, Cabelas Saskatoon

Prairie Waters Working Group is hosting a workshop on Aquatic Invasive Species: Understanding the Issues in Saskatoon (Feb. 11) and Regina (Feb. 12). Of particular concern are quagga and zebra mussels. The workshop will cover identification, prevention, and opportunities for eradication. Registration for this workshop is $50 and will include a lunch.

To find out more and to RSVP, you can find the workshop poster here

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