Peace and Environment News, October–December 2013
by Mike Buckthought
Protecting Algonquin Park
On July 19, the Ontario government announced that 96,089 hectares of land in Algonquin Park will be protected from logging. The protected land includes some new nature reserve zones, wilderness zones and natural environment zones. Logging will continue in many other areas of the provincial park. According to the updated management plan, logging is not permitted in 264,674 hectares (34.7% of the provincial park’s area). Because some other areas of the park are not suitable for industrial logging operations, about 48.8% of the park’s land is free from clearcuts. Algonquin Provincial Park encompasses a total area of 763,459 hectares. (Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, July 19, 2013; Ottawa Citizen, July 19, 2013; Algonquin Park Management Plan Amendment, June 14, 2013)
Landmark Legal Decision
On July 22, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that three lawsuits against the Canadian mining company HudBay Minerals Inc. can proceed. The judgment will allow 13 Mayan Guatemalans to seek justice in Canadian courts. They allege that HudBay and its subsidiary are responsible for incidents of violence in Guatemala. The community activist Adolfo Ich Chamán was killed by security personnel. During another incident, 11 women were raped by security personnel, police and soldiers. The ruling by Justice Carole Brown sets an important legal precedent. In the future, Canadian mining corporations may be held responsible for human rights abuses and harmful environmental practices in other countries. (Globe and Mail, July 23, 2013; Choc v. HudBay Minerals Inc. and Caal v. HudBay Minerals Inc., http://www.chocversushudbay.com/)
Radioactive Exports Suspended
Bruce Power has suspended plans to ship 16 radioactive steam generators to a recycling company in Sweden. Before they were decommissioned, the generators were used in the Bruce A nuclear power plant. The radioactive generators would be shipped via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. Many people have voiced concerns about the potential for an accident that could affect the drinking water for many communities. The company has denied that it is responding to strong public opposition. A company spokesperson says Bruce Power will continue its efforts to build support for plans to ship the radioactive waste to Europe. (CBC News, July 28, 2013; Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, September 21, 2010)
New Climate Report
The New York Times and Reuters revealed some key findings from a leaked draft of a report prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The climate report includes some predictions for increases in sea levels. Without decisive action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, sea levels could rise as much as a metre by the end of the century. Many coastal cities could be threatened by flooding. A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change concludes that economic losses related to rising sea levels could reach $1 trillion annually by mid-century. The study estimated flood losses for the world’s 136 largest coastal cities. (New York Times, August 19, 2013; Nature Climate Change, August 18, 2013)
Mike Buckthought is a writer based in Ottawa.
Published in the Peace and Environment News, Volume 28, Number 4, October–December 2013, page 2.