Archaeologists Celebrate Benefits of Global Ecological Breakdown, Again

Archeologists find treasure in aftermath of giant forest fire

Scorched earth in Waterton National Park reveals centuries-old signs of Blackfoot activity

By Carolyn Dunn | July 29, 2018

Archeologist Bill Perry hops out of a Parks Canada pickup truck and lifts one of the gates keeping the public out of much of Waterton Lakes National Park.

Since a wildfire swept through this iconic mountain park in southern Alberta last September, it’s just too dangerous for tourists to go tromping around on most of the trails.

Thousands upon thousands of blackened, dead trees pepper the mountainous landscape.

The damage is clear and devastating.

But CBC News was given exclusive access to see one of the positive side effects of a fire that burns hot and long. …

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Earth Overshoot Day 2018

Earth’s resources consumed in ever greater destructive volumes

Study says the date by which we consume a year’s worth of resources is arriving faster

By Jonathan Watts | July 23, 2018

Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes, according to a new study that reveals we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days.

As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded.

To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt. …

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Batteries Have a Dirty Secret

Energy storage is considered a green technology. But it actually increases carbon emissions.

By David Roberts | July 21, 2018

Energy storage (batteries and other ways of storing electricity, like pumped water, compressed air, or molten salt) has generally been hailed as a “green” technology, key to enabling more renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

But energy storage has a dirty secret. The way it’s typically used in the US today, it enables more fossil-fueled energy and higher carbon emissions. Emissions are higher today than they would have been if no storage had ever been deployed in the US.

This is not intrinsic to the technology, by any means. If deployed strategically, energy storage can do all the things boosters say, making the grid more flexible, unlocking renewable energy, and reducing emissions.

But only if it is deployed strategically, which it generally hasn’t been.

In and of itself, energy storage is neither clean nor dirty — it is neutral, as likely to boost the revenue of fossil fuel plants as it is to help clean energy. If policymakers want to use it as a tool to enable clean energy, they need to be conscious of its characteristics and smarter about its deployment. …

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Death By Design

The real cost of our love of tech: the environment

CBC Radio | June 27, 2018

Most of us likely know that the manufacture and disposal of our digital devices involves dealing with chemicals and toxic materials. However, we probably aren’t aware of the scale – or the full environmental and workplace health costs of the billions of devices that are produced and discarded every year.

Independent filmmaker Sue Williams explores this issue in her documentary Death By Design. The reality is that our devices are too often produced in under-regulated conditions, most notably in China. This is something Sue has witnessed firsthand making films in China for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve seen the environment change,” she says. But it was through meeting leading Chinese environmental activist, Ma Jun, that she got interested in the toll of how our devices are made.

“He took published government data on pollution violations across the country,” she explains. “He found that a really large percentage of the violations were issued to electronics companies.”

The sheer scale of production can be hard to imagine. “We’re talking plants in the supply chain which are hundreds of thousands of workers,” Sue says. “So just multiply that by all the manufacturers and all the suppliers.”

When it comes to workplace health and safety, Sue looked at Foxconn, which makes electronics under contract to many technology companies, notably Apple.

“To make 10 million iPhones in three weeks, you need a very, kind of, militaristic workforce style,” she argues. “They work long shifts, have short breaks, [and] they never really make friends…Working in such a vast impersonal place can be devastatingly lonely.” The impact of working conditions has included suicides in the last number of years.

Our relentless upgrade culture is part of the problem too. …

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Mainstream Approaches to the Tourism Problem

Residents in tourism hotspots have had enough. So what’s the answer?

By Elle Hunt | July 17, 2018

How do you solve a problem like tourism? It employs hundreds of millions of people, buoys entire industries – but can tear apart the very cities that benefit from it, alienating residents and causing irreversible damage to their culture and heritage.

Protests across Europe have spurred talk of “responsible tourism” and forcing the sector to factor in sustainability, but the problem is already at such a scale that doing anything about it seems akin to turning around a cruise liner.

What’s the way out of this mess?

Spread them out

The most obvious solution to the problem of too many tourists is to spread them over a larger area, says Alex Dichter, a senior partner of McKinsey & Company consultancy, which in December produced a report on managing overcrowded tourist destinations.

Overcrowding is such a localised issue that even in a city apparently at breaking point, such as Barcelona, Dichter is “sure there are neighbourhoods that are overwhelmed and there are others that are in need of quite a bit more”.

Many cities compound the problem by promoting only a small number of sites – often the obvious ones. Tourists can be dispersed by boosting less popular attractions and developing new ones. …

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Study Documents Breakdown of Canada’s Largest and World’s Second-Largest National Park

Almost every part of Canada’s largest national park deteriorating: federal study

By Bob Weber, The Canadian Press — July 15 2018

An exhaustive federal study of Canada’s largest national park concludes almost every aspect of its environment is deteriorating.

The 561-page report on Wood Buffalo National Park says industry, dams, climate change and natural cycles are sucking the watery lifeblood from the vast delta of northeastern Alberta’s Peace and Athabasca rivers.

It was prepared after concerns were raised over the park’s UNESCO World Heritage status and backs most of them up.

“The (Peace-Athabasca Delta) depends on recharge of its lakes and basins in order to retain its world heritage value,” concludes the study released to The Canadian Press.

“Currently, hydrologic recharge … is decreasing. Without immediate intervention, this trend will likely continue and the world heritage values of the (delta) will be lost.”

The study looked at 17 measures of environmental health, from river flows to Indigenous use. It concludes 15 are declining.

Drawing on decades of research — the report lists 50 pages of citations — the study is likely to be the most complete assessment on the region downstream of Canada’s largest energy developments and one of its biggest hydro dams.

“There’s literally hundreds of different studies going on with regard to the park or the oilsands or B.C. Hydro,” said Don Gorber, the consultant who led the effort for Environment and Climate Change Canada.

“All these things are going on independently. No one had put it all together.”

Gorber found major changes in the park. Behind them all is water — or the lack thereof. …

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Wood Buffalo National Park is threatened by industry, climate change

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Canada’s largest national park risks losing world heritage status

Oil, Kinder Morgan, and the Future of the Northwest Coast

Kinder Morgan Case Ignores Fragility of the B.C. Coast

The implications of Kinder Morgan’s plans are enormous for the Salish Sea, a region already suffering intense pressures from growth.

By Chris Genovali, Misty MacDuffee, and Paul C. Paquet | April 16, 2018

Is Canada’s national interest best aligned with a Texas pipeline company? The suggestion of bailing out U.S.-based Kinder Morgan and investing tax dollars to access public assets in a sunset industry, while momentous questions of Canadian law are still before the courts, is nothing short of absurd.

Kinder Morgan and the province of Alberta have manufactured a crisis in which the goal is to pressure the federal government to force-feed British Columbians the Trans Mountain expansion. The putative emergency is also designed to pressure the courts and judges that have yet to rule on nine legal challenges to the project’s approval.

The ensuing hysteria has drowned out pertinent facts and legitimate concerns with regard to the B.C. coast. Above the political clamour, what remains is this:  1) The expansion will push endangered killer whales closer to extinction and risk further declines in wild salmon populations already in crisis; 2) The mantra of “world class oil spill response, prevention and recovery,” is an empty platitude; and 3) The National Energy Board process leading to an affirmative recommendation, and subsequent approval by the federal cabinet, was not based on evidence or science, nor was it rigorous or fair. …

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Canada’s Bizarre and Destructive Descent into Petro Politics

“What Could Be More Reasonable?” Collaboration in Colonial Contexts

Marina La Salle and Richard M. Hutchings

Collaboration is considered a panacea in North American archaeology today—a cure-all that is claimed to have radically transformed the discipline by bringing about equality and decolonization. Such assertions are problematic on many fronts, especially because collaborative archaeology has undergone little critical assessment. Based on our analysis of how the practice is defined, how social power is construed and measured, and how the goal of decolonization is conceptualized, we show collaboration to be a colonial whitewash that appropriates the methods and values of Indigenous archaeology. Rather than transformation and liberation, collaborative archaeology is ultimately rooted in cooptation and dependence. We contend that rather than decolonizing, collaborative archaeology is a steadfastly colonial enterprise.

Keywords: collaborative archaeology, Indigenous archaeology, cultural resource management, decolonization, appropriation, community-oriented archaeology, colonialism, applied archaeology, public archaeology

Subject: Archaeology, Cultural Heritage and Public Archaeology
Online Publication Date: Apr 2018
DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780190676315.013.22

The Oxford Handbook of Public Heritage Theory and Practice
Edited by Angela M. Labrador and Neil Asher Silberman



Chapter excerpt:

Land Degradation and Human Wellbeing

Land Degradation Threatens Human Wellbeing, Major Report Warns

More than 3.2bn people are already affected and the problem will worsen without rapid action, driving migration and conflict

By Jonathan Watts | March 26, 2018

Land degradation is undermining the wellbeing of two-fifths of humanity, raising the risks of migration and conflict, according to the most comprehensive global assessment of the problem to date.

The UN-backed report underscores the urgent need for consumers, companies and governments to rein in excessive consumption – particularly of beef – and for farmers to draw back from conversions of forests and wetlands, according to the authors.

With more than 3.2 billion people affected, this is already one of the world’s biggest environmental problems and it will worsen without rapid remedial action, according to Robert Scholes, co-chair of the assessment by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). “As the land base decreases and populations rise, this problem will get greater and harder to solve,” he said.

The IPBES study, launched in Medellín on Monday after approval by 129 national governments and three years of work by more than 100 scientists, aims to provide a global knowledge base about a threat that is less well-known than climate change and biodiversity loss, but closely connected to both and already having a major economic and social impact.

The growing sense of alarm was apparent last year when scientists warned fertile soil was being lost at the rate of 24bn tonnes a year, largely due to unsustainable agricultural practices.

The new assessment goes further by looking at vegetation loss, forest clearance, wetland drainage, grassland conversion, urban sprawl and pollution, as well as how these changes affect human health, wealth and happiness. …

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The Population Bomb, Fifty Years On

Paul Ehrlich: ‘Collapse of Civilisation is a Near Certainty within Decades’

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

By Damian Carrington | March 22, 2018

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

In May, it will be 50 years since the eminent biologist published his most famous and controversial book, The Population Bomb. But Ehrlich remains as outspoken as ever.

The world’s optimum population is less than two billion people – 5.6 billion fewer than on the planet today, he argues, and there is an increasing toxification of the entire planet by synthetic chemicals that may be more dangerous to people and wildlife than climate change.

Ehrlich also says an unprecedented redistribution of wealth is needed to end the over-consumption of resources, but “the rich who now run the global system – that hold the annual ‘world destroyer’ meetings in Davos – are unlikely to let it happen”.

The Population Bomb, written with his wife Anne Ehrlich in 1968, predicted “hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death” in the 1970s – a fate that was avoided by the green revolution in intensive agriculture.

Many details and timings of events were wrong, Paul Ehrlich acknowledges today, but he says the book was correct overall.

“Population growth, along with over-consumption per capita, is driving civilisation over the edge: billions of people are now hungry or micronutrient malnourished, and climate disruption is killing people.”

Ehrlich has been at Stanford University since 1959 and is also president of the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere, which works “to reduce the threat of a shattering collapse of civilisation”.

“It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems,” he says. “As I’ve said many times, ‘perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell’.”

It is the combination of high population and high consumption by the rich that is destroying the natural world, he says. Research published by Ehrlich and colleagues in 2017 concluded that this is driving a sixth mass extinction of biodiversity, upon which civilisation depends for clean air, water and food. …

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